Sculpture trail: statues by female sculptors in Dublin

black and white photograph of a city street

When we look at statues commemorating the lives of famous – and infamous – people on streets across Europe, how often do we know about the sculptors behind the statues?

While it can be rare to find statues commemorating women, it can be even less common to find the work of female sculptors.

On the streets of Dublin, Ireland’s capital city, we find three examples of public art by female sculptors – let’s explore.

EXPLORE MORE: Carving a place for women on statues

Molly Malone by Jeanne Rynhart

A popular folk song about Dublin has the refrain ‘In Dublin’s Fair City, where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone’.

Molly Malone, a fictional character in the song, is a fish seller who sells cockles and mussels from her cart. The fictional Molly dies young from a fever, and is now commemorated with a statue in the centre of Dublin.

The statue – erected in 1988 to celebrate Dublin’s millennium as a city – is an artwork of sculptor Jeanne Rynhart. It originally was located near the busy shopping street Grafton Street but later moved nearer the city’s tourist office.

Rynhart was born in Dublin in 1946, and studied in both Dublin and Coventry in the UK. Returning to Ireland, she established a gallery and sculpture workshop.

Her artworks can also be found in other cities and towns in Ireland: a statue of Mary O’Connor (known as the ‘Rose of Tralee) in Tralee, Count Kerry, as well as two statues of Annie Moore – the first Irish immigrant to the United States – in Cobh, County Cork and at Ellis Island, New York. Rynhart died in June 2020.

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1916 Memorial by Dora Sigerson Shorter

Glasnevin Cemetery in the north of Dublin is a large graveyard of 132 acres. It holds the graves and memorials of notable historic figures from the history of Ireland.

One such memorial commemorates the Easter 1916 Rising – a sculpture by artist Dora Sigerson Shorter.

The marble sculpture is housed in a structure made of Irish limestone, and shows a man at the feet of a female figure.

Sigerson Shorter dedicated the memorial to the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising which had deeply affected her – so much so than when she died two years later, it was said she had ‘died of a broken heart’.

In addition to sculpture, Dora Sigerson Shorter was also a poet. On Europeana, you can read two anthologies of her poetry.

EXPLORE MORE: Graveyard symbols: architectural markers of life and death

Father Mathew memorial by Mary Redmond

Several statues adorn Dublin’s main street O’Connell Street. A memorial to Father Mathew now stands in the shadow of the 120 metre high Spire of Dublin (moved from a previous location on the street).

The large sandstone statue commemorates Catholic priest Theobald Mathew who found and led teetotal societies in the nineteenth century, espousing abstinence from alcohol. At its height in the 1840s, the movement enrolled 3 million people – more than half the adult population of Ireland at the time. Today, streets, bridges, churches and more in Irish cities and town bear his name.

The statue on O’Connell Street, which was unveiled in the early 1890s, was the work of Dublin sculptor Mary Redmond who had won a competition to design the memorial.

Redmond had studied in Dublin and Rome and was known primarily for sculpting portraits and busts. In the same year her monumental statue of Father Mathew was unveiled, she married and moved first to London and subsequently to Florence.

EXPLORE MORE: Art by female artists

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: O’Connell Street / Sackville Street, Dublin, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain

Thanks to Statues of Dublin | James Curry, Dublin City Council Historian-in-Residence

This blog is part of Europeana’s Discovering Europe season featuring cultural jewels and hidden gems from across the continent.

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