A DUBLIN hotel is facing potential criminal prosecution after removing a set of 153-year-old statues from its front, believing them to depict slaves.
The Shelbourne Hotel opted to voluntarily take down the four bronze statues from outside the five-star venue on July 27.
The removals came as part of a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests witnessed across the world.
Several monuments dedicated to figures with links to slavery have been either taken down or protested against in recent weeks.
However, a leading art historian has since pointed out that the statues outside the hotel depict Nubian and Egyptian royals, rather than slaves.
The hotel is now facing reprimand from Dublin City Council.
According to Dublin Live, a “warning letter” has been sent to the hotel, condemning the decision to remove the statues, without planning permission and in direct violation of the hotel’s status as a protected structure.
As a result, the owners could face criminal prosecution.
The penalties include a maximum fine of just over €12 million or, worse still, two years in prison.
Kyle Leyden, a lecturer from the University of London, told RTÉ Radio One’s Drivetime the statues were removed for something they do not depict.
“In that printed catalogue, it appears that the man who originally created and sculpted the statues does not actually refer to them as slaves. He did not intend them to be read as slaves,” Leyden explained.
“It was clear that the Egyptian statue at least was not in any way to be read as a slave. It was wearing a royal Egyptian headdress, which would indicate it was a princess,” he added.
Leyden highlighted the fact the women are depicted in the statues are wearing expensive garments, as opposed to slaves, who were traditionally depicted as naked in works from the period.
“The Shelbourne statue is clothed in expensive striped silk and wears a golden headband,” he said.
He also suggested it was highly unlikely either women were wearing manacles, attributing their appearance to the rise of “Egyptomania” in 19th century European artworks.
“They are simply bangles around the ankles of the statues,” he said.
“In addition to that, all four of the statues wear the same bangle around their ankles.”
He also branded the downward-looking pose of the statues as simply an intentional artistic decision.
“These statues were always intended to be displayed at a height of about 12 feet. If you think about this practically, if a statue was looking either straight ahead or up at a height of 12 feet, you simply wouldn’t see any of the features on the face,” Leyden said.