Statues of Egyptian princesses removed from Dublin hotel after being mistaken for ‘slaves’
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Statues of Egyptian princesses removed from Dublin hotel after being mistaken for ‘slaves’

A DUBLIN Hotel has been accused of mistakenly removing several statues from outside the venue amid concerns they depicted two slave girls. 

The four statues were originally erected on plinths outside the Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen's Green in 1867. 

They depict two female figures holding torches with manacles around their feet, walking just ahead of two Nubian princesses. 

All four statues were voluntarily removed, with US real estate company and owners Kennedy Wilson eager to distance itself from any potential links to slavery and show solidarity with the anti-racism movement 

However, Kyle Leyden, a lecturer from the University of London, told RTÉ Radio One’s Drivetime the statues have been mistakenly removed for something they do not depict.

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“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.” 

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(Shelbourne Hotel )

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. 

The two statues had previously stood for 153 years. 

Following the removal, Dublin City Council confirmed it was investigating the removal for potential breaches in the rules concerning changes to listed buildings. 

"The matter is under investigation by the Planning Enforcement Section and therefore no further comment can be made in the matter at this time," they said.

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The Irish Georgian Society also expressed concern at the move, explaining that their removal would require planning permission and it did not believe this was obtained.

The society has contacted the city council's planning department asking them "to address the matter".

"Further to reports and in the interests of clarity, the IGS was not consulted about the removal of statues from The Shelbourne Hotel," the society said on Twitter.