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Shelbourne statues could sell for up to €300k

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One of the removed statues

One of the removed statues

One of the removed statues

A ready market exists for the statues removed from the front of the Shelbourne Hotel if the owners were to sell them, an auctioneer who has sold small figurines by the same sculptor said.

Ian Whyte, of Whyte's auctioneers, said bronze figures of about 10in high by the popular French sculptor Mathurin Moreau had sold for around €1,000.

"I would imagine the four life-size figures, sold together as a set, would probably go for €200,000 to €300,000," he said.

"Not only are they beautiful and valuable for the material in them but their history and their current notoriety would create a lot of interest."

Mr Whyte is not expecting to clear a corner of his sales room just yet, however, as the statues are now the subject of a planning enforcement investigation by Dublin City Council.

Protests

The hotel is a protected structure and the council said it did not have planning permission to make changes to its exterior.

The statues, dating to the 1860s, are of four African women, two understood to be princesses and the other two their shackled slave girls.

The hotel made a brief statement earlier this week saying their removal was in light of recent events, a reference to the removal of statues as part of the Black Lives Matter protests. It has not commented since.

Conservationists, including the Irish Georgian Society and Dublin Civic Trust, criticised the move, while members of the black community and immigration support campaigners were among those applauding it.

Art historian Kyle Leyden argued the girls were not slaves as the original catalogue they were bought from listed them as 'Negresse', which he claimed was simply a French term for an African woman.

However, historian Donal Hassett said this was a colonial term used by those who oppressed and plundered Africa.