In reading Siobhan Kilfeather’s Dublin I came across the excerpt in which the poet James Clarence Mangan is discussed. When I discovered his bust was in St. Stephen’s Green, I took a virtual walking tour through St. Stephen’s Green to discover it with the help of GoogleMaps. Mangan’s bust was especially significant to me because it is an amalgamation of art and rebellious political message. The statue itself is interesting, as it portrays Mangan in the popular romantic 19th century classical “Adonis” look, but upon closer examination the viewer notices the hollowed out shadowy eye sockets indicative of sickness and famine, as well as gaunt cheekbones and exaggerated collarbones.
This is not a coincidence, it is noted by Kilfeather that on Mangan’s deathbed suffering from cholera, a portrait sketcher was sent for and captured the sketch which this statue would later be based on (129). One could see this bust as unflattering, but I would argue given the information about the widespread suffering and political anger in Dublin and Ireland at the time- this bust exemplifies the idea that the injustices felt by the Irish people were felt on all levels. It rebels and would have forced the viewer upon its instillation, to be confronted with the realities of English governmental neglect and mismanagement in Dublin. The effects of famine and lack of sufficient civil planning to prevent illness, created a situation which affected people of all walks of life, from the artists and intellectuals in Dublin’s intellectual sphere to the poor working classes suffering on the streets.
The first title picture shows how Ireland’s haunting history lingers on, despite modern advancements. Mangan’s bust as evidence of Ireland’s past, is relegated to a shadowy corner, easily missed by an unsearching eye who perhaps favours the fountain at the Green’s center. In other regions of the Green there are other monuments to the famine in forms of public art (such as Edward Delany’s statue), creating a jarring contrast with the natural beauty of the Green and sights of the contemporary Irish enjoying themselves. The joining of past and present, in St. Stephen’s Green, is something profound for a visitor to witness.