Bloomin’ macabre - Joyce’s ‘death mask’ goes on display in Hunt Museum

Alan Owens


Alan Owens

IT MIGHT be a touch macabre, but those interested in James Joyce will no doubt be intrigued.

IT MIGHT be a touch macabre, but those interested in James Joyce will no doubt be intrigued.

A remarkable silver death mask of the Ulysses author has gone on display for the first time in the Hunt Museum as part of a commemorative display to mark this year’s Bloomsday celebrations.

The piece, taken from one of only two originals made by Swiss sculptor Paul Speck just days after the novelist’s death in 1941, forms the centrepiece of a display that also includes a 1927 antique edition of Ulysses and a collector’s edition of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

The mask is on loan from a private collection. The Hunt Museum have had it for more than a decade in storage after it was loaned to them by Debis Airfinance, but the museum have never found a proper home for it, until now.

However the piece will only be on fleeting display, as Naomi O’Nolan, exhibition coordinator and administrator in the Hunt, explained.

“It was given to the museum on long term loan. It has been in storage - this is the first time it has been on display,” she said.

“We would hope that people would visit, it is going to be on display for just a couple of weeks,” she said.

“We thought when we had it in the collection it would be timely to put it out on display with Bloomsday coming up.

“It is a commemorative display and we got the two books on loan from Caroline O’Brien in the Celtic Bookshop,” she added.

Joyce’s contributions to the literary world have influenced readers and writers all over the globe and he is internationally celebrated as one of the most valued avant-garde writers in the history of modernist literature.

Bloomsday is annually celebrated in Joyce’s name as the events in the famously dense Ulysses all take place on one day - 16 June 1904.

The museum hope to display the death mask annually now to mark Bloomsday.

The Hunt Museum are currently celebrating record visitor figures, and had over 10,000 visitors throughout the month of May.

The museum is currently playing host to former Limerick Leader photographer Gerry Andrews’ Shaped by History exhibition, a series of stunning black and white pictures offering a deep insight into the city’s past and its characters.

The exhibition runs until September 16, while the Joyce display will only run until June 30.