Totally Dublin turns 100 next month, and we’re celebrating by dipping our fingers into our dusty archives to feature our best articles and give you a little snapshot of that month in Dublin. This article, from January 2005, tells the story behind the tapestry of Mary Robinson that rules Dame Street.
In the reviews: The Aviator, Alexander, The Unicorns – Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone
On our minds: “Royston [Brady], once Bertie Ahern’s big hope (Ahern was mayor ’86 – ’87), managed to hijack his own career by making a bizarre claim regarding his father’s taxi and the Dublin/Monaghan bombings.” – Amanda Brown on the mayor.
Behold the vision of glory that is ‘Mary’s Pictorial’. Our very own Mona Lisa of Dame Street, but perhaps without the enigmatic beauty or the brush strokes of Da Vinci. Instead, in the
window of Pars Gallery at the corner of Dame Street and George’s Street, the power of the former president is knitted deep within the warp and weft of a gilt-framed Persian tapestry.
For those unfamiliar with her work, Mary Robinson is Ireland’s former president and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. But she is also a rug. Clad in a pink suit, there is
little doubt that power pads lurk above her shoulders. This is offset with the authoritarian black polo neck, a pendant and an earring. Mary looks like a woman on a mission, a woman with a proven quest to shake hands, nod robotically and save the world.
Look a little closer and you’ll see the blackening teeth at the back and the rivulets of mould on her neck. Bad knotting, or the ravages of age? But what is the story behind the real Robbo of Pars?
Said Amirkambar of the Pars Gallery kindly told us the truth behind the pictorial. “When the gallery opened in 1990, my uncle decided he wanted to give this picture to her. We wanted
to show people that you can put anything on a rug for eternity”. Taking over two and a half months to weave by an Iranian lady named Akrami, the Gallery was told that, unfortunately,
President Robinson wasn’t allowed to accept gifts whilst holding office.
Jilted but still smitten, they decided to put Mary on permanent window display. “When we put it on the shop front it got so famous, everyone wanted to come in and buy it, from €20 to €40,000, until we put up a ‘Not For Sale’ sign” explains Amir. With thousands of hand-woven rugs ranging from €400 to €53,000 on display in the store, a pictorial such as Mary’s costs in the range of €1,000 making it the ideal gift for a highly regarded
“Some people laugh, some people curse, some people genuflect, a lot of people like her, yet I’ve seen people bang on the window because they hate her,” says Amir on the impact of Mary on people as the make their pre- or post- jaywalk stride past the windows. And this heart-felt plea goes out to Mary from the people of Pars: “Wherever she is, if she wants it, she can have it”. So you can rest assured that this kitsch classic will be with us for some
years to come.
Mary’s Pictorial is on permanent display at the Pars Gallery,
19/20 Dame Street, Dublin 2