Front Door no.35 - Brendan Duffy


This house was built in 1784 by Francis Ryan for Valentine Brown, the Earl of Kenmare, who used it as his townhouse. The plasterwork here was done by Michael Stapleton, one of the finest stuccadores of the time. The house was given special mention by Constantine Curran in his book Dublin Decorative Plasterwork of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, and the photographs he took were essential to the restoration of the house. Curran was also a close friend of Joyce’s.

In the eighteenth century this area of Dublin was very fashionable but it fell into decline in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By 1982 twelve houses on this street had been demolished by the City Council as dangerous buildings, including the house next door. Number 35 was saved by Senator David Norris, a Joycean scholar who also lives on the street. With the help of many others and with funding from a variety of sources the work was completed and the Centre opened in June 1996. For over ten years the Centre was run by members of the Joyce and Monaghan families, descendants of Joyce’s brother Charles Joyce and sister May Monaghan. It is now run as a limited company, with charity status, with the support of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Though Joyce never lived in this house, he has a connection with it through Prof. Denis J. Maginni who ran a Dance Academy here. Originally his name was Maginn, but he added an extra ‘i’ to make it more Italian sounding in keeping with his exotic profession. Maginni was a well-known and colourful character in Dublin and appears several times in James Joyce’s Ulysses. In the ‘Wandering Rocks’ episode he is described as wearing a “silk hat, slate frockcoat with silk facings, white kerchief tie, tight lavender trousers, canary gloves and pointed patent boots.”

The Maginni Room was originally the dining room of the house. The plasterwork is original, though the dancing figures in the medallions date from Maginni’s time. Though damaged, the plasterwork was mainly preserved under layers of paint and dirt.

The Kenmare Room is named in honour of the Earl of Kenmare whose townhouse this was when it was built in 1784. The plasterwork had disappeared completely by 1982 and was restored using photographs taken by Joyce’s friend, Constantine Curran. The ‘Charioteer with Winged Horses’ that you see here is also found in the library at Belvedere College and was a favourite theme of Michael Stapleton, the stuccadore.

On the walls here are reproductions of portraits of members of Joyce’s family. His mother May Murray (sketched from photographs by her grandnephew Derek Joyce); his father John Stanislaus Joyce (this portrait commissioned by Joyce himself from the Irish portrait artist Patrick Tuohy in 1923, the year after Ulysses was published).

The Joyce family lived in houses similar to this one, though not in this one (although Joyce’s brother Charles lived nearby at No. 30). Two portraits of Joyce hang in the Kenmare Room, one by Jacques Emile Blanche, and one by Irish artist Harry Kernoff. (These are copies, the originals being part of the Poetry and Rare Books Collection at the State University of New York at Buffalo). We also have a reproduction of the portrait of Nora Barnacle by Tulio Silvestri on display.

Back on the ground floor, if you continue outside to the yard, you will see the original door from No. 7 Eccles Street. In Ulysses this is Leopold Bloom’s address, but the house itself was demolished to make way for an extension to the Mater Hospital, though the door was saved and is on loan to us.

The Centre is available for facilities hire to groups, if you would like to read more about our venue and facilities hire service please visit out Dublin City Venue and Facilities Hire page