Auction of Joyce Death Mask goes ahead

Apr 1, 2020

April 2nd Update: Oh no! – It’s happened again! Our Joyce Tower website has been hacked, just as it was last April 1st and, indeed, every April 1st in recent years We feel so foolish. But, I guess you spotted the ruse (and the terrible puns!) – didn’t you?

In the midst of the viral gloom visited upon the nation, there are still things to celebrate. A case in question: the very successful auction of James Joyce’s Death Mask which took place at O’Sotheby’s Auction House in Temple Bar today.

Although bidding in person was prevented by physical distancing guidelines, the auction went a-head through the use of O’Sotheby’s state-of-the-art online bidding system. As one would expect, International and local interest in this item was high.

Faceless bidders from around the globe competed remotely for this important literary prize which was put up for auction to raise funds for the restoration of the famous Martello tower in Sandycove, Dublin, Ireland – home to the James Joyce Museum.

A winning bid of €800k saw the lot go to a representative of the Buffalo Syracuse (BS) University, New York, USA.

The mask is one of only two originals made by Swiss artist, Paul Speck shortly after the death of the famous author in 1941. The other rests at the Joyce Foundation in Zurich.

Professor Lottie Dollar, a spokesperson for the BS University stated, ‘We are delighted to add this wonderful literary artefact to our collection of Joycean documents and memorabilia’. ‘This puts us head and shoulders ahead of any other Joyce collectors’.

When asked about future purchasing intentions, Professor Dollar said that the BS University had already engaged with authorities in Zurich with a view to making an offer to re-inter parts of Joyce’s remains on the university campus – ‘It shouldn’t cost us an arm and a leg!’, she added.

On the face of it, the removal of the mask from its collection would seem a big loss to the James Joyce Tower & Museum but OPW (Office of Public Works) representative, Justin Gest pointed to the restorative work at the tower which necessitated the auction in the first place and which can now be carried out. ‘Who knows what we can achieve with the money?’, he said. ‘We will replace the tower’s mask with a plaster copy – no one will raise an eyebrow’.

There was, however, some strong protest at the sale of the mask. ‘They have some cheek! We’re not going to take this on the chin!’ declared Una O’Toole of the Friends of Joyce Tower Society (FJT) who staff the iconic tower. ‘We were not given prior notice of this event. Our heads are spinning’.

When asked about OPW’s plans to hold similar auctions of some of the museum’s other artefacts, Ms O’Toole stated that the FJT members will do all they can to achieve a volte-face in this ‘despicable OPW policy’

‘We have to face up to the fact that they have sneaked this past us today but we won’t be fooled again!!’, she resolved with passion.


Those interested in joining an online petition supporting FJT are advised to contact the society at: before this day is over.


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As we journey through these difficult times…

Stay safe, stay physically (but not socially) distant, wash your hands, cough hygienically, ask for help if you need it and, above all…


…be kind to one another. 🙂