A leading art historian has said the statues which were removed from outside the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin did not depict slave girls but were intended to be "princesses", according to the original trade catalogue they were chosen from.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Kyle Leyden, who is a lecturer in art history and architecture at the University of London, said that within the original catalogue, the creator of the sculptures does not refer to them as slaves and did not intend as such.

The four statues, two of which are considered to be slave girls holding torches and two are Nubian princesses, stood in front of the famous city centre hotel for 153 years.

They were removed by the hotel during the week due to their apparent association with slavery.

Dr Leyden said the statues are intended in the catalogue to be a "pendant pair", displayed on plinths at the same height to display an element of equality.

He said one of the statues depicts an Egyptian woman of high society given that it is wearing royal headwear.

In the case of another, he said research indicates that during that period, slave women were depicted nude, however the statue in question depicts an African woman dressed in expensive striped silk and is wearing golden headwear.

He said it was well-known at the time the statues were made that they were intended to be seen as "princesses".

Asked about the statues bent with heads bowed in what could be perceived as a subservient position, Dr Leyden said the statues were always intended to be displayed at a height of 12 feet, and so from a practical aspect they are depicted so that their facial features could be seen.

He said research also showed that there were not manacles around their ankles, but rather bangles.

He said this was intended as showing people of high social class wearing jewellery.

Asked if they could potentially cause offence if reinstated outside the hotel, he said regardless of how true or untrue the slave identification was, in this case untrue, the fact that there was a widely held misconception that they could have been slaves could be enough in of itself to warrant their removal.