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Monday, April 23, 2012

Mannekin Pis of Brussels

On this St. George's Day, the anniversary of the death's of Cervantes, Shakespeare and Joyce, I would like to write about Mannekin Pis of Brussels, or the "famous mannikin of Brussels, Belgium" as Laura Starr calls him in her excellent The Doll Book (1908). Starr writes that the mannikin was created by a sculptor named Duquesnoy to honor the victory of Ransbeck. When star was writing the little statute was nearly 300 years old, and even then, he had a wardrobe. As happens with other statues and talismans, the mannikin has been carried off and has traveled. Gnomes have nothing over him. The English took him to Britian after the Battle of Fonteony, according to Starr, but the people of Belgium took him back. The French also stole him, but they, too brought him back. There is a story from 1817 associated with him as well. A convict took him and Bruseels went into mourning for their most famous and cherished citizen. It was found and recovered, however, and the thief had to go to the pillory. According to Starr, an iron railing has been placed around the little boy ever since. Starr delicately neglects to tell us that the statue of the little boy is, of course, relieving himself, hence his name. Many honors have been conferred on him as well, including one by Archduke Maximilian whom star writes actually gave him expensive clothing and a servant! Starr goes on to say tat "Louis XV made him a knight of his order, and, later on, Joseph II, of Austria, conferred on him the same honor. In 1908, Mannekin Pis was dressed in the robes of the Louis XV order, and similar outfits exist today. Rick Steves featured the statute on one of his TV shows, as well as the museum that houses his many outfits, one of which is shown here. The little boy is a cultural icon the world over, and he is reproduced in miniature as keychains, chocolate pops, lawn ornaments, jewelry, etc. My father-in-law has a fountain of him, and I have a tiny metal corkscrew, one of my more unusal portrait "dolls" done in metal, this time bronze.

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