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The symbol Manneken Pis: uninhibited children

Published: 2017.10.27 - 15:36:33   /  /  Laura Barrera Jerez  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

The symbol Manneken Pis: uninhibited childrenBelgium is a country famous for its chocolates and beers. Perhaps because of that traditional consumption of the beverage, they have built statues that show, with innocence and a lack of inhibition, the result of so much consumption of this beverage. It is a nod to the imagination and subtle metaphors of life itself, combined with legends and popular traditions.

The Menneken Pis, the Jeanneke Pis and even the Zinneke Pis are symbols of Brussels, capital of Belgium. All three are statues that share a common action: they show themselves urinating.

According to a legend, many years ago the city was besieged and the assailants tried to set fire to it. They say that a child, in the naiveté of his childhood, took advantage of the adults' carelessness, and only urinated the initial flame and saved everyone from the catastrophe. Another version suggests that the statue of Menneken Pis is due to the happiness of a family that was for a long time looking for their lost child.

When they found him they decided to erect a statue in his honor, in the same place where he appeared. Even some popular voices tell that a child suffered a curse for having urinated in the portal of the house of a sorceress, and the evil woman before such opprobrium decided to petrify him.

The truth is that by the middle of the 15th century there was already a Menneken Pis carved in stone, which was stolen on several occasions. It is then that in 1619, the Franco-Flemish Baroque sculptor Jérôme Du Quesnoy made a bronze statuette. However, the statue shown is a replica and there are several questions about the authenticity of the original, while it rests in a museum in Brussels.

The symbol Manneken Pis: uninhibited childrenAs a tradition, there are about 800 disguises to dress the statue according to the time of year, some specific date or simply according to the program that follows the Friends Association of Manneken Pis (non-profit). These ceremonies are usually accompanied by music and popular festivities.

In addition, since 1987 this monument has competition: on the other side of the city, almost the same distance from Playa Mayor, but in the opposite direction and located in a less traveled place, the girl Jeanneke Pis squats as if challenging Manneken Pis, while performing the same action, and urinates water on top of an elegant fountain.

This work, which is 50 centimeters high, of grayish blue limestone, is the creation of the sculptor Denis-Adrien Debouvrie, who made it in 1985 for its opening in 1987.

The symbol Manneken Pis: uninhibited childrenIn this case, the monument also identifies Belgian folklore and has become a source of fun for passers-by who seek it in the city to throw coins at its feet. These funds are said to be destined for the treatment of cancer patients.

Ten years after Jeanneke Pis was erected, Zinneke Pis was sculpted: a dog urinating on a bollard on a street in the popular Sainte Catherine neighborhood in the same city.

A very symbolic fact is that in Camagüey, Cuba, there is a replica of the Menneken Pis, one centimeter less than the original. According to historians, the notary and cattle rancher Juan Bilbao Batista bought the statuette approximately in 1920, with the signature of the artist Y. Dichlian. The Cuban little man-Pis has been located in different places such as the exteriors of the Teatro Principal and at the fountain of the Ignacio Agramonte Provincial Museum.

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