Oct 31, 2015

Manneken Pis, the Urinating Boy of Brussels

Fred, the ministerial student who I dated in college (and moved to Omaha with), had a wine decanter topped by an image of a naked boy. The wine would come out through his penis, as if he was urinating.  It seemed marvelously risque.

Later, when I visited Belgium, I discovered that the boy is the Manneken Pis (in Flemish) or Petit Julien (in French), the symbol of Brussels and a national treasure.

He is a fountain statue on an otherwise nondescript street corner near the Grand Place, surprisingly small (only two feet high) and surprisingly muscular, with adult-style pecs and biceps (he's not really a boy, he's a manneken, a little man).

Originally cast in 1619, he has been stolen repeatedly and replaced; the current version dates to 1965.

There are many legends about the origin of the statue, often involving the boy's heroism, urinating to stall enemy troops or to extinguish a fire.

Every week the Manneken Pis is dressed in a different costume.  He has several hundred, including local political figures, a Catholic cardinal, an aviator, Santa Claus, and Uncle Sam.

He is an economic boon for Brussels, appearing on plates, spoons, cigars, ashtrays, cups, wine decanters, beer steins, water bottles, and postcards.  Here some guys have a "duel" with the Manneken to see who can produce the most...um, water.

 There is Manneken Pis beer and a Petit Julien chocolate shop.

Georges Roland published a detective farce, Manneken Pis, ne rigole plus (Manneken Pis, Don't Laugh), in the Flemish-laced French dialect of Brussels:

Le directeur de la scientifique et le medico-legal est kalle comme un boestrink. Carmel est dans tous ses etats. Bertha, donne-moi encore une kwak de lambik, et mets un petit peket avec, sinon elle va se sentir toute seule.

Maurice Chevalier recorded a song, "Manneken Pis," about a noble boy, "generous in the morning," who regales rich and poor, sprinkling "the most beautiful waters" with all his heart.

So what's the gay connection?

1. Sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy the Elder's son, Jerome Duquesnoy the Younger, was gay (but not the model).

2. The Manneken Pis dresses in a rainbow flag for Gay Pride.

3. It's only three blocks from the Macho Sauna.

4. It's rather amazing to find so many people paying so much attention to a penis.

You should also check Lange Wapper, the Phallic Giant of Antwerp.