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Brussels to mark 400th anniversary of Manneken-Pis

20:05 20/10/2019

Brussels' famous Manneken-Pis statue is 400 years old this year - and the city has announced a full range of events to celebrate.

In 1619, the Brussels city government ordered a new Manneken-Pis statue to replace the existing one - which had first appeared in administrative records in 1451 and was included in a map from 1572.

The city commissioned the new statue from one of the most prominent sculptors at that time, Jérôme Duquesnoy, which shows the importance the statue already had.

At the time, religious statues, especially statues of the Virgin Mary were sometimes clothed, but the Manneken-Pis was and is unique in that it is a secular statue, in fact part of the network of statues in Brussels that provided drinking, cooking and cleaning water to the citizens.

Duquesnoy’s statue is typically Baroque, muscular and tender, but also with a sweet, mischievous smile which gives it a mysterious aura. A visit to the original statue in the Maison du Roi will allow you to discover the eventful history of the statue, such as the times he was stolen, the harsh penalties meted out to the thieves, the apology costume presented by Louis XV, the list of official dressers and much more.

Duquesnoy’s statue was delivered on 16 December 1619 and the Manneken-Pis will be this year’s guest of honor at the Winter Wonders which will include a "great treasure hunt" with prizes available through a geolocalisation app.

The City of Brussels is also holding a costume design competition open to all primary school pupils. There are no rules or constraints except to stick to the statue’s measurements, so the sky’s the limit in terms of imagination, ideas, materials or colours. The winning design will be sewn by the Manneken-Pis’ official seamstress and presented to the statue in May.

The first recorded image of the statue being dressed is from 1615. At the Manneken-Pis Wardrobe - where 150 of his more than 1,000 costumes are on display - there will be a special pop-up display highlighting the important milestones in the history of dressing the statue and the practical aspects - you can try your hand at being a dresser.

To date no scientific reference work has been published about the statue but that is being remedied with a book being published in conjunction with the 400th anniversary.

The richly illustrated work will touch on many subjects including the reasons behind the centuries-old infatuation that surrounds the statue, as a symbol of Brussels and especially its inhabitants. The book will also be available online starting in April at www.cairn.info, a free platform for social sciences reviews and works.

Finally, the Royal Mint is issuing a special €2.50 coin, legal tender in Belgium, to celebrate the event. Some 120,000 coins will be produced and be available at www.herdenkingmunten.be. The coins will not be put into circulation.

Written by Richard Harris