Is the “Manneken Pis,” Belgium’s Best-Loved Public Artwork, a Fake?

The Manneken Pis (1619) is Belgium's best known public artwork. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The legendary Manneken Pis sculpture, a veritable symbol of Brussels’ self-deprecating humor and Belgium’s most famous public artwork, is undergoing tests to verify its authenticity.

The 61 centimeter (24 inch) bronze sculpture of the urinating cherub, created by Jérôme Dulquesnoy the Elder in 1619 and located in a fountain in the center of the city, is acknowledged to be a replica that was installed in the 1960s to preserve the original.

But it is precisely the authenticity of  the original, currently displayed in a nearby museum, which is being contested by scientists.

“Looking at the Manneken Pis closely, I realised that its history is very murky and that actually we do not know whether it is the original or not,” Geraldine Patigny, a research student at the Free University of Brussels, told AFP.

The sculpture has a colorful history full of vandalism episodes and restorations, and Patigny believes that the statue that was returned to the fountain in the 19th century after one of these, may in fact have been a replica.

The humorous sculpture is a popular tourist attraction. Photo: footage.framepool.com

The humorous sculpture is a popular tourist attraction.
Photo: footage.framepool.com

“We are looking especially to see if it includes nickel,” Amandine Crabbe, a researcher at the Flemish Free University of Brussels, told AFP. “If it is present, that would mean it most likely dates from the 19th century. If it is absent, then that makes it more likely that it is the original, although it is never possible to be 100 percent certain,” she explained.

However, according to the Guardian, recent modern x-ray tests have proved inconclusive thus far.

The inspiration for the humorous artwork is also the subject of a long-standing debate. Some say it depicts the two-year-old Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. Others claim it shows a local boy who urinated on a burning explosive fuse during a siege in the 14th century, thereby preventing the destruction of the city’s walls.

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