Mucem, Abécédaire

An ABC with a difference!

What are these items doing at the Mucem?

As the name might suggest, the Mucem is a museum of civilisations – in other words, one that takes an interest in everything produced and used by European and Mediterranean societies from the birth of humankind to the present day. In the eyes of the museum, a funerary sculpture from Egyptian Antiquity speaks as much of ritual practices around death under the reign of the Pharaohs as a crown of glass pearl flowers tells the story of the attachment to the deceased in France during the first half of the 20th Century.

Every object, however modest or kitsch it might be, bears witness to the society whence it comes. It is for this reason that the museum, ever since it was created, has tasked itself with researching and preserving the widest possible variety of testimonies imaginable in order to preserve its memory. The museum has, in particular, worked hard to put together collated surveys every year in a systematic manner. Mucem researchers gather speech, images and objects on a given theme in a particular geographic space.

We bring you a selection of some of the most unusual works kept in the Mucem in the entertaining form of an ABC, along with our reasons for including them in the museum’s European and Mediterranean heritage.

A as in Album Panini

There cannot be many Europeans born between the mid-20th Century and the early 21st century that did not collect stickers and albums published by the Italian company Panini during their childhood. The publishing firm Panini was founded in 1961, and since that time it has been publishing its internationally successful albums in the world of childhood including football, Star Wars, Barnie and all Walt Disney films. Some albums, such as the WWF one, position themselves more in the educational vein, raising awareness among young children of the worlds of natural science and the environment. Most of them however are dedicated to sport and entertainment (including toys and comics). These reflect the world in which the western population has been living since the 1960s, and lift the veil on the siren-call of the consumer society that reaches out to everyone, right from a very early age. The Mucem felt obliged to acquire these testimonies of the enthusiasm for stickers and the practice of collecting them. They were successful in 2007 when 60 albums were donated that ranged from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Mucem, WWF album, Panini


B as in Buttercup (costume)

In 1979, the museum turned its attention to the topic of festivities in France – a vast topic, if ever there was one. There are simply too many passage of rite ceremonies to count, and they include weddings, formal communions and conscription ceremonies as well as secular and religious occasions in the year such as Easter and 14th July Bastille Day celebrations as well as traditional rural festivities and popular urban ones such as balls et fairs – in short, every aspect of these times when people rejoice, come together and communicate within a community that may be more extended or less extended. For three years all of these were explored. The carnival of the small town of Jargeau in the Loiret part of north-central France has a reputation that has reached far beyond the area itself. Jargeau has been hosting the occasion every year on ‘Mardi-Gras’, or Shrove Tuesday, since the 19th Century. This was one of the first places to be surveyed and surveyors found three buttercup costumes making their way through the streets as a group, among other things. Thirty years later, the festive theme is all about carnivals and the masquerade in Europe and the Mediterranean. This was the subject of a new collated survey that showed that this centuries-old practice is still very much alive and kicking, as evidenced in the 2014 exhibition ‘The world upside down’.

Mucem, Buttercup costume


C as in Cloclo

‘Cloclo’ refers to the celebrated French singer-songwriter Claude François

The phenomenon of fandom directed at famous people for their talent, their beauty and their capabilities has been discussed and studied ever since the mid-20th Century, though the world of fans and of the products derived from these stars that were specially created for them has only been looked at more recently. The National Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions undertook a pioneering survey collection that looked at the community of admirers of the French singer-songwriter Claude François at the turn of the 70s, and it introduced these marketing samples put together by the singer centring on his persona. These are posters, biographies, signed photos, and a scent created by the star. Nowadays these kinds of items can be found at celebrity fan clubs worldwide. More unusual though – and definitely more emblematic of the era that gave rise to it and the taste of the public at the time – is the Claude-François plaster ready-to-paint statue.

Mucem, Cloclo

Mucem, Cloclo


D as in D (system)

This 1 :300 scale model of a three-mast ship flying the flag of Britain is made of amazing materials: cardboard for the body of the ship, bits of wood for the mast, and plaited and twisted hair for the ropes and strings. The model was made in the early 19th Century, possibly by an English person being held at the Isle of Ré just off the west coast of France. The conditions under which it was created explain the crude nature of the materials used: the prisoner made this little ship with what he had to hand – which was not much at all. Far from being incidental, this work positions itself in a tradition of making objects in a prison environment, also known as ‘pontoon art’ – the name being derived from the French name for the unarmed prison ships anchored off the English coast that the British used for French prisoners, soldiers, sailors and corsairs on the orders of Napoleon I. Those held in these floating ships often created various objects including model boats, small clockwork figures, small coffers and tiny statues to keep themselves busy and sane, using what they could find on the ship itself. This model made using unusual materials tells us something about the daily life of hundreds of thousands of prisoners during the Napoleonic wars.

Mucem, Système D

E as in Eternal (Regrets)

The dead occupy a key position in the societies of mankind, so a museum of civilisations such as the Mucem owes it to itself to safeguard the memory of the rituals we adopt around death from high antiquity to the present day. Safeguarding tradition in this manner encompasses the antique Egyptian funerary cluster that depicts a herdsman and his beasts as well as French urns and coffins from the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries, along with sober headstones made of wood from the 20th Century to mark Macedonian tombs. In 2003, the Mucem was given a sizeable gift of collectors’ death-related items that had been collected in French cemeteries and scrapped once the tombs had been abandoned. The museum thus acquired crowns of pearled flowers, paintings under glass, framed photos in heavy glass globes or photos printed onto metallic plates, elegiac compositions made of hair, metal flowerpots and little pictures of flowers in ceramic among other things, all dating from the end of the 19th Century to the early 20th Century, and all bearing witness to the kinds of funerary tributes that no longer take place today.

Mucem, Éternels

F as in Footix

In the wake of the enthusiasm shown for the World Cup triggered by the success of the France team, the museum embarked upon a comprehensive collection campaign focussing on souvenir objects of the event. It was during the campaign that the full official mascot costume for the World Cup was acquired – Footix. This was the Gallic rooster with the sporting name. The costume was produced by the French Committee for the Organisation of the Football World Cup, and was designed to be worn by a medium-sized adult. Our researchers were interested in different kinds of objects that bore witness to the event: supporters’ accessories, publicity material about the matches, and items to be used by the staff working at each appearance. Among the many items acquired for the collection are 11 official notices for the cities hosting the World Cup, the official ‘Trois Suisses’ catalogue showing World Cup products available for sale, a batch of items made by Sony France, a World Cup T-shirt, a ‘nou le avec zot’ plastic supporters’ horn [a French creole punning phrase meaning ‘We are with you’ or ‘Join with you’] from the Reunion Isles, three puzzles, a wallet of access documents for a Cup match, a luminous Footix sign measuring 1.80m by 1.60m, perfumery products, Yves Saint Laurent branded clothing and accessories worn by the welcome hostesses, Hasbro board games and various other day-to-day items such as Hewlett Packard printer cartridge stamped with ‘World Cup’, dogs’ accessories, bathing suits, McDonald’s glasses, crystal statuettes of Footix and so on. As from 2014, a new collated survey lasting three years has been undertaken that focusses on the world of football and its supporters, opening up to the Euro-Mediterranean space and extending the one first set out in 1998, whilst also leaving aside the world of merchandising explored in that year.

Mucem, Footix

G as in Glove

Some of the items preserved at the Mucem might seem odd to the eyes of the visitor of today. And yet, just a few decades ago the users of these objects would have hardly batted an eyelid. This item isn’t an ice skate with a couple of toes missing – it’s actually a glove used by rural people in the Balkans from the early 19th Century to the middle of the 20th Century. At harvest time, the reapers used this wooden protection item for the three fingers on the hand that was not holding the sickle. It meant that they could hold the wheat ears at the uppermost, curved part and cut them without running the risk of hurting themselves.

Mucem, Gant

H as in Homage

At the end of the 1990s, the museum embarked upon research into new sacred and profane rituals, collecting objects of devotion and souvenirs from modern-day pilgrimages that were mainly religious in their nature. Meanwhile, the interest of the surveyors was piqued by the devotional phenomena that grew up around the figure of Princess Diana following her fatal accident under the tunnel of Paris’s Alma bridge in August 1997. The Bartholdy liberty flame at the top of the Alma bridge - a replica of the one held aloft by the statue of Liberty in New York – stood by the bridge, and votive homages and ritual practices accumulated around this flame. A lot of graffiti was written on the flame itself that spoke of the love and sadness felt by admirers of Lady Di, elevated by many to saintly status. As the owner of the sculpture, the city of Paris decided to remove the graffiti, considering it to be a degradation of a public space. A fence was put up and a site hoarding set up as part of the restoration initiative which broadcast the nature of the work being done. Pilgrims, as they were referred to, transformed this panel into a commemorative plaque - and it is for this reason that the museum decided to acquire it. This panel is the perfect expression of the popular devotion directed at Diana, despite the protective measures around the monument that had been arranged by the public authorities.

Mucem, Hommage

I as in IAM

Since 2000, the Mucem has been interested in tags and graffiti within the Euro-Mediterranean space as well as the urban dance and music that often goes with it: mainly rap and hip-hop. Part of the survey focussed on Marseille, represented in the museum’s collection by Jo Corbeau and the Massilia Sound System. These were essential to the diffusion of hip-hop locally, and more broadly in France. The Marseille rap group IAM came about in 1998, and was the standard-bearer that the museum looked at. IAM is made up of Akhénaton, DJ Khéops, Shury’K, Imhotep and Kephren, and makes its recordings at the La Cosca studio in what French people refer to as the Phoenician city – Marseille. It was in fact the studio owner who offered Mucem a range of iconic IAM rap objects: the gold disc in Belgium of the record L’école du micro d’argent [‘The school of the silver microphone’], a promotional presentation sleeve for the release of this album, a storyboard for the La Saga clip, and a metal reproduction of the IAM signature gifted by a fan.

Mucem, IAM


J as in Jaguar

The collections at Mucem reach far beyond the geographic borders of Europe and the Mediterranean. Going right back to the era when the museum concerned itself with French popular traditions and arts, it covered French space in its entirety – including, of course, French overseas territories and districts. On 14th and 15th December 1953, the museum – based in Paris at the time – quite legitimately acquired some of the collection of Edouard Mérite at a public sale. This animal sculptor and painter had devoted his entire life to collecting traps, cages, duck calls and decoys for animals. It was a passion that was to make him into something of a celebrity. This flute made of a jaguar bone was made by an indigenous Guyanan Indian, and was selected by the museum to join its French heritage collection. Forty years later, Guyana – as well as Martinique, Guadeloupe and Reunion – became areas of research for the museum. Objects that represented the cultural practices of the various populations living in these French territories were collected so as to depict the French overseas cultural blending and the features specific to each culture.

Mucem, Jaguar

K as in Kit for an artificial hymen

This small wooden case contains two aluminium sachets. Inside one of them is a membrane that is a simulated intact hymen, and in the other is red liquid, acting as simulated blood. The device was originally made in Japan in 1993 by a trinket and accessories manufacturer, and the artificial hymen kit was marketed as a sex toy and marketed first in South Asia and then in the West. The kit was used for an altogether different purpose in countries whose societies elevated female virginity on their wedding night to a very high status. It was a very low-cost substitute for hymen-reconstruction surgery. The kit became a controversial item – so much so that Muslim religious authorities prohibited its use, particularly in Egypt. The Egyptian religious cleric Abdul Moeti Bayoumi declared a fatwa in 2009 on the kit, calling for sellers of the false hymen to be pursued for promoting vice and immorality – a crime that could result in the death penalty according to Islamic sharia law. The device perfectly illustrates the different attitudes on the perimeter of the Mediterranean around a particular issue – here, virginity – and it also embodies certain tensions in society. It is for this reason that this apparently trivial object has earned a position as a national asset.

Mucem, Kit d'hymen artificiel

L as in Luge

What could this wooden box with a strap possibly be used for? Scholars at Queyras in the French Hautes-Alpes valley answered the question with no hesitation in the early 20th Century: “It’s a briefcase. We also use it in winter to hurtle down snowy slopes, so it’s a portable luge!”. In an era in which people wear plastic, flexible backpacks adorned with effigies of their heroes, the younger mountain-dwellers would most certainly lose a briefcase-luge race against their ancestors…

Mucem, Luge

M as in Mould for suppositories

In 2000, the Mucem was advised that three Parisian hospitals were closing (Boucicaut, Laennec and Broussais), with their services all being integrated into the new European hospital the Georges-Pompidou. The museum decided to undertake a collated survey with a view to safeguarding the tangible and less tangible memories of these three institutions. The researchers decided to study the materials and furnishings that represented the care and treatments that were part of the day-to-day life of the hospital in general during the second half of the 20th Century rather than items that represented the specific identity of each of the three establishments. A number of focus areas emerged, in particular things that related to the life cycle within the hospital: rituals around birth and death, therapeutic management, the folklore surrounding rifles, the clean and the dirty, and also the domain of food and nutrition – hence the suppository mould finding its way into the Mucem collections.

Mucem, moule à suppositoire

N as in Neige (boule à)

‘Boule à neige’ is the French word for ‘snow globe’

Inside this water-filled snow globe is a three-dimensional representation of a building flanked by a tower. This is the old Prague town hall and clock tower, as evidenced by the ‘Praha’ inscription on the stand. When upturned, the fine polystyrene particles in the suspension fall down like snowflakes onto the monument. Snow globes make very popular souvenirs, and invariably show a country or city’s principal monuments that are highly identifiable. The origins of the snow globe appear to go back to the 1878 Universal Exhibition in Paris, where master-glassmakers were given pride of place. Some of these craftsmen presented the first snow globes that contained figures of men sheltering under an umbrella. The 1889 Universal Exhibition of Paris was when the Eiffel Tower was launched, and it also heralded a new fashion for monuments set in snow globes which went on to become widespread during the 20th Century, eventually becoming something of a must-have souvenir to bring back from one’s holidays. It is for this reason that the collated survey on touristic objects undertaken during 2005 and 2006 gathered together a number of snow globes from various European capitals, presenting their best-known monuments.

Mucem, Boule à neige

O as in Ortie

‘Ortie’ is the French word for stinging nettle

This calf-length frock coat is also known as a redingote, and was once worn by a generously-sized man. It was most likely made in the second half of the 18th Century of drugget fabric. Drugget is a medium-quality fabric, considered to be the forbearer of denim. It was traditionally made up of a linen or hemp base overlaid onto a wool mesh or wool on cotton. In this garment, the fabric is woven using nettle fibre. Nettle fibre does not, contrary to some people’s opinion, sting. Nettle has been used in Europe since the Middle Ages, primarily for making rope and fabrics. The nettle’s light, solid stem fibre possesses temperature-retaining qualities meaning that it can be used to fabrics that are warm in winter and cool in summer. The use of nettle-based fibres waned by the end of the 19th Century, though the recent increase in awareness of environmental issues has resulted in renewed interest in the material. Nettles are in fact a good alternative to the cultivation of cotton: they are hardy plants whose cultivation does not require any polluting substances, and these days nettle fibre is once again being used to make clothing, particularly jeans.

Mucem, Redingote

P as in Préservatif

‘Préservatif’ is the French word for ‘condom’

With its collection of nearly 800 condoms, the Mucem simply has to be the national museum with the largest number of this kind of object in its stores. All of them come from a collective survey begun in 2002 that dealt with the memory of AIDS. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was one of the major epidemics of the late 20th Century. According to the 2007 UNAIDS report, 33.5 million people worldwide were afflicted by this terrible disease. What makes the disease different is that, for the first time in the history of epidemics, those afflicted with the disease spoke up to defend their rights - particularly in relation to information and prevention. This was one of the focus areas for the survey ‘History and memory of AIDS’, during which over 12 000 items from 49 countries in Europe and the Mediterranean were acquired.

Mucem, Préservatif

Q as in “c’est la Quille !”

“C’est la Quille !” is a French idiom for “It’s demob time!”

A conscript was a young man called up for military service. The call-up was directed at all young Frenchmen born in the same year, and is a heritage of the Revolution. As they left to join the army, they all got together to have a party, thereby symbolising their entry into adulthood. This was a tradition in every region of France, with some variants. Generally speaking there would be a dance, and the conscripts would wear a tricolor boater and emblem. The beginning of one’s military service was celebrated – but it was the end of the military service that was eagerly awaited, and the conscript skittles, or ‘quilles’ in French, were emblematic of the demobbed conscript. The name comes from the boat La Quille which brought over the convicts from Cayenne to metropolitan France at the end of the 19th Century. The wooden skittles – ‘quilles’ – ended up symbolising the freedom of the young soldiers and their return to civilian life. The skittles were souvenirs of the years spent in the service of their country and were decorated to greater or lesser extents, often bearing the colours of the regiment, the name of the former conscript, the enrolment number, the number of the most recent unit and the stages of the military service undergone as well as drawings and bawdy inscriptions: a demob-happy young man who’d been ‘ready for the army’ was now ‘ready for young ladies’. The tradition faded as compulsory national service came to an end, and the Mucem’s conscript skittles bear witness to a key stage in the life of a young Frenchman of the 19th and 20th Centuries – a way of life that has now faded away.

Mucem, Quille

R as in ‘Rire’

‘Rire’ is the French word for ‘laugh’

In 1972, the museum managed to acquire over 2000 joke and novelty trick items including false noses, false cameras that spouted water jets and vibrating chocolate boxes. The collection comes from the archives of the French company Coudurier & Niogret who were trading in the Paris area from 1931 to 1970. The owner Gabrielle Niogret donated over 300 items manufactured before 1938, corresponding to the period during which her father – the founder of the business – was trading. The museum was also bequeathed the tools that were used in the family workshop and for the various stages of the manufacturing of these tricks and joke items. This collection is of considerable historical interest: it bears witness to the activity and expertise of a business that employed a dozen or so workers for almost half a century, and was one of the five biggest manufacturers of joke and novelty items in France in the middle of the 20th Century. Also, the national history of France can be read in the trajectory of the Coudurier-Niogret business – for example, the business was closed during the German occupation but the workshop (now reduced to two workers) continued to keep going, despite the lack of raw materials. The collection is also a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the French sense of humour and how it evolved during the course of the 20th Century through the prism of small novelty items.

Mucem, Rire

S as in Saindoux

‘Saindoux’ is the French word for ‘lard’

Just a few decades ago French butchers showcased their talent and artistic capabilities at Easter and Christmas time, decorating their shop windows with models made out of lard (pork fat). These creations were subsequently dismantled in order to recover the raw materials. Some of these were not melted back down, though few of these have survived given that the material from which they are made is highly perishable. This is why this model of the town hall at Mézières in northern France is so precious. It was made in the late 1930s by Charles Fauquignon, head of the Union of Butchers in the Ardennes region of France, and is a rare illustration of an ancient expertise that demonstrates the skill of the craftsman. Models like this one were in fact quite often presented as an introductory piece by applicants for trade guilds hoping to be given the seal of approval by their fellow butchers.

Mucem, Saindoux

T as in Tag

Graffiti was born in the USA, most notably in New York City. Originally, it was a way for gangs to mark out an urban territory for themselves, but later on outsiders began to place their signature marks in public spaces, such as on the New York subway system. Over time, the art of the lettering developed and since the 1980s, graffiti art has made inroads into the art market, with the graffiti tag crossing over from the wall to the picture wall, from the public to the private. Europe took up the artform phenomena during the 1970s, though it did not become publicised until a decade later. At the Mucem, the interest in graffiti and tags was to play a key part in renewing the collections. These ranged from rural societies to urban cultures, and the museum considered issues of creation and popular culture. A number of collated surveys have been undertaken since the turn of this century on themes around hip-hop, dance, tags and graffiti. For the latter, 958 objects entered into the museum’s stores including graffitied panels, posters, stickers, marker pens, spray cans, magazines, sketches, photos and videos. Among them is this dustbin that belonged to the Toulouse-based graffiti artist Truskool. This item was part of his workshop between 1990 and 2002, and was tagged by the artist’s visitors and friends.

Mucem, Tag

U as in USSR

Between 2006 and 2009, the museum took an interest in the political and social ideology that was dominant for nearly a century in the countries within the orbit of the USSR. A number of items representing the Soviet model were acquired during this time, and these formed a part of the collective survey campaign that was referred to as ‘Socialist Paradise’. The idea was to show how the governments of eastern countries sought to inject colour into the drab daily life of those they were governing, using cultural materials. This lamp celebrates the Moscow regime and the victories of the people of Russia in space research, and perfectly illustrates the government’s initiative. When lit up, the transparent plastic base goes red in such a way as to simulate the rocket on its summit. The base of the lamp also features a frieze of the great success stories in Soviet history, according to its leaders: the 1917 Revolution, the conquest of space naturally enough, the peace of 1945, the introduction of electricity in the country, the BAM (Magistrale-Amour-Iakoutie) railway, and Lenin and his teachings.

Mucem, URSS

V as in Vlad the Impaler

Vlad Basarab-Tepes was born in December 1431 at Sighisoara in Transylvania (Rumania) and died in 1476 in Bucharest. The Prince of Wallachia and Voivode (war-lord of the region) was dubbed by historical chroniclers ‘the impaler’ because of his cruel practise of executing his enemies in this somewhat unpleasant manner. He counted among his enemies rural countrymen who rose up against him and Turkish soldiers in the war that pitted Christian Hungary against the Ottoman Empire. People mainly remember Vlad the Impaler for the name Draculae, or Dracula (in Rumanian ‘son of the protector’) as a result of the vampire figure created by Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel. Vlad was a national hero during the Communist period for thwarting the Ottoman invaders, and the vampire made popular by Stoker’s novel became a touristic and economic boon for Rumania. Vlad the Impaler has become a symbol of this part of the Balkans in the eyes of the world – in the guise of both the savage fighter figure of Transylvania and the soft toy with pointy teeth sold at Bucharest airport, and this alone earns him a place in the Mucem collections.

Mucem, Vlad l'Empereur

W as in Walt Disney

This item was donated in 1966 by a donor who was none other than the museum’s founder George-Henri Rivière. The item came with an invitation to the ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on Ice’ show that took place at the Paris Alhambra theatre on 26th December the same year. It speaks of the already widespread presence of Walt Disney in the world of leisure in Europe. This group of plastic figurines is in its original packaging, and is a souvenir from a festive evening enjoyed by the general public. It demonstrates the interest that the father of the museum of popular arts and traditions had in items that bear witness to our civilisation, modest as they may be. This was in an era when the intelligentsia marked out a very clear distinction between high culture – the fruit of an elite – and low, popular culture that was shared by most French people. It was a pioneering vision, and one that the Mucem has been striving to abide by ever since.

Mucem, Walt Disney

X as in born as X

The baby hatch was a device that made it possible for a mother to hand over a new-born child, usually once conceived out of wedlock, to an organisation such as a hospital, social services or church which would take them into their care and put them up for adoption. The hatch was a cylinder that opened out onto the outside of a building, and then swivelled on a vertical axis like a trapdoor. The mother would place the baby inside the cylinder and then turn it so that the baby faced the interior of the building. She would then ring a bell so that those inside knew what had happened. This practice had been going in Europe since the Middle Ages, and became more widespread in the 18th Century. The baby hatch was considered to represent real progress, given the threat of infanticide with which the mothers could be charged. Even now there exists in some countries – Germany among them – a more modern and somewhat less basic form of the practice. Baby hatches were banned in an Act passed on 27th June 1904. Since this time, women have the right to give birth in hospitals anonymously (referred to as anonymous childbirth) and to leave their baby there. After baby hatches were banned, the museum acquired two baby hatches in order to preserve their memory.

Mucem, Né sous X

Y as in Yoghurt

This bottle of drinking yoghurt forms part of a collection of 1300 different mass-produced plastic bags and containers (including cheese boxes, salami wrapping, plastic vials used for toiletry and upkeep products, washing powder packs, bottles of aperitifs and wines and various glass vials) that were offered to the Mucem by André Desvallées, the well-known curator, museologist and ethnologist of French museums. His collection was begun back in the 1980s, and it bears witness to the daily life of a family of five over a 20-year period. This yoghurt bottle encapsulates a consumer society, acting as a symbol of temporary packaging. Together with its other little friends in the collection made by André Desvallées, it is an opportunity to reflect on several issues including the problem of throwaway packaging, how we manage waste, and how we classify trash in our contemporary society. The morphological varieties in the wrapping and packaging is a good opportunity to learn more about the prevailing tastes of an era. Every one of these objects as acted as an advertising medium and served to further graphic and design research, and they tell the story of marketing at the end of the 20th Century. In an age when the use of plastic as a packaging material is being called into question, it is important to preserve the traces of its existence.

Mucem, Yaourt

Z as in Zizi

‘Zizi’ is a French slang word for ‘penis’ translating roughly as ‘willy’

Since Antiquity, the phallus has been a symbol of virility and fertility. In the West, representations of the phallus have become, by extension, lucky charms. It can come as no surprise to see that the male organ is associated with pitchers of wine, given its association with satyrs and Priapus, the God of ithyphallic fertility (referring to the erect phallus) which forms the cortege of Bacchus, the God of wine. Since the late 19th Century, the Portuguese town of Caldas da Rainha, located in Extremadura has been celebrated for its production of varnished ceramic items, in particular for its manufacture of phallic pitchers that are given to newly-weds and also used by medical students as part and parcel of their rather drink-fuelled festivities. These days, the craftsmen continuing the tradition mainly sell their pitchers to tourists visiting Portugal.

Mucem, Zizi