Manequinho, Rio de Janeiro’s Manneken Pis Replica

Manequinho, on the backdrop of Botafogo's residential towers

photography by: Omri Westmark

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The Belgian capital might be an Ocean away from the South American continent, yet one statue in Rio de Janeiro's Botafogo neighborhood serves as a strange piece of Brussels in the middle of the new world. Inspired by the Manneken Pis in Brussels, Manequinho is surprisingly uneclipsed by its more famous counterpart, regarded as one of Botafogo's most important icons.

One of Brussels’ most famed icons, the Manneken Pis is a 17th century fountain, best known for its clothless toddler sculpture who incessantly urinates a stream of drinking water for more than 400 years. Since its creation, the Belgian statue inspired dozens of replicas all over the world, including in Brussels itself. Perhaps one of Manneken Pis’ least known copycats, at least for foreigners, is located in an assuming traffic island in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.


Better known as Manequinho, Rio’s replica of Manneken Pis was originally sculpted in 1908 by the artist Belmiro de Almeida and stood proudly in Praça Floriano square. Apparently, the sculpture’s explicit bareness was deemed obscene by many, resulting in a public outcry and the subsequent removal of Manequinho twenty year after its initial installation.


In 1929, the Brazilian Manneken Pis was reintroduced at its new location in Botafogo Beach. When Botafogo soccer club (Botafogo de Futebol e Regatas) won the statewide championship in 1957, Manequinho rose to glory when one of the team’s ardent fans covered the sculpted infant with the club’s official shirt. From that moment onwards, the statue became synonymous with the neighborhood’s football team, becoming Botafogo’s unofficial mascot.


Despite its honorable status, the sculpture was stolen and ultimately ruined in 1990. Three years later, a new replica was created using Belmiro de Almeida’s original mold. In 1994, the newly cast Manequinho was transferred for the last time to its current location, a traffic island in front of General Severiano Palace, home to the headquarters of Botafogo soccer club.


Interestingly, in spite of their sheer similarities, the two sculptures aren’t identical. Whereas Manequinho is one meter from head to toe, its more famous counterpart in Belgium is merely 55 centimeters tall, with its head being disproportionately big. Additionally, while Manneken Pis uses his right arm to relieve himself, the article’s protagonist completes the task with both his hands free.