New Brussels museum displays costumes of Manneken Pis statue

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Visitors to Brussels will soon be able to admire scores of colorful costumes used over the years to dress the city's most famous landmark, the 400-year-old Manneken Pis.

The 61 cm (24 inch) bronze statue of a naked boy urinating into a fountain is one of the biggest attractions for visitors to the Belgian capital and on Saturday a museum that celebrates his extensive and diverse wardrobe will open near to the site.

The museum, called Garderobe MannekenPis after the French word for 'wardrobe', will display 133 costumes from a 965-item collection. They include a fireman, a coal miner, a bee-keeper, Mickey Mouse, Santa Claus, Dracula and a Chinese dragon.

A giant mural depicting the Manneken Pis in a jacket and jeans emblazons the side of the museum building.

Manneken Pis receives about 15 to 20 new costumes annually and is dressed for 130 days of the year. But there are strict rules about what he can wear - no political or religious garb, and none for commercial purposes.

The new museum is split into seven sections: geography, folklore, charity and citizens' associations, trades, celebrities, sports and designers. Visitors will also be able to dress up a Manneken Pis model.

All the outfits on display are original except one - the replica of a costume donated by French King Louis XV in 1747 as an apology after his soldiers tried to steal the statue.

The origins of Manneken Pis are unclear. One story says a little boy saved Brussels from burning down in the 13th century by urinating on the blaze. Another says a rich man lost his son and found him relieving himself on a street corner.

The original statue dates from 1619 and now sits in the City Museum. Other statues have been stolen or vandalized. The current Manneken Pis statue was put together from fragments found after an 1817 theft by a reprieved French convict.

On Saturday, the Manneken Pis will receive a new costume based on a mediaeval city pageant.

(Reporting by Waverly Colville; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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