It sits there by the Petroli Bridge in Badalona, one leg crossing the other. Curling fingers of her prehensile hand hold a bottle of anisette firmly. The lips are extended in a happy smile induced by the content. A bronze 200 kilo ape with Charles Darwin’s face produced by Susana Ruíz, a local sculptor. I wonder could there be some exciting story behind this unusual artefact?
Brothers Jos. and Vicente Bosch of Badalona launched an anisette production plant in 1870. By that time they had managed to spend quite some time in America as Europe was undergoing an economic crisis and many enterprising Catalonians crossed the ocean in search of opportunity. Having made a handsome capital, the brothers returned home to start their own business here. Legend goes, and there seems to be some proof of that, Vicente did not come back alone from the New World. In the harbour, holding his hand, a petite monkey descended the ship’s gangway. The new immigrant was to reside in Badalona, at the anisette plant. The town’s residents found the charming creature to be a major curiosity as there was a lot of talk then about the scandalous theory of Charles Darwin insisting on humans being descendants of apes. So, the local residents would flock to the plant to pay a visit. Once curiosity was satisfied, next to be attended would be the thirst and of course, it had to be that freshly made anisette. As you must have gathered by now, that is where the plant’s name comes from, Anis del Mono — Monkey’s Anissette. You will see it on the concrete wall of the facility behind the railway and of course, on the anisette bottles that are easily found in any liquor store throughout the country.
In fact, the Anis del Mono bottle deserves a separate story, and a long story it would be. Briefly though, its unusual design, the little diamonds on the glass, was creatively borrowed by Vicente Bosch from the bottle of perfume that he brought for his wife from Paris. The idea to purchase the copyright from the perfumer was a splendid idea indeed. Together with the monkey on the label, the patterns made the ‘monkey anisette’ stand out among other liquors. Catalonian Boheme loved it and the proof of it may be found in Pablo Picasso’s paintings. Moreover, there is that semi-humorous hypothesis that it was thanks to that bottle the great Spanish artist invented cubism. How? Well, he just looked at the objects and beings around him through the bottle of Anis del Mono and found the transformation exciting. Who knows, maybe that is exactly why a few years ago under the cover of night unidentified malefactors tried to deprive the bronze ape from its long-held treasure? Susan Ruíz, the ape’s creator was the first person to inform of this rather unpleasant accident at her Facebook page literally the following morning. Judging by the marks on the bottle they used a crowbar and a cobble but fortunately, their attempt proved futile.