Curse of the cabbage bowls

I live in a town made famous by the man who invented cabbage leaf bowls. Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro also did ceramic frogs and ugly people. How he made a career out of this is beyond me. He did, though, and busloads of people now come to traipse around the museum dedicated to his work.

Bordalo Pinheiro cabbage bowl

Scary cabbage bowls

His bowls have been creeping me out since I was a child. They remind me of something moulded out of brain tissue and left to rot in a swamp. I have broken several in my life, in circumstances that were not entirely accidental, but they just keep coming. It seems the world has an inexhaustible supply of cabbage leaf bowls.

To be fair Pinheiro did a lot of other things with his life and would probably resent being remembered for an item of crockery. I don’t know what he was doing with the frogs but he was a damn fine satirist who poked fun at the well-fed and powerful through a series of caricatures and illustrations. His most famous and enduring is Zé Povinho, a man of the people who is somewhat like the Portuguese equivalent of Andy Capp.

Zé Povinho

Zé Povinho, man of the people

Scary people

The caricatures are not as scary as the cabbage bowls but they are not pretty – mostly bloated, red faced and in need of some advanced dentistry. A bit like distant relatives who you’d chosen to forgot about until they show up at a family funeral and remind you of the glitches in your genetic makeup.

But the local council has decided the caricatures have spent too long in the gloom of the museum. Life-sized reproductions of the unfortunate creatures have been placed inside glass boxes at strategic points around the town. They’re okay seen in broad daylight but a bit disconcerting when you stumble across them at night.

I have tried to like them. I really have. I’ve squinted at them, tried to see their importance as social commentary and imagined how they would look with a makeover. I understand that they are quirky and fun in much the same way as English seaside postcards. But god they are ugly. I guess it could have been worse though. I have yet to see a cabbage bowl on the street. Hopefully the council is keeping them locked away. Either that or the world has finally run out of them.

About Connal

I live on the Silver Coast of Portugal with my wife and two youngest children. This is my take on life as an expat in this warm-hearted and wonderful place. View all posts by Connal...
Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Curse of the cabbage bowls

  1. alice turnlund says:

    I am equally bemused by how popular these caricature-like models are. I am especially unnerved by the large black ceramic cat that is displayed in a glass case in a street just around the corner from the bus depot. I personally think cats can be quite beautiful when depicted in art, but this one is an angry cat with a rigid upright tail that positively flaunts its vulgar and very obvious puckered balloon-knot bottom. I find it very unprepossessing, but I suppose that is art in its essence, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure!

  2. stephanie johnson says:

    I now know what I am getting you for Christmas . . . 🙂

  3. melanie cheetham says:

    I like this cat. Portuguese does quirky well. Love going to ladies toilet in the museum in the park in Caldas.!!!! Not sure about the squatting figures in the nativity scenes I think spanish do this as well. Also saw the couple who make the phalluses in caldas but have not seen these yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *