20 december 2021
Why is a monkey holding hands with a woman?
Why are they both protagonists of a spanish liquor advertising? These questions are all reasonable to be asked.
Although, Anís del Mono is not like all kinds of liqueurs nor like other aniseed liqueur you might find, it has been a well established brand for 150 years in the Spanish imagery, it’s bottle was inspired by a french perfume and its label by the renowned Charles Darwin.
Anís del Mono de Badalona
Mono y Mona
Ramón Casas (1897)
color lithograph on paper
lithographed by Enrich and Cia. Company (Barcelona) (2,4 m x 1 m)
Translation: Monkey and Female Monkey
Well, at least that’s what they say.
The truth is, there were many rumours on what inspired José and Vicente Bosch y Grau, brothers and Spanish founders of the brand, to create The Anís del Mono liqueur back in 1897 in Badalona (Cataluña). Some said Bosch was an exotism lover to the extent he ordered a friend to bring him 1 or 2 monkeys from America, others said he was a darwinist theory follower wanting to prove his drink was “the most evolved” among others.
What we do know is Anís del Mono’s factory is one of the oldests operating in Badalona, and currently belongs to The Osborne Group, most-respected wine manufacturers in Spain. His anis is done in the same handcrafty way, but had to deal with many competitors at the epoch who eventually put other animals in their labels according to the Spanish taste for the exotic.
In the 19th century there were many liqueur manufacturers in the Catalonian territory, and brands were starting to be created, which meant it was the perfect opportunity to make yourself distinguishable from others.
This is the reason why In 1897, Vicente Bosch, founder of Anís del Mono, launched the first poster competition to promote the Anis del Mono brand, in which many artists of the time participated. From the 167 participants, the first prize was awarded to Ramón Casas, a painter, cartoonist and illustrator and author of the Mono and Mona poster which can be seen at the top of this article. His work in the field of graphic design, his posters and postcards contributed to outlining the concept of Catalan modernism, which was developed thanks to the Catalan bourgeoisie and figures such as Domench and Gaudi.
Ramón Casas was enjoying his best moment as poster designs were crucial for brands, just as the application of lithography and the use of color allowed to illustrate in a vibrant way and with a greater impact, which was and still is the objective of advertising.
The use of sexual imagery would be also part of the game plan, in this case with the presentation of a woman. This woman is dressed with a manila shawl over the shoulders, a squared silk canvas decorated in bright colors with flowers, birds or other fantasies and inspired by Chinese high-quality silk fabrics. It became strongly popular in The Philippines, Latin America and Spain as a complement to women’s clothing during the imperialist era. In Spain it became strongly recognized among flamenco dancers, who would carry them in their own way, if we look closer, in this case the fallen shawl “a la moronga” suggests this woman was a prostitute.
She is the so-called “La Manola”, a term that refers to the woman wearing traditional Spanish clothing. She would become the female protagonist of the advertising posters for Anís del Mono in the 19th century.
Want to know more about the Anis del Mono liquer?
The only factory that exists for Anís del Mono is located in Badalona. It is a modernist jewel from 1870 and, apart from being able to visit, each year it produces more than 4 million liters of this world-renowned liquor. About the aniseed type and what it is made from.
- The Anís del Mono beat all imitators, as its fame did not stop and its liquor stood out among the manufacturers of brandy in the area. Others baptized its beverages also with the names of animals such as the orangutan, kangaroo, little birds, macaque, mole, eagle, deer, lion or cat. However, this wouldn’t be enough to defeat the "Monkey".
- Distinguishing a real bottle from a fake one is easier than you think, as the real one has a spelling mistake appearing on its label: Distilation instead of Distillation. Now you won’t easily be fooled!
- Lastly, the bottle has been used as a Christmas instrument for more than a century by Spanish families; grandfathers, mothers, children and grandchildren have gathered to scratch the bottle’s diamond crystal surface and discovered its curious noise.
Want to try something different this year?
The poster collection is made accessible by the collaboration between Design Museum Dedel and Reclame Arsenaal (IADBB). For more such interesting stories subscribe to our blog, follow us on Instagram and maybe visit our museum.
Rocío Vázquez Varela de Seijas
Rocío is an artist and graphic designer with a special interest in advertising and the psychology of communication. She cherishes to reflect on the way we as a society perceive art, advertising, movies and popular culture overall. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.