Crate And Barrel Bodega Glasses
65 years of Osborne bull in Spain The bull is the figurehead of Spain. 14 meter high steel bulls decorate many landscapes. The black giants have an area of 150 square meters and weigh 4 tons. © imago stock&people By Reinhard Spiegelhauer – 05/17/2022 The Osborne bulls stand at the edge of Spanish country roads and highways. Once there were 500, today there are still 92. Invented as an advertising figure for the spirits manufacturer Osborne, the tin animals are now a cult not only in Spain. But not for everyone. The big, flat black bull made of sheet steel standing next to the road. He likes to appear on the horizon after a crest in the distance, after a curve, on a hill. This is the case on the A1 from Madrid toward Burgos in the north: at Cabanillas de la Sierra, the highway passes through a small cut in a hill. Are the bulls distracting the drivers? – Since 1962, the “Toro de Osborne” have had to keep a distance of 20 meters from the road.© Reinhard Spiegelhauer, ARD-Studio Madrid You look at the foothills of the Guadarrama Mountains, and then the iron statue appears on the right-hand side. Here, near Cabanillas, the first “Toro de Osborne” was erected 65 years ago. “Originally, the Toro de Osborne is just an advertising poster. But through some events it becomes an icon, on the one hand for the company, on the other hand as a kind of trademark for Spain.”
A bull for brandy advertising
The first bull, erected on May 15, 1957, was still made of wood, says Jaime Nuño González, and at four meters high, it was also still relatively small. The historian has long studied the “Toro de Osborne” phenomenon, which has its origins in an advertising idea. “A symbol of masculinity for a man’s brandy” – Carla Terry Osborne in the ‘Bull Museum’.© Reinhard Spiegelhauer, ARD Studio Madrid “Created as an advertisement for a particular brandy, the ‘Veterano’, and its year of birth is 1956, graphic designer Manolo Prieto designed it for us when we hired advertising agency Azor to design a bull for our brandy advertising.” Carla Terry Osborne is part of the sixth generation of company founder Thomas Osborne’s family. The Englishman founded the company in the 18th century in the southern Spanish town of El Puerto de Santa Maria, one of the cornerstones of the so-called sherry triangle, spanned between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and, precisely, El Puerto de Santa Maria. Originally only a wine trade with a focus on exports to Great Britain, the Spanish bodega “Osborne” developed over time into a major producer of sherry and brandy.
“We wanted something that embodied strength”.
Carla Terry Osborne stands among 2,500-liter wooden barrels in one of the warehouses, one of the family business’s bodegas. It is cool thanks to the thick, brick walls and the high roof, thanks to the small vents and the damp floor of tamped earth. A fine scent of cognac wafts through the bodega, even though the Spanish brandy may not be called that. “Veterano” is the name of the brandy the bull is meant to advertise. “We wanted something that embodied strength, because brandy was a man’s drink back then. Nowadays, of course, it is drunk by women and men. But back then, advertising was aimed more at men. And we wanted to put the strong, free bull from the pasture all over the streets. Just like the bulls that are in my family’s pastures.”
Birth of the Osborne bull
A symbol of masculinity for a man-brandy-that, then, is the origin of the silhouette with its towering horns and pronounced testicles hanging between its hind legs. The silhouette that many people from abroad interpret today as a trademark of Spain. The first advertising figures were placed in surprising locations right next to the roads, with a flaming red “Veterano” lettering on their bellies. A PR bull’s-eye that was right in line with the times. Under the sign of the bull – an Osborne specimen in a poppy field in Toledo, central Spain.© imago images/Westend61 But there was also early criticism: the advertising signs would distract, even frighten, motorists. In 1962, a law was passed requiring that billboards be at least 20 meters from the roadway. This marked the birth of the “Osborne bull,” as it is known today. Having grown from four to six or seven meters before, and made of sheet iron instead of wood for durability, he grew to the 14-meter height that still makes him impossible to miss today. “That’s how it has remained to this day, partly because we left off the ‘Veterano’ lettering. Then no one could say he was a billboard. He just became part of the Spanish landscape.” At its peak, nearly 500 black bull silhouettes dotted the Spanish landscape, from north to south, west to east.
The bull as a family affair
They were and are all built in a locksmith’s shop not far from the Osborne bodega in El Puerto de Santa Maria, using old-world craftsmanship by brothers Felix and Pedro Prieto. “It starts with the order from the Osborne Bodega. Then we order the material: two-millimeter-thick galvanized steel sheet, 50- and 60-millimeter steel sections, and assembly materials to put the pieces together later.” “It’s like a puzzle for children” – Successful bull builders Felix and Pedro Prieto (right) in their workshop.© Reinhard Spiegelhauer, ARD Studio Madrid They are continuing their father’s work and are nephews of Manolo Prieto, who created the design in the 1950s. The bull is also a family affair, so to speak: “Manolo Pietro, the designer, was an uncle of my father. We still have the original stencils from 1957 made of sheet metal for the wooden bull. Those were then enlarged to scale for the seven-meter bull and later for the 14-meter version. All of these bulls look the same.” Pedro is the younger of the two brothers. Their locksmith shop is the size of a small indoor pool. Workbenches stand in it, a hydraulic sheet metal cutting machine and an edging bench for beveling sheet metal. An oxyacetylene welder and many, many other old and modern tools. Among other things, an anvil, because the two are also masters of blacksmithing. A pulley hangs under the roof to move the heavy individual parts through the hall.
Survival-sized bull puzzle made of 62 pieces
On a gate hangs an overview plan on which the individual parts of the bull are marked and labeled. The large iron figure, Pedro shows with the help of the plan, is actually a kind of puzzle: “Here we have a plan on which all the sheet metal parts are numbered. It’s like a puzzle for children. We take the templates, cut the sheets to size, edge them, drill holes for later when they’re bolted and welded to the scaffolding.” A larger-than-life bull puzzle of 62 pieces, plus scaffolding of iron beams to which it will later be attached. Using small trucks, the bull puzzles went to all corners of Spain. Often on narrow and stony dirt roads to hard-to-reach places next to the road. The landowners were also often paid in kind in the beginning: crates of wine and veterano brandy.
An Osborne bull as a movie celebrity
One of these trucks also came to the Comarca, the district of Los Monegros in the autonomous community of Aragon in northern Spain, and at the entrance to a community of 600 people there is still an Osborne bull today that has even become a movie celebrity. Marcos Vaquer: “We are here in Peñalba, on the old N2 national road that has connected Madrid and Barcelona since time immemorial and over which all heavy traffic passed for many years and which has a myth about it.” Reporter: “And besides, we are facing…” Marcos Vaquer: “… another myth, the ‘Toro de Osborne’, which is also a landmark. Especially on this street.” Reporter: “And of a movie that was filmed here.” Marcos Vaquer: “Yes, the film by Bigas Luna, in which the bull plays a central role to the plot.” Marcos Vaquer is the county’s tourism commissioner, who is a bit proud of “his” bull. He stands on a hill next to the country road that descends to the village in a long curve. The black bull silhouette completely filled the promotional poster for director Bigas Luna’s film, strategically placed just below the testicles: a young woman in a bright red summer dress. It was the first starring role for a Spanish actress in 1992, and she has long since conquered Hollywood. A wild love triangle peppered with clichés including Osborne bull – Penelope Cruz in her first leading role in the 1992 film “Jamon, Jamon” – German title: “Lust auf Fleisch”.© imago images/Mary Evans It’s been 30 years since Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem starred in “Jamon, Jamon,” twenty years later they got married. The film is about masculinity, about machismo, about the gap between lower and upper class in Spain towards the end of the last millennium. Marcos Vaquer: “It’s about the class struggle in traditional Spain, as Bigas Luna perceives it. The conflict between the well-heeled up there and the honest and humble people from poor backgrounds down there.”
Bull as a symbol of “Spanishness”
It’s a wild love triangle peppered with clichés and symbolisms, most notably the Osborne bull, in whose shadow several key scenes take place. “In one, he even gets his testicles knocked off. That also represents the end of the traditional, old Spain that Bigas Luna wants to show in his film.” The film, in which the two human bulls vie for Penelopé Cruz’s role as Silvia, culminates in a fight in which Javier Bardem bludgeons his competitor to death with an entire pork ham. Director Bigas Luna received a Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival for Jamón, Jamón. And the Osborne bull has become a symbol of “the Spanish” abroad, perhaps thanks to his film. Its symbolic power attracts people from all over the world.
Marked route for film fans
Perhaps also because filmmaker and cultural manager Vicky Calavia developed a marked route in 2018 that leads to various filming locations of “Jamon, Jamon”: to the Osborne bull, the bullfighting training ground, the ham warehouse, the site of the fatal finale. “It probably has the most significance for location scouts coming to the area. Many call because they want to shoot here. And, of course, it plays a role that Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, an internationally hot celebrity couple, shot ‘Jamón, Jamón’ here.” Steep career – the bull can be found not only on the streets, but also on the Spanish flag, like here in Madrid.© imago images/VWPics Numerous video clips, as well as cinema productions, have been shot in the barren, deserted area in recent years. Towering above it all is the bull of Peñalba, which in reality, according to filmmaker Vicky Calavia, is not a national symbol at all: “It rather comes from the Franco era, is an element of that time that has endured. And it refers to the ‘fiesta nacional’, the bullfight. Clearly, it’s a symbol of days gone by, but it still exists today.”
Activists destroy the bulls
And therefore a symbol against which there was and is also resistance: In the Basque Country and Catalonia, the two autonomous regions with strong independence movements, Osborne bulls have been destroyed by activists several times in the past. “In El Bruc near Barcelona, activists destroyed a bull because for them it represents bullfighting.” This is quite wrong, says historian Jaime Nuño González, a great misunderstanding: “Neither one nor the other is true. When it is created, the bull has nothing to do with Spain. Later people print him on flags, but in the beginning he is simply the free bull in the dehesa, the tree-covered pasture. He has nothing to do with bullfighting. Where are the spears, where are the banderilla spits? It’s the Mediterranean bull, already seen on Byzantine wall paintings, on ancient coins and cave paintings in eastern Spain.” What does the Osborne bull have to do with Spain’s controversial bullfighting? Supposedly nothing, say its creators. Even though one branch of the family breeds fighting bulls. © imago images/Agencia EFE That’s also the narrative they’re keeping in the Osborne house. The figure of the Osborne bull has nothing to do with bullfighting, they say. Even if there have always been bulls and bull breeding in the widespread family, Carla Terry Osborne tells: “We are a big family, and there is a branch that breeds fighting bulls. But the bull as such has always been closely linked to Spain, with its tradition. Not only recently, already in mythology he has always been an important animal. At the moment it’s a delicate subject, we don’t like to talk about it. For us, the ‘Toro de Osborne’ has nothing to do with bullfighting.”
Osborne bull soon on red list?
92 Osborne bulls still exist, each weighing four tons, made of rust-protected sheet metal. Anchored in 50-ton foundations to withstand even storms. Regularly inspected, and maintained with black paint. 92 of once almost 500. Will the Osborne bull perhaps soon be on the Red List? It’s already protected in some way, says historian Jaime Nuño González: “There was this point when the Spanish government banned advertising along the major roads. That actually strengthened the attachment of many to the bull. The controversy started in 1987 and lasted ten years.” The regions of Andalusia and Navarre lobbied for the bulls to stay, and many communities fought for “their” bull. The dispute went through several judicial instances and in 1997 the Supreme Court in Andalusia ruled: the “Toro de Osborne” is more than a billboard, it is part of the cultural heritage and may remain standing. One of the artists who had campaigned for its preservation was director Bigas Luna: “The day it was clear that it would stay, I was happy. I feel a lot about the bull as a symbol of Spain.” “That was perhaps the peak of the Osborne bull’s popularity. He was pardoned, allowed to stand along the roads. At that time he really appeared everywhere: on the Spanish flag, T-shirts, as a belt buckle. And in ‘Jamón, Jamón,’ of course.”
Cultural asset or protected brand?
But in recent years, the popularity of the Osborne bull has waned, says historian Jaime Nuño González. Perhaps that’s because, he suspects, the company is now quite firm in insisting on its trademark rights, even though, after all, the bulls are still standing primarily because they are also considered a cultural asset. “We’ve always been fighting for him to be ours. He is a bull that has a name.” National symbol bull at the Madrid Stock Exchange – The Osborne bull can be found on children’s clothing, on handbags and coats, on beer, on olive oil and notebooks. © imago/photothek The family of Carla Terry Osborne has converted a former warehouse into a kind of museum for the “Toro de Osborne.” Tourists who take a guided tour of the bodega learn a lot about the history of the company and its trademark here. “When they built the gallery here in 2016, they actually wanted to put up a full-size bull, but it didn’t quite fit in. What does fit in, though, is what we put back there, which is a head. Same size as the one on the highway. And the horns are bigger than me.”
“Everyone is copying our bull.”
Not only on the roads, but the bull also appears as a trademark in magazines and in television clips. In the exhibition also runs a commercial clip with the young Javier Bardem, the belt buckle adorns the Osborne bull. But many others also want to adorn themselves with him, complains Carla Terry Osborne: “Our bull is just very, very much in demand. Everybody copies him. It’s like Louis Vuitton bags and the China knockoffs. We’ve had to start licensing so we don’t get in trouble for counterfeiting and knockoffs.” The family runs its own temple of consumption in its bodega: there are tastings, tapas, wine, sherry and, of course, Veterano brandy, to which the world owes the iconic bull.
“Osborne wants total control of the bull”.
And there’s plenty of official merchandise featuring the Toro – for royalties. Says Carla Terry Osborne, “Everything you see here, from children’s clothing to handbags to coats, are licensed products. We even have a beer and olive oil with the bull on it, munchies too. All kinds of things, down to notebooks. All from licensees.” Has studied the phenomenon “Osborne bull” for many years – the historian Jaime Nuño González in front of the background of the Toro de La Gineta in Albacete.© (c) Jaime Nuño González But historian Jaime Nuño Gonzalez interjects: “Osborne wants total control over the bull. In the past, everyone used it. But if everything is illegal and Osborne insists on being the sole owner, then it’s just not perceived as a symbol of everyone anymore.”
The Toro has German roots
Today, foreigners see the Osborne bull as a symbol of Spain much more than the Spaniards themselves, Gonzalez believes, “When someone comes to Spain on the highway and sees a big black figure on the horizon without any text, they ask themselves ‘What is that?’ Oh, the Spanish like bullfighting.’ It looks like a public campaign, and it’s spread all over Spain. The relationship with Spanish identity must be quite logical for foreigners.” The story of the family business fits in with this: founded in the heart of Andalusia, in El Puerto de Santa Maria. By an Englishman, for whom the Hamburg-born Johann Nikolaus Böhl von Faber initially managed the business. And whose daughter Aurora soon married company founder Thomas Osborne. So the Spanish icon, the “Toro de Osborne,” also has German roots. Somehow. Crate And Barrel Bodega Glasses.
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