A couple of years ago I bought my first Berrocal while on a visit to the Berrocal Foundation that Nigel organised for us. (There may have been an entire weekend of silliness wrapped around that visit.) Sometime after that trip John Rausch told me that, in his opinion, the stand-out smaller Berrocal multiple was Manolete – and I should definitely look out for a copy, so given that John is seldom wrong on such important matters, I began gently keeping an eye out for one at a reasonable price… and earlier this year I found one at what I thought was indeed quite reasonable – so my Berrocal collection has now doubled!
Manolete is a torso modelled on the famous Spanish bullfighter who died in the ring in 1947. Whatever your thoughts on bullfighting, this little statue cuts a rather fine figure with nickel accents on the mainly brass assembly. It’s a bit bigger than the mini’s and definitely smaller than the Richelieu’s and Goliath’s of this world. Most importantly it’s not too big to look out of place on the mantle-piece – this is only the second puzzle that has been allowed out of the Puzzle Caves to live permanently in the lounge.
And makes for a fine disassembly puzzle as well as a pretty decent assembly challenge.
Disassembly requires some close examination to start with as there’s a clever locking mechanism that keeps this statue neatly together until you want it to come apart. Of course it’s beautifully hidden in the details of the stature that you expect to be there.
Start the disassembly and pieces come off in a wonderfully serial sequence where literally each piece needs to be manoeuvred absolutely precisely or it will refuse to budge… and given that Manolete was cast by a company used to casting fine jewellery (if I’ve remembered that bit correctly, and I’m sure the inter-web will correct me if I haven’t!) you know that if it’s not budging, you’re not doing it right!
|...before The Shining.|
Of course when I got to this point on my first disassembly I did what all my mates have done when presented with a similar pile of pieces and duly set about them with a bottle of Brasso and a large pile of very soft cloth… for a few hours… and removed all that lovely patina that had grown on the surface over years of gentle handling… so from now on the patina on this copy will all be my own fault!
Building up Manolete from scratch is a pretty decent challenge – you can work out more or less where things need to go and then start the inevitable trial-and-error process as you make some progress only to realise that you should have introduced a piece a few steps earlier, so you back up a bit and improve the assembly… until the final locking piece is allowed to click into place.
Where art meets engineering, there is indeed profound beauty.
Great recommendation, John!