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Darwin Correspondence Project

4.32 Anis liqueur label

Many late-nineteenth-century cartoons played on the popular association of Darwin with theories about humans’ simian ancestry: theories that challenged traditional religious beliefs. However, it is surprising to find an allusion to this idea even in the logo for a liqueur – the Anís del Mono, or ‘Anís of the monkey’ produced by a Spanish firm that belonged to the Bosch family. An article published in 2011 has shown that the head of the firm, Vicente Bosch, had a ‘keen interest in technological, scientific and cultural progress’. Given the extremely conservative ethos of Spanish society, allusions to Darwin could be construed as a provocative way to register more liberal views. 

This Anís del Mono label became a registered commercial design in 1892, but the first versions of it appear, on internal evidence, to go back to c. 1875-85. In the central motif, a rather satyr-like figure proffers a bottle of the liqueur. He has a human face and torso, but shaggy limbs, a long tail and prehensile feet – a hybridisation of physiques that would certainly have recalled many caricatures of Darwin dating from the 1870s. However, the figure’s facial features and the shape of his beard bear little resemblance to those of Darwin, which had become widely familiar through photographs, prints and cartoons. The authors of the 2011 article suggest that there is a close resemblance to him as he appeared in an early photograph with his infant son. However, it is extremely unlikely that Bosch’s artist would have evoked this image of Darwin as he looked in his youth. In fact, the photograph in question is a daguerreotype and therefore a unique image, which would not have been known outside Darwin’s family circle in the 1870s. The Anís label thus embodies a mischievous hint rather than a bold affirmation of the new scientific notions: it was intended to attract and amuse potential customers. In a studied double entendre, the inscription on a scroll held by the man/monkey reads, ‘It is the best, science said it, I do not lie.’ 

  • physical location collection of Marti Dominguez 

  • copyright holder Marti Dominguez 

  • originator of image unknown artist working for the Bosch family 

  • date of creation probably c.1875-c.1885. This dating is suggested on the basis of the form of the drapery round the royal coat of arms, which is apparently characteristic of the reign of Alfonso XII. 

  • computer-readable date 1875-1-1 to 1885-12-31 

  • medium and material chromolithography 

  • references and bibliography Juan Antonio Delgado and Ricardo Luis Palma, ‘Nothing in the history of Spanish Anís makes sense, except in the light of evolution’, Science and Education 20 (2011), pp. 141-157, with a full bibliography of earlier relevant literature; available online at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11191-010-9290-7.     


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