6 Jun, 2021 @ 09:15
1 min read

Spain’s iconic Osborne bull gets a redesign to mark anniversary

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THE black bull silhouettes by motorways will be familiar to anyone who has travelled across Spain.

Known as the Osborne bulls after the drinks company founded by a British merchant nearly 250 years ago, they were first used to advertise a brandy but today are a symbol of Spain.

Designed by Manolo Prieto in 1956, the bull has over the years inspired filmmakers, famous photographers and even the guitar company Gibson which made a version of its SG model out of Osborne sherry barrels.

The bull became a national symbol in 2005 when the Spanish government banned advertising along roadsides but declared the Osborne bull a national cultural symbol.

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Photo: Rab Lawrence/Flickr

To mark the 65th anniversary of this iconic design, the Spanish artist Juan Díaz-Faes made a new version with the Osborne company and Coleccion Solo, an arts project.

He used the black outline of the original as a canvas to rework it in red as if he was tracing the contours of a real bull’s body.

“The Osborne bull takes me back to the time of my grandparents when people would travel around Spain in cars when travel was very different,” Mr Diaz-Faes said.

“I think the majority of Spaniards identify with the bull image.”

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New design of the Osborne Bull

The new design will remain in the Foundation Osborne museum in Cadiz before going on show in London, Berlin and Beijing from August.

Mr Prieto, who died in 1991, worked for an advertising agency which was asked to find an idea to promote the Veterano brandy.

The four tonne structures, measuring 14 metres by 14 metres, were positioned by roadsides across the country.

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Roadside bull by [bastian.]/Flickr

There are 90 bulls across Spain, and others in Denmark, Japan and Mexico.

Mr Prieto came from a poor family who had to sell a bicycle his grandfather had given him to buy his first set of paints.

The bull image inspired photographers like Annie Lebovitz, Richard Avendon and Helmut Newton.

Oscar-winning actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz starred in the 1992 film Jamon, Jamon, in which the Osborne bull was used to publicise the movie.

The Spanish family-owned drinks company was founded by a merchant, Thomas Osborne Mann in 1772. He  left Exeter in Devon to marry his Spanish wife Aurora Bohl de Faber in Cadiz, which was a thriving trading port.

Sir Francis Drake helped popularise sherry in Britain when he sacked the port of Cadiz in 1587 just as Spain was preparing an Armada to invade England.

Sir Francis brought sherry back to the court of Queen Elizabeth I who liked the drink and it became fashionable.

The Osborne Group, which sells sherry, wine and ham among other products in 70 countries, defended the bull image in the courts from imitators. 


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