• 2019.10.30
  • The Exalted “Potties”
The Prado Museum, Spain's pride, is currently commemorating the bicentenary of its opening this year with numerous special exhibitions and related events. I’d like to tell you about a slightly unusual exhibition called Their Majesties’ Retiring Room.

Exhibition pamphlet
After the museum opened by order of King Ferdinand VII of Spain in 1819, he had his own private room built within the museum in 1828. Even after his death, it was used as a retiring room for successive generations of the royal family until 1865. It was then opened to the public, but the interior mostly remained in original condition until 1901. You see, it seems the walls were filled with portraits of the King’s relatives.

What the inside of the retiring room looked like in 1834. On the wall at front lower right, you can make out a painting by Goya, Charles IV and His Family, a group picture of the royal family. This large-format work is now on display in the main hall nearby.

The figure of Prince Ferdinand (at the time) is also depicted in the painting Charles IV and His Family (close up).

By the way, given the exhibition’s intention to “faithfully reproduce as much as possible in accordance with historical facts,” the museum graciously acceded to restoring and exhibiting the King’s and the Queen’s private toilet, which was installed in the room adjacent to the retiring room. Looking like a piece of fine furniture, the toilet is made of mahogany, pine, bronze, silk and velvet, a gem of splendid design suitable for the royal family. Custom-made to fit perfectly in the narrow space between the retiring room and the hallway, the toilet itself even has a reliable family lineage, established from the name of the maker, Ángel Maeso González, an expert cabinetmaker at the furniture workshop appointed by the royal family.

Restored interior (west wall). You can see the entrance to the toilet on the far left.

This is the exalted “royal privies” furniture in question.

The exhibition also includes two “potties” of ancient and honorable origin, which were indeed utilized by the royal couple. The Queen at the time, Princess Maria Isabel of Braganza, who had married into the royal family, had the potties made herself by the Royal Factory of La Moncloa in Madrid, so there are two of them: One made to men's specifications, that is, for the King, and one to female specifications, that is, for the Queen.

The two potties in the cabinet: Men's on your right and Women’s on your left.

Moncloa kiln white porcelain with gold rim large pot style potty.

Moncloa kiln white porcelain with gold rim boat shaped gravy-boat or curry-pot style urinal.

By the way, the Women's is described on the Prado Museum's website as a "women's urinal or Bourdaloue." Apparently, this word “Bourdaloue” comes from the name of a Jesuit priest from 17th-century France named Luis Bourdaloue.

Perhaps it was because of his wonderful preaching that his every discourse lasted more than two hours, so the ladies respectfully listening in the front row of the church couldn’t simply get up from their seats, and it is said they prepared themselves for the long haul by bringing Bourdaloue portable toilet for sermons, just in case. The place where these sermons were given was the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette church in Paris. The name Bourdaloue was also the name chosen for a new street that opened in 1824 to facilitate access around the church, about 120 years after his death.

Bourdaloue is also the name given to a pear tart invented around 1850 by a pastry chef from a patisserie in this Bourdaloue Street, but I am not sure whether he was paying homage to Bourdaloue the priest, or was simply using the name of the street where the shop was located and there is no deeper meaning. Tarte Bourdaloue is a classic autumn tart made with almond cream and sweet poached pear compote, and seems to be well known even now.
I’m sorry, I have gone a little indecent and jumped from Madrid to Paris. Please forgive me.

I have borrowed the images from the Prado Museum website and the exhibition pamphlet with permission.

Their Majesties’ Retiring Room
Venue: National Prado Museum, Madrid
Date: April 9, 2019 - November 24, 2019

The website for this exhibition at the Prado Museum is here:


  • Susumu Yamada
  • JobSpanish and Japanese Translation

It’s been almost 37 years since I received a residence permit and work permit from the Spanish government and paid my first tax and social insurance premiums. Now that I’m at that age where I will soon go and register at the senior human resources center, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to introduce you all to this country that has taken care of me these many years.

View a list of Susumu Yamada's

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