Art, Zé Povinho - the Portuguese everyman figure

Zé Povinho – the Portuguese everyman figure

Zé Povinho

Zé Povinho is a popular Portuguese figure depicted in cartoons and in pottery as an everyman character, whose name equates to Joe Public. He was created by the artist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro in 1875 and appears as an agricultural labourer making a defiantly rude gesture (known as a manguito) by bending one arm up and putting the hand of the other arm in the crock of the elbow as if to say ‘Up yours!’ Despite many Portuguese disassociating themselves from the servile Zé Povinho character, who doesn’t confront his superiors directly but makes ineffective gestures behind their backs, he is still revered in Portugal because of his humorous disregard for those in authority. The ceramic in the photo is a contemporary piece in which Zé Povinho gives a manguito to Moody’s credit-rating agency, which downgraded Portugal’s credit rating during the recent financial crisis.