Rue du Midi 111, Brussels, Belgium
Known to most as Madame Chapeau, Amélie Van Beneden is a character from the play Bossemans et Coppenolle, written by Joris d’Hanswyck and Paul Van Stalle, first staged in Brussels in 1938 and popular in the city ever since. Much of the comedy comes from the characters speaking in the local Brussels dialect, and poor old Amélie Van Beneden (aka Madame Chapeau) is the butt of many a joke cracked by the play’s two dimwitted title characters. But it’s Amélie Van Beneden herself who can best explain why she’s known as Madame Chapeau. ‘I am not called Madame Chapeau’, she sallies in the play. ‘It’s those two villains who call me that. Namely because I am far too distinguished to leave the house without wearing one. A hat, that is.’ The character quickly became part of Brussels’ rich comedy heritage, which is why, in 2000, the city paid homage to her with this statue by local sculptor Tom Frantzen. But look closely at this statue of Madame Chapeau busily counting out her loose change. All is not what it seems. She’s actually a man, dressed up as a woman. Which is how the role has always been performed. And probably always will be!