The incredible story of the 2nd part bidet

In the first part, we saw the vicissitudes of Our from the origins to the Victorian era, the moment in which the bidet is installed in the now common upper-class bathrooms. In the second post-war period, the reconstruction of the heavily damaged building heritage generated the well-known phenomenon of the “building boom” in most European countries. The buildings are rationalized and the bathroom is now part of the inalienable rooms also in the economic and popular building: it is the moment of greatest glory for our bidet, which is installed in all homes, including France, where a professor of University of Lyon, this P. Delore, declares that “the bidet is a necessity, not a luxury”. Finally, even the designers are interested, rather than in the bidet, in the now indissoluble triad of washbasin-WC-bidet: the first was Gio Ponti for Ideal Standard with his Zeta series of 1953. The sanitary appliances have finally entered the Olympus …

The slow decline and the (probable) resurrection

Just at the moment of maximum splendor, the bidet begins its slow and inexplicable decline. In Anglo-Saxon countries and in Northern Europe, to tell the truth, it had never been established, except in very rare cases. In France, to illustrate the phenomenon, it is worth mentioning the fact that, in 1964, the presence of the bidet was discriminating for the assignment of the category to the hotels, while already in 1986 the same could be lacking and still maintain the three stars. The reason for the decline of the bidet in its own homeland is explained, in broad terms, with the gradual reduction of the surfaces of housing built since the seventies; another possible explanation, risked by the authors of the book “Le Confident Des Dames. Le Bidet Du XVIII Au XX Siècle: Histoire D’une Intimité “, is linked to the ever-increasing diffusion of the washing machine, which would have” usurped “the space destined for the bidet. All questionable explanations, given that in other European countries, such as Italy, Portugal, and Greece, the bidet still stands. Spain, another country in which the bidet was very popular, is following the same path as France.

The reality is that the bidet is not considered by the French a useful object, perhaps because of education or, as scholars of the aforementioned book are advancing, the Americanization of the way of life favors the use of the shower, either whole or in part. However something is changing: this is demonstrated by the new craze that is spreading in the States for the Japanese bidet, called washlet, or WC with hand shower, which was actually invented by a Swiss, Hans Maurer, in 1956, and subsequently marketed, without success, right in the USA. I state that for me this device has nothing to do with the bidet! However, this collective infatuation is making Americans rediscover, or discover, the “real” bidet, so many VIPs, lovers of Made in Italy bathrooms, they now consider having a bidet a status symbol. Proof of this is, for example, a singular American site dedicated to the bidet, where the properties of the appliance are enhanced, with tutorials on how to use it correctly ( The bidet way ), or the #bidetlife hashtag on social networks! We’ll see if the trend will be confirmed in the coming years: surely all Italians hope so!

The “Italian case”

Still, in the aforementioned book, an entire chapter is dedicated to the “Italian case”. The authors wonder why the bidet in Italy is an indispensable institution , and they trace an interesting path of the history of corporal hygiene in the Peninsula, starting from the ancient Rome of the Baths and public baths, passing through a late Middle Ages in which surprisingly, cleansing the body was not yet a taboo: it seems that the bidet was an object of common use, along with other accessories for partial cleaning, at least until the Renaissance, even if it was a simple basin. However, it is necessary to reach the Century of Enlightenment to find the first documented bidet: it belonged to the Queen of Naples Maria Carolina of Habsburg-Lorraine, who had it installed, if one can say so, in her bathroom in the Royal Palace of Caserta.

Even if we boast of being one of the few countries not able to do without the bidet, it must be said that Our followers followed the same misadventures as his foreign comrades : we must wait until 1945 to be quoted in the Dictionary of the Italian language as “oblong basin to wash certain parts of the body, which by decency, we will not name “. Del Resto in 1928 included La Rinascente in its catalog a bidet, advertising it as a recommended object for people with “health problems” **: yet, the bidet had already been sold in department stores for at least thirty years.

After the war, something radically changed: even in Italy the reconstruction brings the bathroom, with bidet included, to all the houses, however, instead of following the decline that followed the boom of the 50s, the bidet became essential. The French authors try to explain this “phenomenon” as the result of effective propaganda carried out by the hygienists during the 20th century, together with a cultural and historical heritage deeply engraved in the DNA of a people that built temples to the goddess Salus, ‘Igea of ​​the Greeks. I add, thinking aloud, that design and Made in Italy have made a not inconsiderable contribution: the fact is that for us Italians the bidet, besides being indispensable, is also beautiful to look at.

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