BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Two undertakers in the northwestern German city of Cologne are trying to tap into the gay market by selling coffins adorned with images of male nudes.
The prize piece in their display window is a coffin decorated with images of mostly naked, muscular young men in athletic poses inspired by Italian Renaissance paintings.
"We believe you should be able to have a coffin that lets you embark on your last journey in a way that reflects how you lived your life," undertaker Thomas Brandl told Reuters on Thursday.
The unconventional coffin, which costs 1,650 euros ($2,300), has aroused fascination among customers, said Brandl: "People are really interested because it's so unique. Reactions have been very positive so far."
Brandl, 32, and his 34-year-old business partner Michael Koenigsfeld, said they had branched out into the gay market in order to satisfy the increasing number of special requests they received.
"Even though the Lord Mayor of Berlin, the vice-chancellor and many others openly admit to being homosexual nowadays, marginal groups still face prejudices and bureaucratic hurdles," the pair said in a statement.
They said they provided an individual and different service which offered "a warm and fantastical departure for same-sex couples."
The gay couple also sell coffins and urns in rainbow colors -- the international symbol of the gay and lesbian movement -- and offer burials around a tree reserved exclusively for homosexuals.
Given estimates which suggest that around one in ten of Cologne's population is homosexual, Brandl and Koenigsfeld are well placed to serve the gay community.
The pair also cater for the heterosexual market in an unconventional way, giving customers the opportunity to get involved in designing coffins for their loved ones.
"You can choose different colors and designs," Brandl said. "You could go for Cologne's skyline or lots of women on your coffin. A grandmother might like images of her grandchildren on hers -- there are loads of possibilities."
Editing by Paul Casciato