Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fantastical Smoking Set

This is probably not a salesman’s kit, more likely a custom-configured, special order set--nested in a fitted leather case with locking mechanism--for a gentleman pipe smoker.

Accompanying the three mid-19th Century meerschaum pipe bowls are three different, interchangeable push stems and their associated mouthpieces.

A very interesting aspect is the mix of materials that comprises each stem: ivory, amber, gilt- and silver-inlay on mother-of-pearl, silver cutwork, turned buffalo horn, piqué work, niello, and silk thread tassels … quite an assortment that hints that this set was probably very pricey in its day.

Prob. German or Austrian, c. 1850-1860.

Courtesy of the João Pavão Martins Collection

Monday, October 30, 2017

Posters, Pipes and Politics

Propaganda Posters UK Elections Blowing Bubbles Lloyd George. Cartoon image of David Lloyd George (1863-1945; Liberal politician, British Prime Minister 1916-1922), dressed as a clown blowing bubbles from a bowl marked Soft Soap with a pipe, the words Promises - Bluff - More Promises - Blarny rising as reflections inside the bursting bubbles and a quote "I am perpetually blowing bubbles" below. Artwork by the English illustrator and cartoonist, Leonard Raven-Hill (1863-1945). Published by Dobson Molle & Co. Ltd, St Clair Works, Edinburgh and St Steven's House, Westminster SW1. 1920s. Author: L Ravenhill. Size (cm): 76x50.5cm

We will conquer the drought. Stalin is in his white uniform smoking a pipe held in his left hand. He appears preoccupied and his eyes are focused on a part of the USSR suffering from the drought. He is holding a green pencil in his right hand and the green lines on the map indicate that a solution is being devised as we see...

The pipe in this poster is Harold Wilson's. Such was the Labour Prime Minister’s fame as a pipe smoker that in 1966 most British voters understood that the pipe stood for him

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Storied Bull Head

This large bull head is on the cover of the Wiener Kunst Auction as Lot 307. It is a super-sized, high-relief-carved 19th-century figural pipe with amber horns. To get a sense of its size, its height is 33 cm (almost 13 inches).  

Around the shank is a circumscribed ribbon of bas-relief-carved cowboys on horses lassoing bulls.

In The New York Times, March 9, 1889 we find a closely matching description: “Another beautiful piece of work is being completed by the same firm [William Demuth Company] for the Paris Exposition. 


"It is said to be the largest pipe in the world, the bowl having been cut from the largest piece of meerschaum ever found. It is a calf’s head, 11 inches high, 13 inches long, and 15 inches from tip to tip of the horns. The design is from a picture by Rosa Bonheur."

Photograph of Rosa Bonheur by André Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, c. 1863

The entire pipe is 35 inches long, the stem, of 23 inches, being made of 75 pieces of amber.”

Head of a Bull by Marie-Rosalie Bonheur, (16 March 1822 – 25 May 1899), animalière and sculptor

This bowl was once a centerpiece component of the “Half-and-Half” pipe collection assembled by the American Tobacco Company in the late 1800s—early 1900s, and exhibited at its Richmond, VA  plant. 

When the plant closed in 1957, it donated the collection to the city’s Valentine Museum

The John Wickham House/Valentine Museum, Richmond, VA; from a c. 1920

Portions of the collection were on exhibit from time to time between then and early 1991 when the Valentine decided to deaccession the collection. 

The Austrian Tobacco Museum, Vienna, purchased it later that year . It left the series of Presidential pipes (see the Facebook album, “Presidential Meerschaum Pipes”) in the hope that an American collector would buy them as a group. This Austrian museum shuttered in 2002. In October of that year, a large portion of this museum’s European holdings (pipes and accessories sourced to European craftsmen) and the entire “”Half-and-Half” collection was sold (Wiener Kunst Auktionen Nr. 41, October 22-23, 2002). 

Sadly, sometime between 1991 and 2002, the extraordinary, multifaceted, long amber stem and mouthpiece that was original to this pipe bowl had been misplaced, lost, or destroyed, because the bowl was on the auction block without its stem. The hammer price was 5,000 Euros, or about $5,500. 

After a long journey, it is believed that this bowl now resides in a private European collection.  

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Reclining Beauty

Late 19th century cheroot holder set,

Undeniable elegance,

and finesse...

of Viennese manufacture.


Monday, October 9, 2017

La Pipe by Stéphane Mallarmé (1897)

Yesterday I found my pipe while pondering a long evening of work, of fine winter work. Thrown aside were my cigarettes, with all the childish joys of summer, into the past which the leaves shining blue in the sun, the muslins, illuminate, and taken up once again was the grave pipe of a serious man who wants to smoke for a long while without being disturbed, so as better to work: but I was not prepared for the surprise that this abandoned object had in store for me; for hardly had I drawn the first puff when I forgot the grand books I was planning to write, and, amazed, moved to a feeling of tenderness, I breathed in the air of the previous winter which was now coming back to me. I had not been in contact with my faithful sweetheart since returning to France, and now all of London, London as I had lived it a year ago entirely alone, appeared before my eyes: first the dear fogs that muffle one’s brains and have an odor of their own there when they penetrate beneath the casements. My tobacco had the scent of a somber room with leather furniture sprinkled by coal dust, on which the thin black cat would curl and stretch; the big fires! and the maid with red arms pouring coals, and the noise of those coals falling from the sheet-iron bucket into the iron scuttle in the morning—when the postman gave the solemn double knock that kept me alive! Once again I saw through the windows those sickly trees of the deserted square—I saw the open sea, crossed so often that winter, shivering on the deck of the steamer wet with drizzle and blackened from the fumes—with my poor wandering beloved, decked out in traveler’s clothes, a long dress, dull as the dust of the roads, a coat clinging damply to her cold shoulders, one of those straw hats with no feather and hardly any ribbons that wealthy ladies throw away upon arrival, mangled as they are by the sea, and that poor loved ones refurbish for many another season. Around her neck was wound the terrible handkerchief that one waves when saying goodbye forever.

Portrait of Stéphane Mallarmé by Edouard Manet (1876)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Posters and Pipes

Advertising poster by Rene Pean (Rene Louis Pean; 1875-1940) for Paris a Londres par Rouen, Dieppe et Newhaven - departs tous le jours de la Gare St Lazare - Chemins de Fer de l'Ouest et de Brighton / Paris to London via Rouen, Dieppe and Newhaven - train departures every day from Gare St Lazare - Western Railways (Chemins de fer de l'Ouest; 1855-1909) and Brighton (London, Brighton and South Coast Railway / LB&SCR / The Brighton Line; 1846-1922). Great image featuring a man smoking a pipe and holding a whip, sitting on top of a London horse drawn cab carriage with a blanket over his legs, with a street view leading towards silhouette buildings and St Paul's Cathedral in the background. France, 1900s
Dimensions: 102x67 centimetres.
Artist or Maker: Rene Pean

Advertising poster for Ster Tabak - Tabak der Sterren / Tobacco of the Stars - featuring an image of three Hollywood silent movie stars, including Harold Lloyd (1893-1971), smoking their pipes. Royal Theodorus Niemeyer was a Dutch tobacco manufacturer (founded 1819; now part of British American Tobacco). Very good condition, light folds, tape marks on reverse. Belgium, 1920s
Dimensions: 61x45.5 centimetres.

CHARLES GESMAR (1900-1928) Size: 46 1/2 x 62 1/4 in./118.2 x 158 cm Imp. H. Chachoin, Paris Ooh, what is that you're smoking, mi'lady? One of the rarest of Gesmar’s designs for Mistinguett, this image shows her flirtatiously smoking a pearl-encrusted pipe, glancing coyly – or is that warily? – over her shoulder. She's shown in the "Bonjour Paris" revue of 1924-25. Gesmar also designed her costumes, beginning at the age of 16. (Art Deco; Entertainment; Artist: Gesmar) ca. 1924

Cunard cruise ship travel poster advertising Cunard Canadian Services - Golden Prospects - featuring a stunning image of a smiling couple looking out to sea from the deck of a ship, the lady wearing a hat and scarf billowing in the wind and the man wearing a cap and holding a pipe pointed towards clouds depicting the New World "golden prospects" that await them in Canada - farming, horses, grazing cattle, wheat harvesting, skiing, canoeing etc. Cunard Line was founded in 1840 when they also launched Britannia, their first Transatlantic liner that offered regular services across the Atlantic Ocean between the UK and Europe to America and Canada; they are now the only shipping company to still offer this regular passenger service between Europe and North America. UK, 1930s
Dimensions: 101x62 centimetres.

P&O cruise line poster advertising cruises To Australia for £37 one class service. Great image featuring a smiling man smoking a pipe and wearing a hat, pointing towards Australia and the sun on the horizon over fields and trees with stylised text above and information text below. Artwork by the British artist, Raphael T Roussel (1883-1967). UK, 1930s
Dimensions: 102x64.5 centimetres.

Travel advertising poster for the Sudbahnhotel in Semmering featuring a great Art Deco style image of people skiing down the slopes in front of the imposing grand hotel with snowy mountains on the horizon and snow topped trees on the sides with a group of skiers relaxing in the foreground, one man smoking a pipe and the others holding their wooden skis and poles. Artwork by the Austrian artist, Hermann Kosel (1896-1983). The Sudbahnhotel (South Railway Hotel) was opened in 1882 and is located in Semmering, a popular tourist destination noted for hiking, winter sports and spa. Austria, 1930s 

Travel advertising poster in Spanish for the Canary Islands / Islas Canarias edited and published by the General Direction of Tourism. Colourful illustration showing two hikers dressed in red, one standing with a walking stick and pointing towards the view and the other sitting on a rock and smoking a pipe looking at the mountains on the horizon, a cactus and tree in the foreground and the text below in stylised letters. Printed in Spain by I.G. Seix Barral HMS S.A., Barcelona. Spain, 1930s
Dimensions: 99.5x62 centimetres.

Travel advertising poster for the Simplon Railway Line - Switzerland, Ligne du Simplon. La plus directe et la plus pittoresque (the most direct and most picturesque). Fun image of a gentleman wearing a cap and smoking a pipe showing at the map of the train route connecting London, Paris, Vallorbe, Bordeaux, Marseilles, Fribourg, Bern, Lausanne, Aigle, Martigny, Bex, Sierre, Sion, Brigue, Geneva, Vevey and Montreux then through the Simplon tunnel to Domodossola, Milan, Venice, Genova, Rome, Sofia, Beograd, Bucharest, Athens, Istanbul, Alep, Baghdad, Jerusalem and Cairo with images of the mountains, churches, Lac Leman and the Pyramids. Printed by R Marsens, Lausanne, for Commission Romande de la Ligne du Simplon. Switzerland, 1951 100x64.5 centimetres.

Advertising poster in German for Gold Dollar cigarettes – The real seaman's blend / Gold Dollar Cigaretten – Das echte Seemannskraut. Great image showing a sailor in uniform walking along the docks carrying a bag and a bird cage with a smiling young lady walking beside him clutching his arm, an older sailor smoking a pipe and another sailor embracing a young lady behind them with sailing ships at sea and anchored in the background, inside a rope style border with a smaller image below featuring a man sitting on a cigarette packet playing music on an accordion and the text in stylised black, yellow and red letters. Germany, 1950s

Travel advertising poster in French: Bien-etre en Autriche (Well Being in Austria) featuring a colourful stylised image of a couple relaxing - the lady wearing a bright yellow top and the man wearing a red top and holding a smoking pipe - sitting on a bench inside a warm wooden chalet by the window with icicles hanging down from the top, looking out at a horse drawn carriage and skiers in front of a snowy village scene with a church spire in the middle and mountain peaks visible in the distance, the text below in stylised red letters. Printed in Austria for The Austrian Federal Government by Gistel & Cie., Vienna. Austria, 1950s
Dimensions: 95x63.5 centimetres. Artist or Maker: Atelier Koszler

travel poster advertising New England by American Airlines. Great image featuring a plane flying by trees behind a white church and a sailing ship with a large anchor and sailor on board and a pipe smoking captain on the dock below with wooden boxes and fishing pots.USA, 1950s
Dimensions: 101.5x76.5 centimetres.
Artist or Maker: Ben Hill

Travel poster issued for the South African Travel Corporation featuring a fun and colourful image of a man wearing a hat and sunglasses, smoking a pipe and carrying a camera around his neck, holding a fishing rod with the bottom half of his body a fish and tail.  South Africa, 1950s
Dimensions: 101.5x64 centimetres.

British Railways travel advertising poster for Lewes the county town of East Sussex - go there by train - featuring a view down the high street in this ancient historical town located in South England. Colourful image with a scissor grinder wearing a hat and smoking a pipe on his work bike with more cyclists and pedestrians on the street and pavements behind him, two ladies pushing their prams, a truck negotiating a tight corner and medieval timber framed buildings and colourful buildings (possibly The Fifteenth Century Bookshop on the corner of the High Street and the cobbled Keere Street). Artwork by the notable British artist, Terence Cuneo (1907-1996), who was appointed the official artist at Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953. Cuneo is most well known for his equestrian, military and railroad paintings (many of which were used as posters to promote British Railways). UK, 1955
Dimensions: 102x63.5 centimetres. Artist or Maker: Terence Cuneo

BERNARD VILLEMOT (1911-1989) Size: 46 1/2 x 63 7/8 in./118.2 x 162.3 cm With a pitch-perfect feeling for the optimistic, whimsical zeitgeist of 1956, Villemot gives us a carnival of Tabalux tobacco rising up in an arc of cigarette smoke. Our floating fedora-fitted head, 'in the pink,' has a satisfied grin and saucer-eyes made out of pipe bowls too.  (Tobacco; Modern)
Dimensions: 46 1/2 x 63 7/8 in./118.2 x 162.3 cm

JEAN CARLU (1900-1997) Size: 24 1/2 x 39 1/4 in./62.3 x 99.6 cm Imp Courbet, Paris The travel poster for poster fans, made by a poster master. Jean Carlu, who received credit as an AD for the following Air France image, has all the icons in a motley of colors: Spanish guitar, Nordic fjords, a Greek amphora, a Leaning Tower of Pisa, a Bavarian stein and a smoking pipe... Interestingly, though, our poster-posting traveler atop the ladder is unrolling a blank slate. Time to try an off-the-wall idea... and explore Europe for real. (Aviation)
Dimensions: 24 1/2 x 39 1/4 in./62.3 x 99.6 cm Artist or Maker: JEAN CARLU (1900-1997) 1959

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

An Extraordinary 18th Century Eastern Woodlands Pipe

Southern Great Lakes/Central Ohio Valley
maple wood, lead, glass imitation wampum beads, plant fiber, sinew
height 5.5 in. x length 8.25 in. x width 2 in.
fourth quarter 18th century

As described by Christian Feest for the upcoming auction at Cowan's Auctions:

"In most regions of North America the smoking of tobacco was practiced by Native Americans primarily as an offering to supernatural beings to pray for their blessing. Pipes served as the major instrument used for this purpose and were the subject of intricate symbolism. In the Eastern Woodlands, one-piece pipes made of clay, stone, or wood were mainly used in personal rituals, whereas composite pipes consisting of a long and often decorated wooden stem and a separate bowl of stone or wood were also employed in collective rituals. Stems and Bowls, the latter sometimes carved to represent human faces or figures, animals, or artifacts were not necessarily made by the same person, and both played an important role in gift exchanges and trade with other indigenous groups as well as with Euro-Americans.

This exquisitely carved and decorated pipe bowl depicts a nearly naked man sitting, his torso reclining, his hands resting on his hips, and his legs extended with slightly flexed knees. 

His slightly opened mouth shows the tip of his tongue and may indicate the act of speaking or singing. The pupils of the eyes are inset and filled with black pigment. Face painting is marked by engraved parallel lines filled with pigment (two red horizontal lines on the left cheek, two red lines enclosing a black one running diagonally from below the eye across the cheek on the right). His ears are pierced and held a globular ornament suspended on wire (the right ear was broken off in the distant past). The left arm features a broad arm band of lead; the former presence of such a band on the right arms is indicated by a discoloration of the wood above the elbow. Part of the head is covered with slightly corrugated lead inlay extending outward from the interior lining of the bowl, which opens at the top of the skull. Since the man's hair is represented by burn marks on the back of the head (as are the eyebrows), the lead inlay probably indicates a headdress. A sash of two rows of glass imitation wampum strung on sinew and woven on a warp of three plant fiber strings (probably Apocynum sp.) is worn over the left shoulder, runs across the chest and passes under the right elbow to the back, where the ends of the sash are tied together. 

The man’s genitals are covered with a rectangular lead inlay, probably representing a breech cloth or apron, but no belt is indicated, and the buttocks are bare. The end of the shaft, where the pipe stem was inserted, is covered with a simple band of lead inlay. 

The unsustainable backward inclination of the torso and the open mouth convey a sense of action that is absent from nearly all other examples of effigy pipe bowls from the Eastern Woodlands of the historic period.

The pipe bowl has no documented history beyond the approximately fifty years during which it had been in the possession of its previous owner, Clemens Caldwell (1918-2007), but it can safely be dated to the last quarter of the eighteenth century, when glass imitation wampum was especially popular for the manufacture of belts, pouches, and pouch straps. The designation of the object as "Tecumseh's pipe" may be fanciful, but it may have been associated with the pipe before it came into the possession of Clemens Caldwell. It suggests a more or less local origin south of the Great Lakes and may at least contain a hidden grain of truth.

In eastern North America, wooden pipe bowls were made from southern New England throughout the Great Lakes region to Minnesota, but only relatively few specimens (less than one percent of the number of those made of stone), collected between the seventeenth and twentieth century, have survived. Most of them are without documented date and place of origin. Exceptions include specimens collected on the mid-Atlantic coast or its hinterland in the seventeenth century, the Delaware of Pennsylvania and the Mississauga of southeastern Ontario of the eighteenth century, and the Ottawa of Michigan and the southwestern Ojibwa of Wisconsin and Minnesota of the nineteenth century. Other have been attributed, with varying degrees of likelihood, to the Iroquois, Wyandot, Anishnaabe, Santee, Creek, and Cherokee. Despite this unsatisfactory documentary situation, it is useful to compare the Caldwell pipe to other wooden and stone pipe bowls in search of clues for its origin.

The closest affinity among wooden pipes is shown by an undocumented bowl featuring a man's head from the Steven Michaan collection, attributed to the "Great Lakes, ca. 1760."[1] In addition to similarities in the rendering of the nose, eyes, and ears, the Michaan pipe shows a strikingly similar treatment of the lead inlays above the face, including a similar state of corrosion of the lead. The similarities are close enough to suggest the two pieces were made by same maker. There are only three other known examples of somewhat simpler lead inlays above the face extending to the back of the head: two of them are found on a pair of closely related wooden pipes in an otherwise different style, dating to around 1800 and attributed to the "Anishnaabe,"[2] and a catlinite pipe collected in 1836 from the southwestern Chippewa of La Pointe, Wisconsin.[3] The two "Anishnaabe" pipes are also among the few to feature ear ornaments (wire-wrapped slit ear lobes), otherwise found only on a catlinite pipe attributed to the Santee, in this case resembling those of the Caldwell pipe.[4]

A nearly identical, although much smaller version of the Caldwell pipe in black stone, is preserved in the British Museum, which acquired it in 1949 from the prominent dealer William Oldman, and which has since been attributed to the "Wyandot, 19th century."[5] 

The Wyandot attribution may have been due to the fact that in this version the reclining figure is holding a barrel and a glass on his lap and that other depictions related to the use of alcohol had been assigned to the Wyandot (although they clearly are found all over eastern North America). Except for this additional feature, the British Museum pipe is strikingly similar to the Caldwell pipe: rectangular shaft, reclining trunk, flexed knees, open mouth, incised representation of a sash running across the chest, horizontal incisions on the face to indicate painting. The British museum pipe also features a belt and leggings, missing on the Caldwell pipe, the ears of differently shaped, and the elaborate decorative features above the head are absent. The similarities and differences suggest that the two pipes were made by different makers, but that they referred to a shared underlying narrative.

Depictions of alcohol use on effigy pipes and wooden ladles has often been interpreted as social commentary on pervasive feature of culture contact that had become part of the set of stereotypes associated with Native Americans. There is, however, ample evidence, especially also from northeastern North America, that inebriation was often considered as a method to reach an altered state of consciousness analogous to the one sought in the vision quest. 

The Caldwell pipe and the British Museum pipe may thus be interpreted as images of a man engaged in a spiritual encounter—with or without the use of liquor.

Two other features of the iconography of the Caldwell pipe merit further consideration. Single bands of wampum or imitation wampum were generally not worn as sashes in the manner shown here, but served as straps of rectangular pouches. It is at least possible that a pouch was originally here attached as well, especially since black commercial thread has later been used to hold the ends of the imitation wampum band together, which would have become loose after the less of the pouch.

More puzzling are the lead inlays on the head. They are probably not representations of hair, which is indicated by burn marks, but of a headdress, whose appendages were hanging over the cheeks and the back of the head. Of the headdresses known to have been worn in the Central Ohio Valley region around 1800, the one that is the most likely candidate is the cloth turban, adopted primarily by the Shawnee during their prolonged sojourn among the Creek.[6] The most extensive source of information on dress and ornament of both the Shawnee and Creek in the early nineteenth century is provided by the lithographs after paintings by Charles Bird in Thomas McKenney and James Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1838-1844). They illustrate, especially for the Creeks, turbans with appendages hanging over the ears, and both for the Creeks and Shawnees face paintings consisting of horizontal and/or diagonal red and black or blue lines. While offering no proof for a Shawnee origin of the Caldwell pipe, they at least suggest the possibility to explain the assumed association of the pipe with the Shawnee leader of the early nineteenth century in the absence of any extant examples of Shawnee wood or stone carving."


[1]     Steven S. Powers, The Art of the Spirit World: The Steven Michaan Collection of North American Tribal Arts, vol. 3: Woodlands (Pound Ridge, NY: Ohio Antiques, 2014), 26-29.

[2] McCord Museum, Montreal, no. M11030 (Natural History Society of Montreal col.); see Norman Feder, Two Hundred Years of North American Indian Art (New York, NY: Praeger, 1971), 98, no. 124. British private collection (https://www.facebook.com/tobaccopipeartistory/photos/a.101683053249400.3216.101191206631918/113681308716241/?type=3&theater).

[3] Slovenské Etnografické Museum, Ljubljana, no. E 2837 (Frirderik Baraga coll.); see France Golob, Misijonarji, darovalci indijanskih predmetov. Zbirka Slovenskega etnografeskega muzeja. Knjižnica Slovenskega etnografeskega muzeja 5. Ljubljana, 1997.

[4] Cranbrook Institute of Science, Detroit; see Norman Feder, Two Hundred Years of North American Indian Art (New York, NY: Praeger, 1971), 78, no. 89.

[5] British Museum, London, no. Am1949,22.74; see J. C. H. King, Smoking Pipes of the North America Indian. (London: British Museum Publications, 1977), 36, 50, no. 37.

[6]Charles Bird King in Thomas L. McKenney and James Hall, History of the Indian Tribes of North America, with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs (3 vols., Philadelphia, PA: 1838-1844).

Provenance: From the Estate of Clem Caldwell, Kentucky 

Courtesy Cowan's Auctions