Friday, February 17, 2017

A Facetious Carnival Barker

(Informed by a conversation with the owner of this pipe)

Among famous fictional carnival barkers of the 20th century are the unforgettable Gabby Gilfoil played by W.C. Fields,

W. C. Fields as carnival sideshow barker Gabby Gilfoil in a scene from the 1927 Paramount Pictures film Two Flaming Youths.

in the 1927 Paramount Pictures comedy silent film Two Flaming Youths,

 and Billy Bigelow

 John Raitt as Billy Bigelow with Jan Clayton in 1945 original Broadway production of Carousel

the protagonist of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic stage musical Carousel

Original Broadway posters (1945)

Bigelow was an Americanized version of Liliom, the protagonist of Hungarian author Ferenc Molnár's non-musical play Liliom in 1909. 

Liliom original cast, Hungary, 1909

Carnivals have been around for centuries and were often the scene of excessive consumption of alcohol, abusive language and occasional degrading acts, a temporary but much needed release from the constraints of societal rules and norms. 

Time to let off the steam before Lent arrives with all its proscriptions and repentence...

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, Pieter Brueghel l'Ancien (1559)

Just imagine a carnival hawker sets up his magical box in a carnival. He is dressed befitting his calling. By his side, sits the obligatory monkey to attract the crowds and his apprentice, possibly his son, is checking out the magical hat. 

Courtesy of the Sarunas Peckus Collection

On the other side of the box customers are lined up, simple country folk, who paid good money to have a chance to peek into the box and be wowed by its mysterious content.  

Courtesy of the Sarunas Peckus Collection

What could possibly be behind this door? roll the drums...

Courtesy of the Sarunas Peckus Collection
The reveal shows... 

Courtesy of the Sarunas Peckus Collection

Nothing more than a simple county bumpkin taking his obligatory constitutional.

The olden day carvers undoubtedly had a great sense of humor in executing their craft. Whether this pipe was a commission or just the whim of the carver is just conjecture...

Courtesy of the Sarunas Peckus Collection

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Majestic Table Pipes of the XIXth Century

 by Ben Rapaport
The largest table pipes in recorded history were two colossal special-event meerschaum masterpieces of the late 19th century, both probably carved  in and having made their debut in the 1870s. 
The first appeared at the 1873 World Exhibition (Weltausstellung) in Vienna, Austria, an expo to showcase the power of the Empire.  
The Project was not only supported by the political sphere, 
it was also backed by agricultural and industrial entrepreneurs who saw it as an opportunity to present to the world the results of the recent economic boom. 
The Empire wanted to establish itself as a cosmopolitan nation and a strong player of international business. Its motto was Kultur und Erziehung (Culture and Education).  
 This first exposition in a German-speaking country was considered considered a colossal failure, as it lost the equivalent of 160 million euros because of a devastating combination of the  world’s first truly international financial crisis and Vienna’s last cholera epidemic.  

The pipe was discovered purely by accident in a random search of the Internet. The only illustration of this pipe is from a newspaper, Allgemeine Illustrirte Weltausstellungs-Zeitung, Wien (Vienna), Band 4, Nummer 6, 24 Juli 1873.

The pipe is best described as a high-relief-carved pastoral or bucolic scene of a young shepherd standing at the top of a rise that is covered with flowers, roots, and branches tending to his small flock of goats, cows, and sheep. 
This massive, intricately detailed meerschaum portrait is surmounted on a footed metal base that is circumscribed with high-relief-carved heads of various farm animals. 
The caption reads:  "Salon-Stehpfeife aus Meerschaum mit Bronze-Montirung für vier Personen aus der hof-Meerschaum, Bernstein- und Drechsslerwaaren-Fabrik von Franz Hiess" (literally translated: A salon standing pipe of meerschaum with a bronze mounting for four persons from the meerschaum, amber, and turner goods factory of Franz Hiess). 
Hiess is considered one of the most prolific and skilled Austrian carvers of the 19th century. Sadly, no details accompany this illustration as to its overall size, motif and symbolism.

The second table pipe was crafted by the Kaldenberg Company, New York, for the 1876 International Exhibition, Philadelphia, the very next recognized world exposition. 
According to "The Centennial Exhibition, Described and Illustrated" (1876): "The articles on exhibition varied in size and finish from the plain pipe-bowl with briar-wood stem, to the immense amber-tipped meerschaum, covered all over with artistically-carved Venuses, Cupids, etc. One exhibitor showed, in addition to pipes, amber cut into a variety of ornaments, among which was an exquisitely designed.

This massive centerpiece, a table pipe in meerschaum, was produced by the Kaldenberg Company of New York City for the International Exhibition at Philadelphia, 1876. This is a chromolithograph representation of Lady Justice and other symbolic figures from the book, "Treasures of Art, Industry and Manufacture Represented in the American Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia" (1876). Its dimensions are 19.5" h., 14.75" w.

A near-exact description of this pipe (with a bit of exaggeration) is found in "At the Exhibition" (Appleton's Journal, Volume Fifteenth, January 1 to June 24, 1876), and this is proof-positive that this pipe was present at the exhibition: "Then they stop before a prodigious meerschaum-pipe in the form of a temple over two feet high with the most elaborate carvings upon it, and four long tubes attached to it, so that it may be placed in the middle of a table and smoked by four persons at the one time."

There is another brief written record of this masterpiece, thanks to the Internet and the perseverance of the two administrators. It is found in a New York Times article, February 25, 1883, "The Smoker's Favorite." The article describes a number of antique smoking pipes, and devotes one paragraph to this particular pipe:

"Of that class is a pipe made by a well-known City manufacturer purchased by an Italian nobleman for the King of Italy for $1,500. (This nobleman must have approached Kaldenberg and made this offer some seven years after it was on public display.) It is called a society pipe, and it can be smoked by four persons at a time. As a work of art, it is typical of the grandeur of America. It is pyramidal in form, 26 inches high, and at the four corners of the base are graceful figures personifying agriculture, commerce, architecture, and engineering. A sheaf of wheat, an anchor, a Corinthian column, and a bog-wheel, respectively, rest near each figure. Above are four cupids, whose paraphernalia indicate a weakness for sculpture, painting, music, and poetry. The carvings are delicately and fantastically wrought throughout the structure, and on the apex is a beautiful goddess of liberty, representing also the power and justice of America. The pedestal, 10 inches in height, is draped with velvet and the Italian colors, and hung with foliage of meerschaum, caught with amber rings. There is a vase at each corner of the pedestal for the tobacco, and long elastic tubes with amber mouthpieces, enable the four smokers to walk around the room while smoking if they care not to sit still. Before the pipe goes to Italy there may be a change in the story it tells by the substitution of a figure of Victor Emmanuel in place of the goddess of liberty, but that is not a foregone conclusion."

If it has survived the ravages of time, its whereabouts, today, is unknown.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Napolón with a laurel crown by Villers

On 2 December 1804, Napoléon I was crowned Empereur of the French.

Le Sacre de Napoléon by Jean-Louis David 1806-1807

Napoléon by Jean-Louis David 1805

For the occasion, Napoléon wore a laurel crown made of gold.

This one of a kind clay pipe, signed Villers, undoubtedly commemorates the event.

Napoléon with Laurel Crown, red clay pipe, signed Villers 
Courtesy Piasa-Mazaleyrat Collection

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

J. Sommer Meerschaum Cheroot Holder ca 1900

J. Sommer,

Aux Carrières d'Ecume

established 13 & 15 Passage des Princes, Paris

Built in 1860 Passage des Princes is a stone's throw from the Palais Garnier opera house and the large Parisian departments stores

received a Gold Medal at the Exposition Universelle, Paris 1900.

Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900, Harpers Magazine

The international jury

was all praise...

MM. Sommer frères are the principal manufacturers in France of meerschaum pipes and cheroot holders and amber cigarette holders; they also manufacture in briar root, with amber stems, of top quality. Their pieces have a real artistic cachet and are appreciated for their quality of finish. Among the pieces on display by MM. Sommer frères and the sculpture of which was particularly admired, we will mention the pipes with iris flowers, a tulip in art-nouveau style, a superb african head and a few others, owing to the talent of true artists.

The iris was a favorite of Art Nouveau artists,

Magnolias and Irises Panel is based on an original Louis Comfort Tiffany (American, 1848–1933), Metroplolitan Museum

Iris Brooch, c. 1900-1901, Tiffany & Co

French Art Nouveau Bronze Iris Candlestick by Jozon

This cheroot holder of an iris flower bud unfurling its petals marks the apogee of French meerschaum carvers' finesse and elegance around the turn of the century.

6.5" length 3." height

A close-up reveals the almost translucent meerschaum,

Marked Gold Medals 1878, 1889 & 1900.

(Courtesy of a Private Collection)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Wood Masterpiece Rothschild Colllection (12)

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Majestic Meerschaum Pipe

This truly remarkable work of art, 

is comprised of a scalloped meerschaum bowl, a long, turned amber push stem with silver retaining chain, and vermeil* wind cover, finial, and shank collar. The overall dimension is 40 cm. in height and the bowl is 22 cm. in height.

This pipe had to have been made as a very special order for a Near East potentate, or a very rich pasha. The clue: note the seated, turbaned gentleman. 

It is signed by Maurice Mayer who became, in 1846, the official silversmith of French Emperor Napoleon III.


*Vermeil is silver that has been plated with 22K-24K gold.


Courtesy of the João Pavão Martins Collection

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Nubian Prince

A most unusual pipe, considering the amount, degree and unusual type of decor applied, such as brass and semi-precious jewels. This (we assume) Nubian male must have been a well regarded nobleman. 

 Notice the open mouth and the several teeth? This is an indicator of a more deft hand at work.

The pipe was one of more than 200 pieces auctioned at Torino, Italy (http://www.SANCARLOASTE.IT/), at the end of March 2012.