Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Commedia dell'Arte Pipe

This person is supposedly Pierrot, a stock character of pantomime and Commedia dell'Arte whose origins are in the late 17th-century Italian troupe of players performing in Paris and known as the Comédie-Italienne.

Claude Gillot (1673–1722), Four Commedia dell’Arte Figures: Three Gentlemen and Pierrot, c.1715

The name is a hypocorism of Pierre (Peter) the clown, typically depicted as a male character with a whitened face, white costume, and pointed hat. It is difficult to determine with a degree of certitude that this is Pierrot, because he is wearing a mask. 

Courtesy of a Private Collector
And if it's not Pierrot, it might not matter one whit, because it is a handsomely crafted full figural of a clown. This pipe measures 5" h., and 11" l.

Courtesy of a Private Collector

But again, could it be Arlequin?

Courtesy of a Private Collector

You tell us...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Moritz von Schwind Pipes

Moritz von Schwind (1804-1871)

Moritz von Schwind, c. 1860.

was a renowned Austrian painter, now remembered as "the last of the Romanticists".

Der Ritt Kunos von Falkenstein, 1843
"This is the painful ride over the impassable mountains of Kuno von Falkenstein—a task imposed on the knight by his lady as the price of her hand. In the picture the king of the gnomes helps the faithful lover by setting his legions of sprites to work, in guise of field-mice, to make a road over the crags. “

A Symphony, 1852
"Schwind's painting "A Symphony", which functions on several levels, was conceived as a wall decoration for a music room. In a richly framed four-part picture sequence, the story first unfolds about the love of a young man for a singer. Below, their first encounter during a house concert is depicted; above that, their re-encounter during a walk in the woods, and above that a scene where he declares his love during a costume ball. The story is finally brought to a close with a scene during the honeymoon of the freshly married pair. The four scenes are furthermore related to the four movements of Beethoven's Fantasy for Piano, Orchestra and Choir in C major, a performance of which is depicted in the bottom panel. The individual scenes are architecturally framed, and the entire composition is divided into different zones through the use of decorative grotesque elements. In this manner Schwind follows the classical wall-fresco tradition that, in turn, is oriented on antique Roman-Pompeian wall-painting. Schwind has, as well, added smaller related scenes."

Born in Vienna, Moritz counted Franz Schubert as one of his closest friends. (Schubert used to call Schwind his “sweetheart,”).

Oil painting of Franz Schubert by Wilhelm August Rieder (1875)

According to Mrs Beavington Atkinson in the Art Journal of London (1873),

"From 1821, Schwind worked among the antiques in the academy, but especially in the studio of Schnorr; later also with Kupelwieser, who was his friend till death. For seven years, or thereabouts, Schwind led a joyous, careless life, defying fortune with a shrug of the shoulders, earning enough by illustrating story-books, devising head-pieces for cards, even painting signboards for cafés to add his portion to the frugal family menage, keep his pipe alight, and supply his easel with canvas and paint."

Schwind sketched a number of mythical designs in his 1844 book, Almanach von Radierungen. 

including smoking scenes,

and fanciful pipes (see Rapaport, A Complete Guide to Collecting Antique Pipes [1979, 1998], pages 54-55).

Sultan awaiting his Turkish coffee.

Stove with a soup tureen lid.

Knights errant and castles.

According to Frederick Fairholt, "Tobacco" (1859/1876): 

"A Smoking Club" - one of Fairholt's illustrations in Tobacco, its History and Association

"Schwind of Vienna, an artist who received much praise from Goethe 

Goethe by Joseph Karl Stieler (1828)

for his powers of fanciful invention, etched a series of small plates, designed for pipes of this class, two of which we here copy."

"Winter scene, and the time may be evening, when, the day's labour over, the farm servants sleep on the bench which surrounds the large porcelain stove; and the aged boor lights his pipe, and dozes beside the mistress of the mansion, who also nods over her knitting. The icicles hang from the roof, and a figure of winter wrapped in a capacious mantle, floats gloomingly below,as a support to the whole."

"A still more ingenious design, admirably adapted to its purpose, without the least violation of natural arrangement. Two monks in a railed garden, well stocked with cabbages, are employed in their sacred duties. The one reads in the sunshine; the other enters the little chapel constructed principally from the stems of trees. The deep roof forms a capital cover for the pipe, beneath the eaves is a pigeon house; the whole scene is a pleasant picture of seclusion, well fitted to the contemplation of the thoughtful smoker - and few smokers are other than thoughtful men."

Many of von Schwind's illustrations were rendered as meerschaum and wood pipes,

Gondola with Orientals smoking on board.

and this one, a gondola scene, befits the style of a von Schwind illustration. 

Courtesy of a private collector

  The pipe is 9" long, and is fitted with a bi-color, turned and faceted amber stem.

Courtesy of a private collector

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603)

Famous personalities, important personages, notables--kings, queens, military leaders, statesmen -- and many more have always been topical subject matter for sculptors, painters, and a host of other artists, including meerschaum pipe carvers. 
Here is a very large bust (6" h., 4" l.) 

From the Bruce Benjamin Collection.

 of what is believed to be Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) in period dress. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Table pipe on a wood plinth representing Andromeda, a princess from Greek mythology, daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, the king and queen of Ethiopia. who was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster as a punishment for her mother's bragging. She was saved by Perseus.

Courtesy of a Private Collector



and Euripides 

wrote tragedies about Andromeda. TItian, 

Rembrandt (1650),



and Gustave Doré

were among the painters who immortalized the scene.

So famous is this pose that Ernest Wante modeled and cast her in bronze as the naked Andromeda waiting for Perseus to rescue her, circa 1900.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Custer's Last Stand


Custer three months before his death

This is definitely a pipe made in the USA for Americans. New York City's Viennese-born Carl Kutschera carved "Custer's Last Stand," 

a dramatic centerpiece measuring 17.75" l. x 7.25" h., sometime in the early 1900s. It was offered for sale in 1975-1976 in various antique journals for a firm-fixed price of $8,500!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Human Skull by August Fischer

Is there any doubt that this particular motif, however morbid, is the finest example of an anatomically accurate representation of the human skull, ideally suited for use in a medical lecture? Moreover, the hand's veins, fingernails and cuticles are precisely executed. The dimensions are 30" l., and 7" h. 

The long, intricately hand-turned and -filed, multi-part amber mouthpiece in stark contrast with the pristine white of the bowl results in a dramatic combination. The pipe was carved by August Fischer, Orchard Park, New York, for the Pan American Exposition, Buffalo, New York, 1901.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Here is a cased cheroot holder offered at auction on September 10, 2010 at the Rock Island Auction Company, Rock Island, Illinois. Rather than craft our own description, we include a verbatim description by the company cataloger:

"Measuring 6 1/4" long from bowl to stem, 5" tall and 1 4/5" wide, the main section of the holder is constructed with a meerschaum bowl mounted into the front of a single piece of natural meerschaum, which shows a curvature along the underside that matches in contour with the stem.

[Note from admin: this is a single meerschaum block where the carver has purposefullly removed the wax to prevent coloration of the sculpture when the pipe is smoked, preserving the natural white color of the meerschaum and offering a striking contrast with the base as it acquires the golden brown color] 


The main body is three dimensionally carved in a scene of Artemis, Greek goddess of the hunt, standing atop a rock outcropping covered in floral blooms, posed as though preparing to nock an arrow on a bow (note: bow and arrow are absent), with a quiver on her back and her dress partially undone to free her drawing arm. Arrayed around her are a woman in dress and sandals, holding the leads of a pair of lop eared hounds, 2 nymphs dressed in laurels, and a large stag. In Greek myth, all these things were presented to Artemis as gifts by her father Zeus, along with the bow and arrow and eternal celibacy.

Apollo and Artemis. Tondo of an Attic red-figure cup, circa  BC

The overall tone of the coloration is signature meerschaum, with the underside of the pipe showing a mixed orange color, the carved sections showing a bone white with yellow and orange accents overall, darker and deeper near the front until you reach the bowl, which is near black with streaks of red. The stem is carved orange amber, 5" long, which matches up with the main body excellently. With a leather covered, velvet and silk lined case from Franz Heiss & Son of Vienna, Austria, a late 19th Century carving firm and participant in the Chicago World's Columbian Exhibition of 1893." 

Aerial view of the Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893

According to the House, it sold for the tidy sum of $9,500 plus $1,852.50 (buyer's premium + taxes, fees, etc.).