Friday, December 30, 2011

Collecting Conundrum

Meerschaum Pipes Past or Meerschaum Pipes Present?


Ben Rapaport

This essay begins with three literary quotations that the reader may believe have absolutely nothing to do with collecting meerschaum pipes. The first was penned by William Shakespeare, “Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye…” in his play, Love’s Labor Lost (1588-89) that was slightly altered later by Irish novelist, Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, in her 1878 novel, Molly Bawn: “beauty is in the eye of beholder.”  The second is attributed to Gertrude Stein from her poem, “Sacred Family” (1913): “a rose is a rose is a rose.” And the last is from George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945): “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” These quotations have much to do with the subject of this essay. As this story evolves, their confluence will be apparent.

Aligned with the central theme of this narrative is an oft-quoted phrase that sets its tone: what typically separates Great Britain and the United States is a common language. Similarly, although American meerschaum pipe collectors are not separated by language, they are separated by the age and origin of what they collect. It has been my experience that one camp desires only 19th century Western European- or American-made meerschaums, and the other camp desires only contemporary, or modern, more specifically, Turkish meerschaums. To my knowledge, very few who are into meerschaums are crossover collectors, that is, they collect both antique and, simultaneously, Turkish meerschaums. Whether one collects for fun or profit, with limited disposable income (a hobby budget) or deep pockets (unrestricted budget), some essential principles for collectors of either pipe age are in order, and they are expostulated in this essay.

Are all meerschaum pipes equal, à la Gertrude Stein, or, are some meerschaums more equal than others, à la Orwell? Were Shakespeare and Hungerford the voices of reason? It depends on one’s point of view! Pipes produced in ye really olden days and those from Turkey have their own unique, complex set of qualities and attributes. Stories previously appearing in Pipes and Tobaccos were about mining and carving meerschaum, and about the labor-intensive effort to transform this raw material into a finished pipe. This story is different. I engage in a bit of intellectual gymnastics about collecting meerschaum pipes in general, and more specifically, I examine the distinct and distinguishable differences between these two generations of carving skills. As a collector and a certified personal property appraiser, I offer a reasoned collecting strategy on the feasibility, comparability, and cost of the two genres, a rational collecting approach for the inspired would-be collector of either camp.[1] What follows is a composite picture tempered by the considered opinions of seasoned collectors, not a mating dance between art and commerce!


First, the two terms of reference. An antique is defined by its age. The U.S. government and personal property appraisers consider any item more than 100 years old to be an antique, regardless of its condition. (Although some collectors use 50, rather than 100 years, as a benchmark, a more accurate term for things less than 100 years old is vintage.) The value of an antique depends on its quality, style, craftsmanship, and several other factors. A collectible is an item whose value originally revolved around its utility or aesthetic attributes, but has since been enhanced by widespread interest; a collectible is, more often than not, much less than 100 years old. 

It was around 1950 when the Turkish meerschaum invasion of the United States began in earnest. Out of habit, not disdain, collectors of antique meerschaum pipes customarily label 20th century Turkish meerschaums collectibles, a parochial, but accurate, characterization, at least from the point of view of age. Whether a particular meerschaum pipe from either age is “collectible”—that is, it is worthwhile to collect, or it has a large following—is a matter of personal opinion.    

The story of the early 18th century Hungarian shoemaker, Karl Kowates (Kovács , Károly Andrássy and the two meerschaum pipes attributed to him, has been so often repeated that it has become industry legend and collector folklore. This (alleged) landmark event was supposedly the start of European meerschaum pipe making. Unlike the briar pipe, the meerschaum has always been treated as a poetic figure of speech and has many synonyms: the queen of pipes, Venus of the Sea, and White Goddess, and sometimes described as light as a fleeting dream, the apple of the eye of the refined pipe smoker, and the aristocrat of smoking pipes. More than 150 years ago, before the briar pipe became universally popular, a veritable host of highly skilled technicians were at work making meerschaum pipes in all the cosmopolitan cities of Europe and the United States.

The period, 1850-1925, represents the acme in meerschaum pipe craftsmanship. In these 75 or so years, the carver’s imagination ran wild, and pipes of incomparable creativity and beauty were produced. Ask any educated antique pipe collector, and he’ll emphatically state that almost any motif one can name was expressed in meerschaum, the articulation of creative and dramatic imagery in one-of-a-kind pieces as miniature, architectural statements. Meerschaum pipes and cheroot holders of that era summon all the magic and mystique of diminutive works of art. The range and breadth of selection in that day was extraordinary—in size, shape, ornamentation and décor—each different, one from another. Collectors know that each find represents another unusual and rare message, each intricate, fascinating, and unusual; often, the challenge is to determine the impulse of the carver and the pipe’s provenance.

From a chronological viewpoint, collecting antique meerschaums in the United States started in earnest as a early 20th century avocation, and today’s antique pipe collector strives to find meerschaums made by the most renowned artisans, among them, Sommer Frères of Paris; Ludwig Hartmann & Eidam of Vienna; Emanuel Czapek of Prague; C.W. Möller of Berlin; L. Gambarini of Naples; and Gustav Fischer of Boston.  Sadly, those carvers are long gone, and the next-generation family members did not follow in their footsteps.

A few places—Austria, England, and Tanzania—are still producing meerschaum pipes, but at least for the past 100 or so years, the mother lode of meerschaum has been Anatolia, principally Eskişehir Province, the singular place where there seems to have always been a never-ending quantity of hydrous magnesium silicate.[2] Turkey is the premier producer and exporter of meerschaum pipes today, and the principal U.S. importers are CAO, Royal, SMS and a few others. The Turkish carvers with panache now in demand have names such as Kadir Baysal; Ismet Bekler; Erdoğan and Yunus Ege; Ramazan Karaca; Nurhan and Sedat Konçak (owners of Andreas Bauer since 1990); Ismail Ozel; Salim Sener; Sadik Yanik (who now offers on the Internet a special series of artistically carved, pre-colored meerschaums in rich, dark oxblood); and the list goes on. Not readily obvious is the fact that collectors of these pipes, so many of which are “signed,” have a distinct advantage over those who collect antique meerschaums that, as a rule, were never signed. Turkish pipes have a known, readily identifiable provenance, and the collector is able to compare and contrast artists, even date some of the limited-edition pipes that have been produced. Those who collect antique pipes are literally lost at sea (foam) if the fitted case that once accompanied the pipe is not present.


Fact is, not every 18th or 19th century meerschaum pipe is an outstanding example of beautiful hand-craftsmanship. Esthetically, many thousands from that period were unattractive, some quite hideous and grotesque. Conversely, many Turkish meerschaums made just yesterday (figuratively speaking) are much more attractive and eye-catching, more aesthetically pleasing than antique meerschaum pipes of relatively comparable style and execution; some are of as high or higher quality, as good as or of better craftsmanship, and as striking or more striking in appearance than those made more than 100–150 years ago. In those instances where a Turkish piece is a close facsimile to a late 19th century pipe—and many Turkish pipes are very good copies of antique pipes made much earlier—one may conclude that imitation is the best, sweetest, or sincerest form of flattery, that Turkish pipe carvers have seen fit to hold their European predecessors in high esteem!  However, pipes of both ages cannot be precisely compared, attribute for attribute, because no two pipes are precisely alike, whether made 200 years ago or two months ago.

Some might say that the aforementioned contravenes what I wrote in 1999: “…[T]urkish carving is not even a good imitation.”[3] This statement still holds true, because, stylistically, Turkish pipe-carving processes and techniques are different than those used by earlier European and American carvers. For example, no Turkish pipe produced today, in my estimation, exhibits the grandeur of, or can compare to, the old-school European or American diligence exhibited in the extremely intricate, minutely detailed, life-like sculptures of yesteryear. And amber, the then-popular material for mouthpieces, is no longer used. But, should one expect that the current generation of carvers replicate, etch for etch, scroll for scroll, the work of the old masters? I think not. More than a century separates these two generations of carvers, and this time gap precludes a valid comparison of carvers’ skill sets. More important than this time gap is the fact that Austria and Germany, for example, whose artisans produced so many exquisite meerschaum pipes and cheroot holders, were two countries steeped in the arts. They had a guild system of master and apprentice craftsmen, academies, institutes, trade schools, and a stable of world-renowned artists. Modern Turkey cannot make these claims.




Here are a few practical observations on comparing antique and collectible meerschaum pipes. First, consider what opportunities exist to collect these very early ‘white goddesses.’ Long ago, there were many meerschaum-carving centers abroad and a few in the United States. Now, there is one principal meerschaum pipe-making hub, Turkey, and a few other locales in the world with minor production facilities, such as Andreas Bauer, Vienna), Kiko (Tanganyika), London Meerschaum Limited, and a couple lesser-known artists as Darcy Gertz (Canada), Philippe Bargiel (France), and Arne Urup (Denmark).[4] 

In The Washington Times, July 18, 2001, appeared “Little Deposit, little return. Turkish meerschaum miners find their stones, livelihoods vanishing.” The writer described the plight of Turkish meerschaum miners, stating that not only is overall demand for such pipes down, but also that “it is becoming harder and harder to find meerschaum stones…”[5] If it is true that demand is down, that may explain the relatively recent diversification in Turkey: the manufacture and export of other meerschaum articles, such as prayer beads, necklaces, and pendants. Yet in this same article, Sadun Parlar, a representative of Sultan Pipes, stated: “More than half of meerschaum buyers are collectors, so anti-tobacco campaigns do not really affect the meerschaum sales.” If Mr. Parlar has assessed the current situation accurately, then collecting contemporary meerschaum pipes may be on the rise.

Cost may be the ultimate criterion or discriminator that determines which to collect, so the balance of this story may help decide the right collecting avenue for one’s pocketbook. The price of some antique meerschaums can range in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars for something as splendid as a large-scale pipe depicting, in high relief, the god Prometheus surrounded by a handful of naiads made by someone in Vienna, Paris, or Prague. Pipes of this caliber were unique, one-of-a-kind, and rather prohibitively priced. The collector must have sufficient disposable funds at the ready for these singular opportunities, should they occur. Of the many thousands of meerschaum pipes made a century or two ago, the quantity of those that have survived in pristine condition is small, and most are already in private collections, although a few appear at the auction block or at an estate sale from time to time.

On the other hand, the relatively steady-state prices of Turkish meerschaums accords the collector with limited funds an opportunity to spend discretionary income on a pipe now and then without delaying dental surgery for his teenage daughter or a needed valve job for the family automobile until the next paycheck.  The greatest collecting possibilities exist with today’s meerschaums that, far in the future, will be tomorrow’s antique meerschaums… with one caveat. It’ll be a long time before Turkey’s output can approximate the variability and broad assortment of motifs and subject matter produced in Austria, England, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States between 1850-1925. Moreover, I doubt that any modern Turkish meerschaum pipe has commanded anywhere near as much as the specious $15,000 valuation of “Anthony and Cleopatra,” a 15”-long pipe that Royal Meerschaum offered for sale in the debut issue of Pipe Smoker magazine, Spring 1983, that was declared “The World’s Most Expensive Pipe” (according to the 1983 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records).




Consider the labor-intensive process of a finished meerschaum pipe. Making a meerschaum pipe has not changed much in the last two centuries. Practically all the work has to be done by hand, lots of time is spent on each hand-carved pipe, and the craft takes years to acquire. So, are all meerschaum pipes created equally? This is not a rhetorical question. The answer is simultaneously “yes” and “no”! Consider the two periods in question, the actual conditions and circumstances appropriate for each period, the raw materials available, wage scales, production time, competition, demand, and the craftsman’s diligence. In this country, “all the old-time experts in the work are gone now…”[6] Today, neither the artful skills of yesteryear carvers can be duplicated, nor would their trifling salaries be the same. Overall demand for meerschaums may be considerably lower now than, say, in 1875 or 1900, but things might have been different if the heath tree had never been discovered; most believe that Erica arborea caused the meerschaum’s popularity to ebb. Furthermore, amber, whether or not in plentiful supply nowadays, is destined to be jewelry, not mouthpieces. And Philippe Bargiel, a reputable carver and restorer of meerschaum pipes from Crèpy en Valois, France, signals another important factor worthy of note: “The meerschaum pipe bowls produced nowadays also don’t get immersed in spermaceti, an oil that comes from the frontal sinus cavity of the sperm whale, but in white bleached wax.”[7]

It is useful is to compare some characteristics of antique and collectible meerschaum pipes by their most important attributes, noting the similarities and differences between the two generations. Can there be symmetries and similarities between antique and collectible meerschaums? Does a comparison between the two generations aid in determining which type to collect? Or is this a futile exercise? I ask the reader to be the judge after reviewing the contents of Table 1.

Table 1. Some General Characteristics of Meerschaum Pipes


Principal carving centers in Western and Central Europe, England and the U.S.
Essentially Turkey, with minor production in Austria, Africa, and England
Period of production
ca. 1825 – 1925
Post-WWII to the present
Subject matter/ motif
Most often, motifs mirrored famous works of art (paintings, sculpture), opera, fables, mythology, Bible, busts of popular personages and important political/ military leaders of the period, commemoration of historic events, singular masterpieces for international expositions, etc.
Most often and, perhaps, overdone are generic compositions of pashas and sultans, nudes, talon and egg, etc. Some original, inventive, and imaginative contemporary subject matter has recently appeared on pipes, such as Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Santa Claus, JRR Tolkien’s Gandalf the White, the figural head of a helmeted football player (from the carver “Rasit” at Konçak), the USMC’s globe and anchor, Masonic square and compass, and American Bald Eagle (by Kural), various patterns of lattice carving, and the occasional good-to-better copies of antique motifs, such as the “Grim Reaper” (by Tekin), the original of which appears on page 141 in Collecting Antique Meerschaums. (Bear in mind that these are produced in quantity, whereas antique meerschaums were quite often made ‘to-order’ for a specific patron.)
Grade of substance
Some producers offered three different densities of block meerschaum: hard, medium and soft, each grade aimed at different types of smokers. Imitation meerschaum pipes were also produced, also identified as Viennese, mock, meerschaum calcinate, mere-sham, and meerschaum-masse, fusing together the residue of the block to reconstitute a mass from which to carve a new pipe.
Principally block meerschaum 
The generally accepted process was to apply, either by hand or soaking, several coats of a mixture of boiled beeswax, whale oil, and tallow. The uniform cherry-red or deep-brown finish on some antique pipes is the result not of heavy smoking, but from artificial coloring. One method was to apply a paste made of aniline dyes—ox blood and Soudan brown—then burn the color in over an alcohol lamp.[8]
SMS claims that in the production cycle, it first applies paraffin to stabilize the meerschaum, and then unrefined, bleached, Turkish beeswax. Block meerschaum from Tanganyika, e.g., Amboseli, Iringa and Jenga, undergo a so-called  “treatment to add strength”; it is a process of staining the material in shades of tawny yellow, brown, or black. Another is the calcining process, claimed to give block meerschaum the best possible durability.
Carver’s name, factory logo, or retailer’s trademark embossed into, or on a paper or foil label inside, the case. Signed pipes were relatively unknown.[9]
Some bear maker’s name embossed, or a paper label, in fitted case. A recent trend is the carver’s signature incised on the pipe’s shank.
Universe of lengths, some as extreme as 36” (including mouthpiece) and heights to as much as 12.” Stylistically, pipes such as “The French Commemorative Pipe” (Plate 24, Alfred Dunhill, The Pipe Book, 1924, n.p.) were not common, because these outsized pipes were not practical to smoke.
Predominant production is standard-size pipes. In the last 25 years, a large quantity of what the Trade calls “saxophone” pipes has also been produced, e.g., figural busts of emirs and pashas with long carved stems, and occasional outsized pipes, such as “Anthony and Cleopatra,” that are conversation pieces, and impractical to smoke.
Solid amber in yellow, orange and red hues or amberoid (fused amber residue), often accompanied by amber shank ferrules. After about 1920, mouthpieces were made of redolite, a crimson-red phenol formaldehyde named for Lawrence Vincent Redman, a chemist working for the Redmanol Chemical Products Co., Chicago. (Redmanol is a trademark of Union Carbide Corp., USA.) Redmanol was advertised as the material of 1,000 uses, and one of the largest companies, the Bakelite Corporation, 8 West 40th Street, New York City, sold redolite pipes and mouthpieces in the 1920s-1930s. Other substitutes were celluloid, composition, hard rubber, and horn. 
Cellulose nitrate, vulcanite, bakelite, Perspex (Lucite or acrylic) in assorted colors, composition, and other synthetic materials.


Accents and nuances, e.g., gold, silver, semi-precious and precious jewels surmounted, integrated with, or appliquéd onto motif; assorted plain and chased silver and gold shank bands; and ornate domed wind covers with finials.
As a general rule, little to none.
Fitted Case
Soft wood or papier-mâché form covered with leather, or other skin (e.g., pig, snake, crocodile, etc.); satin, silk, velvet, chamois, or plush lining inside.
Soft wood form covered with leather or leatherette; satin or plush lining inside



Because value is a subjective criterion, I rely on a dictionary. Value has several meanings, and the customary use is monetary, while a less often interpretation is desirability or importance. I excerpt from the June 1, 1903 issue of Tobacco, a British trade journal. The argument revolved around the owner of a meerschaum pipe who had given it to a tobacco shop for repair, and it was subsequently lost. The owner went to court. In the plaintiff’s defense, a certain Mr. Weingott of meerschaum fame on Fleet Street responds: “There is no demand for pipes that have been coloured, but a leading distinction between ‘fine’ and ‘lower grade’ is that the former will colour properly, whereas the latter won’t.” The judge asks: “Yet when coloured they have no special value?” to which Weingott retorts: “No general value. They are valuable only to the smoker who has coloured them.” Today, advertisements for Turkish pipes echo this sentiment, but monetarily, in my considered opinion, whether the color is from smoking or from the factory, it adds little to a pipe’s value; other criteria of far greater importance should influence the selection of which generation of meerschaums to collect.

A sensible collector will assure that his selection, whether new or antique, is based on (his own standards of) the imperatives of quality and condition, two paramount criteria. If the carving is poorly executed, e.g., the features are not sharp or resolute, and their proportionality is not in balance to the pipe’s overall size, whether the pipe is antique or collectible, it is not of the best quality or design. If the pipe is damaged, however slightly, exhibiting visible fissures, cracks, or chips, it not only has less aesthetic value in the eye of an astute pipe collector, it also has a lower current-market value.

I do not think that anyone can rationally, logically, or defensibly answer the persistent and probing questions about which to buy that arise in conversation among collectors. Nonetheless, here are a few of the most-often asked questions about meerschaum pipe collecting and my answers. I am sure that other questions will arise in the mind of the reader that I have not considered, but I suspect that they may belong to the domain of the unanswerable. The following should be of more use to the novice than to the mature collector. 

·      As a general rule, is a late 19th century pipe of approximate size, motif, and execution to one with similar attributes made in the mid- to late 20th century more valuable? There is no valid set of metrics for such a comparison, but, in most cases, the antique pipe will always retain more value.

·      Then, is the age of a meerschaum pipe a prime criterion in choosing what to collect?  If you buy meerschaum pipes as an investment, the biggest consistent payoff has been the antique meerschaum. If you collect without regard for future payoff, then other criteria, not age, should be foremost.

·      Is an antique meerschaum pipe with a replacement mouthpiece of new-age material less valuable than one with its original amber mouthpiece? Certainly, but it is difficult to determine to what extent without knowing the configuration, color, clarity, or quality of the original mouthpiece for comparison with the replacement.

·      What if some part of the meerschaum was damaged and then restored? Whether the pipe is antique or collectible, repair or restoration may return the pipe to its near-original appearance, but it will not have the market value assigned to the pipe’s original state.

·      On average, is a large meerschaum pipe (let’s say, for argument, more than 10” in length) more valuable than a smaller one of comparable quality? In general, a conditional yes. Apply the two essential criteria—quality and condition—then add two other subjective criteria, rarity of motif and intricacy of execution or detail, into the equation, and an objective comparison on value between two such pipes becomes a more difficult, emotionally-charged, almost irrational debate, because opinions abound on what is a rare motif, and whether the carving is intricate.

·      Is a golden-, honey- or brown-hued meerschaum more valuable than one with a White-Cliffs-of-Dover finish? Or, is a pipe devalued if it has been smoked? A heavily smoked (blackened or charred rim) or a poorly smoked (mottled finish) meerschaum, new or antique, is quite unattractive, at least to my eye, although patience and elbow grease (neither of which is sold in tobacco shops) may bring back some of its original luster. Collecting pristine meerschaums is an option for only those who collect Turkish pipes; those who collect antique meerschaums find it difficult to assemble a representative collection of only pristine, or mint-condition, unsmoked pipes.

·      Is a pipe exhibiting an accent, décor, or a nuance of precious metal or jewels of greater value than one without embellishment? An antique meerschaum pipe bearing embellishment does signify a higher degree of the craftsman’s commitment than one having no embellishment. Today’s meerschaums have no such embellishments, so comparisons can be made only between similarly embellished antique pipes.

·      Is a pipe with a fitted case more valuable than one without a case? The case protects the pipe, and if it bears the carver’s name or factory’s trademark, that’s a plus, but I assign little additional market value to the case, although the case affords protection to the pipe. What is of prime importance is what’s inside.

And a question for those interested in what I collect:

·      Have I ever considered collecting contemporary meerschaums? Were I to start collecting now, rather than 50 years ago, I would seriously consider investing in today’s meerschaums. Finding examples of finely crafted antique meerschaums is ever more difficult and expensive nowadays. As this situation worsens, Turkish meerschaums will probably be the only pipes in circulation found with regularity and in ample quantity.




The buyer decides whether one particular meerschaum pipe has more value—intrinsic, market, or both—than another, and he alone determines what is beauty based on his own subjective judgment. What’s singularly important is that the collector of either Turkish or antique pipes be content with and enjoy his acquisitions. He may choose to invest only in collectible meerschaums, or collect only antique meerschaums, or he may be a crossover- collector, collecting pipes of both vintages. He should derive tactile and visual pleasure from, and personal pride in, what he selects. Regardless of which generation meerschaums you collect, “The prerequisites for pipe collecting are persistence, diligence, commitment, networking, timing, lots of luck and extra income.”[10]

Enjoy and take pride in what you have. In Pipeland, there’s room for all who collect any type, style, or age of meerschaum pipe. More of today’s stuff is available than the stuff of yesterday, and the competition for the latter will continue to be keener, and the investment costlier than for the former. I believe that the Turks are getting better at carving each year; their skills may soon equal, perhaps eventually surpass, those of their 19th century predecessors.  Even if their carving skills don’t improve, it doesn’t matter, because every pipe collector has his own idiosyncratic reasons as to what he collects, and value or worth may not necessarily be the prime criterion or consideration in his purchases. In passing, I add that the only mistake anyone can make is to buy these pipes in the belief that he’ll make a financial killing—a windfall of profit—in the ensuing months or years if he opts to sell. Pipes should not be purchased as an investment. The market is wholly unpredictable, and pipes are neither liquid nor near-liquid assets!

I abide by George Orwell’s claim, having decided long ago to collect only antique meerschaums, but for every other meerschaum pipe collector, his choice may be founded on that simple, uncomplicated, but realistic emotion expressed by Shakespeare that Hungerford later rephrased: “…beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

[1]Lap pipes, those exceptionally large Austro-Hungarian pipe bowls with long wood stems made until about 1850 are excluded, because this treatise focuses on only the smaller hand-held pipes that were produced starting around 1850.

[2] Eskişehir, about 200 miles southeast of Istanbul, is one of the oldest settlements in west-central Turkey, founded in 3500 B.C. 
[3] Benjamin Rapaport, Collecting Antique Meerschaums. Miniature to Majestic Sculpture, 1850-1925, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1999, 39.
[4] A few years ago, I read an article in an English tobacco trade journal that predicted meerschaum pipes would be produced in Japan, but I have yet to see evidence of this. Turkey prohibited the export of raw meerschaum in 1979.
[5]One recent report stated that in the last 10 years, meerschaum carving is becoming a dying art. The scarcity of quality block Turkish meerschaum is attributed to the vanishing breed of miners who have created a serious shortage of raw material and a resultant increase in prices. Many carvers have been quitting the profession without new apprentices to replace them.
[6] Fritz Morris, “The Making of Meerschaums,” Technical World, April 1908, 196.
[8] Carl Avery Werner, Tobaccoland, New York, 1922, 416.
[9] A number of pipes being sold today at antique centers and on the auction block signed “Gustav Fisher Jnr.” are poor-quality, epoxy-resin forgeries dyed to look like pre-colored antique meerschaums.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Baronne Alice de Rothschild Collection

Baroness Alice de Rothschild (1847–1922) of the renowned financier family was famous not only for her gardens and grounds near Grasse, France—a hybrid violet bears her name—and several Cuban and Dominican cigars bear the family name, but also for her superior collection of Meissen, wood, and meerschaum pipes. Her collection of more than 450 discrete examples was bequeathed to the Bibliothèque municipale de Grasse in 1927. 

It has exhibited her pipes on at least two occasions: in early 1989, and again in late 2004, on this occasion with a retrospective catalog published for the debut: La Collection de pipes de la baronne Alice de Rothschild. It represents, without doubt, an assemblage of some of the most unusual, rare, and intricately carved and molded pipes that anyone might have been able to accumulate in a lifetime. Of course, being from a wealthy banking family, money was no object, and this fact is patently evident in this collection.

Rather than attempt to describe each pipe--the right words to convey the most appropriate description truly escape us--so, enjoy the view. 

Anyone who appreciates fine-quality art and artifacts (even some of the grotesquely sculptured faces) will acknowledge that this small fraction of the collection is extraordinary... par excellence! If we are able to post all of the 450 pipes, the collective will be a veritable feast for the eye, overwhelming...captivating... breathtaking. 

In the meantime check out our Tobacco Pipe Artistory Page on Facebook for a selection of masterpieces from the collection.

Courtesy of the Bibliothèque municipale de Grasse, France, coll. Alice de Rothschild

Photographer Peter Baum, Idstein, Germany

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Extraordinary Amber Pipe

An interesting holder in mixed mediums (amber, ivory and, perhaps, Bakelite), undoubtedly French in origin. (Courtesy of a private collector).

For more equally stunning amber pipes, please check The Tobacco Pipe Artistory Page on Facebook.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A masterpiece from the Dunhill antique pipe collection

Meerschaum pipe, 18" l., attributed to Joseph Krammer, Vienna, ca. 1871.

The motif depicts the wedding of Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria to the Marquis of Lorne, at Windsor St. George chapel, March 21, 1871, inscribed at base.

From the Dunhill antique pipe collection, and sold at Christie's on May 23, 2006 for $50,000.

For more examples of the extraordinary skills of meerschaum pipe carvers of yesteryears, check out The Tobacco Pipe Artistory Page on Facebook.