In the nineteenth century the French manufacturers, such as Fiolet and Gambier, were masters at creating ornate figural pipes. Often these pipes had coloured enamels applied to the white pipe clay – a characteristic that is especially common on French clay pipes, but never found on the English ones. Over time, and as a result of continually being smoked, the pipe clay itself discoloured, but the coloured enamels stayed as bright and as vibrant as when they were applied so that they stood out in strong contrast with the background. Some of these French pipes were very intricate, with lots of undercutting in the designs that required the use of a more elaborate multi-part mould rather than the usual mould with two halves that was used in England.
A number of these French pipes were of morbid or deathly subjects that included skulls and skeletons. As with many of the French designs, these were copied by the English manufacturers and remained popular into the early years of the twentieth century.
This Halloween’s issue of In the Spotlight highlights just two of the many French figural pipes that the Archive has in its collection. The first was produced by Gambier and depicts a skull. Not only has this pipe been enamelled but the eyes have been inset with spooky looking artificial gem stones. This particular pipe has been quite heavily smoked so the white enamel detail can clearly be seen.
The second is the full figure of a skeleton and was produce by Dumeril of St Omer. This is also enamelled, although it has not been as heavily smoked as the Gambier skull. Not only do we have a full skeleton but behind his head is the figure of a bat! He’s also smoking a pipe – I wonder if it is a skull pipe?
In the Spotlight this week is a clay pipe depicting the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), but in a far less flattering pose than we are used to seeing.
Wellington, or the ‘Iron Duke’, was a leading military and political figure of the 19th century and considered to be one of the greatest commanders of all time. He was primeminister twice and was a leading figure in the House of Lords until his retirement in 1846. He was also Commander in Chief of the British Army, a position he held until his death in 1852. So what could be going on with this caricatured pipe?
The pipe depicts Wellington in uniform complete with epaulettes, which have been picked out in gold enamel. Wellington’s head forms bowl of the pipe, with black and white enamel for his eyes and eyebrows, and pink enamel for his lips. But the stem socket behind his head is formed by a soldier “thumbing his nose” at Wellington in a rather disrespectful manner, whilst holding a pipe in his left hand!
The reason for this mocking soldier can be found in Fairholt’s Tobacco: Its History and Associations, published in 1859. Not only does Fairholt illustrate the pipe, but informs us that “the late Duke of Wellington, towards the close of his life, took a strong dislike to the use of tobacco in the army, and made some ineffectual attempts to suppress it. Benda, a wholesale pipe importer in the city, employed Dumeril, of St. Omer, to commemorate the event” (p185-6).
What Fairholt was referring to is General Order 577, which was published in the London Illustrated News on 29th November 1845 (page 339), and read:
“The Commander-in-Chief has been informed, that the practice of smoking, by the use of pipes, cigars, or cheroots, has become prevalent among the Officers of the Army, which is not only in itself a species of intoxication occasioned by the fumes of tobacco, but, undoubtedly, occasions drinking and tippling by those who acquire the habit; and he entreats the Officers commanding Regiments to prevent smoking in the Mess Rooms of their several Regiments, and in the adjoining apartments, and to discourage the practice among the Officers of Junior Rank in their Regiments”.
In 1900 Herbert Maxwell published an account of Wellington’s life and he noted that this “counterblast” was about as effective as that of James I’s in 1604, but he goes on to say that “for a while tobacco-stoppers, carved in his likeness, became very popular” (Maxell 1900, 124).
The example in our collection is part of the Pollock Archive and has been allocated the accession number LIVNP 2013.05.02. It is in pristine condition and has clearly not been smoked. Detail on the pipe has been picked out in black, white, pink and gold enamel. On the base of the pipe is a rectangular relief stamped mark reading DUMERIL LEURS & CO A ST OMER. There is also an oval stamp with the letters H*M.
Dumeril’s factory was founded in 1844 in St Omer, France (Raphael 1991, 108), and by 1851 their pipes were being advertised in TheTimes:
TO WHOLESALE DEALERS in, and EXPORTERS of FRENCH, Plain, Fancy and Enamelled CLAY-PIPES. Bronzed Statuaries, &c – Messrs DUMERIL, LEWIS and Co., manufacturers, St. Omer, France, inform them that orders are received at their office, 9, ST Mary-axe, City. (The Times [London, England] 21 Nov. 1851: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.)
It has not yet been possible to trace Benda, the importers referred to in Fairholt’s account (1859, 185), but the implication from Fairholt’s reference, is that they were one of the “wholesale pipe” importers” that were being targeted by Dumeril’s 1851 advertisement.
Given that we know Dumeril’s factory was not founded until 1845, and that Fairholt not only reported on the pipe but illustrated an example in 1859, we can date the introduction of this pipe design quite closely to between 1845 and 1859.
Anon, 1845, ‘Naval and Military Intelligence’ London Illustrated News, 29 November 1845, 339.
Fairholt, F. W., 1859 Tobacco: Its History and Associations: Including an Account of the Plant and Its Manufacture; with its Modes of use in all ages and Countries, London, 332pp.
Maxwell, Herbert, 1900 The Life of Wellington: The Restoration of the Martial Power of Great Britain, Vol 2, London, 513pp.
Raphael, M., 1991 La Pipe en Terre, Editions Aztec, France, 285pp.