French figural stemmed clay pipes
In France a real craze started from 1820 onwards with a highly decorated so-called figural clay pipes. Thanks to an artistic input, this type of clay pipe resulted in great popularity. It soon became customary to paint these products with a multicolored enamel, giving the pipe a cheerful appearance. Once in use, the clay gradually turned brown, so enamel contrasted attractively against the dark colored background.
These French figural pipes show all possible subjects. In addition to politically engaged portraits, historical representations and personalities from cultural life, many general subjects have been executed. Initially, it was mainly a culturally and socially engaged group of smokers who used figural pipes. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, interest shifted to a larger group of consumers. Then it was no longer about the meaning of the depiction, but they became amusing utensils for smokers who do not intend to spread a specific message.
The figural clay pipe disappeared at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the cheap, serial made briar pipe appealed more to the smoker. That's why the big firms in the French pipe industry disappeared around the First World War. Nowadays it is still a pleasure for many enthusiasts to build a collection of these decorated pipes and to research their historical background.