Smoking from a wolf's head
If you browse through the extensive catalog of the Gambier company in Givet, you will encounter in their wide range of designs only a limited number of curiosities. Gambier followed fixed design principles and few pipes deviate from that standard. One is Mère loup, a pipe bowl in the shape of a wolf's head with shape number 388. A striking feature of this design is that the pipe does not show any difference between the stem and the bowl, the entire pipe is the representation of a wolf's head. The separate wooden stem was pushed into the rear of the animal head to make it possible to smoke from this remarkable full sculpture. The neck cut is the bottom of the pipe bowl and is decorated with a beautifully shaped acanthus leaf. The question is how long such a design remained in circulation. With some creations, that is much longer than we expect. This wolf's head, for example, was designed before the year 1840. To our surprise it is still shown in the factory catalog in 1894. So, this design has been on sale for more than fifty years! Yet it is a pipe with limited popularity. All known copies come from the same press mould. We do, however, see that this mould has been updated once to sharpen the details. That would mean that only a few thousand copies were produced over a period of fifty years. It seems that production already stopped in the 1860s and that the remaining stock was sold out in the following decades. This hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that the "GAMBIER A PARIS" brand, which was standard on all pipes from 1865, is not present here. It shows us how important the phenomenon of a vast stock was for a pipe factory at the time. Thousands of boxes with leftover lots were waiting in the warehouse of Gambier until another order came for a single pipe. In this way the stock decreased gradually, albeit very slowly.
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