Smoker in gold leaf
The quality of a porcelain tobacco pipe is mainly expressed in the painted decoration, having its heydays in the first half of the nineteenth century. The most beautiful hand painting is then produced in an enormous variety. In addition, sometimes special decorations arise that stand out in the usual paintwork. The pipe bowl shown here is such an example. There is no question of a polychrome painting, but the bowl has a decoration in pure gold leaf where two techniques are applied. The main image is in polished gold that was fixed with the help of mercury. After application, the minute details were drawn with an agate point. Although the picture is mainly recognizable by its contour, there are countless subtle nuances in the gold for those who look better, giving the figure optimum liveliness. In addition to the main motif there is a border and a stem with applied gilt. For this, gold amalgam was used that was also dissolved with mercury. This resulted in a contrasting, high-gloss gold, which, incidentally, is less durable. In addition to the gold decoration, the shape of this pipe bowl is extraordinay. Different from the usual oval-shaped stummel, we see a constricted cylindrical shape with a flat bottom and a short rising stem ending in a cuff. Thanks to a hollow-walled inner bowl, the moisture was able to collect at the bottom of the pipe so that the pipe smoked relatively dry. Another remarkable detail is that the silver stem mounting that was attached on the cuff in case it would had been a wooden pipe was taken over in porcelain, including the locking eye. An unusual but wonderful solution. The pipe shape is characteristic of the 1820s although this copy may be of a slightly later date.
Amsterdam Pipe Museum APM 2.885
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