Portraits of smokers
In the early seventeenth century smoking has little status. So, there are no ordered portraits of smokers yet. The oldest depictions of smokers are usually farmers’ types that are fooled with their odd habit of smoking a pipe.
The smokers’ portrait does not exist till the early seventeenhundreds. By that time the pipe had gained status and became an attribute to highlight someone’s personality.
Portraits with smokers are not for the high layers of society. It was the middle-class that smoked a pipe. Studying smokers in art, we see that only the extravagant persons, paying lots of attention to their dressing and accessories, are shown with a tobacco pipe. The upper class uses snuff tobacco, for which a costly snuff box sometimes indicate their wealth and status.
Especially in the nineteenth century the long Gouda clay pipe becomes an item beloved by the middle class, an attribute for a gentleman but never for the rich.
On the contrary, the dandies are depicted with an elaborately decorated cheroot holder. However, the number of pictures of these smokers is relatively small.
Photography is an excellent way to depict characteristic persons. Extend series of picture postcards show smokers, often types of people The fisherman with his cutty is the most characteristic. From the beginning of the twentieth century a series of picture postcards with types from a certain region wearing a local costume survive.
The illustrated coloured lithographic cards printed in Breda served as advertisements for a Dutch caramel factory. It certainly is the last series of smokers from traditional pipes. Not much later the use of the tobacco pipe became more international in fashion and the characteristic local styles of pipe disappeared.
Illustrations on this page from the collections of Amsterdam Pipe Museum
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