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Oil on fabric
Unframed: 63 x 38 cm (24 13/16 x 14 15/16 in.)
Bequest of Noah L. Butkin 1980.254
The artist was a smoker. In this composition the place of honor is given to a pipe made in Austria around the middle of the 19th century. It is made of precious materials—meerschaum, silver, amber, horn or lacquered wood—that are carefully fashioned, all lovingly rendered by the artist. The cord with a tassel (perhaps of horsehair) is not just a decorative element, it is a security measure in case the precious bowl of the pipe becomes detached from the pipe stem. The pipe is surrounded by ordinary smoker's accessories—a cigar case, a snuffbox, and a match holder in porcelain—all placed on a Turkish rug. The Latin inscription translates: "Use, not abuse." In 1858 Decamps was 55 years old and not in the best of health. Perhaps a doctor had advised him to reduce his consumption of tobacco.
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