COSTUME AND IDENTITY
Pipes and smoking provided useful accessories in the costume print series that proliferated throughout Europe starting in the 16th century. Since smoking became a popular intoxicating draught in Europe largely through the agency of the sailors who encountered tobacco in the New World, it is only natural that whenever a sailor was portrayed, he was shown with a pipe in his mouth. Smoking also came to be associated with specific nationalities, including most prominently the Spanish, whose sailors were the first to encounter the practice in the New World, and the Dutch, who were among their most virulent competitors on the high seas and in trade with the colonies.
Tobacco, indigenous to the West Indies, was almost immediately introduced and cultivated in the hospitable climates of Africa as well as the Near and Far East, places where other substances, including opium, were already smoked. In costume prints representing these cultures, the languid side of smoking was emphasized –tobacco, although a stimulant, does have a calming effect –and pipes and other paraphernalia are common accoutrements. Smoking, or even just a pipe in hand, can also portray a state of mind, generally one of relaxation and, perhaps more to the point, of disengagement from everyday realities.
As the tea-drinking Oriental pair of L'Asie, or Larmessin's Caffetier, make evident, tobacco was but one of many pleasantly mind-altering drinks that were newly introduced to Europe from east and west in the early modern period: coffee and chocolate were equally novel and surprising when introduced, and both changed societal habits radically and incurred their own debates over time, though none was quite so heated as those over tobacco.
This manly gathering is a brutal criticism of what amounted to Lord Shelburne's arrangement for the loss of America to Britain, through his bungled handling of the peace proceedings at the end of the American Revolution. National stereotypes are blatant and, as in so many other images, the Dutchman is identified by his pipe.
Presumably relating to the arrival of the German Legion in England, this print shows a soldier in rather dire straits. A portrait of Frederick the Great hanging on the wall indicates his national identity, while the torn Brussels Gazette alludes to his roving career. The incoming Germans were described as "fine men, but ill-mounted, and in my opinion a bad description. . . . It is the fashion, however, to admire them much." The crooked pipe is an almost exclusively German phenomenon.
This lecture, performed first by Lewes in 1764, aims to teach proper conduct by satirizing the inappropriate behavior of such vulgar individuals as the "Dutchman" pictured. In a biting commentary on the greed of the Dutch merchant class, Mynheer van Neverfelt, etc. is described as someone who "looks upon money to be the greatest good . . . and a pic[k]led herring the greatest dainty. If you would ask him what wisdom is, he'll answer you, Stock. If you ask him what benevolence is, he'll reply, Stock; and should you enquire who made him, he would say, Stock; for Stock is the only Deity he bows down to."
The image of a Dutch sailor is accompanied by a "historical notice on Holland," in which political, religious, and social systems are discussed. The French author's emphasis, at this critical date, was on Holland's democratic nature. Among the examples given, it is said that the Dutch eat, drink, even smoke together from the same plate, glass, and pipe.
Costume series originated, in part, from an impulse of mapping and cataloguing the known world. Understanding how a people looked and dressed, and where and how they lived, provided information about the rest of the world, and also, by contrast, about oneself.
This etching of a rather placid Greek merchant shows, if nothing else, that within virtually every society, there is at least one figure who can be associated with tobacco smoking. The extra-long pipe and exotic robes define him as foreign, in a city very much on the threshold of the East.
The text below the smoker and his maid intimates that smoking and drinking are not going to make any bright ideas jump into your head.
Baur was a prolific etcher who tended to produce prints in series,
and this ethnographic reportage depicting military costume from all over
the world is no exception. Pipe-smoking contributes to the masculine image
of the soldier in general, but even more to the leisurely, exotic image
associated with the moors. American Indians are the only other figures
depicted smoking in this series, suggesting that Baur still considered
it a foreign activity.
In this etching, one of a series of 32 prints representing the company who traveled with the Sultan to Mecca, the pipe carried by the chief of the eunuchs seems to have an almost solely decorative purpose. Along with the sumptuous fabrics and languorous pose, however, it successfully conveys a feeling of meditative solitude appropriate to a European understanding of the Islamic East.
Tea from China, like coffee from Arabia and chocolate from Central and South America, was introduced into England around 1650, radically transforming European social habits and institutions.
This inexpensive miniature mezzotint –a standard size in the
18th-century British print market –almost makes a mockery of Turkish
dress. The figure who toasts us appears to be an Englishman in turban and
robe, perhaps an actor dressed for a role. The mug (of beer) is decidedly
northern European, as are the clay pipe and pot of coals for lighting it.
The plenitude of smoking and drinking products and paraphernalia worn by this figure –a tea, coffee, and cocoa cannister for a hat, smoke pouring out of his mouth and pipe, a steaming pot of chocolate (always a drink at the time) in his left hand, a tray of "all sorts of waters and liqueurs" in his right, pipes and spoons hanging from his sleeves and waist, pipes for shoe ties and rolls of tobacco for stockings –renders him a full catalogue of stimulating, intoxicating, and exotic new drinks.
As the first to encounter tobacco in the New World, the Spanish were the first to be associated with it. In the course of the 16th and 17th centuries, they were also at war with nearly every European country, not to mention the heavy competition they engaged in over possession of goods, trading, and land rights in the Americas. Needless to say, the harshness of the message conveyed by this crassly humorous print is in large part a result of those economic and political factors.