This figural pipe head depicting Empress Adélina of Haiti was one of over 1,600 models produced by the popular French pipe manufactory of J. Gambier. Its model number is 582, with 581 reserved for the figural head pipe of her husband, Emperor Faustin I.
Titled Femme Soulouque, the elaborate sculptural quality of this head befits its standing in the product line as part of the labor-intensive 2nd series of têtes émaillés (enameled heads). Its rich detailing is the product of moulds meticulously engraved in bronze and cast in high-quality clay, in contrast to the cheaper materials used in more economical models. The Empress is wearing a jeweled diadem and lavish pearl earrings, connected with strings of pearls over her hair, and a matching pearl necklace. The top of a plumed dress circumvents her bosom and forms the edges of the bust.
Empress Adélina’s face, however, is stylized to the point of caricature. (Contrast the pipe's head with this more realistic portrait.) The unfavorable and exaggerated portrayal of the Haitian Empress mirrors other satirized and racist depictions in French popular culture of Emperor Faustin I and the Empire of Haiti, and reflects public attitudes and tastes in mid-to-late 19th-century France; after all, Gambier’s pipes were very popular household items whose models were chosen to sell. Other relevant objects in our collection include caricatures and a book by the French caricaturist known as Cham, and a watercolor painting reproduced as a contemporary newspaper illustration.
Maison Gambier, operating from 1780 to 1926, was one of the world’s foremost pipe manufacturers. Initially producing copies of Dutch-style pipes, the French company triumphed with the introduction of cast figural heads of contemporary, historical, and mythological personages, one of which won a medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1849. After a series of expansions and mergers, Gambier reached its zenith in the 1860s, with daily output surpassing 100,000 pipes and an extensive catalog of 1,600 models. However, by the 1870s, competitors’ imitations, wars and new modes of smoking tobacco led to a long decline which culminated in the closure of the firm in 1926.
A stummel is the main body of a pipe, which is composed of the bowl, or tobacco chamber, and the shank, which connects the bowl to the stem.