New (To Me) Antique Meerschaum: Any Idea Who It Might Depict?

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jonasclark

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Aug 4, 2013
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Bought this in an antique shop in Bellingham, Washington a few days ago. Original amber stem present but broken at the shank, case present but extremely rough. But I couldn't resist the figure. I know there were many generic carvings then, common face types/nationalities (such as the "Arab" or "Bedouin"), but I wondered if this might be someone specific, some historical character. He seems to me to be either Scottish, or Renaissance Italian; I'm not sure if his hat is a Renaissance artist's or a tam o'shanter. Has six little wedge cuts and a plume in front.
It has a nice pre-color job on it (though isn't quite as orange as it seems) and it's been smoked, but not in such a long time that the bowl has no tobacco scent left! It's also tiny, but is most definitely a pipe, not a cheroot holder; there's no room in the case for a coloring bowl. Thoughts, opinions?



He is, as of today, off to Ric at Briarville for a replacement stem, my first experience with Ric's work (and he's doing to antique meers). I'm quite excited, having heard nothing but praise for his work, and having enjoyed the phone conversation about this.

 

jonasclark

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Oh, yes: the case is stamped H. Mager, Wien, Karnthnergtrasse 25." Lots of meerschaum carvers in Vienna, and an internet search turns up a few others by H. Mager, which also look quite nice.

 

jguss

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No idea what the figure is supposed to be, but because of the vents it doesn't look like a tam o'shanter to me.
You might be interested to know that H. Mager was founded in 1870. Luckily for you Mager moved around several times in the 25 years after the business was established, enabling me to say that based on the address on the case your pipe dates from about 1883-1887. The pipe's a beauty and well worth getting a new stem for; enjoy!

 

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jonasclark

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The dating is appreciated more than I can say! Thank you very much. Are all their pipes this lovely, in your experience?

 

jguss

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From what few pipes I've seen, yes, H. Mager's meerschaums were beautiful.

 

sablebrush52

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Gorgeous pipe! The level of carving that was done on meerschaums in the 19th century is just miles above what I see today. My guess is either a Renaissance prince, of possibly Mephistopheles, which seems to have been a popular subject for Victorian era pipes.

 

davidintexas

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Wow. Beautiful piece. You are fortunate. Enjoy the heck out of it, whether you choose to smoke it or merely look at it every day.

 

mau1

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Given that the date for the pipe has been narrowed down to 1883-1887, would you say the pipe was pre-coloured or is it possible it's the patina from smoking? I am woefully ignorant when it comes to meers, thus the question.
Really beautiful bowl.

 

jguss

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by the way, the "h" stood for hermann. not that it makes a big difference but i've found a better run of Wien city directories which suggests the manufacture of the pipe (or the case, at any rate) was a bit earlier: 1878-1885

 

jpmcwjr

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May 12, 2015
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Given that the date for the pipe has been narrowed down to 1883-1887, would you say the pipe was pre-coloured or is it possible it's the patina from smoking? I am woefully ignorant when it comes to meers, thus the question.
Given the apparent uniformity of the coloring, I'd guess it was pre-colored. What does the chamber look like? Was it lightly smoked?

 

jonasclark

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It's been heavily-smoked, but in my opinion the coloring is absolutely a vegetable-dye job. It's far too even to be from smoking. And-- it might be earlier!? Twist my arm! I really love this little pipe. I'm expecting a call later this week to discuss available stem colors; I prefer the tortoiseshell acrylic, but I've seen a clouded butterscotch amber color they have, which is also nice. The case is so rough (it's actually now two pieces) that I'm not having the stem made to exactly fit it. I may or may not have the cake cleaned out.
Jguss, do you know anything more about this company?

 

jguss

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Hi Jonas,
I'm afraid there's little I can add. As I mentioned, Hermann Mager established his company in 1870 and, I think, it dissolved around 1892. At any rate it's listed in the Wien city directories through 1892 and disappears thereafter. Given how beautiful 19th century meerschaum pipes are, it's astounding to recall how many talented carvers were working in Austria a century or more ago. My guess is that Mager's peers were as good or better as he was in turning out magnificent pipes. At any rate other carvers succeeded in establishing businesses that outlived the founder, and apparently Mager did not. Was it a lack of children? Or a lack of interest? Whatever the story is, I'm sorry to say I don't know it.
Please post pics after you get the new stem!
Regards,

Jon

 

weezell

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The case is so rough (it's actually now two pieces) that I'm not having the stem made to exactly fit it. I may or may not have the cake cleaned out.
No and No, just an opinion of some one who loves old meers. I have some that I would kill to have the case, and the original shape stem. Just me though...

 

jonasclark

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Having it made to match the case would be possible, had I sent it, which I didn't. Doing the exact length & old-style button means hand-cutting from scratch, which is out of my budget, as much as I'd love to have that! Here's the case and original stem:


 

jonasclark

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Update: my first choice of stem color, tortoiseshell, was available in the right sizes for both, and the price is wonderful. They hit the bench last Monday, the 11th. So hopefully next week sometime, I'll get a call about them. Ric said they were both exceptionally nice, in his opinion. The other pipe is a fairly standard egg-and-claw, but with a nice dark cherry-brown pre-color job.

 
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