Smoke object

Smoke object

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Title: Tobacco pot decorated with a Chinese fishing scene.

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 24.5 - Width 21.4

Technique and other indications: Pipe clay (clay, sand and lime) Between 1827 and 1840 Production site: Creil factory (1797-1895)

Storage location: Gallé-Juillet Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - M. Beck-Coppolasite web

Picture reference: 10-532821 / 1999-3-1

Tobacco pot decorated with a Chinese fishing scene.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - M. Beck-Coppola

Publication date: July 2012

Professor of contemporary history IUFM and Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1.Head of University for all, Université Jean Monnet, Saint-Etienne.

Historical context

In the days of manufacturing

According to a widespread idea, the industrial revolution, which began in England, reached France in the first third of the 19th century.e century. Founded in 1797 by the British O'Reilly in the Creillois labor pool and in the park of the royal castle bought back as national property, it intends to meet the growing demand for a product from which England had made itself. a specialty since the middle of the 18th centurye century. It produces in abundance plates, pots, vases, a whole array of dishes which very much pleases the bourgeois society of the Louis-Philippe monarchy (so-called “reticulated Chinese” service of Queen Marie-Amélie). However, it is a very largely artisanal work which relies on the artistic sense and the know-how of the workers more than on the machine.

Literature has celebrated the manufacture of Creil. In this case, the character of Jacques Arnoux in TheSentimental education de Flaubert, which took place under the July Monarchy, set out, at the head of a factory in Creil, on the industrial adventure: "Arnoux went to great lengths in his factory. In order to avoid cracks in his earthenware, he mixed lime with his clay; but most of the pieces broke, the enamel of his vintage paintings boiled, his large plates buckled; and attributing these shortcomings to the bad tools of his factory, he wanted to have other grinding mills, other dryers. "

Image Analysis

Smoking tobacco

This pot is made of "pipe clay": to the traditional mixture of clay and sand is added lime "in order to prevent cracks in the earthenware", as Flaubert reported. Fine earthenware is this white, opaque and dense clay paste; it is covered with a transparent glaze. At the Creil factory, this white clay is mixed with calcined and ground flint, according to the method learned from the Englishman Josiah Wedgwood, hence its name of "English earthenware". Before being covered with a transparent glaze (more or less lead-bearing varnish), the earthenware is decorated using the decal process: the patterns of an engraved copper plate are transferred by a special paper and applied to the object. ; the colorful scenes are painted by hand.

The decoration of this polychrome cylindrical pot consists of two floral friezes which frame scenes of Chinese peach, according to the oriental fashion in this romantic period. This is a souvenir from the porcelain of the Compagnie des Indes.

Especially the inscription gives the modern meaning of this object. Tobacco pots were numerous since the XVIe century, but it was snuff. In this box, we must now place “smoking tobacco”. First, it is "tobacco": the word itself is a neologism. Traditionally, the term "nicotian" was used to designate the herb brought back and acclimatized in France in the 16th century.e century by Ambassador Jean Nicot to the King of Portugal. Only the naturalist Charles Linné had placed it in his classification of plants under the name nicotiana tabacum. At the beginning of the XIXe century, with the discovery of the dangerous alkaloid called nicotine, tobacco comes to supplant nicotian. The word "tobacco", whose origin is obscure and controversial (the Caribbean island of Tobago, the Mexican province of Tabasco, the Indian cone for smoking petun, ...), is now essential.

From the pot, we go to the word because one conditions the other. At the same time as the practice of smoking. In 1831, 25,960 kg of cigars and 305,143 kg of pipe tobacco had already been sold. Twenty years later, consumption rose to 213,944 kg of cigars and 683,265 kg of pipe tobacco. To these figures, we must add 3,250 kg of the latest hot tobacco, cigarettes. Drawing from the pot, the amateur can place the tobacco in the bowl of his pipe or in the groove of the paper to make a "hand-sewn" (cigarette). Now and forever, smoking tobacco wins out over snuff.


From the doldrums

The July Monarchy (1830-1848) saw a great manufacturing boom. This makes everyday objects available to the first mass consumers. In the case of this pot, we can see it on the front of recent pharmacies (because tobacco is still used as medicine), on the shelves of now many tobacco shops, as in the brand new "smoking rooms" of bourgeois houses.

The consumption of tobacco in the form of a plug, quid and more and more smoke has led to the invention of very many objects. Linked to everyday actions and a set of social practices, they are most often loaded with decorations. The various accessories of auctioneers and smokers meet the different functions of conservation, such as jars and boxes, transport in cases, jokes, snuffboxes or lighting given by lighters and matches. They also serve to distinguish the social place occupied by their owner.

The "smoking tobacco" in the pot defines the modernity of the container, while waiting for the sober and convenient packets of tobacco to stuff in its pockets.

  • tobacco
  • Creil factory
  • blockade


Jacques BONTILLOT, Faience by Creil and Montereau: two centuries of development in techniques and decorations, Montereau, ed. of CERHAME, 1998.

· Jacqueline DU PASQUIER, "Earthenware: more chic than porcelain", Review of the Society of Friends of the National Ceramic Museum, No.15, 2006.

Armand HUSSON, Paris Consumptions, Paris, Hachette et Cie, 1875.

Ariès MADDY, Creil, fine earthenware and porcelain, 1797-1895, Paris, Guénégaud, 1994.

Didier NOURRISSON, Social history of tobacco, Paris, Éditions Christian, 2000.

Didier NOURRISSON, Cigarette. Story of a tease, Paris, Payot, 2010.

· Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental education.

To cite this article

Didier NOURRISSON, “Smoke object”

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