Lot 20
  • 20

Rudolf Ernst

400,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • Rudolf Ernst
  • The Waterpipe Smoker
  • signed R. Ernst. (lower right)
  • oil on panel
  • 28 by 36 1/4 in.
  • 71.1 by 90.1 cm


Sale: Gros & Delettrez, Paris, December 13, 2005, lot 449, illustrated
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: The panel is in very healthy condition. The large piece of wood is unbroken and flat. The paint layer is clean and varnished and picture should be hung as is. Under ultraviolet light very little if any restoration is apparent. There may be a couple of spots in the dark colors of the servant's face beneath the beard of the pipe smoker. Elsewhere there are no restorations and this picture is clear in almost perfect condition.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

In addition to numerous pictures of marauding Arab horsemen, bartering merchants, and industrious craftsmen, Orientalist painters also provided their audiences with a steady stream of more introspective images, in which Arab men were shown enjoying the quieter moments of their daily life. Perhaps the most popular of these "leisure" themes was the seated smoker – a subject that offered both an opportunity for ethnographic objectivity (in the precise delineation of the paraphernalia associated with this practice) and, more appealingly, vicarious participation in a legendary pastime.  (The number of popular nineteenth century paintings and books that contain references to smoking is remarkable; they range from Jean-Léon Gérôme's extraordinary series of pictures depicting Arnaut guards to such literary classics as The Arabian Nights and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.)  In Ernst's work, the mood is one of utter ease and luxury: against a background of polished marble, a kneeling servant ignites his master's gozeh from a smoldering incense burner.  (The gozeh is a distinctive type of waterpipe with a straight cane stem rather than the more common flexible tube.)  The smoker, momentarily risen from his bed of woven carpets and silk-covered pillows, his bare feet resting atop a soft tiger pelt  (one of Ernst's favorite exotic motifs), purses his lips and prepares to inhale. 


This catalogue note was written by Dr. Emily M. Weeks