Though the hawkbill is a rather recent innovation in pipe design (many point to Luigi Radice as the inventor, though he begs to differ), the basic theme of the shape does reflect quite well what we can see of the pipe van Gogh was smoking in his Self-Portrait with Straw Hat and Pipe
. A slender, gently arching stem of decent length and full yet compact bowl with a rounded underside are clearly evident, though Vincent's style obscures any further detail. No doubt had he the chance, van Gogh would have had a great appreciation for the texture of this briar's rolling ring grain. Sadly, 19th century Europe was rather short on sandblasting cabinets, and though the process was first patented in 1870, twenty years before Vincent's death, it wouldn't be applied to briars until Alfred Dunhill's (unintentional) innovation decades later.
- Eric N. Squires