CULTURE

The history of luxury item tobacco cases

Beginning in the late 16th century, tobacco was introduced into Europe through the expeditions of Colombus and the tumultuous history of chewing, sniffing and – gradually – smoking the weed had begun. Soon, the plant’s presumed therapeutic properties earned it a huge following – not without persecutions and severe punishments for overconsumption. But smoking won out and the cultivation of tobacco became, for certain counties such as the Ottoman-ruled Greece, a vital part of the economy and commerce. Tobacco consumption was complemented by the production and use of tobacco boxes which, besides their use, served as symbols of social class. Tobacco cases became fashionable and stylish accessories made in a diversity of styles and richly ornamented. «Tobacco Cases» (in Greek, Olkos, 2004) traces the history of this popular item through the private collection of Vassilis Korkolopoulos. Author of the book Yiannoula Kaplani writes about the history of tobacco cases both in Europe and Greece and analyzes the stylistic motifs of the Korkolopoulos collection, which is beautifully illustrated throughout the book. Readers will be entranced by the multiple uses of tobacco cases, as containers for ladies’ powder or religious relics. In Greece, where tobacco cultivation began in the late 16th century, the cases, with their manly connotations, were a standard engagement present offered from bride to groom. During the late 18th and 19th centuries, smoking became widespread. Luxurious tobacco cases were produced by specialized goldsmith workshops and adorned with motifs showing the kinds of cross-cultural influences brought about by commerce. The variety of motifs that emerged is wonderfully illustrated in this book on the Korkolopoulos collection.