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German History in Documents and Images
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Smoking Party at the Court of Frederick I in the Palace in Berlin (c. 1710)
Most likely originating in the Netherlands, smoking parties [Tabagien] had become part of European court culture by the seventeenth century. This painting depicts one such gathering held during the reign of Frederick I (r. 1701-13) in the comfortably furnished Drap-D’Or Chamber of the Berlin Palace. In contrast to the austere, all-male tobacco parliaments [Tabakskollegien] hosted by his son and eventual successor, Frederick William I (the “Soldier King”) (r. 1713-40), Frederick I’s smoking parties were social affairs with relaxed court etiquette and female participation. In this scene, black servants serve drinks and light guests’ pipes. Oil on canvas by Paul Carl Leygebe (1664-1756), c. 1710.