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Shishapedia - Hookahs in Art

Updated on December 1, 2011

Shishapedia – Hookahs in art

Usage of a hookah pipe goes back to at least the fifteenth century, with its origins in the Middle East and India. As the usage of the pipe grew in those areas and more people became more aware of the benefits of filtering tobacco through water then smoking it directly it started to expand and spread around the world. Tourists visiting those foreign eastern lands would bring hookah pipes home and soon small groups of people started to become regular users in the western world.

Artists and musicians who happened to travel through the exotic eastern lands happened to see hookah pipes and often tried it themselves. Many of them loved it and they started spreading the word, talking about hookahs, drawing hookahs, painting hookahs and in some cases including hookahs in their music.

Hookahs have featured in many paintings and are seen in a variety of different lights and settings. I am going to explore some of my favourite of those pictures in this article.

Jean Leon Gerome

Jean Leon Gerome [1824 - 1904]; a French artist often featured Hookah pipes in his works. He was also a sculptor and created a lot of works inspired by the eastern world. After visiting Egypt in the late 1850s he became a heavy hookah smoker himself and you would find a hookah represented in almost all his later works.

Here is a collection of five of my favourite of his works which all include hookah pipes. You can see from his works that he really found hookah to be a very relaxing pastime which people would do alone in some cases, and among groups in others. In one image you can see two ladies being served a hookah pipe in a formal environment. Shisha is often portrayed in art and history to be something served among royal families and around formal occasions.

Ernst Rudolf – Smoking the Hookah

This is one of my favourite paintings of a hookah smoker. You can see here that the smoker is in a very relaxed yet formal environment, once again showing that hookah smoking is often heavily done by the upper classes. The smoker is a stereotypical Arab man, which is still a heavy stereotype that is associated with hookah smoking although in today’s western society it is slowly changing.

Ernst Rudolf – Preparing the Hookah

This is a great picture again by Ernst Rudolf that is again depicting smoking among the upper classes. You can see the tiger rug under the feet and the smoker is actually being served the hookah pipe.

Achille Zo

This classical painting by Achile Zo is not the typical image you expect to find the hookah pipe in yet it creates an interesting balance in the image. The top half of the image being very angelic, and the bottom a man relaxing with a hookah pipe dreaming away.

A Vimla dindoyal

This is a modern stylised painting of a hookah pipe that really captured my eye. I really like the colours and the boldness of the painting.

Lynn Bujold

This painting by Lynn Bujold is a great painting. It really depicts how smoking in the Middle East really is; in small street cafes among close family or friends. Often people would be smoking alone, but this group together makes a great painting.


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    • Faceless39 profile image


      6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Voted up, awesome, interesting, and beautiful. What beautiful paintings on a very interesting topic. Thanks!


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