Dated to around 1730, this portrait shows an unknown man smoking a pipe. His elegant outfit is slightly unlaced at the shoulder and open at the neck, suggesting that he is relaxed. The bold use of light and dark and the strong, jewel-like colour palette is reminiscent of earlier Neapolitan Baroque painters, including Bonito’s teacher, Francesco Solimena (1657–1747).
The use of pipes to smoke the shredded leaves of the plant known as Nicotiana (or flowering tobacco) had gained in popularity throughout the sixteenth century. Nicotiana's highly fragrant and vividly coloured leaves added to its appeal, making it a desirable commodity among all sections of society for both its medicinal and pleasurable properties. By the mid-seventeenth century, smoking had become commonplace across Europe, and many of the paintings in Compton Verney’s collection include figures smoking. The rise in tobacco's popularity also led to fiscal restrictions, with the first such regulations introduced in the Kingdom of Naples as early as 1627.
Giuseppe Bonito Portrait of a Man Smoking a Pipe About 1730 © Compton Verney