Painting of man smoking opium

1850-1890 in Europe

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Copy of Oil painting of a man smoking opium, from Ah Sing's opium den in Victoria Street, London.
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Oil painting of a man smoking opium, from Ah Sing's opium den in Victoria Street, London

This painting of a man smoking an opium pipe used to hang in the opium den run by Ah Sing (d. 1890), in New Court, Victoria Street, London. Opium, a highly addictive drug made from the poppy plant, was used medicinally as a pain killer and to cause sleep but was also smoked socially for its hallucinating and euphoric effects.

Ah Sing’s opium den was the model for the one described in Charles Dickens’ unfinished final story 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood'. It was probably the most famous of the dens in Victorian London and Dickens was just one of a number of well known individuals who visited it – presumably for research purposes.


Object Number:
glass, oil paint on canvas, wood
oil painting
  • visual and verbal communication
  • oil painting - visual work

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