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» » French Lighting in the 19th Century

French Lighting in the 19th Century

6th November 2020 | Galerie Atena


Restauration Wall Lights in Bronze

Restauration Wall Lights With Ephebes, Circa 1840


The chandeliers


The chandelier is a furnishing object, created to capture light by increasing the clarity of an interior. It existed already in the Middle Ages, made of wood and provided with candles. From the Renaissance, the suspensions were crafted of metal and had various forms. Their size increased and they became a symbol of luxury and wealth.


In the 17th century in Versailles, chandeliers were designed to impress the guests of Louis XIV, especially in the Hall of Mirrors, because of the richness and quality of the crystals. Noble materials such as crystal embellished these sumptuous decorative objects for decades. Slice-cut drops, rosettes, prisms and drop-hung drippans created rich decorations, which were supported by gilded and finely chiseled mounts.


24-Light Chandelier in Louis XV Style

Monumental 24-Light Chandelier in Louis XV Style, Circa 1880

Crystal Basket-Shaped Chandelier

Late 19th Century Basket-Shaped Chandelier in Crystal and Gilt Bronze

Louis XIV-Style Chandelier With 6-Lights

Louis XIV-Style Chandelier With 6 Lights, 19th Century Period


Gas lighting was introduced in the early 19th century and replaced candles. A real revolution, before the lightbulb and electric lighting perfected in 1879.


The chandeliers and hanging lamps were important decorative items, whose forms and decoration evolved over time. If Louis XVI and Empire periods prefered basket-shaped chandeliers, Napoleon III manifested a real interest in the exuberant rocaille style, Louis XIV models such as Mazarin, and Louis XVI style, particularly appreciated by the Empress Eugenie. Porcelain, alabaster, opaline, Bohemian crystal and Baccarat crystal were used by craftsmen who displayed great ingenuity in creating sumptuous and sometimes surprising lights.



Palace Chandelirs


Chandeliers were first installed in palaces and reception halls of prestigious buildings such as theaters, opera houses and administrative buildings. They had monumental sizes and some models featured opulent decorations. For example, our 10-light basket chandelier richly decorated with cut-crystals: prisms, rosettes and pendants, which form a delicate latticework.


Grande lanterne de hall d'entrée provenant du Château Léoube à Bormes

Large Entrance Hall Lantern From Château Léoube in Bormes (France)


Ten-Light Ormolu and Crystal Basket-Shaped Chandelier

Monumental Basket-Shaped Chandelier in Crystal and Ormolu, Circa 1880

Or this large pair of crystal chandeliers richly decorated with oversized drops and daggers, and provided with a double lighting system.


Grande paire de lustres cages en cristal à 9 lumières

Large Pair of Crystal Chandeliers, Late 19th Century


Lanterns - ovoid or polylobate, decorated the entrance halls. Galerie Atena has a Napoleon III lantern from the Château Léoube in Bormes-les-Mimosa, in the South of France. This large hall lantern beautifully designed in Louis XV style has its original curved glasses and is highlighted with flowery baskets.


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Candlesticks and Candelabra


Unlike chandeliers, candlesticks were intimate objects. The candleholder, which could be easily carried by hand, was placed on console tables, on dining room tables, on fireplaces in salons or on small pieces of furniture made especially for them. They were part of the toilet trim or inkstands.


Pair of Empire Bronze Candelabra

Exceptional Pair of Candelabra With Victories, Empire Period

Pair of Large Candelabra in Gilt Bronze, Restauration Period

Pair of Large Restauration Ormolu Candelabra With Swans

Napoleon III Bayeux Porcelain Oil Lamps

Pair of Bayeux Porcelain Oil Lamps Napoléon III Period


The candlestick is composed of a more or less high barrel resting on a foot and topped by a socket, with, sometimes, a fixed or mobile nozzle. The socket can have one or two small side openings to extract the rest of the candle.


Candelabra had the same structure as candlesticks but their size and decor were more imposing. Like candleholders, they were an integral part of the interior decoration and sublimated family meals, celebrations and ceremonies. With several arms of light, they were decorated with floral or animal motifs. Some exceptional models - such as this pair of Empire candelabra with Victories or these candelabra with putti, were decorated with allegorical or mythological figures.


7-Light Louis-Philippe Bronze Candelabra

Pair of Louis-Philippe Bronze Candelabra With 7 Lights

Two Art Nouveau Gilt Metal Mounted Lamps with Nymphs

Pair of Art Nouveau Gilt Metal-Mounted Lamps "With Nymphs"

Early 19th Century Bronze Candlesticks with Dolphins

Early 19th Century Bronze Candlesticks "With Dolphins"


There are various models of candleholders whose names reflect their use: table candleholders, folding screen candleholders, travel candleholders, game table candleholders...  Candleholders were moved less often and could reach impressive sizes. In the second half of the 19th century, metal or porcelain vases were mounted into lamps. We have several models including a beautiful pair of vases in "famille rose" Chinese porcelain taste probably made by Samson manufactory and a pair of Art Nouveau lamps "with nymphs".


Candlesticks and candelabra were crafted of gilt bronze, patinated bronze, brass, porcelain, marble, gold, silver, opal glass, crystal and wood.



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Wall Sconces


Wall lamps knew the same shapes, decorations and lighting systems evolution as chandeliers. The use of lights on walls became popular from the seventeenth century. One of the reasons was to associate complementary sources of light to the main source of lighting in order to amplify the luminosity of a room. 


Paire de grandes appliques de style Louis XVI avec oiseaux

Large Louis XVI Style Wall Sconces With Birds

18th Century Louis XV Giltwood 2-Light Sconces

Louis XV Giltwood Wall Sconces, Circa 1760

Pair of Rocaille Sconces in Gilt Bronze

Pair of Rocaille-Style Sconces in Gilt Bronze, Circa 1860


In wood, bronze or glass, the sconces had sober, symmetrical decoration in the early 19th century, then widely adopted the fantasies of Louis XV style under the Second Empire. Galerie Atena has several models of rocaille sconces crafted of wood and gilt bronze, including a pair of Louis XV period.


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