6th November 2020 | Galerie Atena
Restauration Wall Lights With Ephebes, Circa 1840
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.
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.
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.
Or this large pair of crystal chandeliers richly decorated with oversized drops and daggers, and provided with a double lighting system.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.