Posted by: frenchinspiredliving | January 15, 2009

An introduction to lighting


Taken from the word in French for candle (chandelle), chandelier simply means a candle-holder suspended from the ceiling with two or more arms bearing lights. There is also an association with the word chandler, a maker or vendor of tallow candles; tallow was a substance got from melting the harder and less fusible kinds of animal fats to make candles.

Chandeliers were first used in medieval churches and abbeys in order to bring overhead light to these cavernous spaces; they were simple wooden structures, often in the form of a cross, and spiked at the end of the arms where the candle was placed.

As the centuries moved on the chandelier developed into elaborate masterpieces of shimmering metal. Jan Van Eyck’s painting of The Arnolfini Marriage in 1434 shows a gleaming six arm brass chandelier hanging from the ceiling of Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini’s home in Bruges. Arnolfini came from a wealthy family in Lucca, Italy.

The Rococo influence (Germany c.1730 – 1760) increased the use of cut glass pendants and ornaments giving the chandelier more sparkle as the candle flame was reflected in the drops. The elegant style of Robert Adams in 1765 made crystal chandeliers longer, the arms strung with chains, the candle sockets and drip pans decorated with bells and flowers and the central shaft took the form of a Grecian urn.

As lead crystal was perfected and refined in England during the 18th century more and more decoration was added to these large complicated chandeliers. The addition of lead to the glass increased the clarity and sparkle of the hundreds of drops intensifying the impact and refraction of light.

It took some time for Europe to catch up with the strides that England had made in perfecting the art of lead crystal making but J and L Lobmeyer of Vienna and Baccarat of France were achieving superb work on lead crystal chandeliers by the 1820’s. It was in 1764 that Louis XV granted the Bishop of Metz permission to establish a glassworks in Baccarat, France; the main production plant it still there today.

Karen Matthews

 One of a pair of French chandeliers from Crystal Corner 

One of a pair of French chandeliers from Crystal Corner

Pair of 18th Louis XVI giltwood candle sconces

A pair of 18th century Louis XVI giltwood candle sconces.

Late 18th century c. 1770, French Louis XVI giltwood candle sconces with the head of a man and woman embossed on plaques hung from golden ribbons. The flaming torches and quiver of arrows decorating each sconce were the symbol of Louis XVI of France.

This pair of sconces are very rare and it is therefore quite difficult to put a price on them; there is absolutely no reason to spend more than £200 or so for something similar but later, which will still create ‘The Look….’


Wonderful French vintage chandelier from Life, Nettlebed, Oxon £2500.

Wonderful French vintage chandelier from Life, Nettlebed, Oxon £2500.


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