Chandelier (probably Sweden), ca. 1795
Chandeliers have been a major form of lighting design for hundreds of years. The practice of dining at an hour that required candlelight was an early sign of high social status due to the cost of candles. As the glass industry expanded during the 17th century in Europe, glass became widely sought-after for chandeliers—either replacing or used in conjunction with rock crystal drops. The multiple reflective surfaces of faceted glass drops, like their rock crystal predecessors, increased the amount of light given off by the candles and created an effect of dancing light.
In the 18th century, the Swedish and Russian glass industries were producing top quality glass, thanks to techniques including the addition of lead to glass to simulate rock crystal’s prismatic effect and the production of plate glass, a late 17th-century French invention, to which color was sometimes added in Swedish and Russian manufacturers. The combined use of plate and hand-blown glass with garlands of lead glass “crystals” produced the crisp lines of the neoclassical designs created in Northern Europe in the 1780s. The success of these designs, both domestically and abroad, led to the rise of Swedish and Russian factories over the previously dominant Venetian manufacturers. From the 1780s to 1820, colored glass, often blue, was used in combination with clear drops and gilt metal and ormolu supports. The overall quality of the designs and glass were high and were coveted throughout Europe.
In order to keep the neoclassical chandeliers as light as possible for both aesthetic and practical reasons, lead glass was used in place of rock crystal and thin gilt metal was preferred to heavier gilt bronze—as is the case for this chandelier. Glass was less expensive and more readily available than rock crystal, and thin sheets of gilt metal were also less costly than gilt bronze. The lower costs helped chandeliers become an affordable option for prosperous merchants in addition to the aristocracy.
This would be the first example of late 18th-century chandelier design in the museum’s collection. The chandelier relates to very similar examples depicted in European interior watercolors found in the museum’s collection, and also serves as a point of comparison to the late 18th-century and early 19th-century French ormolu candlesticks and candelabra held in the collection.
This object was
Joseph F. McCrindle.
It is credited
Bequest of Joseph F. McCrindle.
Its dimensions are
H x diam.: 90 x 65 cm (35 7/16 x 25 9/16 in.)
Cite this object as
Chandelier (probably Sweden), ca. 1795; glass, gilt metal; H x diam.: 90 x 65 cm (35 7/16 x 25 9/16 in.); Bequest of Joseph F. McCrindle; 2009-4-4