Chandeliers in the Seventeenth
and Eighteenth Centuries
By Helen Costantino Fioratti
Glass had also been produced in Spain since Roman times and included particularly interesting examples in Andalusia. King Felipe V (1683–1746) "sparked" the chandelier industry, which had died off along with the Hapsburg dynasty. In 1720 Don Juan Goyeneche, treasurer of the Queen, established a glass factory near the Alcala de Henares, which then would furnish most of the Spanish market. Their work was even exported to the Americas (to the loss of revenue for those countries from whom Spain had formerly imported). After a period of diplomatic negotiation and various setbacks (which reduced the price of the Spanish glass), another factory was established in Villanueva de Alerçon (Cuenca) which "achieved the same perfection" as the initial production, according to an anonymous contemporary. Thus, the uncle of King Carlos II (r. 1665-1675/1700) gave him a rock crystal and metal chandelier made by a Milanese artisan. In Spain, as elsewhere, chandeliers were always considered luxurious and important gifts.
The early Spanish glass production was followed by that of the Reál Fabrica de Cristales de la Granja. (Fig. 64) In 1728 a furnace was established near the royal palace of La Granja, where small glass objects were made by what was described as an "able" Catalan artisan, Buenaventura Sit. In 1736 Sit's work was personally supported by Queen Isabel (Farnese), who had the La Granja glass works enlarged.
During the reign of King Carlos III (1716- 1788), the former King of Naples and Sicily (r. 1735-1759), a new glassworks was founded to compete with the finest production of France and England, especially producing chandeliers (called arañas in Spain), cornucopia, mirrors, etc. (Fig. 65) Their chandeliers for the royal palaces were usually of twelve or sixteen lights and large: fifty inches high by fifty inches in diameter (1.27 x 1.27 cm.). During the reign of Kings Carlos IV (1748-1819) and Fernando VII (1784-1833), the characteristic styles were similar to contemporary ones elsewhere in Europe and were made with fine bronze supports. (Fig. 66) The Madrid factory had expert bronze workers and gilders at the Buen Retiro until 1812. The factory at La Granja, established in 1829, produced chandeliers for rich private customers.
Many Spanish royal glass chandeliers exist, with myriad drops, tiny glass beading, and candle holders in tiers. One example has a support of real silver, one has sixty candles, and another made of gilded bronze, has forty-two lights. Most of the surviving examples still hang in the royal palaces and have a late eighteenth - and early nineteenth-century origin and design.
Cut glass developed in England and Ireland by the middle of the eighteenth century. The glass prisms and drops for chandeliers, as on most "crystal" chandeliers, had the practical purpose of diffusing the light, an effect further accentuated by cut glass. The chandeliers were usually made by introducing molten glass into a clay, wood, or a metal mould depending on the numbers of prisms required. This method caused the glass to harden again by cooling rapidly as it entered the mould and assumed its shape.
After the cooled object was formed, the glass became rigid but stressed, and had to be gradually brought from as much as 550°C to room temperature. The stems and arms of chandeliers had extra facets cut into the glass to again increase the number of surfaces from which the candlelight could be reflected or "bounced." The flat planes had notched angles where they met at corners, the drip pan around candle nozzles were called a "cornered brim," in England when the edges were cut into points. The English also had what they called a "Van Dyck" cut (as the design was similar to that seen on the shirt collars in portraits by the artist). Hanging drops gave additional sparkle. The available shapes in England were called icicles, spangles, chain drops, and barley corns. Engravings of them were published from which their clients could order.