Chandeliers in the Seventeenth
and Eighteenth Centuries
By Helen Costantino Fioratti
The 1812 trade almanac (Almanach du Commerce) lists five other such manufacturers specialized in “tôle” and lighting fixtures in Paris other than that of rue Martel. Painted “tôle” became the trade material of choice after Guillaume Carcel obtained his patent in 1800.
These early nineteenth-century chandeliers, lamps and other lighting fixtures increased in number as the painted “tôle” could sustain heat and offered a broad decorative color range. They were also much faster to produce and far less expensive than the crystal glass chandelier. In addition, they were much simpler and lighter in weight for the new bourgeois class to handle.
The eighteenth century saw real “night life” with the upper classes playing cards and gambling into the wee hours of the morning; illumination was needed more than ever. Servants would follow carrying lanterns with oil and wicks or candles to light their way home. A special lantern called “da birri” was hand held with a screen that left the person using it in shadow, if they wished not to be seen. Carriages and gondolas had lights in the form of lanterns.
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries may be viewed as the high point in the manufacture of splendid chandeliers and lighting fixtures. Of course production of lighting fixtures has continued until the present day, but with many of the older themes recycled and used in new contexts. Studios in Venice produced new designs in the twentieth century, and artists like Dale Chihuly and his blown-glass chandeliers continue the tradition of chandelier production.