Chandeliers in the Seventeenth
and Eighteenth Centuries
By Helen Costantino Fioratti
Several royal French examples evidenced a definite flair. For example, Louis XIV's inventory of 1697 described how, placed between eight consoles (of gilt cuivre ) were eight large pieces of cut crystal in the form of a heart. The journal of the Garde Meuble de la Couronne has a 1739 entry for a rock crystal chandelier of twelve branches, sixty-one to sixty-two pouce in height, and thirty-two in diameter. (Fig. 33)
The first use of the word "lustre" by now the common French word for chandelier that has come down to us, was in a 1680 inventory of the collection of Henri de Béthune, Archbishop of Bordeaux. The inventory spoke of nine wooden "lustres" for candles, to illuminate the rooms. Later, "lustre" described crystal chandeliers suspended from the ceiling or mirrored plaques on branches attached to the wall.
Jean François Sobry defined a chandelier in the late eighteenth-century in his treatise Architecture as "hanging on a single rod above the height of a man, where a candelabra was garnished with crystal 'lames' (drops) which reflect and multiply the light." (Fig. 34)
In Britain the word "chandelier" seems to have been first used in an advertisement by a manufacturer called John Gumley of London in 1714 who incidentally, spelled it "schandelier,” - rather than the term "corona" used previously. Metal was then often substituted for the wood, as it was easier to clean off the "suif" or wax which fell from the candles.
In the Dictionnaire Raisonné universel des Arts et Métiers, Abbé Jaubert differentiated three distinct types of “lustres,” or chandeliers, of crystal glass: "à tige découverte" (the branches not covered) “à consoles" and “à lace," for which he meant "à lacets" because of the “entrelacs” of small pieces of glass and glass beads with which they are almost completely covered. (Fig. 35)
The chandeliers were supplied by a “lustier,” “marchand miroitier,” or “marchand mercier.” The administrator of the King's buildings could be specialized in the décor of the palace ceiling, which included chandeliers, and the “menus plaisirs” (in charge of court receptions and balls), then, a prestigious post.