History of Chandeliers

History of Chandeliers

Although earlier forms of candle making was something that was successfully honed and utilized by primitive man as well as by other countries, such as Japan, Egypt, India, and China, modern candle making (what we currently know it as) officially started around the 13th century. The 13th and 14th centuries were turbulent times of widespread famine, social and economic upheaval, war, and severe malnutrition, which in turn, resulted in devastatingly incurable disease for the vast majority. Epidemics, such as the Black Plague, practically wiped out Europe’s population. The concept of religion (Reformation) was reborn and surged through the populace once again. At this point in time, the idea of a hanging fixture and candles crossed paths and intertwined. Chandeliers started to materialize around the 14th century. Mainly found in churches, chandeliers served the purpose of lighting the great halls and dark corridors of these religious structures. Typically constructed of wood and candle fittings, the chandelier’s base was usually composed and fashioned into the form of a cross. Materials generally used to construct earlier forms of chandeliers were later changed.

 

The 15th and 16th centuries were tumultuously drastic times as well. Reformation still nipping at its heels, Europe was radically transforming itself once again. The ties and religious restraints Europe once knew and abided by were gradually shed, like a snake disposing of its aged skin. Romantic forms of thought, artistic expression (the renaissance), shifts in power (from church to monarchy), war, commissioned expeditions, and the forming of colonies, greatly characterized the 15th and 16th centuries. The powerful grasp of the pope was greatly receding and weakening. A great example of waning ties between the monarchy and the pope would be King Henry’s decision to burn the Roman Catholic Churches and creating his own (The Church of England). You can practically trace this shift in power. Philosophy, art, and theatre (Shakespeare and Bacon) reflectively mirrored such changes. The chandelier, normally used as a light fixture in churches, emulated this transition from the religious sects to the homes of the noble class. It too, was changing. More ornately elaborate, the chandelier structure started to appear in nonreligious shapes/forms (crown). The chandelier became more of a decorative piece as well as a status symbol for the noble class.

 

17th and 18th centuries were characterized by massive migration and movement (Americas), another devastating on sweep of the infamous epidemic, Black Death (in various part of Europe), the expansion of the British navy and land (Americas, Indies, and Caribbean), more wars (between the French, Scottish, and others), the sophistication of taxation and import goods, and the introduction of new technology (glass making, and lead crystals). The 18th century marked the early developments of the Agricultural and Industrial Revolution as well as the Age of Enlightenment (Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and etc.). Wealth was still somewhat controlled by the aristocrats and gentry, but vast extremes of wealth made its way into the hands of a growing criminal upper class.  Mercantilism exponentially flourished due to the influx of demand for luxury and manufactured goods (London Trading Company). The chandelier transitioned further on and made its way into the homes of the merchant class. The chandelier makeup was altered yet again. Neo Classical themes (Greek images/patterns) and metal became a popular form of artistic expression. Constructed with high karat gold, glass, lead crystals, the chandelier was formed with elongated arched arms and adorned with numerous candles. Like the merchant class, the arms (reach and power across different countries and continents) and makeup (wealth) of the chandelier at this point, was a definite indicator of what was going on at this particular point in time.

 

The 19th century was characterized by westward expansion and exploration of the Americas. Further technological advancements such as the locomotive train and steam boat, gas, and electricity made a huge bearing on growth and development in these times. The idealism of Liberalism pulsed through a newly inspired and budding populace, which essentially (included political, economical, social, and cultural aspects of liberalism) embodied the concept of equal rights and opportunity for all. This was a belief held fast in the hearts of the hopeful and was like an unmovable mountain, remained a deep-seated etch in the minds and discourse of this new nation of people. The civil war raged and savagely consumed the nation. Romanticism (natural, and a revolt against the social norms, nationalism), Realism (revealing the truth), and Impressionism (emphasis on light and its changing qualities) on were among the many forms of artistic expressions that materialized.  Hanging, gas lit crystal chandeliers (changing qualities) appeared at this time. Electricity became an accessible form of energy and was later standardized. It served the purpose of illumination quite well and therefore, moved chandeliers from candles to gas and electricity.

 

The 20th and 21st centuries are depicted by the World Wars, the Great Depression, Woman’s Suffrage, Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and many other wars and important events that had come to pass. Massive political/government, cultural, and astounding technological advances (the automobile, landing on the moon, computers and the internet) and changes in medicine was also very much a part of all of this. Like everything else at this time, artistic expression was evolving tremendously and swiftly moving from one movement to the other. Modernism (deviations from the norms of society), Art Nouveau (greatly stylized and curvaceously structured), Abstract Art (showed other ways of describing visual experiences), Minimalism (stripped to essentials), and Contemporary Art (pop culture) were a few of the movements in this time period, so what you initially have is a clean break from the traditional values, restrictive structures, and old associations of artistic thought and a fast-moving transition into new modes of ingenuity/design, expression, and alternate ways of perception. The modern/ contemporary structure of current chandeliers portray this transition. The structure has greatly changed when comparing modern models to old ones. Much of the changes and influences experienced were and still manifests themselves in chandeliers today.

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