An extremely beautiful and fine quality Regency cut crystal glass eight-light chandelier, the foliate-cast corona above a cut-glass pineapple orb above a tier of cascading glass droplets surmounted by a ring of gilt bronze acanthus leaves, below which the central shaft is encased in a 'bag' or 'tent' formed of strings of cut glass drops, the central ring surmounted by a stylised anthemion ring issuing eight scrolled branches each dressed with a cut-glass sconce and hung with further cascading droplets, between and below which are tiers of droplets above a cut glass boss surrounded by a ring of cut glass droplets
English, date circa 1810
Height 110 cm.
This magnificent cut glass chandelier typifies the quality and finesse of the English Regency glass manufacturers. In many respects it compares with the work of the then leaders in this field, namely Samuel Parker and William Perry of London, whose partnership of Parker and Perry began in 1803 and continued up until Parker's death in 1817, after which members of the two families worked independently. The present work also shares many similarities with an equally superb twelve-light chandelier with two upper tiers of cascading droplets that is assumed to have originally hung at Attingham Park, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire that was supplied to Thomas Noel, 2nd Lord Berwick (d.1832) and later acquired by Sir Sydney Barratt from R.L. Harrington Ltd., London, 22 September 1961 (illustrated in M. Mortimer, "The English Glass Chandelier", 2000, p. 30, pl. 24).
The earliest glass chandeliers were made in Venice during the late seventeenth century. Although the French made costly imitations in pure rock crystal, it was the English who soon dominated the field - not only in the manufacture of chandeliers but in most aspects of glass making. This was primarily due to George Ravenscroft's experimentation with lead crystal glass, which proved to be the best suited for all forms of glass making and in particular for the manufacture of glass chandeliers since when cut, the glass droplets significantly enhanced the relatively feeble light emitted from a candle. Far from being merely practical items to illuminate a stately room, chandeliers were regarded as objects of great beauty as well as status symbols, since only the very rich could afford them.
The first known English chandeliers dating from about 1740 consisted of a decorated central stem and simple arms. Gradually these became more elaborate under the influence of the Rococo which later on gave way to more refined Classical elements. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century stems and branches were equally visible but then a dramatic stylistic change occurred. At first the radiating branches still controlled the overall design; they then began to be arranged in tiers to increase the effect of lighting and to keep the design open. Soon the decoration of swags and pendent droplets became so elaborate that the arms were virtually obscured. The same occurred to the central shaft or stem, which also became submerged in a mass of glass lustres.
Such changes in design as well as the popularity for chandeliers during the 1800s was partly due the Prince of Wales' passion for elaborate lighting, most notably at his newly built Brighton Pavilion, built in 1803. In 1808 the Prince employed the famous English glass manufacturers, Parker and Perry to make a chandelier 'designed to represent a fountain falling into a large reservoir'. As here, the central shaft was encased within a 'bag' or 'tent', formed of strings of glass droplets, which meant that the candle branches could no longer issue from the stem but instead from a circular metal band. The Prince was so enchanted that he sought even more elaborate designs from Parker and Perry. In 1817 the firm supplied him with a chandelier ornamented with Oriental lotus leaf shades around the edge, supported by dragon's legs and suspended in the claws of a silvered dragon. Again as here, many early nineteenth century chandeliers were arranged with finger fringes, consisting of concentric rings of glass prisms hanging from a concentric ring.
Among other important nineteenth century glass manufacturers was F. and C. Osler of Birmingham, who created a number of innovative high quality glass light fittings. However they, like others in their trade found that the demand for these magnificent glass lights was severely curtailed with the introduction of gas and then electric lighting during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Despite the fall in demand chandeliers continued to be manufactured and are still being made today, not least because they are objects of supreme beauty and will always add splendour and elegance to a room.