ca. 1865-75
American
Decorative Arts
Glass
Lighting Devices
glass, blown, overlaid, frosted, and wheel cut; marble, gilt-bronze, brass base
Sandwich, Massachusetts, United States
Overall: 42 1/8 × 7 3/4 × 9 in. (107 × 19.69 × 22.86 cm)
Other (.a lamp base): 20 1/2 × 7 3/4 × 9 in. (52.07 × 19.69 × 22.86 cm)
Other (.b oil tank): 8 1/2 × 7 1/4 in. (21.59 × 18.42 cm)
Other (.c burner): 3 1/2 × 7 in. (8.89 × 17.78 cm)
Other (.d chimney): 11 7/16 × 3 1/4 in. (29.05 × 8.26 cm)
Other (.e shade): 10 3/4 × 9 in. (27.31 × 22.86 cm)
2008.1a-e

A masterful example of 19th-century American glassmaking, this monumental lamp rises above a stepped marble pedestal in an elegant succession of C-shaped curves. Described in the firm’s catalogue as “Cut Punty-and-Diamond-Flint,” the lamp’s pattern was rendered from three layers of glass – clear “flint,” “Opal,” and “ruby” – each blown successively, one inside the other, prior to molding and cutting. The careful carving away of the overlaying pink and white glass is testimony to the cutter’s skill. The rich color of the glass – “Ruby Red 1” – was one of the factory’s most prized and costly secrets, in part for its use of gold.

As impressive as the lamp’s technical excellence may be, it is second to its cultural currency as a dramatic symbol of the owner’s status. Its required maintenance only added to its exclusivity; the lamp’s stunning aesthetic appeal came at the expense of a well-trained servant capable of transporting, cleaning, refilling, and assembling its fragile twenty-six pounds. Such demands help explain its limited production: only about a dozen lamps of such scale are known.

Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Henry P. Deyerle in memory of Mary Byrd Warwick Deyerle and Evelyn Byrd Deyerle; Bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Edgar G. Gunn; Gift of Mrs. Peter Knowles; Gift of Helen K. Mackintosh in Honor of her Parents, Reverend and Mrs. D. C. Mackintosh; Gift of William B. O'Neal; Gift of Mrs. A. D. Williams; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. A. D. Williams and the Adolph D. and Wilkins C. William Collection, by exchange
O’Leary, Elizabeth L., Sylvia Yount, Susan Jensen Rawles, and David Park Curry. American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Charlottesville: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with the University of Virginia Press, 2010. (No. 62, p. 173-175).

Daniel Neman, “Virginia Museum Buys ‘Black Chair’ Painting,” Richmond Times-Dispatch Sunday, March 23, 2008, p. G10, color ill.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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