9923 A MAGNIFICENT GILTWOOD SEVEN-LIGHT CHANDELIER Probably Berlin. Second Quarter Of The Nineteenth Century. Measurements: Height: 70 4/5″ (180 cm) Diameter 70 4/5″ (180 cm)
Of giltwood and iron. The seven sided corona set with applied stars and surmounted by an acorn finial. The seven suspension ‘chains’ formed as foliate stems. The carrying ring with seven incurved pierced classical foliate panels with an arcaded frieze below seven scrolling foliate tendrilous arms terminate in turned and foliate carved tazza-form drip pans each surmounted by an iron pricket. The flared vasiform underside intricately pierced and terminating in an inverted acorn knop. Regilded in parts; original areas present. Some drip pans and spikes replaced. With old alterations.
Private collection, Würzburg, Germany.
German art trade.
The present chandelier is executed in the distinctive style of Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841), perhaps the greatest German architect and designer of the nineteenth century and the leading arbiter of the national aesthetic in his lifetime.
Schinkel studied architecture with the brilliant Friedrich Gilly (1798-1800) and at Berlin’s Academy of Architecture (1800-02), although much of his early career was occupied in gaining a reputation as a painter. After a number of years in Italy and some time in France, he returned to Berlin in 1805 where he turned more seriously to architecture. By 1815 he had risen to become Chief Architect of the Prussian Department of Works, executing many commissions for Frederick William III and other members of the royal family.
Schinkel’s designs were influenced by the Gothic architecture he saw on his cultural tour through Austria, Italy and Germany between 1803 and 1805, a style which “represented the great counterweight to the intellectual and formal heritage of classical antiquity,”1 and “[offered] a more expressive and spiritual alternative to the antique ideal.”2 His early romantic inclination towards mediaevalism informed his ability to transform traditional Gothic forms into original compositions, as seen in both his architectural works and decorative arts designs.
The present chandelier is related to examples in both the Rotes Zimmer (Red Room) and the Stickereizimmer (Embroidery Room) at Schloss Fischbach, Silesia, for which Schinkel provided drawings and plans for the remodeling 1838 (figure 1). Similar chandeliers also hang in the Marmorsaal of Schloss Rosenau, Bavaria, which Schinkel redecorated in the Gothic Revival style between 1808 and 1817 as a summer residence for Duke Ernst I of Sachsen- Coburg-Saalfeld (figure 2).
The chandelier is a particularly notable interpretation of the Gothic Revival taste, fluently incorporating motifs and forms from other idioms: the chains are most unusually rendered as naturally formed floral pendants, while the pierced panels set within the carrying ring, corona and main body evoke classical rinceaux. Further classicizing features are the double-scrolling candle arms, which again can be found in Schinkel’s furniture and lighting oeuvre. Plate 54 in Johannes Sievers Die Möbel depicts a chair and sofa after a design by Schinkel employing this type of scroll motif, while Plate 239 illustrates a chandelier whose candle arms are similarly scrolled (figure 3).
This skillful handling of a variety of styles within a single object certainly indicates that the authorship of the design emanates from the pen of a highly-trained architect such as Schinkel himself or an accomplished contemporary, and its grand scale points to it having been commissioned for a palatial scheme.