Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Collecting Candlestands

In the 1850's the humble candlestand could be found nearly everywhere in the American home. They were eventually used to hold everything from wine glasses to teapots, in addition to candlesticks. Their small scale design and light weight made moving them from room to room an easy task.

In the 17th century (1600's), early models were made of wood or wrought iron. France is credited with inventing the candlestand and they were sometimes referred to as Torcheres. At first the tops of candlestands were stationary, but as they grew in popularity they were made with tilting tops. This made them easier to fit closely against the wall when not in use.

The 18th century models typically stood three to four feet tall, and had a flat, round top on a three-legged base. At first, there was room for only one or two candllesticks. Gradually more elaborate models came into use. By 1750, examples with deep shell carving, five-claw feet, and gilding (the application of gold leaf) were made. The legendary cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale felt that candlestands, like picture frames, should showcase the skill of carving and not the cabinetmaking.

In 1760, the book The Society of Upholster's Household Furniture in Genteel Taste, is said to have inspired craftsmen in Williamsburg, Va., who later provided candlestands for the George Washington home in Mount Vernon. From the 1770's into the early 1800's, striking candlestands were made in the upper Connecticut River Valley. These stands were often made of cherry and tiger maple. One such stand from the 1790's was crafted with a cherry hexagonal-shaped top crested by an inlaid compass of walnut.

By 1820, several versions of the tilt-top candlestand were being made in New England, New York, Philadelphia, and the Carolinas. Tops were seen in oval, rectangular, and octagonal shapes in addition to the traditional round shape. Some stands had double-ended drawers which were accessible from two sides. These drawers were just the right size for candle storage. Cherry and mahogany were the most popular choices of wood at this time, but candlestands could be had in maple, pine, and other regionally available woods.

By the 1830's, the Shaker communities accepted the 'worldly' candlestand as worthy for use in their households, and they gradually modified the Federal style to suit their simpler tastes. Whether Federal, Chippendale, or Shaker, there are antique candlestands to suit every taste available on the market today. Those with smaller budgets can acquire an early 20th century reproduction - at that time still made with skill and great attention to detail. You may check out our early 20th century candlestands here.

~ Evelyn