The word 'chandelier' means 'candle-holder' and the very earliest chandeliers were simple branched and suspended wooden candle holders with later examples being made of brass, bronze and rock crystal.
Rock crystal chandeliers appeared in the seventeenth century and were extremely expensive objects available to only the very rich. The development of lead crystal in the late seventeenth century enabled the development of what we recognise as the modern crystal or glass chandelier form around 1700. These early glass chandeliers were based on simple forms and their manufacture was in the hands of glass mirror bevellers.
During the eighteenth century demand for glass chandeliers grew and forms became more elaborate. Prior to the invention of oil and electric lighting, interior lighting was about prestige and chandeliers were primarily works of art and objects of conspicuous consumption rather than just lighting appliances.
The chandelier form has long been associated with artistic and technical innovation and by the nineteenth century this technical virtuosity had enabled the creation of gigantic chandeliers. One of the biggest chandeliers ever made, a nineteenth century Viennese creation now in Gwalior, weighs over three tonnes and has 248 lamps. The world’s biggest chandelier is in St Petersburg at the Winter Palace.
Chandeliers are still a field for artistic innovation with American glass superstar Dale Chihuly famous for his contemporary chandeliers and established Austrian crystal manufacturer, Swarowski, have recently commissioned contemporary chandeliers from leading international designers.
Objectspace initiated Chandelier in association with the New Zealand Society of Artists in Glass as an opportunity for selected glass artists to consider the chandelier as a site for innovation and professional development. Chandelier takes place in conjunction with the society’s conference The Object as an Eloquent Statement.
Objectspace gratefully acknowledges Liz Sharek and Louis Le Vaillant who worked with Objectspace staff to select Chandelier, and project sponsor ECC Lighting and Living.