Attributed to Messenger & Son, (active 1828-1831)

Birmingham & London, England, c.1828

The foliate canopy above six massive chains suspending a fixture with twelve arms, each with two candle holders beneath a decorative oil font with scrolled foliate appendages above a foliate pendant finial.

H: 58″

Condition: Excellent: All original, surface cleaned, re-lacquered and electrified.

The presence of a massive oil font on this candle-powered chandelier allows us to both identify the maker and date the piece with some accuracy.  While Argand’s air-flow oil lamps were patented as early as 1784 and chandeliers using this technology were in use prior to 1820, as evidenced by period drawings and paintings of interiors, the style of English Argand chandeliers that used the style of font on the present fixture, are not seen in period interior scenes until 1825.

While candle-powered chandeliers remained popular throughout the 19th century irrespective of other available technologies, pendant Argand’s of this type disappear from dated interior views by about 1855 as gas lighting was introduced.  Interior decoration had also changed significantly from the classicism of the late 1820s by that time, making the probable window of opportunity for this design 1825-1835.  This dating is supported by 1827 drawing for a chandelier by French architect August de Montferrard designed for the apartments of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, Tsar Nicholas I’s mother, at the Winter Palace.[1]  Montferrand’s eight-candle arm pendant is surmounted by a decorative oil font.  Also, related bronze chandeliers were supplied to George IV’s apartments at Windsor Castle by Hancock & Rixson and by W. & G. Perry in 1828.

The font itself is also distinctive and is known on other lamps, recognized by their decoration, to have been made by Messenger in the period of 1825-1835.  The firm Thomas Messenger (1767-1832), began in 1797 with Thomas Phipson was to become the most important manufacturer of oil and gas lighting of the 19th-century.  Listed initially as: “Brass Founders, Manufacturers of Church Candlesticks, Patent Lamps, Etc.” their successors were to survive into the 1920s.   Their partnership lasted until 1823, the year after they opened a London office at 21 Grenville Street, Hatton Garden.  For the next two years Thomas Messenger is listed in London city directories alone and then in 1828 with his son Samuel as “Thomas Messenger and Son” at the same address.  After Thomas’ death in 1832, the firm became known as “Thomas Messenger and Sons” continuing at Hatton Garden, London and Broad Street, Birmingham into the 1860s[2].


[1] Léon de Groër, Decorative Arts in Europe 1790-1850 (New York, Rizzoli, 1986), p.263-4.

[2] Gerald T. Gowitt 19th-Century Elegant Lighting (Atglen, Pa., Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2002), p.125-132.