The Characteristics of Typical Belgian Lamps
Belgium was a very rich kingdom in the second half of the 19th century due to colonial rule over central Africa. In this small but rich country there was an independent, self-sufficient lamp industry that developed its own style, independent of German and French influence. Not only was the shape a Belgian development of its own, but also the burners were different from the German burners that were predominant on the continent at that time.
The typical Belgian lamp after ca. 1880 is often made of brass. I leave out the very common, simple lamps made of pressed glass by Lempereur & Bernard as typical work lamps for households with low incomes, because they cannot compete aesthetically and technically with the later Belgian lamps. The lamp body of the brass lamps consists of a base and a vase that widens towards the top, which also functions as a font. The base often does not have the style features of the elaborate bases of German or French lamps; it is kept simpler. It is not uncommon for the base to be made of round embossed sheet brass with punched or embossed ornamentation. The vase is also kept simple. The only ornaments are embossed decorations that are not particularly significant. A special feature of the vase is that it often has an additional opening next to the burner to fill in kerosene/paraffin without having to remove the burner and other parts. This vase is sometimes also offered separately in order to combine it with suitable columns, if you prefer a slightly higher lamp, or to use it as a drop-in font in the hanging lamps.
A great feature of the Belgian lamps is that they are almost all center-draft lamps. The brass vase, which is also the kerosene/paraffin font, has a wide central brass tube, which goes through from top to bottom and serves to supply air to the flame from below. To enable this draft, the base parts of Belgian lamps are always provided with holes, or they stand on feet. The wick is always a round wick, which is not first formed into a round wick in the burner, but is made as a round wick from the beginning and is placed tightly around the central air tube of the vase. The actual burner with the wick knob is now attached to the upper part of the air tube and then screwed into the collar of the vase. The air tube in the metal font thus also takes on the function of the wick tube, as it carries the wick. The Belgian kerosene/paraffin lamps thus best follow Argand’s principle of central air supply from below through an air pipe. In order to improve the burning effect even further, these burners always have a special flame disc, which differs significantly from the German flame discs.
Flame discs of Belgian center-draft burners
The chimney for these burners is always an 18-line Matador chimney with a slim bulge. Why then the typical Belgian chimneys are called 18’’’ is not clear to me, since the burner is larger. If you calculate the size based on the diameter of the round wick (30-35 mm), you get a size of 21-25 lines. I have the feeling that this special chimney size or special designation was only made for the Belgian center-draft lamps.
The typical Belgian lamp is evidently a lamp that was rationalized at an early stage and composed of functional components without any major adornment, and which follows the later 20th century slogan “form follows function” as an early example. This slogan means that optimal functioning is more important than style, fashion and ornamentation.
The next table lists the most important Belgian lamp manufacturers in alphabetical order.
|Lempereur & Bernard
|Lampe Dite Electrique
In addition to these producers, there was also Maison Hanniet in Brussels, presumably as a well-known manufacturer / retailer, but whose lamps rarely appear on eBay. I own a lamp from this house; otherwise I would not have noticed the existence of this company.
Four out of five Belgian lamp manufacturers were based in Liège (or in a suburb of Liège called Herstal). By far the largest and most successful Belgian lamp manufacturer was Lempereur & Bernard. This producer was founded 1868 by two cousins, Joseph Lempereur and Lambert Bernard. The company was so successful at times that it had branches and production sites in the USA and Great Britain. Of my 12 Belgian lamps, 4 are from this company. Louis Sépulchre was an employee at Lempereur & Bernard and later he started his own company. Caby was employed by Sépulchre until he went into business for himself. Many Sépulchre and Caby lamps are therefore confusingly similar (Info: Ara Kebapcioglu). I don't have a single copy of Caby. There is probably little information about Moreau Frères and Albert Wauthoz.
In a catalogue from Lempereur & Bernard you can see that only tulip shades were intended for the table lamps, but no Vesta shades. Due to the vase shape of the Belgian lamps, I can well imagine that white and coloured Vesta shades could also fit well here.