© Arto Hanciogullari und T. Tsekyi Thür

The Base

It is obvious that every lamp must have a base because the lamp must have a secure stand. Only small lamps can do without a pronounced base if their font simultaneously represents the entire lamp body and thus also the base.

Larger lamps often have a metal base, which is often made of cast brass or cast zinc (= spelter), and, depending on the style of the lamp, is completely ornamental, sometimes with several perforations, sometimes standing on 3 or 4 feet matching in style, artistically designed to a high standard. If the base (or the whole lamp) is made of spelter, this metal part has been "bronzed", i.e. covered with a golden colour, either galvanically or by other means. Later in the 20th century, after the First World War, when exuberant ornamentation as a stylistic device had been overcome and lamp design tended to be more simple, sometimes even completely without ornamentation, simpler base shapes made of simple brass sheet metal (sometimes nickel-plated), sometimes pressed in a profiled manner, became established. Now, however, a cast-iron weight, hidden in the base, had to provide the necessary stability. Other, often encountered metal feet are formed from ornamental cast iron. Older British lamps in particular have a cast-iron base with a square pyramid-shaped base.

There were of course also bases made of materials other than metal. Lamps with ceramic, porcelain or glass bodies sometimes have a base made of the same material. There are also lamps whose base is made of marble or other stone (e.g. alabaster, slate, serpentine) or a heavy ceramic part, usually glazed black (very typical of British lamps). These materials give the lamp sufficient stability due to their weight. However, I have an English lamp whose base has the shape of these ceramic bases, but is itself made of sheet iron and painted black, probably for reasons of cost (see L.129). The weight of this base was increased with an iron weight.


Materials of the base design
Top row: Cast brass - cast zinc, bronzed - cast iron, black lacquered - brass sheet, embossed
Middle row: Stoneware, black glazed - ceramic - porcelain – glass
Bottom row: Onyx marble - slate - wood - synthetic resin


Lastly, we must mention the bases made of turned wood, which were almost always only used for the large, mostly French sculptural lamps. As the cast metal sculpture was heavy enough anyway, it was easy to use the lighter wood as a base. Nevertheless, the wooden base was painted so that it had the appearance of reddish banded marble. Wood is otherwise used very rarely in conventional kerosene/paraffin lamps. A much rarer, unique rarity is the ornamentally cast synthetic resin ebonite (see L.174).