© Arto Hanciogullari und T. Tsekyi Thür

Sculptural Lamps

This chapter deals with a certain type of kerosene/paraffin lamp, which has a three-dimensional sculpture as a key component of the lamp body. These lamps have been offered by all well-known lamp manufacturers across countries and are nowadays highly valued by collectors. The sculpture can be a female or male human figure, as well as other beings such as dragons, putti, mythical creatures, even animals and plants. Given the variety of figurative designs, however, it is important that the sculpture is fully three-dimensional and that it more or less dominates the appearance of the lamp. Since I like these lamps and collected them really with pleasure, I would like to describe these lamps in a special chapter, regardless of their national origin.

As I mentioned before, sculptural lamps were made and marketed by all the large, important lamp manufacturers. The largest and most important group consists of sculptural lamps that contain a human as a figure. Female and male figures from many different historical and cultural epochs can be found among them. Women from Ancient Egypt, gods and goddesses of Greek mythology, nobles and noble ladies from the Middle Ages, Bedouin women, Indians from North America, snake charmers from the Middle East, water carriers from all eras, more or less open-hearted dancers, boys, dwarfs, elegant ladies from the Belle Epoque, etc., greatly enriched the lamp world of the 19th century. Sculptural lamps that show a human figure or mythological gods and goddesses in human form are what I call figural lamps, to differentiate them from other sculptural lamps.

In Europe, manufactures in France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Great Britain have made great sculptural lamps. The American manufacturers have offered rather small-format figures and putti. I don't know any sculptural lamps from Belgium. If you compare the human figure representations from different countries with one another, you will find that they show country-specific differences in the choice of themes and styles. The French figural lamps differ from the figural lamps of other countries in that they depict people in a graceful movement. The represented human figure is not statically frozen, but rather reproduced emotionally moved. In other countries I find more serious figures, almost frozen into statues. They cannot match the lightness and playfulness of the French figural lamps. The choice of theme also plays a role that should not be neglected. The French prefer women at the end of the 19th century with all their facets as a subject. In Germany and Austria-Hungary, on the other hand, there are more historicizing figures, e.g. from the Middle Ages. At least that's my subjective opinion.

The materials with which the sculptures were made can be very different. The largest group in terms of numbers is likely to consist of cast zinc, because special zinc alloys are particularly suitable for making very finely chiselled, detailed castings. Zinc is also an inexpensive material in terms of price. Cast brass is also very suitable for making sculptures, but has probably never achieved the great popularity of cast zinc. Other metals such as cast iron, bronze, copper and tin are used much less frequently. In addition to metal castings, ceramic casts made of porcelain, earthenware and stoneware are also used. Wooden sculptures are probably the rarest. In the past 10 years of the lamp collection, I've only seen one piece. In my collection, however, I have a rare lamp that is made from a completely different material. Let yourself be surprised!