Two-Light Argand Chandelier with Birds, about 1820–25
Johnston, Brookes & Co., London
Gilt and patinated bronze
31 1/2 in. high, 13 1/2 in. wide, 8 3/8 in. deep
Although many Argand lamps in a variety of designs have been recorded, chandeliers using the same device for lighting are extremely rare, particularly those that have remained essentially intact. The design of this chandelier relies ultimately on the discoveries of the Franco-Swiss chemist Ami Argand (1759–1803). Argand employed new principles of combustion in the invention of a burner consisting of two concentric tubes surrounding a wick. These tubes drew a double current of air to feed the flame. The Argand workshop was the first to perfect the use of a glass tube as a chimney to increase the upward flow of air. The combination of the two tubes and the glass chimney produced a larger flame that provided a good deal more light—twelve times that of a single candle—and permitted much more activity at night than had been possible before. However, the oil that was used was too thick to be drawn up by the wicks, so these lamps had a reservoir placed higher than the wicks so that the flow of oil could be aided by gravity. In a negative way, these reservoirs caused a large shadow, which ultimately led to the development of the sinumbra lamp. This chandelier is of unusually fine quality, with fine casting in a variety of Neo-Classical motifs.
This two-light chandelier is further enhanced by beautiful castings of birds at the centers of the two long sides.