Pair Argand Lamps, about 1800–20
Johnston Brookes & Co., London
Gilt bronze, with lamp mechanism, and with glass shades, blown, frosted and wheel-cut, and glass chimneys
17 1/2 in. high, 5 5/8 in. wide, 11 7/8 in. deep (overall)
Signed and inscribed (with embossed brass label, on the bottom of each): JOHNSTON BROOKES / & Co / MANUFACTURERS / LONDON
This unusual pair of Argand lamps was made in England in the early years of the nineteenth century by the firm of Johnston Brookes & Company, London. Like most lamps made by Johnston Brookes and others at this time, they are marked with embossed brass labels attached to the burner tube of each.
Johnston Brookes & Co. appeared in the London City Directory for the year 1814 as Johnston, Brookes, & Company, “brass founders,” at 32 New Street, Shoe Lane. The same listing appeared in 1820. In 1824 the name was given as Johnston, Brooks & Co. at 32 New Street, Fetter Lane. Apparently Johnston and Brookes split by 1835, for in that year Jonathan Johnston was listed as a “brass founder” at 19 Cursitor Street, and William Brookes and Company was listed as a “brass founder, lamp manufacturer and gas fitter,” still at 32 New Street, Fetter Lane. Brookes’ directory listing remains the same thereafter, and Johnston’s changes in 1843 to “lamp manufacturer and gas fitter,” 9 Cursitor Street, and in 1852 it reads “Johnston Brothers, lamp manufacturers and gas fitters,” 9 Cursitor Street.
The present lamps are extremely unusual examples of the production of the Johnston Brookes firm. Each of the fuel tanks is decorated with two groups of bacchanalian infants, who are appropriately surrounded by grape vines. Elsewhere, beautifully sculpted dolphins form the tubes through which the fuel passes from the tanks to the burners. And, further, a whole array of Neo-Classical devices, including paw feet, anthemia, acanthus leaves, pomegranate finials, and conventional borders complete the decorative program.