1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Candlestick

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CANDLESTICK, the receptacle for holding a candle, nowadays made in various art-forms. The word was formerly used for any form of support on which lights, whether candles or lamps, were fixed; thus a candelabrum (q.v.) is sometimes spoken of from tradition as a candlestick, e.g. as when Moses was commanded to make a candlestick for the tabernacle, of hammered gold, a talent in weight, and consisting of a base with a shaft rising out of it and six arms, and with seven lamps supported on the summits of the six arms and central shaft. When Solomon built the temple, he placed in it ten golden candlesticks, five on the north and five on the south side of the Holy Place; but after the Babylonish captivity the golden candlestick was again placed in the temple, as it had been before in the tabernacle by Moses. On the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, it was carried with other spoils to Rome. Representations of the seven-branched candlestick, as it is called, occur on the arch of Titus at Rome, and on antiquities found in the Catacombs at Rome. The primitive form of candlestick was a torch made of slips of bark, vine tendrils or wood dipped in wax or tallow, tied together and held in the hand by the lower end, such as are frequently figured on ancient painted vases. The next step was to attach to them a cup (discus) to catch the dripping wax or tallow.

A candlestick may be either “flat” or “tall.” The former has a short stem, rising from a dish, and is usually furnished with an extinguisher fitting into a socket; the latter has a pillar which may be only a few inches in height or may rise to several feet, and rarely has an extinguisher. The flat variety is sometimes called a “bedroom candlestick.” The beginnings of this interesting and often beautiful appliance are not exactly known, but it dates certainly as far back as the 14th century and is probably older. It is most usually of metal, earthenware or china, but originally it was made of some hard wood and had no socketed pillar, the candle fitting upon a metal spike, in the fashion still familiar in the case of many church candlesticks. It has been constantly influenced by mobiliary and architectural fashions, and has varied, as it still varies, from the severest simplicity of form and material to the most elaborate artistic treatment and the costliest materials—gold and silver, crystal, marble and enamel. Previous to the 17th century, iron, latten, bronze and copper were chiefly used, but thenceforward the most elegant examples were chiefly of silver, though in more modern periods Sheffield plate, silver plate and china became exceedingly popular. Sometimes the base and sconce are of one material and the pillar of another, as when the former are of silver and the pillar of marble or china. The choice and combination of materials are, indeed, infinite. The golden age of the candlestick lasted, roughly speaking, from the third quarter of the 17th century to the end of the 18th. The later Jacobean, Queen Anne and early Georgian forms were often extremely elegant, with broad bases, round, oval or square and swelling stems. Fine examples of these periods, especially when of silver, are much sought after and command constantly augmenting prices. As with most domestic appliances the history of the candlestick is an unceasing tendency towards simplicity, the most elaborate and fantastic forms, animals and reptiles, the monstrous creatures of mythology, lions and men-at-arms, angels and cupids, having gradually given place to architectural motives such as the baluster stem and to the classic grace of the Adam style. The candlestick in its modern form is, indeed, artistically among the least unsatisfactory of household plenishings.