Friday, April 16, 2010

Victorian Restoration: The "Art" of Victorian Lighting


Real period lighting as shown on this 'trade card' from Oxley, Giddings and Enos
Most of what 'passes' as Victorian lighting is actually lighting from the 1920's. If you peruse Ebay and such you see these lights advertised as Victorian, however most Victorians had passed on by the time the lights advertised as "Victorian" were sold.
A rare period photo shows a combination light designed to not only light a room but a table area as well.

In the early period of Victoriana, lighting was strictly by candles or Oil lamps. Later in the era the gasolier became the norm. If one is doing a period restoration it is the gasolier style light that most would aspire to own. However, the idea of having a flame in your house might be of concern and would no doubt send your insurance agent scrambling for his "cancelled" stamp. Most likely you would have a electrofied gasolier, that is a gas light converted to electricity. It is interesting to note that there was a period in lighting of "dual light" that being lights that were both gas and electric. Mostly a response to Victorians distrust of the "new fangled" electricity.
The chandelier was often the "center of attention" as shown in this period parlor


Original high quality gasoliers are traded much like art, often selling in the tens of thousands of dollars. Probably out of range of most of us. Fortunately today there are companies that make period accurate reproductions that are a viable substitutes for those of us who do not have 10-20 grand to drop on a light. Millions of gasoliers were simply tossed in the trash so finding one intact is truly a rare find today and why originals are so highly prized.
Due to demand and lack of originals, several companies now make historic reproductions like this one featured here which is an electro-gasloier design with lights facing up and down.

You need to 'size' the light for the size room you have. For example a cottage would have three level drop 12 light "mansion' light and by the same token a small light in a large house with 14 foot ceilings will look 'off'. Many of the modern reproduction lighting companies offer custom length to scale the height to your rooms ceiling heights.

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