Wrought Iron, 1450-1500
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The Victoria & Albert Museum
This is a chandelier in its purest form since, after all, a “chandelier” is literally a “candleholder,” with its name deriving from the French word for candle, “chandelle.” Hanging chandeliers have always been important functional and decorative interior details.
The earliest chandeliers evolved from “candle-beams” which were essentially two pieces of wood which were nailed together in the form of a cross with spike at each end. Candles of animal fat (or tallow) were fixed on the spikes. By the Fifteenth Century—when this example was made, chandeliers had evolved into the ring or crown designs with which we’re most familiar. These became popular in cathedrals and the palaces and estates of the wealthy. Over the course of the Fifteenth Century, chandeliers became increasingly ornate, and, ultimately were hung with glass or rock crystal. The finest chandeliers of this era came from Germany especially from the areas around the lower Rhine near Cologne and in northern Germany.