Gilt Torch Wall Sconces
31" x 6" x13"
This is a pair of eye-catching, Italian gilt-gold wall sconces. The unknown designer has carved these light fixtures to resemble a pair of hands grasping extravagantly carved torches. The hands sport elegant cuffs and draped sleeves. Curling, acanthus-leaf carvings adorn each torch handle before sprouting at the top to form a candle base. A layer of red bole paint is visible beneath slight imperfections of the gilt-gold surface. The technique of applying red bole paint underneath a layer of gold leaf is a longstanding practice in the history of art. The English term “bole” was used as early as the 14th century to denote this red-brown paint colour derived from clay. Artists favoured bole as a base for gold leaf due to its warm colour tone: the bole’s red tone helps counteract the cooler tones of gold leaf. The resulting effect on the sculptural surface is a pleasant, golden glow perfect for candlelit settings. The warm, golden finish on this pair of wall sconces complements the warm-toned light they can emit when lit. The design is a playful reference to the sconces’ status as light fixtures: “sconce” may refer to a modern, electric light in a wall bracket or a flaming wall torch in a castle hall. These sconces were likely designed to be used with candles, but they are shaped to resemble hands grasping torches. In Western visual culture, a raised hand-held torch is a symbolically charged image. It typically denotes themes such as victory, enlightenment, liberty, or hope. Regardless of the meaning you attach to them, this pair of wall sconces will brighten any well-decorated interior.
At this time in history, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated by the people of France to the United States in 1886. The colossal copper statue was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (1834–1904). Given the enormous size of the project, this neoclassical monument was built in stages. Bartholdi first completed the head and the torch-bearing arm of the allegorical figure. These pieces were exhibited for publicity at international expositions, including the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. Stereo cards depicting the arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty from that World’s Fair draw an interesting parallel to the current wall sconces.