Mirror with Three-light Sconce (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

Decorative Arts
Lighting Devices
eastern white pine, gessoed and gilded; iron wire with gilded plaster ornament, gilt-brass candleholders; mirrored plate
United States,Possibly Eastern Massachusettes
Overall: 26 × 10 7/8 × 54 1/2 in. (66.04 × 27.62 × 138.43 cm)

This extraordinary wall light represents the talents and ingenuity of an unidentified artisan familiar with the stylistic tenets of Scottish architect-designer Robert Adam. Its highly sculptural form, undulating movement, and emphasis on refracted light reveal the influence of Adamesque designs disseminated in pattern books by Englishmen George Hepplewhite and Thomas Sheraton. Once carved and gilded, its frame was adorned with composition motifs that were likely imported from England.

At the same time, the sconce’s unusual combination of form and ornament, coupled with its material - eastern white pine, which is uniquely indigenous to America and rarely appears as a primary material in British cabinetmaking – indicate its American origins. Certain elements hint as well at a regional American taste. While common to classical silver, grapevines were a particularly popular motif among craftsmen working in eastern Massachusetts, most notably in Salem, the wealthiest town in New England. Its prosperity nurtured the demand for fashionable residences and luxury furnishings commensurate with its citizens’ new affluence and status. This grand girandole suggests a complementary interest in consumption and display. Once lit, its striking form created a glittering backdrop suited to elegant entertainments.

Early Republic; Neoclassical
J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.