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A Pair Of Empire Polychrome Painted Sheet Metal Carcel Oil Lamps
A Pair Of Empire Polychrome Painted Sheet Metal Carcel Oil Lamps - Lighting Style Empire
Ref : 109448
8 500 €
Period :
19th century
Provenance :
Dimensions :
H. 28.35 inch
Richard Redding Antiques

Leading antique and fine art gallery, specialises in the finest French clocks.

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A Pair Of Empire Polychrome Painted Sheet Metal Carcel Oil Lamps

A rare pair of Empire polychrome painted sheet metal Carcel oil lamps, each formed as a Classical column surmounted by their original circular frosted glass shade etched with floral and foliate sprays and set into a sheet metal frieze with a painted floral band and pierced edging. The shade and frieze covering the oil burner sits upon the top of a columnar stem that is painted at the top with a floral and foliate band and below with alternate lotus motifs and acanthus leaves, the stem resting upon an angular stepped plinth, of which each of its sides features a painted hippocampus, upon a base painted to resemble coloured marble
Paris, date 1810-15
Height 72cm.
These handsome Empire lamps are either known as column oil lamps or more often as Carcel lamps, named after the Parisian inventor and watchmaker Bernard-Guillaume Carcel (1750–1818) who was established at rue de l’arbre Paris from 1800-12. In 1800 Carcel took out a patent for a new form of oil lamp that would be a distinct improvement upon the Argand-type lamps, that were then in use. At that time the vegetable oils then available (mostly colza) were thick and would not travel far up a wick. The Argand lamps used a gravity feed which meant that the oil reservoir was located above the burner, casting a shadow and making the lamp top heavy. In 1800 Carcel designed a lamp that had its oil reservoir under the burner, within the body of the lamp. In order to keep the oil moving up to the burner, Carcel housed a clockwork mechanism within the lamp’s base that drove a small pump submerged in the oil tank. The winding key was also located at the bottom of the lamp base.
One of the innovative features of Carcel’s lamp was that the fuel was pumped into the wick tubes at a greater volume than was necessary for burning so that it overflowed the top of the wicks and thus cooled the burner. Another advantage of his invention was the movement could operate unattended; thus, the oil could be used to the last drop. The lamp would stay lit for sixteen hours continuously without refilling and provided illumination for several persons at the same time using a single burner.
However, they were complex devices and, being expensive items, were only used by the more affluent members of European society. At times they proved unpopular, mainly due to the to the necessity of having to return them to the (mostly European) manufacturers for repair. Thus, in 1829 the simpler Moderator lamp was invented, which dispensed with clockwork and used only a weighted piston to move the oil, and this eventually superseded them.
Carcel lamps were usually ingeniously decorated, often using polished sheet metal that was painted with classical motifs, such as lotus flowers, acanthus. The present examples also feature hippocampi, which are fabulous mythological beasts, having the head and fore legs of a horse and hind legs transformed into a fish’s tail. Hippocampi drew the chariot of Neptune, the mythological god of the sea and the sea nymph Galatea.

Richard Redding Antiques


Lamp Empire