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The torchere or candelabro is the dignified ancestor of our more mundane bridge lamp. Torcheres, of course, do not have shades, although small shields are sometimes used on the individual candle lights. Essentially a candlestick, the torchere when electrified should suggest in its mild glow the light of the tallow or wax candles of the past rather than the brightness of modern illumination.
While the torchere has until recent years remained a characteristically Spanish or Italian lighting fixture, its wider use in American homes is rapidly making it as American as the bullseye mirror, once very French, or the Windsor chair, originally English. A Spanish torchere in gilded or carved wood, or a Venetian processional lamp, having its standard covered with old red velvet, is sometimes too gorgeous to fit into simple surroundings. However, torcheres of wrought iron, inspired by the beautiful though rather severe Gothic types, are so reduced to the essentials of use and beauty that they may be placed in almost any room without disturbing the decorative harmony. More ornate in decoration are the fixtures in Renaissance style. Torcheres are generally used in pairs, perhaps one on either side of a living room fireplace or on either side of a doorway. In the foyer these lights add a welcoming gleam of light in the evening, the picturesque processional lantern types being especially effective for this purpose. Used singly they are decorative in a corner of a room. In a studio living room the tall standard is well suited to the high ceiling.
Three general types of torcheres are reproduced today. One type is the heavy gilt wood candle-holder, often elaborately carved with heavy acanthus leaf decoration, scrolls or cupids, and with paw feet suggestive of the old Roman forms. A rather formal setting is needed for this type, or one that is richly Italian or Spanish. Then there are the processional lanterns with opaque glass to shield the light. On slender poles, often covered with velvet, these lanterns were carried on the street, either in religious processions or to light the way for some grand personage.
The characteristic Venetian form of processional lantern has the lantern part of carved wood, gilded, with the light enclosed in colored glass. The Spanish counterpart is generally made of metal, following closely the lines of the hanging lanterns of metal and glass. When not in use these lanterns were held upright by carved blocks of wood or stone at either side of a doorway. The third type, the most popular today, is the metal candle-holder in either the simple or more elaborate wrought iron or in polychrome metal work.
Just now the simpler forms, inspired by the craftsmanship of the Gothic age in Spain and Italy, are much favored. The torchere may often be merely a slender square or round iron rod, supported by a three-legged pedestal, and with one or more arms for holding the candles. The holders for the candles themselves are sometimes cupshaped, or, as in many of the early forms, may consist merely of a pointed bit of iron called a pricket, on which the candle used to be stuck. Early American candle-holders, extremely simple in design, often have a small handle at the side of the iron standard for lifting.
One type reproduced by modern craftsmen is inspired by the cressets-iron baskets on a pole, designed to hold inflammable material for use as a torch. With a colored glass shield inside the latticed iron work of the cresset, this type of torchere is an unusual and decorative form of light-holder. Another delightful model is the slender single candle-holder which, with the utmost economy of iron, results in a delicate standard and tripod, the top either plain or ornamented with a circular band of iron known as a corona. This crown motif is also used as a purely decorative form below the candle socket of a single light torchere.
The sixteenth century in both Spain and Italy saw most elaborate torcheres of metal produced. There is, of course, a pronounced distinction between the wrought metal work of these two countries in both design and execution. In general, Italian metal work was more elaborate in detail than Spanish, and polychrome decoration was developed in Italy to a greater degree than in Spain. Copper, brass, tin and silver were also used in this Renaissance period. In Spain especially, when silver was pouring in from the New World, that precious metal was much used in the making of torcheres.