Renaissance Style Torchères & Watercolor

Value (2012) | $4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction

They've been in my family all my life. I have a picture down here of a little painting which shows them in my grandmother's living room in London in 1934. And I brought them here to the States and I use them every day. When I switch the living room lights on, they go on. But nobody has any clue what they are at all. We've called them torchères because we imagine that they lit something, and they've always been lighting fixtures long before they were electrified, I suppose. I'm sure that underneath, there are some wonderful colors, so I would love to know what they are.

Okay. So they are, as you've called them, they are called torchères, which is a very, very fancy term for a light. They are electrified and they do cast light upwards for very dramatic effect. What's really quite nice about these is their size. They're right around seven feet tall. And as we can see in the watercolor, they were either side of a very nice table and a tapestry and very well presented in a nice interior. They're made of wood, which has been then painted. The color is not from a brown varnish; it's from the varnish turning brown over time. There are some interesting motifs here. You've got these winged masks, and then this whole sort of inverted staff here is called a thyrsus, which is then hung with acanthus leaves. Then you have this wonderful acanthus garland down here, and then the tripod base with the blindfolded mask and the paw feet, and on the one closest to you, there is a fleur-de-lis. I think they're all there for theatrical context. I think it's just a pastiche of some wonderful classical and Renaissance subjects and themes. We have taken a look at the underside, and we're confident that the construction is almost certainly Italian, made somewhere at the end of the 19th century and probably originally lit with a candle. The 18th-century examples generally wouldn't be of this size; they would generally be smaller, for on top of a table, and in most cases they were either gilded or silvered wood on top of the gesso. I have a feeling, and we're in agreement, that they were probably wired around the 1920s.

I would think so, yes.

The artist who painted this is Edgar Holloway, either commissioned by your grandmother or perhaps by the decorator. If I were to see these come up for sale at auction, for the pair and including the watercolor, I would expect a reasonable estimate to be around about $4,000 to $6,000.

Wow, okay.

Appraisal Details

Rago Arts & Auction Center
Lambertville, NJ
Appraised value (2012)
$4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Seattle, WA (August 18, 2012)

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