Sunday, April 25, 2010

Winning Bid: Our New Candelabra

This past Friday Boy and I left the City in time to drive up to Darlington so we could attend an evening auction in a nearby town.  We came to bid on a pair of Charles X-style gilt bronze candelabra, of monumental scale, and we succeeded in winning them.  Even though we wound up paying more than the high end of the estimate, we still acquired them at far less than what we would have had to pay for them once they had swum upstream into the shops of the dealers we were bidding against.

The candelabra, still with their auction house inventory tags

Now, before you blanch and conclude that Reggie has lost his mind and is living out a Liberace fantasy, consider the inspiration: the dining room at Boscobel Restoration, an historic house museum overlooking the Hudson River in Garrison, New York.  As can be seen in the following photographs, on Boscobel's table sits a pair of crystal candelabra that States Morris Dyckman, the builder of the house, purchased in London in 1804 for the room.  Like Boscobel, our dining room at Darlington House does not have a chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

The Dining Room at Boscobel, as featured in
Federal Furniture and Decorative Arts at Boscobel, by Berry Tracy
Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, New York

The Boscobel candelabra, also from
Federal Furniture and Decorative Arts at Boscobel

Well, I suppose there may be just a little bit of a Duke of Wellington inspiration, too . . .

The Waterloo Gallery at Apsley House
The Wellington Museum, London
Image courtesy of English Heritage

Once we got the candelabra to Darlington House, we saw that they were filthy dirty, as they like to say in the trade.  A cleaning was in order.

Clearly not of the first period (Charles X reigned briefly from 1824 to 1830), we suspect that our candelabra were likely made anywhere between 1880 and 1920.  They are exceptionally well-made, with surface finishes done in fire gilding and verd antique.

The candelabra are constructed of many different pieces, held together by a single rod that screws into the finial and the base.  It comes apart easily for cleaning.

I first removed the sticky residue from the auction house's labels with Goo Gone, and then cleaned the bronze using a tooth brush dipped in a solution of fifty percent ammonia and fifty percent water, plus a little dishwashing liquid.

Once the metal was cleaned of its grime, I applied a thin coat of paste wax to the surface, and then buffed it.

Here is a comparison of a cleaned candelabra next to a dirty one.  Notice how bright the gilt decorations are in the one on the left, and how its base gleams after being waxed.

And here the freshly cleaned and waxed candelabra sit on our dining room table at Darlington House.  You can get an idea of their monumental scale by comparing them to the articles on the table.  The flames of the candles shown in the photograph are a full thirty-five inches above the surface of the table.

So, for those of you who do not have a chandelier in your dining room, as we do not at Darlington House, I encourage you to consider tall candelabra.  It's almost like chandeliers on stands.

All photos by Boy Fenwick, unless noted


  1. Quite elegant! They look as if they were made for the room.

  2. Mr Darling, there's nothing wrong in being inspired by the Iron Duke's decoration and your candelabra are magnificent! I can imagine the beauty of your dining room when the candles are lit and the yellow walls catch the glow. I wish you many years of looking fabulous by candlelight.

  3. I love them on the table! I'm usually opposed to tall objects on the table that block your view of the person across from you, but these are tall enough that they don't get in the way and I bet they give off a very nice, warm light.

  4. Oh my heavens where do they make people like you? When I die I want to come back as Pompey! The candelabra are just lovely, and so is Mr. Hackett and the new mirror, of course. So far, I approve of everything! Oh, and I am still waiting for the lilac tablecloth to store for you (in its forever home)....would be great for this weekend's Derby party! Can't wait for our next purchase, say next weekend??

  5. Congratulations - they look magnificent, and as noted, they are tall enough not to obstruct the view of your opposite number. And they fit perfectly in the dining room, and look as though they have always been there.

  6. Great candelabra and they do need to be tall so the flickering candlelight is not in one's face (which happens if the candlesticks are too short!)

    They are perfect for Darlington -- but everything you chose is perfect!

  7. Truly fabulous -fit the room perfectly and not overly grand in the least. Liberace's would not be quite so elegant ;-)

  8. These are absolutely fabulous and they cleaned up beautifully for dinner!

    Art by Karena

  9. Once again, jealousy rears its ugly head. This happens all the time now, thanks to your posts. Great finds, wonderful story, increasingly beautiful house.

  10. too wonderful, and one must occasionally allow their Duke of Wellington to overtake oneself. I think going this route is a bright spot on the table, one more should serve up. I have a pet peeve about chandelier crystals dangling in the soup. Up, Up, Up with the chandeliers. pgt

  11. Wonderful- I also have a pair of similarly scaled cadleabra on my dining table. I fell in love with a particular pair at Les Puces in Paris about 10 years ago, but the dealer and I could never come to terms. I last visited them about three years ago- still in his window, got home and kicked myself that I hadn't just "bit the bullet" and bought the damn things. About three weeks later, an absolutely identical pair appeared in a Sotheby's sale in New York. They are now mine. I especially love them because they have a gilded snake coiled around the center stem and I'm a sucker for serpents rendered in gilded bronze.

    Here's a suggestion: Go to Root Candles web-site and buy their Grecian Collenettes- they have a heft that looks especially good with the muscled feel of Empire candelabras. Try the black ones- perhaps a tad sophisticated for the country, but I think they'll look wonderful with your Black basalt and against those wonderful dining room walls.

  12. Waow I love them. We're also looking for a great pair, one day ;-)

    We went sunday to two auction viewing day's. We will see this week if we have some new items.



  13. Michele from BostonApril 26, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    Absolute P E R F E C T I O N!!!

  14. To all the commenters here, thank you! I really appreciate your words of encouragement, thank you!

  15. Not in the least like Liberace, Reggie :)
    While the Charles X style is not my thing for furniture, I have always admired the masculine punctuation that candelabra like yours give to any neoclassical interior.
    In addition to keeping everything up and out of your diners' faces, you get a bonus that their stature lends itself to arrangements where your guests will be standing rather than sitting, such as at your Christmas party.
    Best -
    - Mike

  16. Stunning acquisition and addition to your fine collection Mr Darling. I feel a candle-lit soiree beckoning. David.

  17. We have a small pseudo chandelier hanging in our dining room, which taller folk have to
    beware of-as you shall see eventually-

  18. These are just gorgeous. And make me want to sing songs from Beauty and the Beast. In a good way. BTW, I didn't get to L'Absinthe in my last visit to NYC so I guess I will just have to go back:).

  19. LPC: Perhaps we can meet there for dinner on your next visit?

  20. Wonderful!! My dad used this technique on his auction finds.. always worked wonders.
    also, I need some dress advice for an event on monday.. you have such great style and taste, can I mail you some pics and you help me choose?

  21. Ulla, I would be charmed! I will enlist help of Boy, too, as his taste is more impeccable than mine...

  22. I am late to the party on this post but feel compelled to throw in my two cents worth: love those candelabra and think they look magnificent. I have a similar pair and think I will check into your commentor's suggestion regarding the Root candles and see what kind of presence they provide. I have fallen in love with your blog! Always eager for the next post!

  23. Huzzah! A marvelous acquisition and a beautiful restoration.


Please do comment! I welcome and encourage them, and enjoy the dialogue.

Related Posts with Thumbnails