Carry a Torch for Torcheries: From the Candlestick to the Torchiere

By: Carly Hill, Staff Writer • Apr 28, 2012 • 0 Comments

Jack be nimble
Jack be quick
Jack jump over the candlestick…

Poor Jack had to be nimble and quick to jump over the candlestick so he wouldn’t get burned.  Good thing someone figured out how to avoid this problem.  To get to the actual origin of the torchiere, we’d have to go back to the times when people lived in caves.  I’m sure it didn’t take long for them to realize that fire which was elevated higher provided more light than fire on the ground.  I’m also sure that fire on the ground made for many a burned foot, which our nimble friend, Jack, seemed to have experienced first hand.

A torchiere is a table or floor lamp made of wood or metal that directs light upward.  The word torchiere comes from the French word “torche” (torch).

Torchieres as we know them debuted in late 17th century France.  They looked like the torchiere pictured here.  After some time, torchieres held more than one candle, producing more light.

The early 19th century Italian carved and giltwood torchiere pictured here is from Legacy Antiques.  You can see its deep carvings – embellished with wreaths, bouquets, and crapes.  Click here to make it yours.

With modern electricity, antique torchieres are clearly not meant to be a primary light source, but rather a piece of art.  They are great conversation pieces to add to your home.

The word torchiere comes from the French word “torche,” meaning torch.  The torch is a symbol of enlightenment and hope.   Crossed reversed torches were signs of mourning in ancient Greece and Rome.  A torch pointed downwards symbolizes death.  Another interesting tidbit is that torchieres started as candelabras.

Candlesticks became candelabra when more candles and branches were added, providing more light.

Although electricity and modern lighting has replaced candlesticks, candelabra, and torchieres as a means of lighting a room, these beautiful and functional items are still found in Western countries all the time for decoration as well as for religious purposes.

One example of a candelabrum is the Jewish Menorah.  In the Bible, the Menorah is described as the seven-branched lamp stand made of gold that was in the sanctuary built by Moses and later in the Temple of Jerusalem.   A Menorah also appears on the coat of arms of the State of Israel.

Also in Jewish homes, two candles are lit at the start of the Sabbath on Friday night, so they are often displayed in candlesticks.  (Contrary to belief, the candlestick is the actual holder for the candle, not the candle itself.)

The special Hanukkah Menorah has 8 branches to hold candles, plus a space for one more which is used to light the others.

Clearly, candlesticks and candelabra are used frequently in the Jewish religion, but candlesticks and alter lamps are found in the churches of many religious denominations.

Latique has an entire category full of antique lighting – from candlesticks to chandeliers.  Check out our vast array of candlesticks and candelabra and Light up your life by Latiquing for Antique Torchieres…