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Pair of Very Rare Sheffield Plate Argand Lamps

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Origin England
Period 19th Century
Materials Sheffield Silver Plate.
Dimensions
W. 9 in; H. 23 in; D. 7 in;
W. 22.86 cm; H. 58.42 cm; D. 17.78 cm;
Condition Excellent. Replacment frosted glass shades, Electrified.
Creation Date Birmingham, c. 1811-1816.
Number of Pieces 2-3
Description Matthew Boulton (1728-1809)
Marked: bearing double sunburst maker's mark.

The fonts with flame finials and gadrooned decoration above a turned neck with valve lever on a column, each with perpendicular arms with burner tubes with drip-cups with air vents, above a column with gadrooned molding at the top tapering to a circular gadrooned foot.

These lamps relate almost exactly to several c.1811-1816 designs by Boulton preserved in his pattern book at the Birmingham City Archives. Boulton had been designing and producing plated silver Argand lamps since 1784. This is an exceptionally rare example of his work of this period and in superb condition. It is likely that these would originally have been fitted only with a clear glass chimney, (reproductions of which can be supplied to the buyer seeking historical accuracy).

Geneva-born philosopher and inventor Francois-Pierre-Ami Argand (1750-1803), finally received a British patent for his lamps developed a few years earlier in Paris on March 15th, 1784 (patent no. 1425). His invention which promised "a lamp that is so constructed to produce neither smoak [sic.] nor smell, and to give considerably more light than any lamp hitherto known" consisted of a tubular wick held between metal tubes, a rack and pinion wick riser assembly and a tall, narrow chimney that fit closely around the wick causing air to be drawn up through the center of the flame as well as around its outside creating more thorough combustion. It was designed to burn rape-seed (colza) and whale oil issuing from an oil reserve or “font” positioned so that the oil would flow from the force of gravity to the burner.

This invention, developed initially with Matthew Boulton, George Penton and James Watt in England, was subsequently manufactured by a host of makers in Birmingham including Messenger, Johnston-Brookes, Phipson & Lambley, Fletcher & Day and Ratcliff. Hailed by Rees in his encyclopedia of 1819 The Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature saying "it may be justly ranked among the greatest discoveries of the age" and by Benjamin Franklin who noted it was "much admired for its splendor," Argand's invention was the most important advancement in home lighting since the discovery of fire.
Styles / Movements Other
Book References John J. Wolf, Brandy, Balloons & Lamps: Ami Argand, 1750-1803 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999), 157-157
Incollect Reference Number 109148
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