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Torchère (Electrified)

Spanish, Late Renaissance
16th century - 17th century
182.88 cm x 48.26 cm x 48.26 cm (72 in. x 19 in. x 19 in.)
silver on bronze

On view


This pair of Spanish torchères (or candelabra) dates to the sixteenth century and was purchased by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss to complete the furnishing of the Music Room in the Renaissance style. The lighting needs of historic Spanish houses and churches often were solved with large hanging oil lamps and with brass and iron candelabra of different sizes. The Blisses solved similar lighting needs in the Music Room by employing electrified antique fixtures, and this pair of silvered bronze floor torchères suited both the functional and aesthetic needs of the Music Room interior.

Renaissance craftsmen, inspired by the ancient Romans, created monumental candelabra to be used on the floor as torchères, often basing the design motives on the related smaller candelabra that were intended for table and altar illumination. The design of the Dumbarton Oaks torchères is typical of the Spanish Renaissance period under King Philip II (reigned 1556–98), with its circular profiled base supported by three feet, a fluted classical columnar base, and a vasiform shaft ornamented with large discs, some of which are gadrooned.

In addition to the high quality of the design and bronze casting, the alleged provenance of the torchères probably increased the Blisses’ interest in acquiring them. In a 1937 letter to Robert Bliss, the Venetian art and antiquities dealer Adolfo Loewi remarks: “As to the silvered bronze candelabras, they belonged to the Marchesa De Vermejillo but came originally, as far as I could ascertain, from the Cathedral of Sevilla. I think I told you at the time of the purchase that they had been exhibited in the Sevilla World Fair of 1929.”

J. Carder

Bühl, Gudrun, editor. Dumbarton Oaks, The Collections. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (distributed by Harvard University Press), 2008, 318f, ill.

Exhibition History
World's Fair, Seville, Spain, 1929.

Acquisition History
Reportedly from the Cathedral, Seville, Spain.

Reportedly in the Collection of the Marchesa de Vermejillo, Seville.

Purchased from Adolfo Loewi, Venice (dealer) (inv. no. 8160), by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 11/17/1933.

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C, 11/17/1933-11/29/1940.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, D.C.

Circular | Columnar | Fluted | Gadrooning | Vases