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Chandeliers – Jewels of Light
3, 2010 – March 27, 2011

Special guided tour with Dr. Käthe Klappenbach
Sunday, January 30, 2011, 2 pm

Whether made of rock crystal glass or plastic hardly any other design theme has undergone such a varied and fantastical development as the chandelier.
The production of a chandelier has always combined very different kinds of craftsmanship with the latest in technology. It brings together practical and decorative values, symbolic content and luxury with a delight in experimentation in terms of both art and design. Chandeliers already existed in the Middle Ages. In the 17th century the Sun King Louis XIV made them into a “must-have” item in the palaces of ruling dynasties and their inherent symbolism elevated chandeliers to a princely status symbol. Fortunes were spent on “light fixtures consisting of several arms, that hang from a cable in the centre of a room”, as this desirable object was described in the Oeconomisch-technologischen Encyclopädie of1791. Frederick the Great was fascinated by chandeliers, buying models en masse in France for his own craftsmen to imitate.
The invention of the light bulb and the arrival of the chandelier en miniature in the living rooms of the middle classes made it into merely a decorative object. Today the chandelier no longer hangs just in the centers of power, of luxury or culture but can also be found in organic food shops and night-clubs, in shop windows or in a hair stylist’s. Architects use it as counterbalance to their reduced designs and see the chandelier as part of their spatial concepts. It even illuminates the kitchens of flat-sharing communities – the former anti-bourgeois concept of the naked light bulb hanging from an electric cable appears to have fallen out of favor. The chandelier was – and regularly still is – an expression of the zeitgeist, today just as much as 300 years ago.

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Photo credits (left to right):
Ingo Maurer, Porca Miseria, 1994, porcelain. © Ingo Maurer, München
Adolph Menzel, Chandelier at Marmorsaal Sanssouci, ca. 1849/50, graphite; © Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz SMPK, Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin
Oswald Haerdtl, Chandelier im Epoch style, 1st. half 20th century. © Lobmeyr GmbH, Wien
Martin von Ostrowski, Kronleuchter Marmorsaal Sanssouci ,1999; Oil on canvas. © Martin von Ostrowski, Berlin

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