Hanging lamps, which include everything from single pendants to elaborate chandeliers, have illuminated interior spaces for thousands of years. The earliest examples were made of clay and fueled by animal fat. Later, oil was used to fire bronze or glass fixtures.

By the Middle Ages, metal chandelier-like fixtures called polycandelons were hung from the ceilings of churches and other public structures. Some held bowls filled with oil and wicks while others were designed for candles. In fact, the word “chandelier” has its roots in the Latin word for “candle.” Early chandeliers and polycandelons were usually attached to a rope or cable that was looped through a pulley so they could be lowered to be lit, raised into position, then lowered again so candles and wicks could be snuffed.

Gas lamps, which were introduced in the early 1800s, are normally associated with sconces, but hanging gas lamps, called gasoliers, were also used in homes that could afford this newfangled technology. Next came kerosene in 1857. Again, even though we associate kerosene lamps with the chimney-style table lamps made by Aladdin and others, the fuel was also used in hanging Victorian Era lamps.

Because of the heat generated by kerosene and gas lamps, flames were contained by etched glass of various colors—from frosted white to ruby red to multicolored slag—while the lamp’s hardware was typically made of brass. There must have been concerns at the time about the safety of kerosene lamps since they were often advertised as being “non-explosive,” but kerosene lamps burned brighter than gas, so for many the risk was worth it.

While some 19th-century kerosene lamps hung from chains, others were suspended by decorative rods that, in turn, supported a pair, or pairs, of arms. Because kerosene chandeliers required daily maintenance, a pulley was often secreted inside the decorative plate that also hid the lamp’s connection to the ceiling.

As the 20th century dawned and electricity became ubiquitous, many gasoliers and chandeliers were retrofitted. Other types of new hanging lamps included the so-called pan chandeliers, whose light sources were placed at the ends their multiple arms. Then there were hanging lamps that featured Tiffany-like shades over their lights, or clear prismatic glass shades that sent light streaming throughout a room.

The advantage of new hanging lamps, as opposed to retrofitted ones, was that their designs weren't constrained by the presence of fire. Thus, Art Nouveau lamps could be as naturalistic and free-flowing as their designers demanded, while Art Deco fixtures in brushed metal could be accented by shades shaped like bongo drums. By the 1950s and ’60s, the space-age look of Mid-century Modern lamps suggested starbursts and flying saucers, which would hover benignly over nuclear families enjoying meals at their Danish modern dining tables.

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Recent News: Hanging Lamps

Source: Google News

Urameshiya: The Art of the Ghost
Tokyo Art Beat (blog), September 1st

In this tale the vengeful ghost of the Lady Oiwa reappears in a hanging lamp before her husband, who had attempted to murder her with a poisonous topical cream that left her face mutilated beyond recognition. (The poison eventually succeeded in killing...Read more

Grand old landmark Hotel Okura Tokyo says sayonara, for now
The Japan Times, August 31st

Fans can name a range of features they will miss when the hotel meets the wrecking ball: hanging lamp shades modeled on the shape of ancient gems, known as Okura lanterns; round tables surrounded by five chairs like the petals of a plum flower in the ...Read more

The Heat Is On With James D. Julia's Summer Fine Arts, Asian, and Antiques Auction
Benzinga, August 15th

Enthusiasts will be aglow over several Tiffany Studios offerings including a green Acorn hanging lamp, estimated at $10,000-15,000. And like all of Julia's Fine Arts, Asian, & Antiques auctions, August's event also features a fine selection of Oriental...Read more

The Taj Mahal's Seductive Charms
Wall Street Journal, August 14th

Then, passing through a door, visitors enter the darkened inner sanctum, lighted only by natural sources and a single Islamic hanging lamp. White marble screens, pierced with decorative patterns, keep visitors from getting too close to two sarcophagi...Read more

Best Bets: Week of August 10, 2015
New York Magazine, August 9th

“This green-glass hanging lamp ($1,100) is just 12 inches across, so it's the perfect accent light. I would drop it low over an end table.” (Photo: Courtesy of the vendor). “Hans Olsen designed this chair-slash-desk ($8,000) thinking of King Frederik...Read more

Foscarini's Spokes lamp puts unique spin on pendant lighting
Chicago Tribune, August 5th

To add to the Pinterest board, Amazon wishlist, wedding registry or other "to buy" list: a Spokes hanging lamp from Foscarini. Inspired by antique Asian lanterns, birdcages and bicycle wheels, this contemporary-looking lighting fixture was designed by...Read more

Renewed Resources: Recycled-shade hanging lamp
LancasterOnline, February 4th

GREEN LIGHT: Which came first: The chicken, the egg — or the egg carton, or the lamp? Recycled paper that resembles the coarse cardboard egg cartons we're all familiar with forms the shade for this hanging lamp found at MoMA's online store...Read more

Hanging Lamp Glows Blue Thanks to Bioluminescent Bacteria
PSFK, October 13th

During certain seasons, in some parts of the world, it's possible to witness ocean waves glowing a hypnotic shade of blue. Keen to share this experience with others, Dutch designer Teresa van Dongen has created a bioluminescent table lamp called Ambio...Read more