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The Evolution Of The Wall Sconce

1670 words - 7 pages

Light, in any form, is arguably one of the most important features of design. This one element can be the difference between “good” and “great” work. Sconces have provided a source of light for thousands of years. Whether wooden or metal, these brackets affixed to walls are designed to illuminate a space and serve as decoration. In the earliest form, a simple wooden torch would fit into a bracket already attached to the wall. While some functioned to stay on the wall, others were removable so the torch could be used to enhance the lighting on certain objects in the room. Although it is apparent that the technology behind sconces has developed over time, a closer look will reveal how the progression has affected interior spaces.
During the time of cultural precedents all the way to the Antiquity period that ended in the late 2nd century, fire was the primary source of light. Maintained by torches, candles, and lamps, the variety of lighting was very small and served primarily as a source of light with little to no emphasis on the design of the sconce until the Antiquity period. The designs consisted of ornate sculptures that resembled the architecture of the time. Colors during this time period were very bold and bright in hopes of illuminating the overall dark rooms. Because of the poor color rendering index of a natural flame, an unsaturated color would never be perceived correctly inside of a building without access to natural light. Through the time of the Renaissance, including the Italian, Spanish, and English, torches and candles continued as the primary source of light. Sconces were placed at a height suitable for maintenance throughout the day. High relief in furniture, in addition to the bold colors, also became common in public buildings as well as wealthy households as a way to accommodate the lack of lighting. Adding additional light sources never became a solution due to the expense of wax candles, the continuous smell, and short life span. By the 17th century, during the Baroque period, candles and the accompanied wall sconce began to take a turn for the better. The wealthy began to use gold and silver to create ornate sconces that by design and scale complimented interiors and the furnishings. These domestic sconces usually consisted of a few branches and a reflective back, which would help illuminate the room filled with other shiny surfaces. Around 1675, Englishman George Ravenscroft perfected the lead glass formula, which allowed for an entirely new level of reflection and refraction of light across the room. In response, more design options opened up for wall sconces and the interiors of rooms began to include more reflective surfaces and glossy finishes during the Rococo period of the 1710s to the 1760s. Many of the fixtures began to display classical elements such as columns, urns, and lyres. Clearly the designers of wall sconces were looking for new avenues to explore, but it would take a technological advance for any...

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