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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 122

Lamp

1848 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
Lighting by gas became a commercial proposition from the beginning of the 19th century. Frederick Albert Winsor, an entrepreneur of German origin, first demonstrated gas lighting in London in 1807. However, in the early 19th century gas lighting was expensive and only viable for commercial or municipal purposes. By the 1830s, the price had been reduced sufficiently for it to become applicable for domestic lighting. For the first half of the century, the gas burnt as a single jet, as in this lamp.

Historical Associations
This gas lamp was amongst the 78 objects included in Henry Cole's notorious exhibition, Examples of False Principles of Decoration, held at Marlborough House in 1852. In an appendix to the exhibition catalogue, Cole wrote; 'There has arisen a new species of ornament of the most objectionable kind, which is desirable at once to deprecate on account of its complete departure from just taste and true principles. This may be called the natural or imitative style, and is seen in its worst development in some of the articles of form.' This bracket is dismissed as being 'a direct imitation of nature' and therefore 'possessing unfitness of purpose.' The didactic role of the 'False Principles' display was to discourage the public from purchasing articles deemed undesirable by the Museum's organisers and to guide consumption away from the 'ignorant search after the merely novel'.

People
The reception accorded this exhibition quickly proved that Cole and his assistant, the artist Richard Redgrave had rather misjudged matters. Every article selected for the exhibition, however unprincipled its design might be, was at least commercially very successful. The public were merely amused by the selection but remained unconverted. The manufacturers whose products were criticised were mortified and immediately complained. The exhibition was closed after only two weeks.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gilt brass and glass
Brief Description
Gas table lamp, gilt brass and coloured glass, Birmingham, made by R.W. Winfield, 1848.
Physical Description
The jet is made in the form of a plant, probably a convolvulus, as there is a brass tendril, but it rises in a spiral from a square base from leaves which are nearer to acanthus than to the convolvulus plant. There are however two flowers made of white ceramic with blue highlights for convolvulus form and another brass flower of similar shape, the latter acting as the gas tap on the base. The underside of one of the leaves has the Design Registry mark.
Dimensions
  • Height: 31.5cm
  • Base width: 11cm
  • Maximum width: 14cm
Dimensions checked: Measured; 11/09/2000 by ET
Marks and Inscriptions
Design Registry mark for 15th of February, 1848, (parcel 3).
Gallery Label
British Galleries: This naturalistic lamp, first exhibited in the Great Exhibition in 1851, was one of 78 objects selected in 1852 as 'Examples of False Principles of Decoration' because its use was so out of tune with the idea of a flower. It was criticised as 'Gas flaming from the petal of a convolvulus! - one of a class of ornaments very popular but entirely indefensible in principle.'(27/03/2003)
Object history
Made by the firm of R.W. Winfield, Birmingham. R.W. Winfield were prominent exhibitors at the Birmingham exhibition of 1849 and at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Object Type
Lighting by gas became a commercial proposition from the beginning of the 19th century. Frederick Albert Winsor, an entrepreneur of German origin, first demonstrated gas lighting in London in 1807. However, in the early 19th century gas lighting was expensive and only viable for commercial or municipal purposes. By the 1830s, the price had been reduced sufficiently for it to become applicable for domestic lighting. For the first half of the century, the gas burnt as a single jet, as in this lamp.

Historical Associations
This gas lamp was amongst the 78 objects included in Henry Cole's notorious exhibition, Examples of False Principles of Decoration, held at Marlborough House in 1852. In an appendix to the exhibition catalogue, Cole wrote; 'There has arisen a new species of ornament of the most objectionable kind, which is desirable at once to deprecate on account of its complete departure from just taste and true principles. This may be called the natural or imitative style, and is seen in its worst development in some of the articles of form.' This bracket is dismissed as being 'a direct imitation of nature' and therefore 'possessing unfitness of purpose.' The didactic role of the 'False Principles' display was to discourage the public from purchasing articles deemed undesirable by the Museum's organisers and to guide consumption away from the 'ignorant search after the merely novel'.

People
The reception accorded this exhibition quickly proved that Cole and his assistant, the artist Richard Redgrave had rather misjudged matters. Every article selected for the exhibition, however unprincipled its design might be, was at least commercially very successful. The public were merely amused by the selection but remained unconverted. The manufacturers whose products were criticised were mortified and immediately complained. The exhibition was closed after only two weeks.
Bibliographic References
  • Eric Turner, An Introduction to Brass, London, HMSO, 1982, pp. 42-3. ill. ISBN: 0112903762
  • Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
Collection
Accession Number
M.20-1974

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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