LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE WITH VINTAGE ART DECO TABLE LAMPS
We’ll never dismiss the appeal of Tiffany table lamps, but when it comes to Art Deco era lamps, there’s a world of options that have nothing to do with the hoard-wothy, patchworked stained glass table lamps that so often come to characterize the era. In fact, the majority of vintage Art Deco table lamps have little in common with Tiffany lamps at all, as Tiffany lamps actually take their influence from the proceeding Art Nouveau era.
In contrast to Art Nouveau era lamps, which generally feature curvaceous, whiplash forms, Art Deco table lamps are defined by symmetrical motifs and geometric patterns. Many designs closely resemble buildings from the same era. Do a side-by-side comparison and you’ll find both frequently integrated motifs like cascading or tiered silhouettes, as well as fan-like details and stepped forms.
Because electric light bulbs came of age around the same time as Art Deco style, Art Deco table lamps were among some of the first lamps to feature exposed bulbs—and as a result, lamp shades. Fabric shades were not exceedingly common in the day. Rather, frosted glass shades—many of them elaborately shaped and adorned with detailed etchings—were employed.
Art Deco table lamps can generally be grouped into three categories: early Art Deco table lamps, which span from about 1925 to the mid-1930s, late Art Deco lamps dating from about the late 1930s to mid-1940s, Art Deco revival lamps dating to the 1980s. Each category possesses its own unique set of traits and details, which delve further into below.
Early Art Deco Lamps
If you come across what you think is a vintage Art Deco table lamp, but you find yourself questioning whether it’s really Art Deco or Art Nouveau, chances are that it's an early Art Deco specimen. “Greco-Deco” is a term used to describe early Art Deco design that combined the movement’s geometric sensibilities with the intricate Grecian motifs that characterized the Classical Revival styles that were popular at the turn of the 20th century. Grecian motifs are generally characterized by classical figure forms, and likewise, 1920s and 1930s Art Deco table lamps frequently feature classical human figures in linear poses.
Anyone on the hunt for an Art Deco lady lamp should familiarize themselves with early Art Deco makers like Frankart and Nuart Metal Creations—collectively known as “Frankart & Nuart.” These two makers specialized in metal table lamps featuring classically posed maiden or nymph figures. For those who aren’t swayed by such sculptural lamps, Muller Frères Company, based out of France, was another maker that specialized in romantic Art Deco table lamps, but with less figural bent. Muller Frères lamps are often outfitted with colored glass shades—shades of orange and red were particularly popular. Stylistically Muller Frères table lamps toe the line between Art Deco and Art Nouveau, making them ideal for anyone craving a hybrid style lamp. Lastly, Marius-Ernset Sabino may be of interest to those on the hunt for early Deco lamps. Sabino was a master of glass who created a series of Art Deco table lamps with elegant, tiered glass waterfall shades.
Late Art Deco Lamps
Late Art Deco style is perhaps most synonymous with what we think of Great Gatsby style. It is more streamlined and orderly, with sharp angles and geometric forms. Stretching from approximately the mid-1930s through the 1940s, late Art Deco lamps are recognizable by their simplistic forms that perhaps feel more congruent with Mid-Century Modern style than the ornate Classical Revival styles that dominated the Victorian era. Many of the table lamps mimic obelisk or skyscraper shapes and are composed of frosted glass, Bakelite, chrome, or heavy stones like marble.
Notable designers from the era include Eileen Gray, who designed several lamps for the French brand Jumo. Among the most iconic designs to come from the partnership is a towering dome-topped design rendered in black and white Bakelite. The lamps is adorned with gilt metal details, including an eye-catching finial. Gênet et Michon is another maker that embraced the more futuristic side of Art Deco. The brand is known for tall, tapering metal lamps topped in matching metal shades among other machinist-inspired designs.
Revival Art Deco Lamps
In the 1908s, Art Deco underwent a revival led by high-end makers like Karl Springer who had begun to reintroduce the era’s stepped motifs and fanned shell designs into their collections. As the resurgence trickled down to more mass-market designs, the revival began to take on its own signature traits. Art Deco revival table lamps, for instance, usually showcase large, oversized forms. Their shapes are often simple and include orbs or tapered urns. They’re often crafted of less precious materials than original Art Deco table lamps, including plaster and ceramic. Fan and scallop details are used on repeat, as are simple, asymmetrical “ribbon” details. This ribbon detail would frequently be used on one side of a lamp, while the other side remained bare. Art Deco lady lamps are also available in the revival style, though they tend to be a bit quirkier than their original counterparts. For instance, you’re just as likely to happen across revival Art Deco lady lamps featuring mermaids and winged fairies as ones featuring classical maidens.
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