Artifact Corner: Last of the Mohicans Candelabra

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at this beautiful candelabra in our gold parlor room. We actually have two of these candelabras, the second is in our blue parlor room. This piece is gilt brass with a marble base and decorated with hanging crystals. There is a female figure, dressed in 18th Century attire, and the finials surrounding the candle holders are decorated with birds and floral motifs. It can hold five candles and the crystals that adorn the piece are meant to help spread the light around a room. Let’s learn a bit more about this piece, and the story behind it!

This piece was made by Cornelius & Company, which was founded in Philadelphia by Christian Cornelius, a dutch immigrant, in 1810. They quickly became a very popular lighting manufacturer in the United States. They made oil lamps, chandeliers, candlesticks, and candelabras. The style of our candelabra is called a girandole, which means a “branched support for candles or other lights, which either stands on a surface or projects from a wall.” This was a very sought after style for Cornelius & Co. and a popular design for homes throughout the mid 19th Century. They were best known for their bronze work, with intricate details.

The central figure on our candelabra is based on a fictional character, Cora Monroe, from James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, a young woman, Cora Monroe is kidnapped by a band of Huron Native Americans, and small band of Mohican Native Americans embark on a journey to rescue her. All of this is set against the backdrop of the French and Indian War and the siege of Fort William Henry. This is a vast oversimplification of the story, and if you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend reading Cooper’s works! Cornelius & Co. created three chandeliers based on the novel. One is the Mohicans who are tracking the Hurons who kidnapped Cora. There are three figures, Uncas, who is standing, with Chief Chingachgook and Natty Bumppo seated on a log. For those of you who have only seen the film adaptation of this, Natty Bumppo is also known as Hawkeye, and was played by Daniel Day Lewis in the film. The other candelabra depicts Major Duncan Heyward who is also trying to rescue Cora. The final candelabra for this set is Cora Monroe, the same piece we have in our collections. James Fenimore Cooper published the Last of the Mohicans in February of 1826, and quickly became a hit with not only Americans, but around the world. Cooper’s novels were very popular during this time period, and Cornelius & Co capitalized on that by making and marketing these pieces to fans of Cooper’s works.

Our candelabras were made in the late 1840’s and are in good condition. There are a few chips in the crystals, which is to be expected after 170 plus years. The gilt work has been worn in some spots, but that is also normal. We are so lucky to have these lovely examples of early Victorian lighting in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,