19th Anniversary

2019 Antiques & Fine Art 135 Two-light Argand chandelier, Johnston Brookes & Co., London (active 1814–35); Retailed by Bemis & Vose, Boston (active 1825–31), London, about 1825. Gilt and patinated bronze, with lamp mechanism, glass shades, blown, frosted, and wheel-cut, and glass chimneys. H. 31⅜, L.17⅞, W. 10½ in. Signed and inscribed, with embossed brass labels (attached to one burner tube): JOHNSTON BROOKES / & C° / MANUFACTURERS / LONDON.; (attached to the second burner tube): BEMIS & VOSE / BOSTON. Perhaps the most notable innovation in the field of lighting during the early nineteenth century was made by Franco-Swiss chemist Ami Argand (1759–1803), who devised a way to produce a larger flame that provided twelve times the light of a single candle. The so-called “argand lamp” employed new principles of combustion with the invention of a burner consisting of two concentric tubes surrounding a wick that drew a double current of air to feed the flame and a glass tube used as a chimney that increased the upward flow of air. Very few chandeliers signed by the London firm of Johnston Brookes & Co. have appeared, but those that have are of exceptional quality and have served as the basis for a number of credible attributions to them. The firm’s exact connection to an American clientele has not previously been known, but Robert D. Mussey Jr. and Clark Pearce, in conjunction with their research on the Boston cabinetmaking firms of Vose & Coates and Isaac Vose & Son, discovered documentation of a partnership between Isaac Vose Jr. (1794–1872) and his cousin and brother-in-law Charles Bemis (1789– 1874). The firm of Bemis & Vose was in business at 79 Market Street, Boston, from 1825 — the year the cabinetmaking firm of Isaac Vose & Son ceased to operate — and 1831. Little is known of their activity, but they placed an advertisement in the Boston Columbian Centinel on August 10, 1825, announcing that they had “just received from London fifteen cases of Lamps, consisting of Center, Mantle, Side Lamps & c,” which may have included this chandelier, which uniquely bears embossed brass labels with the names of Johnston Brookes and Bemis & Vose.