Pair Argand Lamps with Herm Figures, about 1827–s30
Manufactured by Thomas Messenger, Birmingham and London, England (active, including successors, 1797–1920s)
Retailed by Baldwin Gardiner (1791–1861), New York (active 1827-47)
Gilt and patinated bronze, with lamp mechanism, glass prisms, glass shades, blown, frosted, and wheel-cut, and glass chimneys
23 in. high, 12 in. wide, 9 in. deep (overall)
Signed and inscribed (on the back of the inside of vertical supports on each): MESSENGER; (on embossed brass labels, attached to the burner table of each): B. GARDINER / N. YORK
By virtue of the presence of the name “messenger” inside the vertical support of each of these lamps, their manufacture by the Birmingham and London firm of Thomas Messenger is fully documented. Thomas Messenger (1767–1832) began business with partner Thomas Phipson in 1797, and their firm and its successors remained in business until the 1920s, and became the most important English manufacturers and purveyors of oil and gas lighting throughout the 19th century. Phipson left the firm in 1823. Thomas Messenger then worked alone until 1828, when his son Samuel joined him, and the business operated as Thomas Messenger & Son. After Thomas’s death in 1832, the firm was renamed Thomas Messenger & Sons, and continued under that name at Hatton Garden, London, and Broad Street, Birmingham, until the 1860s. In 1839 the firm advertised as “manufacturers / of / Chandeliers, Candelabra, Tripods, / lamps, / And every description of Ornamental Work / in / bronze & or–molu, / adapted to the / various styles of / greek, roman, and gothic / ornament,” which certainly also described their wares at the time the present lamps were made a decade or so earlier. The present lamps also bear the familiar embossed brass labels of Baldwin Gardiner, who was one of the most important retailers in New York, offering a wide array of high-end lighting fixtures, porcelain, glass, and miscellaneous household furnishings to a wealthy clientele in New York and beyond.
The design of these lamps is extremely unusual, perhaps unique, with the herm figures of men fronting the vertical supports.