The Motifs of Décor in Bronze Chandeliers in Lithuania and Latvia in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries: Typology, Prevalence, Symbolism (Summary)

Alantė Valtaitė-Gagač (PDF)

For the first time, the article analyses the motifs of the décor of bronze chandeliers in Lithuania and Latvia in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Latvia, which shares a border with Lithuania, was chosen for the study because of the abundant heritage of bronze chandeliers and the close political and economic trade relations between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Livonia.
Based on the surviving examples in Poland, Mariological chandeliers may have existed in Lithuania during the Renaissance. A few chandeliers containing the archaic zoomorphic motifs of a lion’s head have survived in Latvia. Therefore, it is probable that they also existed in Lithuania. A dolphin frequently found in the décor of chandeliers in the 16th and 17th centuries was considered a symbol of Christ the Saviour. Chandeliers with serpent arms, relatively rare in Europe, have survived in Lithuania. Lithuanian museums store four chandeliers with this décor in the 16th and 17th centuries. Many chandeliers with a double-headed eagle have survived in Lithuania and Latvia. They were widespread throughout Europe and could express sympathies for dynastic and administrative relations with the empire. The abundant heritage of chandeliers with this motif in Christian sacral buildings also suggests a broader sacral meaning of the double-headed eagle. During the Renaissance and later in the Baroque period, allegorical motifs of classical mythology started appearing in the décor of chandeliers. In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the decorations of bronze chandeliers in Lithuania and Latvia included figurative décor elements and floral motifs that complemented the composition.
Keywords: Renaissance, Baroque, decoration motifs, serpent arms, double-headed eagle