Friday, June 19, 2020

Decorating With Venetian Gondola Lanterns

Antique lanterns are always a great accent accessory for the old world home. There are many beautiful styles to look for as you peruse antique shops, auctions, second hand and thrift stores, etc. I especially like the pole lanterns so this post will feature the Venetian gondola lantern with another to follow soon all about the religious processional lanterns.

Venice, while charming by day, I am told is extraordinarily beautiful at night. One of Europe's most romantic cities now has approximately 500 gondolas traveling the 150 canals that meander through it. A nocturnal gondola ride must be breathtaking. However, during the 17th-18th centuries it is said that these these canals were crossed by over 10,000 gondolas. Can you even imagine the spectacular sight of the darkness alive with these flickering antique gondola lanterns.

These lovely gondola lanterns are sought after and treasured antiques that are presently popular for decorating the homes of collectors as well as those just wanting an old world flavor added to their homes. If you are fortunate enough to have one already....treasure it. If you find one for sale somewhere and can afford it. The instant old world feel they bring to a space is worth it. Happy treasure hunting!!!

Lanterns called fanali were used to light the gondolas. I have tried and tried but really can't find info on if the gondola lanterns started out on poles or were eventually transferred to them.

Giovanni Antonio Canal

Gondolas were a bit different from the simpler black ones we see in Venice today. They could be quite elaborate as seen in these two paintings by Giovanni Antonio Canal. I can see elaborate poled lantern torches used on gondolas like these because there would be plenty of room for them.

Giovanni Antonio Canal

I do know that among the Venetian nobility it became popular to compete with each other for the most beautiful and luxurious gondolas. Maybe they used plain lanterns on simple gondolas and the more ornate on expensive ones. Can't seem to find that out.

Palazzo Widmann

Like an expensive car, the gondola became a status symbol with elaborately carved and gilded ornamentation. For the interiors seasonal fabrics such as silk and velvet were used that added to the luxury. Maybe it became fashionable for the elite to put their lanterns on a a floor lamp or torch.

In fact gondola decorating in 1562 got so far out of hand that the authorities banned what was seen as sinfully ostentatious ornamentation and the Venetian Doge decreed that all gondolas were to be painted black. They are still black today.

 A gilt metal 19th century gondola lantern attached to gilt and painted wood pole. Of course this one has been electrified. She is showing how they would hold the lanterns.


via Pinterest

Exceptional pair of large 18th century wood and glass Baroque Venetian gondola lantern torches.

A pair of late 19th century Venetian bronze and red painted gondola lanterns. This shows just how beautiful these lanterns are when electrified and used in your old world interiors.

via Olimpia Orsini

source unknown

You can see a beautiful gondola lantern in the background of this interior in Villa Fontana, the home of collector Bill Eberhardt.

Throughout medieval Europe religious sculptures in wood and other media were often brightly painted or colored, as were the interiors of church buildings. This is called polychrome. Many Venetian gondola lanterns were polychromed.

A lovely pair of red polychromed Venetian gondola lantern torcheres. Polychrome from the Greek .... "poly-", meaning "many" and "chromos", meaning "color."

A 19th century Gondola lantern from Venice, Italy. Polychromed and stamped tin, wood and glass, it is 6 sided and decorated with leaves, scrolls, and flowers. The top is a wood finial. You can see how the lantern is meant to be inserted onto a decorative pole.

A painted hexagonal tole gondola lantern with putto supports and embellished allover with gilt. This one has a spiral twist pole that has been painted blue.

via Pinterest

Whether you just lean them in a corner or electrify and use them on a regular basis these gondola lanterns just reek with old world charm.

Beautiful gondola lantern with cherub head embellishments.

Another clever way to enhance your decor with antique Venetian gondola lanterns.

via Pinterest

There is a certain charming elegance to these gondola lantern torches.

 source unknown

And yet the gondola lantern's old world elegance is as much at home in a simple and shabby interior.

via Pinterest

I love a casual old world vignette involving one or more of these lovely gondola lanterns simply leaned against the wall.

I have Venetian gondola lantern envy over these beauties!!! I can think of so many places to put them.

Most gondola lanterns were gilt or painted wood. However some were metal and here is where it gets tricky. Religious ceremonial lantern torches were also usually metal so it is easy to mix them up. This could be religious so don't be too harsh if I am incorrect.

More gondola lantern torches in the loggia of Bill Eberhardt's Villa Fontana.

It is hard enough to find single gondola lanterns, but in pairs......super fortunate!!

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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

In the event that I have not credited the correct source of an image, please contact me at and I would be glad to correct it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Decorating With Antique Needlepoint/Tapestry Firescreens

As much a focal point as any work of art, an antique needlepoint/tapestry firescreen will dress up any room when used in front of a fireplace. These lovely pieces of furniture look as pretty today as they did when they served a very important function as a fireplace accessory.

The needlepoint/tapestry firescreen began as a piece of furniture that shielded the  occupants of a room from the excessive heat of the fireplace. By placing the screen in front of the fire, the heat from the fire could be controlled. And if the fire was a bit too hot for you the firescreen would be placed in front of you to reduce your discomfort. 

The antique firescreens were not put directly in front of the fireplace except in the summer when there was not a fire. Now they became purely aesthetic and helped disguise the unsightly soot blackened grate and hearth. Today the needlepoint/tapestry fireplace screen is still the perfect way to disguise your fireplace opening from view when it's not in use. 

I hope you enjoy the images of these wonderful antique firescreens that I have gathered. My favorite firescreen insert is either needlepoint or tapestry so the post is dedicated to these beauties. This post could go on and on as there are many beautiful screens to be shared. Restraint is needed on my part!

While gas and was used for lighting, the primary heating source for the home was a roaring fire. When homes were heated by fireplaces alone, the purpose of the firescreen was to help shield those in the room from the intense heat radiating from the fire.The firescreen along with fenders, grates, and various tools were common fireplace accessories.

Musée Nissim de Camondo

Families and friends would gather around a warm blaze but for some (myself included) a bit of a cool down would often be necessary. Especially when you were corseted, petticoated, and layered. To reflect some of the heat was the primary function of the needlepoint/tapestry firecreen.

via Pinterest

The fire guard and the fender were often banished when the fire was no longer needed. This is when the beautiful firescreens became room decor.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, needlepoint/tapestry firescreens of varying styles were used. The horse screen, or cheval screen (cheval is the French word for horse) was in common use from the 18th century. It is a wide screen having two feet on each side, the arrangement of the feet giving the screen its name.

French finely carved giltwood firescreen with 17th Century Aubusson tapestry insert.

Screens are decorated with paper mâché, painted wood, tapestry, needlepoint, crewelwork, and other forms of embroidery.

Ladies would show off their needlepoint and embroidery skills and create works of art for their homes.Parrots were very popular and you would see them on many firescreen of the era.

The Victorians loved anything unusual and exotic so besides parrots you might see monkeys ......

and other exotic birds on 19th century firescreens.

via Pinterest

A beautiful antique needlepoint firescreen adorns the fireplace and compliments the stunning tapestries of the 2nd State Room of Blenheim Palace.

A lovely French giltwood antique firescreen in the Musée Nissim de Camondo, a beautiful small museum of French decorative arts in an private mansion overlooking the Parc Monceau, Paris.

There was a time that no elegant interior would be without a beautiful carved firescreen. This one is in Coughton Court.


Another French giltwood screen in an oval shape with hand embroidery.

Another interior showcasing a lovely firescreen with floral insert in the Nissim de Camondo Museum, Paris.

A stunning heavily carved fireplace screen with tapestry insert.

Simon Upton via Pinterest

I love them all whether the inserts are painted or tapestry but I have to admit the needlework versions strike me as especially interesting. And they work so well with other tapestry covered furnishings and walls.

A French Louis XV Style Gilt Framed Needle Work, 19th Century

via Pinterest

Salons, dining rooms, bedrooms.....if the room had a fireplace, a decorative screen was a must have.

Fine antique giltwood Louis XV fire screen, fitted with a antique needlework tapestry.

Antique tapestry firescreen in the Salon in Abbot’s palace at Chaallis, early 18th Century. From the book: French Interiors of the 18th century by John Whitehouse.

The Edwardian period firescreens became bigger and more elaborate. They were almost considered a piece of furniture. Ladies soon took on the position as fire screen decorators as they created the insert panels with needlepoint and hand painted designs.

Antique firescreen in the library of Sandon Hall in Staffordshire, England 1850, built by the Scottish architect, William Burn.

A rosewood and mahogany late Dutch Biedermeier needlepoint firescreen circa 1860. On this particular firescreen style the center decorative screen pivots so that the heat can be directed away from (or towards) the people around the fireplace.

via Pinterest

An Edwardian rosewood firescreen with needlepoint insert, carved roses and birds. 

The pole screen also began to appear in the 18th century. It is a smaller screen placed on a vertical pole which is mounted on a tripod and placed between a lit fire and an occupant of the room. The screen can be adjusted up or down to shield the person's face from the heat.

In the 18th century, screens tended to be fairly light and often had small oval or round shields to protect one from the heat. The panels could be raised up and down and turned from side to side, all for the purpose of directing the heat from the fire place.

In the 17th and 18th centuries both men and women wore thick makeup made up of wax and white lead to hide blemishes. The lead was toxic, especially when warmed, and the heat from a fire could be life threatening. A pole screen protected the face from intense heat and prevented the wax from melting and the cosmetics from interacting with the skin.

By the late 18th century, skin problems caused by plagues was no longer as big of a problem and smaller, more delicate pole screens became very fashionable. Needlework or embroidered panels came in many shapes and sizes with sliding panel that could be heightened or lowered to suit the user.

via Pinterest

via Pinterest

The screen might be rectangular or a more decorative shape, and is embellished with needlepoint or some other type of embroidery. 

The banner firescreen was also popular and is similar to a pole screen but instead of a solid screen there is a loose piece of silk or embroidery, weighted with tassels and fringe and supported from the top edge by a crossbar connected to a pole.

If you want the look of an antique firescreen in your old world interior but can't find one that you consider affordable you can always do what designer Timothy Corrigan has done here with a large picture. I would probably look for an old needlepoint or tapestry piece to frame. No glass though! Set it on some sort of easel or just lean it and stand back and enjoy!!

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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

In the event that I have not credited the correct source of an image, please contact me at and I would be glad to correct it.

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