Last week I purchased a new fascinating book titled Paris: Life & Luxury in the Eighteenth Century. If you’re intrigued by the French decorative arts during the mid- eighteenth century, then this is the book for you.
One of the chapters discusses visibility after dark and covers how the wealthy Parisians experienced their rooms before electricity.
Aside from controlling the natural light during the day with the size of windows, curtains filtered the daylight, and light was magnified by the use of mirrors.
Francois-Hubert Drouais, Family Portrait, 1756
National Gallery of Art, D.C.
At night Parisians relied on crystal chandeliers for general light, wall sconces to make up for the pools of darkness, glass covered lanterns in drafty rooms, and portable candelabras and candlesticks to move light from one room to another. They also depended on the reflection of the gilded furniture, as well as glittering objects and mirrors.
Jean-Francois De Troy
After the Ball, 1735
Card and writing table, ca. 1725
When you think about it, it may seem romantic with all the candle lighting, but keeping a well-lit room then required a lot of candle maintenance by trimming the wicks- and the direction of light needed constant navigation.
Candle snuffer and tray
A new exhibition Paris: Life & Luxury is now on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where there is a gallery devoted to “Life After Sunset.”