Four Altar Candlesticks from the Sixteenth Century

One of the features of any traditionally oriented church that has the power to inspire both awe and attention are the candlesticks found upon the high altar. They are one of the manifestations of the liturgical arts which, while not gaining as much attention as some others, can be one of the most central and important in any church or chapel because of their direct proximity and relationship to the altar itself. Indeed, they form a substantial part of the iconic "Roman altar" as we have come to know it. In view of this, I thought we would take a look at a few examples, all coming from the sixteenth century Italy. 

To begin with is this exquisite example which is dated to end of the 16th century, specifically the year 1597. These candlesticks are made from gilt, cast bronze and come from the workshop of Battista Arceri in Palermo. While I am only showing one of the candlesticks from this set, the bases includes images of St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John the Evangelist and others. 

Next we have a silver altar candlestick dated to 1596, located in Sicily and made by the Sicilian goldsmith, Nibilio Gaggini, as well as Pietro Rizzo for the Chiesa della Maria Santissima della Visitazione.  The base of the candlestick is ornamented with extremely fine details including cherub faces and central medallions -- a common design programme from this time.

Our third example is also dated to sometime in the 16th century, however the specific year is unknown. This particular candlestick is of the "standard" variety (i.e. candelabra magna) which can sometimes be found on the floor near the altar and includes a full figured angelic figure with three cherubs forming the base.

Our final example hails from Bologna. Unfortunately while I have no information to provide on the maker, I can tell you is that their composition is of gilt, carved wood. This approach may come as a surprise to some of our readers (who may think candlesticks and the like are always metal) but it is actually extremely common. In point of fact, many of the candlesticks, reliquaries and the like that one will frequently see in European churches are of such composition. They were not only lighter, they also would have been much less expensive. 

Evidently not all candlesticks from the 16th century were as ornate as these. Many examples from the period rely on geometric form and shape rather than filigree and figures for their design qualities .However, these examples here demonstrate some of the tastes and design trends of the Tridentine and early baroque period.

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