Object Label – Wall Sconce


1967.1849; Sconce; Tinned Sheet Iron; North America; 1800-1840; 24″ (H), 7″ (D), 22.874 (Diam)

Today, this sizable wall sconce is a dull bluish grey, but when it was created in the early nineteenth-century, it would have been a bright, reflective, silver color. This object is constructed out of four large pieces of tinned sheet iron that are lapped together, creating a cross in the center.  Tinned sheet iron or tinware was more durable and versatile than pure tin, and was used for many products ranging from chocolate pots, bathtubs, lighting implements, and weathervanes. In addition to their appealing decorative pattern, the impressed line decorations radiating around the center circle and the edge mimic contemporary, expensive mirrored glass wall sconces. This cheaper version was meant to serve the same purpose:to reflect light. The circular bosses of alternating size added to its reflective properties. This sconce is relatively large in comparison to other period sconces, many of which, on average around ten inches. The round candle arm at the bottom held only one candle, but the large size of this sconce would have maximized that candle’s capabilities. Scones of this size might have been used in churches, theaters, or other large public meeting places due to their ability to cast great amounts of light through economical design. The enormous size of this sconce might have made it particularly appealing for such a space or it could have been used in a home or workspace for extra illumination.

This object label  was originally written in May 2014 for metals connoisseurship course taught by Ann Wagner, Associate Curator of decorative arts, Curator of Metals, Winterthur Museum. These labels are used for Winterthur’s online collections website.  


Cooke, Lawrence S. Lighting in America: From Colonial Rushlights to Victorian Chandeliers. New York: Main Street/Universe Books, 1976.

Fennimore, Donald L., George J. Fistrovich, and László Bodó. Iron at Winterthur. Winterthur, DE: Winterthur Publications, 2004.

Rushlight Club. Early Lighting; A Pictorial Guide. Boston, 1972.

Also see:

Interview with Steve Delisle, WPEAC 2008, tin-man at Colonial Williamsburg.

A Midnight Modern Conversation William Hogarth London, England; about 1733 Engraving on laid paper, Winterthur Museum,  Gift of Gordon A. Rust 1975.219


Katie McKinney, WPAMC 2015

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