Thursday, April 2, 2009

Whale Lamp converted to Bouillotte Lamp?

Joe would like to go on and on how good-lighting enhances the beauty of life around you. He is the designated lighting-shopper here. So when he spotted this one on a sale last year and wanted to bag it right away, I wasn't too sure at first! It was the estate of a late-physician who had a great eye for all things beautiful ; and when Joe announced his pick, I was indecisive, still being mesmerized by all the lovely blue-n-white and Tiffany's silverware there (totally out of our budget). I really couldn't see past the ancient amber colored electric-wiring and all the dust that had collected on the lamp's shade.

But then, I trusted Joe's judgment and brought this fellow home. After about an hour of clean up ( guess what we used.. best cleanser ever : junior's wet baby-wipes ) we plugged him in and I have to say " I fell in love, again!"
At first look it looked like an old bouillotte (pronounced boo-yaht) lamp, but it was a really really old Whale-Oil Lamp ( est. to be from 1800-1840 when they were used), later electrified and converted to look like a bouillotte lamp.

When you pick up an item this old, you inevitably wonder how many events and people this lamp must have witnessed/seen in its possibly 170-200 year old history- from the ages when it was lit up with Whale Oil with its clear and bright natural glow, to its later history with the invention of electricity, all the way to the late-Physician's desk, and finally to us, and as we truly hope- to be passed down in future.
It has a small bell like shape (which we later figured- may have been to snuff the flames), mini tweezers to pick the wick, and a metal hook all adding to the miniature ornamentation around the neck of the lamp- serving no purpose now since the lamp has been electrified. There is intricate carving on the brass foot and stem of the lamp, and we simply switch off other lights before going to bed, and watch it's glow!

Some history:
Whale lamps were popular in the early 19th century. The lamps used whale oil as the fuel hence the name Whale lamp. More on Whale Lamps here.
Bouillotte (pronounced boo-yaht) lamps originated in France, to provide indirect and sophisticated lighting to the game of Bouillotte, a poker-like game, perhaps to hide the "poker-faces" and cards of the players! More on Bouillotte Lamps here.


  1. Very intriguing!!

  2. wow... amazing.. This is just lovely!!

  3. oh yes.. I remember seeing this one.. and thinking.. how beautiful!


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