Friday, April 13, 2012

Dansk Candlestick Designs by Jens Quistgaard

As with his work with teak, flatware and humble pots and pans, Jens Quistgaard designed candlesticks for Dansk that were deceptively simple but refined and sculptural.   Cast iron and brass were his favored materials for candlesticks. 
Dansk cast-iron candle tree with pivoting arms
The cast-iron candlesticks have a ‘curious grainy texture and an elusive color--neither exactly black, nor brown, nor gray--which [gives them] the look of some ancient ritual object,’ according to a 1964 Dansk advertisement.  That is certainly true.  When examined closely, the iron surface has a very thin, almost powdery dark finish that shifts between dark brownish gray.  The finish is thin enough that the iron can sometime develop rust spots.
A group of small S-based candlesticks
I don’t have a lot of these iron candlesticks (though I am always looking to buy more), but many collect them for use as attractive table sculpture.   To actually use these for their intended purpose, you have to find a very thin candle, which can be a challenge. That 1964 Dansk advertisement chronicles the advent of the super skinny taper--’a whole new kind of candle’--necessitated by Quistgaard’s designs. 
Dansk advertisement, 1964
Many of Quistgaard’s candlesticks did not just hold one candle, but up to  a dozen.  A full twelve candles was more ‘magical...and in this electric-lit age, the only practical function of candles is magic.’  So the twelve had to be very skinny so they would fit in small candleholder and if skinny, they had to be very tall so that they would burn brightly (and drip free) through a 2 ½ hour dinner.  The result was a rather striking forest of tapers.

You can usually find boxes of Dansk tapers on eBay--they were offered in several colors including white, green, red and orange.
Dansk brass candlesticks, designed 1956
I find Quistgaard’s brass candlesticks to be quite beautiful.  Meant to hold a single candle, this 1956 design is an essay in gently curved lines.  You can see video of Quistgaard talking about this design here.   The candle socket was made to screw in to the base, a cost-cutting measure that did not compromise the design.  Some say this also allows the candlestick to be turned upside down and used as a vase. 
JHQ brass candlesticks
Same design in silver plate
The teak and glass hurricane lamps below are later Dansk, from the late 1970s, but I still kind of like them.

So that completes my brief tour of the wonderful world of Dansk, at least for the time being.  I'm always looking to buy exceptional pieces (the Rare Woods line, the Festivaal lacquered pieces, unusual pepper mills, early teak pieces--contact me through my website) and you can often find Dansk pieces for sale in my Etsy shop

© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg

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