Thursday, December 27, 2012

early 20th century "steampunk" home furnishing

One of the museums I work for recently received a mention in the New York Times for one of its new acquisitions: a "steampunk jellyfish!"

image source: New York Times

The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh has acquired a newly discovered chandelier designed by the Belgian innovator Henry van de Velde in time for next year’s celebrations of the 150th anniversary of his birth.

The 1904 fixture, a slab of perforated copper and brass studded with opalescent glass blocks and light bulbs, originally hung over a dining table at an industrialist’s villa in western Germany. Van de Velde (pronounced vahn de VEL-duh) had supplied roomfuls of woodwork and furniture for the house.

The chandelier remained in the family, and scholars did not know it had survived until the Carnegie bought it for an undisclosed six-figure price. It measures about five feet tall, and installers spent a day wielding a forklift to attach it to a gallery ceiling.

Rachel Delphia, a decorative-arts curator at the Carnegie, said in a recent phone interview that she was particularly fond of a custodial staff member’s description of the piece: “It looks like a steampunk jellyfish.”

The museum is contemplating lending the chandelier to next year’s van de Velde exhibitions and tours in Germany and Belgium. Research for a retrospective, which will open on March 24 at the Neues Museum in Weimar and travel in September to the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels, has uncovered other objects long believed lost. A silver pendant from 1900 has turned up, with an intertwined L and B, designed for van de Velde’s niece Léona Biart.
For anyone visiting Carnegie Museum of Art, you can currently check out the "steampunk jellyfish" chandelier in the museum's Bruce Galleries.


  1. I remember seeing a picture of an Art Nouveau gown that van de Velde created for his wife (I think it was his wife). It was beautiful. I'd sure love to go see that exhibit - Germany or Belgium, either would be nice! :o)

  2. How lovely! And it must be great to work at museums! And I love that name Van de Velde! I wonder if he is related to that guy who used to run the Windmill Theatre?

  3. That lamp is a true beauty! Never seen anything like this before.