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Girandole a beautiful ‘Last of the Mohicans’ depiction

Dear Helaine and Joe: Are you able to tell me what I own and if it is worth anything? It has glass prisms and brass figures, which appear to be American Indians and Pilgrims. My mom insisted I take it when she gave me her piano.

— S. B.

Dear S. B.:

Thank your mother for giving you a girandole that was probably made a decade or so before the American Civil War.

The word girandole comes from the Italian for firework or candlestick. Sometimes the term refers to a convex mirror with two to four candle arms — sometimes a frame surmounted by an eagle — or, far more rarely, with something such as a basket with flowers or a dragon/dolphin.

The whole idea was for the mirror to reflect candlelight into dark rooms and make things a bit brighter.

Another type of girandole involved a central candelabra flanked by two candlesticks. All three were usually festooned with prisms suspended from the edge of the candle cups. The central portion of both the candelabra and the two candlesticks were cast brass or bronze (often gilded or occasionally silvered) and they were figural in form.

There were flowers, leaping stags and such, but also themes from literature such as Robinson Crusoe, Uncle Tom and Eva, Rip Van Winkle and most commonly Paul and Virginia — characters from Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s 18th century novel by the same name.

The girandole candlestick in today’s question is based on James Fenimore Cooper’s novel “The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757.”

The novel and the candelabra take us to western New York in the time of the French and Indian War. The candelabra shows the characters Mohican Chief Chingachgook seated on a log with Natty Bumppo, aka Hawkeye. Behind them stands Uncas, son of Chingachgook and the last of the Mohicans.

The two candlesticks that should accompany the candelabra have the figures of Cora Munro — daughter of Lt. Co. Munro, commander of Fort William Henry — and Maj. Duncan Heyward, Cora’s escort when she travels from Fort Edward to visit her father.

Cora and her sister, Alice, were also accompanied by Hawkeye and singing master David Gamut. All were captured by the Native Americans along the way.

S. B. should examine her girandole carefully, and she may find the signature “Cornelius and Company” and one of several date marks such as “Patented April 10, 1849.” This date is due to the patent issued to Isaac Baker of Cornelius, Baker and Co. of Philadelphia for a “Last of the Mohicans” girandole set. Cornelius and Baker were a significant maker of mid-19th century American lighting devices.

This is a beautiful “Last of the Mohicans” girandole. It appears to have all its original prisms, and that is important. A full set of “Last of the Mohicans” girandoles with original gold Dore surfaces might bring well over $2,000, but a single candelabra with a dull bronze finish should retail in the $500 to $750 range.

Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you’d like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email them at If you’d like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.

Source: Berkshire mont

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