Before the 20th century, candles were the main source of light in the house and considered a luxury, even in the wealthier homes. The expression ‘the game’s not worth the candle’ underlines the fact that lighting a candle was like burning money itself. Most common were tallow candles made of animal fat, but they burned quickly with a black smoke and bad smell. The better more expensive alternative was the beeswax candle, which had a more pleasant perfume and burned for a longer period of time.
Like the candles, their holders could also be exclusive objects. Luxury candlesticks gave a particular splendour to the parties and ceremonies of wealthy households. They could be placed amongst crystals in a chandelier or in front mirrors, in order to increase the intensity of the light.
Candlesticks of various shapes were produced in Chinese porcelain in the 17th & 18th centuries, usually copying European silver or metal examples. They were made to order for the Western markets following typically European designs, not known or used in China. VOC records show that, due to their fragility, candlesticks were rarely individually produced, usually only as part of a large dinner service. Similar candlesticks were also produced in Delftware.