Lighting Devices Through the Past Century
By: Caryl Rose and Harold M. Unger, M.D. and Jamie
Georg Jensen, the company, will celebrate
its 100th Anniversary in April of 2004. Special
exhibits in Denmark will mark the anniversary of the year in
which Georg Jensen, the silversmith, opened his first store
for the sale of his handmade jewelry, accessories, flatware,
hollowware and many other items for the home and personal
Georg Jensen was born in
Raadvad, Denmark, a charming small country town near Copenhagen
on August 31, 1866. As a child, he would gather clay from his
backyard and model small figures, such as animals and fruit.
Thanks to his mother, who early on recognized his artistic
ability, Jensen was encouraged to complete his education at a
technical school (The Massman Sunday Schools) and to become an
apprentice to a Copenhagen Goldsmith. This training taught him
the intricacies of creating silver objects.
Georg Jensen set his eyes on a higher goal,
to become a sculptor. In his early years, he was able enough to
be admitted to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Denmark, where
he was awarded honors for his sculpture. After graduation, he
was unable to support his family from the sale of his sculpture.
To provide income, he began producing ceramic works with a
friend, Christian Joachim Petersen. Here again his failure to
generate sufficient income pointed him towards a more profitable
trade. This need to become financially more secure led him to
open his first store and smithy at 36 Bredgade in Copenhagen. At
the age of 38, it took a great deal of courage to take this
step. His great artistic talent and innovative designs gradually
This spirit lamp measures 5 1/2' from tip to handle 3 1/4'
high and the top surface is 2 1/4' across. The marks are George Jensen in
an oval, GI830S in an oval and a crown with the letters GABF.
Georg Jensen soon became a well-known
figure in the Danish Art World. He became a recognizable figure,
with his flowing cape and tie, frequenting the cafes and haunts
of the other artists of his time. Starting as a one-man
operation, he soon hired his first apprentice, fourteen year old
Henry Pilstrup,who remained with the firm until his retirement.
Even with Pilstrup’s assistance, he had a limited output; and,
as orders piled up, expansion became a necessity. Jensen’s
knowledge of production details translated into an operation
with a five-story factory and 250 workers. International
distribution, first in Germany and Sweden, and then in many
other countries, increased demand for his silver. Accolades from
critics, the public and Museums all over the world assured his
continued rise in recognition and popularity. In order to
expand, he assumed increasing indebtedness and eventually his
ownership was taken over by the P.A. Pedersen family. Since
serving as Artistic Director was not to his liking, in 1925, he
moved to Paris, where he set up a small workshop and retail
store. This venture lasted until 1926, when he returned to
Copenhagen. Here, he remained in an advisory capacity to the
Smithy. During this period in his life, he continued to produce
silver items in his own workshop, at his home in Hellerup, until
his death in 1935.Within this span of sixty-nine years he was
married four times and fathered eight children. While Jensen was
married to his third wife, Johanna, many members of her family
joined the firm, among who were Harald Nielsen and Gundorph
Albertus, his brothers-in-law. In addition to this, Jensen’s
sons, Soren and Jorgen entered the business after their father’s
Georg Jensen has one remaining son, a child
of his fourth wife, Agnes. Ib Georg Jensen is a ceramist of note
in Denmark. Georg Jensen’s grandchildren have maintained a
strong interest and love for their grandfather’s work.
Starting to design as the
period of Art Nouveau was ending its influence on artists all
over the world, Georg Jensen’s striking designs are still able
to be used in today’s homes. Jensen was able to attract fine
artists such as Johan Rohde, Arno Malinowski, and Magnus
Stephensen. Their designs and Jensen’s own enabled the company
to survive two World Wars, depressions, booms, and style changes
from Art Deco to Modernism.
Production mirrored the lifestyle of
Jensen’s environment. The first electric companies had just
started in the 1890’s and electricity was far from available in
many homes. Candle use was prevalent. Jensen’s mantra was “to
make all things for the home beautiful and affordable.” The
company produced spirit lamps, candelabra, and candlesticks in
many designs. This shows his use of a graceful shape and handle.
His attention to details is displayed in its attachment of the
cap used to snuff the wick. Lamps such as this were used to melt
the wax used for sealing
letters. The candlesticks appear with 6
holders, 2-armed, as low as an inch and half, and many 14-16” in
height. Several chandeliers were produced, but in limited
quantity. One is still in use in the Smithy and one was sold by
Sotheby’s on December 1, 1989. The whereabouts of this item is
unknown but hopefully news of its location will appear. This
chandelier was made in 1919 by Jensen as an engagement gift to
his fiancée. It is engraved “Til Tjuhel (pet name for his
affianced, Agnes Christiansen).
These acorn candlesticks are 10 1/2' tall. The base
diameter is 3 5/8'. They are #481 and 481 C and are marked Dessin JR for Johan
Rohde, the designer, and have the post 1945 Jensen mark of Georg Jensen in an
His famous five-armed
candelabra, dripping with grapes in clusters received great
acclaim in Paris exhibitions and became a symbol of his unique
creativity. Many other forms of candlesticks were
developed, such as the ones seen to the right. Designed by his long-time associate, Johan
Rohde, it is made in the Acorn motif, which was Jensen’s most
widely sold pattern.
candlesticks on the bottom measure 5 3/8' in height. they are marked
Dessin HN for Harald Nielsen, the designer, and were produced between 1933 and
1944 as evidenced by the GJ in a vertical rectangle. The candlesticks on the top
measure 5 1/8' in height and are 2 5/8' in diameter at the base. They show the
mark Dessin HK and were made sometime after 1945, having the contemporary Jensen
mark of Georg Jensen in an oval.
The picture to the left shows a sample of the range of design
over the different periods in Jensen production. The pair on the
bottom typifies the more ornate style with base and columns
varying in diameter and a fluted pattern near the top. The
pair on the top is at the other end of the style spectrum.
Designed by the great Henning Koppel, the beauty of these
candlesticks is in the sleek simplicity of their form, with no
need for adornment.
The conversion of the primary home lighting source from candle
to electricity was gradual, but as its use became commonplace,
Jensen, once again, adapted to the changing need and style. He,
then, developed a series of electric lamps. Although the
columnar bases and pedestals sometimes were derived from prior
candlesticks, their shapes were well applicable for use as lamp
bases. Wiring was introduced (see box below) through the side of the pedestal,
carried through the column and then into graceful harps that
melded well with the base design, bringing power to the lighting
fixture. The upper picture of the two smaller panels of the show
in detail the beautifully molded leaves and buds that form the
top of the pedestal. The lower photograph shows in detail the
bud- like ornament that forms the beautiful finial for the lamp.
This lamp measures 17 3/4" from base to top. The base
is 5 1/4" in diameter. The hallmarks are Georg Jensen in an oval, GI 830s
in an oval, #582 and the year of production-1922
Another group of lighting devices relates to accessories for use
in smoking. The mundane box of wooden stick matches were turned
into beautifully decorated items by Jensen’s covers for these
boxes. In varying sizes and shapes, these covers are essentially
a rigid rectangular cover into which the matchbox was inserted.
The sides of the silver rectangle were fenestrated to permit
striking of the matches on the abrasive sides of the original
box. The one in
the center has a raised border and a chased floral
representation. The cover on the right has a diamond-shaped
decoration in the center of which is a sculptural element with a
bud-like design. The third and largest of the boxes is on the
left in the box below to left. It has a large floral decoration in the center
of which are the owner’s initials AB. Smaller repeats of the
central design are found in each corner of the top.
box in the center has the marks Sterling, Denmark, 88D (catalogue #), 925 S and
a script G inscribed over a script J, indicating production before 1914. The box
on the right measures 2 18” by ½’ by ¾”. It is marked Sterling, Denmark, Georg
Jensen in an oval, # 389 B and the design cipher of a J over an R in an oval
indicting that this was designed for Jensen by Johan Rohde.
The box on the left
measures 2 3/8” by 1 ½” by¾”. The marks are the Georg Jensen in straight line,
block letters and 830 S, probably being produced before 1925.
The next set of lighting devices moves forward in
time when automatic lighters began to be in vogue. In the box
below right, we show three examples. The two in the rear are table lighters
and the one in the center is a pocket lighter. In the lighter
on the left the design is one of crossing stripes with small
leaves at each junction. The one on the right is slightly larger
and has vertical engineered stripes on the case. The central
lighter is a pocket lighter with a simple linear border at the
top and bottom of the case. In another innovative creation,
Jensen even made silver covers to house pocket flashlights.
As the 100th anniversary of the birth of the
Jensen Company nears, the examples shown here are a very small
indication of the development the company has made not only in
form, but in function as well. Designs have changed from the
ornate decoration of the Art Nouveau period to present day
sleek, unadorned shapes. Flatware patterns such as Acorn,
Acanthus, Pyramid, Bernadotte, and Cactus, designed from 1915
and on into the 30’s, are perfectly suited for today’s use. Over
the 100 years, the firm has prospered, and we hope will continue
to make beautiful objects in silver with their well-known
attention to exquisite detail in design, shape, and patina. The
handwork, artistry, and design innovation Jensen insisted upon
is still the credo of the modern company. The name Georg Jensen
will always connote excellence in quality and contemporary
design. Known throughout the world, Georg Jensen is considered
one of the greatest silversmiths of this century.
one on the left measures 3” by 2 7/8” by 1 1/8”.There is a KW inscribed in the
base. The Jensen marks are #39A, Sterling, Denmark, 925 and the 1933-44 hall
mark of GJ in a rectangle. The design is one of crossing stripes with small
leaves at each junction. The one on the right measures 3 1/8” by 2 /38” by
1 3/16”. The mechanism was made in Germany by Consul and the Jensen marks are #
366C, Sterling Denmark and the post-1945 mark of Georg Jensen in an oval.The
central lighter measures 1 ¼” by 1 13/16” by ½”. The mechanism was made by the
same company as the first lighter (KW). The marks are # 203, Denmark, Sterling
and the post 1945 mark of Georg Jensen in an oval.
About the authors:
Caryl and Harold M. Unger, M. D.
operate Imagination Unlimited in Miami beach, an Antique service
dealing with Georg Jensen and other Danish silver.
Jamie Unger-Fink, their grandson, is a senior at Western High
School in Davie, Fl, and does the photography and computer work
for his grandparent’s firm, Imagination Unlimited.
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