Tåby Figurine Is A Medieval Candlestick

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Bronze candlesticks, early 15th century, made in Germany or Flanders. Top: Rute parish, Gotland. Height c. 18 cm. Photograph by R. Hejdström. Below right: Fragment from Tåby parish, Östergötland. Photograph by M.R.

i-475b6e5d56af104883c7e6759821044d-P1000722lores.JPGBack in November I checked out the enigmatic Tåby figurine and blogged about it. Now I’ve found out what it is: it’s part of a 15th century candlestick and there’s a complete specimen in the Gotland County Museum. The Gotland specimen was kept above ground, in use and in repair from the Middle Ages until recently at a farmstead in Rute parish. Arthur Nordén wasn’t aware of it, but wrote of the Tåby figurine, “It is possible, for instance, that it may have served as a decoration on a chandelier, as holder in a candlestick or some such.”

  • Nordén, Arthur. 1924. Bronsstatyetten från Tåby. En arkeologisk kuggfråga. Fornvännen 19. KVHAA. Stockholm.

  • Nylén, Karin. 2003. En medeltida figurstake. Gotländskt Arkiv 2003. Gotland County Museum. Visby.
  • Westholm, Gun. 2008. Det goda livet i medeltidens Visby. Gotländskt Arkiv 2008. Gotland County Museum. Visby.

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Comments

  1. #1 Karen
    January 20, 2009

    You can find some more candlesticks like this at larsdatter.com/candleholders.htm — they’re in the section of anthropomorphic candlesticks.

  2. #2 Martin R
    January 20, 2009

    Awesome! Thank you!

  3. #3 PennyBright
    January 20, 2009

    Nifty! It is extremely satisfying to see this little puzzle solved – thank you for the update.

  4. #4 guthrie
    January 20, 2009

    Hah! Karen, you get everywhere!
    Intereting colour on the bronze on the top candlestick. Are the figures solid, or hollow? I’m trying to re-create bits of medieval technology, and have been reading up on manufacturing methods.

  5. #5 Martin R
    January 20, 2009

    The figures are solid. Probably cast with cire perdu.

    When I showed this entry to a couple of Medievalist colleagues, they said “Of course it’s a candlestick. We thought you knew!”.

  6. #6 Anders Söderberg
    January 20, 2009

    Guthrie!

    You’ll find a beautiful little video about medieval aquamanilia casting at http://www.bgc.bard.edu/research/video/research_video_aquamanillia.shtml

    These objects are cast hollow around a core, thus a bit more complicated than Martin’s candlestick above. But the video itself is very instructive, shedding light on the coring, moulding, casting and finishing processess, as well as on medieval metallurgy and it’s close connections to alchemy and philosophy. It’s certainly a little pearl!

    Cheers, Anders

  7. #7 Tobias
    January 20, 2009

    Cool! I hereby retract my suggestion that it could be a roman votive figurine (posted on November 12th, 2008). It is a lovely find and lovely ID. But you should nonetheless include a ruler in you photos, Martin…

  8. #8 guthrie
    January 21, 2009

    I thought it would be lost wax, but that it is solid is interesting to know.

    Anders, thanks for the video, it is very interesting.

  9. #9 megan
    January 21, 2009

    very cool, thanks for the update.

  10. #10 Jim
    February 16, 2011

    Hi, I’m not sure if this topic is still open but I thought this may be of interest to you.

    My Dad dug up a figurine with similar characteristics to the Taby figurine (with similar lentoid eyes, belt and prematurely terminating legs) We have recently had it logged by a local authority archaeologist in England and have had it confirmed by an expert at the British Museum as part of an early 16th Century continental candlestick, as you have since found out. Please see the link below for photos, description etc..

    http://www.finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/426842

    Our figurines similarities with the Taby seem to outweigh those suggested to the example at the V&A museum.

    It would be great to find out the current whereabouts of the Taby figurine (is it in your possession or at a local museum?) to link back to the finds.org.uk site.

    Please let me know what you think.