Established in 1895, the New York firm of Edward F. Caldwell was perhaps the leading American designer of lighting fixtures and decorative objects through the first quarter of the 20th century. Working from its foundry at 38 West 15th Street, the company supplied fine quality products to a rich and illustrious clientele, including Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie and Frederick W. Vanderbilt. Caldwell was succeeded by his business partner Victor E. von Lossberg upon his death in 1914, who incorporated the company in 1915.
A design for this particular model was entered into the Caldwell company ledger on 14 June 1911 and was supplied to a client by the name of Aldrich. Likely to be of the comparable quality and execution to the present torchères, it is possible that the recorded pair were commissioned specifically for Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (1874-1948), the wife of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960), son of the founder of the Standard Oil Company. Residing at 10 West 54th Street among New York's social elite, the matriarch of the Rockefeller family was certainly affluent enough to have afforded the elaborate torchères, as well as five additional orders recorded on the same day, including various hall lanterns and wall appliques. One can speculate that these fixtures were perhaps intended for the family's newly constructed quarters at 13 West 54th Street, which at the time of the order, would near completion in the following year.
Also of interest is the carved marble base seen here and on lot 315, which Caldwell frequently reproduced in varying sizes and media. Examples of two table-lamp bases were entered into the design records circa 1910 and 1918, in marble and bronze, respectively.