These tripodic candlesticks are designed in 'antique' Grecian bronze fashion and evoke the nature-deity Venus as symbolised by a 'fountain', which is here represented by water-spouting dolphins embowed on 'altar' plinths. Their form derives from an engraving for a funerary monument by Piranesi in his Vasi of 1778.
Thomas Messenger and Sons, of whom the chasing of this pair of lamps is particularly characteristic, were primarily lighting manufacturers with a metal foundry in Birmingham, opening a branch in London in 1826 (C. Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall, Leeds, 1998, p. 606, cat. no. 733). The firm commenced as manufacturers of metal furniture mounts, and traded from 1826-27 as 'Manufacturers of Chandeliers, Tripods and Lamps, of every description in bronze and ormolu' (E. Moncrieff, 'Argand Lamps', Antique Collector, February 1990, p. 47).
The dolphin motif was also adopted for chandeliers by the court lamp-manufacturer William Collins, following the establishment of his Strand warerooms about 1808. One such chandelier commissioned from Collins about 1822 and manufactured by Messrs. Johnstone Brooke and Company of New Street Square for Northumberland House, London is now at Syon House, Middlesex. However his most celebrated dolphin torchère is that presented in 1813 in Nelson's memory to Greenwich Hospital and now shown at Brighton Pavilion (C. Musgrave, Regency Furniture, London, 1961, p. 43).