These torcheres are based on a group dating to the 18th century. They were probably produced in the late 19th/early 20th century when this style was in fashion. Of the eighteenth century examples: a pair of this model with astragal fluting was owned by one of the pre-eminent early 20th century collectors, Samuel Messer, and was sold from the Samuel Messer Collection, Christie's, London, 5 December 1991, lot 69. A single parcel-gilt example, close in design to this pair, was sold in these Rooms, 26 October 1985, lot 126.
Based on careful inspection of the illustration in Oliver Brackett's An Encyclopedia of English Furniture (see literature), it is tempting to believe that this is indeed the pair from the collection of James Thursby Pelham. Certain shared features strongly support this possibility - the uncanny coincidence that the pairs share the same differences in the carving to the bases (with the subsequent loss of the applied floral motif), and a similarly chipped foot on the example with C-scroll base. Finally the current pair have traces of parcel-gilding which would match the illustrated pair. Another possibility is that the current torcheres are the opposite pair to the Thursby Pelham examples and the differences in the carving would explain the mis-match.
The torcheres once formed part of the collection assembled by Halsted Vander Poel's grandfather, C.K.G. Billings. A wealthy industrialist and noted horseman from Chicago, Billings retired as President of the Peoples Gas, Light and Coke Company (later Union Carbide) in 1901 at the age of 40 and moved to New York City. While his principal residence was at Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street, he wanted to own a summer estate. He purchased land in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan.
Halsted B. Vander Poel was born in the magnificent Louis XV style mansion called Tryon Hall. Billings had purchased 25-acres of land between 1901 and 1905 and spent $2 million to construct this mansion. It was sold to John D. Rockefeller in 1917. While Tryon Hall itself was destroyed by fire in 1925, remnants of the estate can still be seen in the park today. It is now the site of the Cloisters, an annex of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.