We were immediately smitten with these wonderfully graphic black and white boxes at the antique market in L'Ilse sur la Sorgue, the antique capital of Provence. How wonderful to display these oh-so-French pieces on a bookshelf or in a table vignette adding a healthy dose of French "je ne sais quoi" style to a home. Little did we know of the amazing history of the curiosities inside!
In the early 1800's, gas lighting replaced oil lights in the streets and in the commercial sector, but the use of oil lights persisted in French homes. The traditional French 'veilleuse" (oil nightlight) was a length of cotton cording held by a piece of wood or cork in a container of flammable oil. The cord serving as a wick, drew up the oil via a capillary process and was burned, creating light. As the cotton and the wood holding it burned, they contaminated the oil below with debris from the fire, eventually rendering the very expensive oil unusable.
In 1838, M. Hippolyte Jeunet, invented a process to produce a more sophisticated type of wick. This device, composed of clay, cotton cord placed within a floating zinc covered cork ring, could be mass produced and overcame the inherent drawbacks of homemade wicks. His inventions, "les vielleuses françaises" are the surprises found in these lovely antique boxes. Note his name stamped on the lids and the notation," fabrique à la Gare" -- made at the train station, the first location of his factory. In 1853, he moved the company to Paris and, to this day (almost 165 years later!), it remains open for business in the 7th arrondissement of central Paris.
These examples are unused vintage stock of M. Jeunet's oil light wicks and their wonderful containers. Condition is excellent with only minor staining of the boxes.
Two 3-piece sets are available, each at the price listed. An additional pair are listed separately in our Shop the Chateau storefront.
Free local pickup; otherwise ships to you from the U.S. via the most economical method. All customs duties, fees, and taxes are the responsibility of the buyer.
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