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Lüsterweibschen (Light Maiden)

Date: c 1860
Overall: 620 x 300 x 800 mm, 7.5 kg
Display Dimensions: 490 x 300 x 700 mm
Medium: Wood, stained and varnished Baltic timber, copper alloy.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Sculpture
Object No: 00019440

User Terms

    This lüsterweibschen (light maiden) candelabrum is in the form of a crowned mermaid, or lorelei. The figure has been carved in four sections, with the body, tail and two arms held together with nails. Depicted in a neo-classical style, the lüsterweibschen has decorative scrolls at her waist, suggestive of a curling wave. A copper chain with links in the form of a snake is attached to the centre of the figure's back, and would have been used to suspend the candelabrum from the ceiling.
    SignificanceThis lüsterweibschen came to Australia with a German family who had owned it for generations. It is a rare example of a votive candelabrum from Northern Germany, and represents the role of the mermaid in European belief systems.
    HistoryCandelabrums such as this were hung in churches in coastal towns in Scandinavia between votive ship models. In North Germany they are called lüsterweibschen or light maidens, and are generally modeled on mermaids or sirens. Tales of these half-human, half-fish creatures occur in all parts of the world, and date back to antiquity. In European folklore, mermaids had magical powers and could lure mortals to the depths of the sea through their enchanted songs.

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