CERAMIC TV LAMP WITH HORSE RELIEF
CONTACT US HERE ABOUT THIS ITEM.
A mid-century, four-tiered television lamp in black and light gray with prancing horses in high relief. An uplight shines through the open top, and the light emerging through the slits at the base of each tier illuminates the relief design. In excellent vintage condition with virtually no wear.
TV LAMPS are iconic luminaries of the 1950s and early 1960s. The fad for them only lasted about twelve years, but during that time thousands were produced by ceramics manufactories all over the US and Canada. North Dakota's Rosemeade Pottery, best known for its salt and pepper shakers depicting native wildlife, made some of today's most collectible ones. A particularly excellent example of their rooster lamp sold for a staggering $3550. They also released TV lamps in panther, horse, pheasant, deer, and wolf form—all of which are likely to bring at least $1000 at auction.
The earliest examples of TV lamps date from about 1950 when television sets were establishing their presence in North American households. The traditional explanation for the purpose of TV lamps is that they were intended to protect the eyesight of the viewer. The (admittedly pseudo-scientific) thinking went that the strong contrast between the light emanating from the TV and the room's surrounding darkness was bad for the eyes. "Don't watch TV in the dark," was a common admonition. So TV lamps came to the rescue, diffusing the harsh light by casting a soft glow on the wall behind the set. This reasoning garnered great currency over time, but there is little to no product documentation substantiating it.
Oriental motifs and jungle animals made their way into the sculpted form of TV lamps. All sorts of animals were hugely popular, including horses, fish, and mallard ducks, but the king of the TV lamp jungle was the long, low, stalking panther modeled after the figurines designed in the late 1940s by Haeger Potteries of Dundee, Illinois. While Haeger never produced their panther as a lamp, other potteries blatantly copied the design and electrified it, ultimately turning it into what has become an iconic example of mid-century kitsch.
The greatest volume of TV lamps came from California. Large outfits like Lane & Co., Maddux of California, and California Originals cranked out thousands, making the most of the demand while they could. Lane was especially prolific, producing TV lamp designs in a big way, with campy, quirky forms like flamingos, pink poodles, and sailfish. The company, based in Van Nuys, was one of the largest producers of ceramic goods in the US, yet today next to nothing is known about their history.
Another large manufacturer, based in the small West Texas town of Bangs, also made TV lamps a significant part of their output, and their artful Siamese cats are a must-have for collectors. Sometimes marked on the felt base with "Texans Incorporated, Bangs, Texas," they can more readily be identified by the embossed “Kron” found on most examples. This denotes their prolific designer, Howard Kron (1914–1991), who was responsible for the majority of their products over the years.
The good news is that decades of research have not turned up any evidence that your eyes are harmed by watching TV in the dark. You may experience some eyestrain or visual fatigue, but the effects are transitory. So what relevance does the TV lamp hold for us today? For those who keep a mid-century home, a period-appropriate specimen can add an essential detail. Otherwise, a TV lamp can serve as a nightlight or other source of soft, ambient light, while providing a room with some decorative interest that reflects your personality.
Designer – UNKNOWN
Design Period/Year – 1950s
Maker – UNKNOWN
Production Period/Year – 1950s
Origin – USA
Styles/Movements – FIGURATIVE; MID-CENTURY MODERN
Materials – CERAMIC
Colors – DOVE GRAY, BLACK
Shade – DIFFUSER
Power – UP TO 120V (US STANDARD), CORDED, TYPE "A" PLUG
Condition – Excellent vintage condition. May show slight traces of wear consistent with age and use.
Dimensions – 5 ½" W × 5 ¼" D × 15" H