Finds of the Summer

It’s been another copper filled summer in France. We visited many small markets, with the annual brocante guidebook never far from our side. Each weekend, mostly on Sundays, and sometimes on the occasional national holiday, small villages across the country hold their yearly festivities.

There are the tiny ones, where a dozen or so locals display the contents of the attic on a sheet on the ground: old brightly coloured toys, electronics from previous decades, farm equipment, you name it. And there are the large ones, with hundreds of stands, where locals mingle with traders who specialise in certain items.

In all brocantes, small and large, there is a covered area for drinks and local specialties, and if you visit a little after midday you’ll notice that many people disappear for a leasurely lunch served at the community hall or in a big tent raised for the occasion.

Needless to say, they are a lot of fun, and of course a great place to go hunting for antiques and long lost treasures. As the summer is winding down, here are some of the more interesting items we’ve found and now available for purchase on our site.

Sauteuse with Lid from the BHV in Paris

The Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville is one of our favorite stores in Paris, one of those grand old places where you can find anything under the sun. They’ve been in business for well over a hundred years and it must have been in the early days of the previous century that this wonderful sauteuse was sold. It comes with matching lid, quite rare for pans this age.

Wonderfully Decorated Trivet

You see these old cast-iron trivets occasionally, but rarely as pretty as this one. The pattern and decoration is intricate and the great thing about these pieces is that you can still use them every day, before hanging them back up on the wall to admire of course.

Dehillerin Saute Pan

Another one of our favorite stores in Paris is Dehillerin, where this lovely little saute pan was sold in the 19th century. The store still occupies its original location, close to what once was the bustling food centre of Paris at Les Halles. If you ever get the chance to visit, you absolutely should. The basement is a true Aladdin’s cave of copper, with any size and shape of vessel to be found. And you can still bring in your pieces today to have them re-tinned.

Large Dripping Pan with Three Legs

We don’t find these as often as we’d like, but when we do we’re always excited to put them on our site. Originally used to place underneath a roast to catch the juices as it slowly cooks, these are fantastic decorative pieces as well. This particular one is quite elaborate with 3 legs to ensure it didn’t topple over in the fireplace.

Enormous Copper Stock Pot

We’ve had some large vessels on the site before, but this one takes the cake. It’s absolutely enormous, weighing an incredible 35 pounds  – and that’s before any food is actually cooking in it – it needed two people just to bring it back to the car. We love it. If you ever need an appropriately sized piece for your castle kitchen, you know what to get.

These were some of our favorite finds, but you can find a dozen or so more newly added to the site. Happy shopping!

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A Copper Filled Summer – Some of the Best Kitchenware in France’s Museums

As the summer is drawing to a close here in France and la rentrée – the annual  return of France’s workers and students – looms on the horizon, I thought it would be a good moment to recap some of the copperware sights we’ve seen this year. Over the course of a summer, we tend to do quite a bit of traveling through France, hunting for antiques on the weekly brocantes, which start in spring and last until the early days of fall, but also visiting old castles and mansions where some of these products can still be found in their original setting.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the kitchen is one of the first places to fall to pieces when things are not going so well anymore with the lord of the manor, so finding a good one is always a treat. Below are pictures and some background to two of our favorite spots of the season.


First, the somewhat extravagantly named Musée Nissim de Camondo in Paris. This is one of the loveliest museums in the capital, and fortunately also one of the quieter ones, especially recommended if you’ve just braved the crowds at the Musée d’Orsay or the Orangerie. It consists of the extremely well furnished palatial house built by Count Moise de Camondo in 1912, whose family had made its fortune in banking. The Count built the house specifically as a future residence for his son Nissim de Camondo, but alas this is where the family’s good fortunes ended.

Nissim, one of the early aviators, died in aerial combat during the First World War in 1917. The father never quite recovered from this blow, but continued his collection of furniture and decorative artifacts. At the time of his death in 1935 he decided to bequeath the house and all its contents to the state. In his will he stipulated that not a piece of furniture or even a single photograph may be moved from its location at the time of his death, to give future visitors the most authentic view of life in the household possible. As a result, the kitchen has come down to us a century later, exactly as it was equipped back in the day. Here are some pictures we took.

View of the facade from the courtyard of the Musée Nissim de Camondo

View of the facade from the courtyard of the Musée Nissim de Camondo

 

View of the kitchen with the enormous stove and furnace. To reduce noise for the upstairs apartments, the ceiling had double insulation.

The main kitchen with the enormous stove and furnace. To reduce noise for the upstairs apartments, the ceiling had double insulation.

 

Several shelves hold a collection of copper stock pots, sauteuses and a wide variety of lids.

Several shelves hold a collection of copper stock pots, sauteuses and a wide variety of lids.

 

And some more sauté and sauce pans, as well as a Bassin à Blancs, an unlined copper bowl that was used for whipping egg whites.

And some more sauté and sauce pans, as well as a Bassin à Blancs, an unlined copper bowl that was used for whipping egg whites.

Musée Nissim de Camondo is located in Paris’ 8th arronddissement adjacent to Parc Monceau. It forms part of the Decorative Arts Museums of Paris. More information on opening hours and tickets can be found at www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr.


Our second favorite spot takes us a little outside of Paris, to the Val de Loire, the traditional playground of France’s rich and famous, which boasts one of the most impressive, and frankly, over the top, collections of castles this side of Bavaria. You can easily spend a few weeks touring all the different châteaux of the region, with most of them not more than a stone’s throw away from each other. Ironically, many of the grandest castles, such as the gargantuan Chambord, which started life as a modest hunting lodge, and ended up with over 300 rooms, was rarely lived in, as the king deemed it too drafty once the works had been completed.

The château we’d like to talk about, though, is the fairytale-like Château de Chenonceau, with its elegant span of arches crossing the river Cher in a display of utter whimsy. Offered as a gift by the then king of France, Henry II, to his mistress Diane de Poitiers, it saw many works during her tenure including the construction of the aforementioned arches, as well as the planting of extensive vegetable and flower gardens. As soon as the king kicked the bucket, however, his widow, the formidable Catherine de Medici, forced the now master-less mistress to exchange the delightful renaissance structure for the medieval hulk of Château de Chaumont, which in the annals of revenge isn’t all that bad a deal.

Chenonceau itself received plenty of attention and funds through the remainder of the centuries and right now is one of the most popular sites in the Val de Loire, with one of the best preserved kitchens that exists in France. It’s quite the upgrade from today’s four-burner open kitchens, with a pantry, breadoven, dining room for the château staff, butchery section and the main kitchen itself.

The fairytale-like Château de Chenonceau as it reaches across the river.

The fairytale-like Château de Chenonceau as it reaches across the river.

 

Anything you could ever need in a kitchen.

All the baking and cooking utentsils you could ever need in the main kitchen of the castle.

 

A lovely eighteenth century daubière. The deep lid itself would be filled with hot embers, or sometimes hot water, to keep the heat locked inside.

A lovely eighteenth century daubière. The deep lid would be filled with hot embers, or sometimes hot water, to keep the heat locked inside.

 

A wonderful Bassin à Ragout, and a copper pot hanging over the fire.

A wonderful Bassin à Ragout, and a copper pot hanging over the fire.

 

Hooks to hang the meat in the butchery section of the kitchen.

Hooks to hang the meat in the butchery section of the kitchen.

Château de Chenonceau is located some twenty minutes to the south of Amboise in the Loire Valley. Practical information and opening hours can be found here: www.chenonceau.com.

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The Greatest Store in the World

Ah, the great department stores of Paris. Rising up behind the glorious Opéra Garnier on the city’s right bank, with all their many floors of designer goods, luxury articles and gourmet foods. Galleries Lafayette, Printemps, these names have become so famous and they attract such an audience that they have their own Paris metro stops. They are in many ways (many costly ways) the pinnacle of shopping and are known in France as the Grands Magasins.

So, when on a recent cold and wet April morning we came across a beautiful hand-hammered sauté pan with the maker stamp of ‘Grands Magasins du Louvre‘  we were confused and a little intrigued. Was there another Grand Magasin we didn’t know about?  Having been many times to the Louvre itself we had never come across any great department stores in that area, unless they were hiding somewhere, in which case how Grand could they be? The pan itself offered some clues. It was still in remarkably good shape, but based on the thickness of the copper and the manufacturing techniques used, it most likely dated from the first few decades of the previous century. Perhaps there had once been a great deparment store close to the Louvre that now had disappeared?

 

Copper Saute Pan

 

We started doing some research and as it turned out, we had stumbled upon a true bit of Parisian retail history, going back to the middle of the 19th century. Paris was about to undertake its major transformation from a still predominantly medieval street plan, to the large boulevards envisioned by the influential Baron Haussman. As part of the many changes, the Rue de Rivoli, which ran along the north side of the Louvre, was expanded and on a small square just across from what now is the main pedestrian path to the famous glass pyramid, a luxurious hotel was put up: Le Grand Hôtel du Louvre. Since the potential benefits of being in such a prime location wasn’t lost on the Parisian owners of the hotel, they decided to rent out the ground floor to a retail establishment.

 

Catalogue image from 1911 showing a similar Sauteuse to the one we discovered.

Catalogue image from 1911 showing a similar Sauteuse to the one we discovered.

 

A trio of French enterpreneurs – Alfred Chauchard, Auguste Hériot and Léonce Faré – made the winning bid and opened Les Galeries du Louvre in 1855, a fashion house for the discerning Parisian consumer. At first business was quite slow, which led to the departure of Faré. It was a decision he would come to regret, because within a decade business had surged. Realizing that there was a demand for a general department store, the founders expanded on the original formula and would soon offer any product under the sun, from mink coats, to the costliest silk fabrics, from bathtubs, to indeed all types of kitchenware.

Soon, the premises became too small. The hotel was moved to the other side of the square (where it can still be found today), the store was enlarged to take up the entire block and it was given a new name: the Grands Magasins du Louvre. By 1865 the company had revenues of 15 million francs, a very considerable amount in those days. Ten years later, revenue had almost tripled to 41 million francs. The store itself had become an institution. More than 2,400 employees staffed its 52 departments. It was the first great French store to open an affiliate across the Atlantic, and its annual events were highlights on the Paris social scene. At one end-of-year exhibition, it was said that 2 million toys were put on display in the great hall. The extravaganze of the surroundings, and the impact its retail innovations had on small neighborhood stores was among the inspirations for Emile Zola’s Au Bonheur de Dames. It was by any standard the greatest store in Paris, perhaps even the world.

Grands Magasins du Louvre

The block on the Rue de Rivoli that would be fully occupied by the new department store.

The great silk hall where the finest materials from around the world were on display.

The great silk hall where the finest materials from around the world were on display.

One of the 52 departments that was staffed by 2,400 employees.

One of the 52 departments that was staffed by 2,400 employees.

Delivery trucks await their loads for the suburbs of Paris. For inner-city deliveries horse and carriage was used.

Delivery trucks await their loads for the suburbs of Paris. For inner-city deliveries horse and carriage was used.

The store continued its success through the first decades of the twentieth century, but during the Second World War disaster struck. On the night of the 24th of September 1943 an English Avro Lancaster bomber was brought down by German anti-aircraft guns. It crash-landed and exploded on the roof of the Grands Magasins du LouvreThe building was utterly destroyed in the fire, only pieces of the facade remained to guard the burnt-out interior.

The store never recovered. In 1974 it officialy ceased business. A year later a British investor decided to renovate the building, and it now houses the 250 galleries that make up the Louvre des Antiquaires, though they only occupy the ground floor. Outside, on the pavement, next to the main entrance, you can still see two stone lions which belonged to the original building. The only reminder of what once was the greatest store in the world.

 

The Grands Magasins in their glory days.

The Grands Magasins in their glory days.

 

All postcard images are courtesy of Jean-Paul Devienne and many more can be found on his wonderful blog at commerces-immarcescibles.blogspot.fr.

The catalogue image is from 1911 and the full catalogue including listings of kitchenware, kitchen equipment, ovens, gardening articles and much more is available for download at www.ultimheat.com

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The Antique Copper Pans of J. Jacquotot

Welcome to the first post on our new French Kitchen Antiques blog. We will use this space in the future to give you more in-depth information on the history of antique French kitchenware, some of the stories behind famed manufacturers and of course updates about new antiques that we’ve added to our shop. We start out today with the Parisian firm of J. Jacquotot.

We recently came into the possession of two lovely hand-hammered frying pans, which both bore a stamp that isn’t seen that often these days. It was of the Parisian company of J. Jacquotot. We’d heard of it before, but wanted to know more about its history so we set out to do some research.

One of the two saute pans bearing the Jacquotot, Rue de Grenelle stamp.

J. Jacquotot was a company that specialized in supplying the grand hotels, the restaurants and the kitchens of the great mansions of Paris from the turn of the last century. In the first decades of the 1900s they grew into one of the country’s leading suppliers of culinary equipment. Their original store premises were located at 128-130 Rue de Grenelle, in the fashionable 7th arrondissement, which was the address engraved on the pans we had found. At a later date (we weren’t able to establish exactly when this happened), the company moved further away from the center, to 77 Rue Damesme, at the southern edge of Paris. Perhaps this was a sign of the decline in the fortunes of the company.

The original Jacquotot store in Paris.

It was here that in 1971 Carl G. Sontheimer, president of Cuisinarts, and as such the man responsible for bringing the modern food processor to America, found “what little remained of the company: a small office, a collection of antique copper molds and pans and a very elderly married couple. The husband was the last survivor of the Jacquotot family. He showed me a 13th century copper bedwarmer that had been given to his grandfather by Edward VII of England.”

Sontheimer was inspired by what he’d seen to re-release the 1925 catalogue of the J. Jacquotot company, which carried the entire range of products available for purchase at that time. We managed to procure a copy and it’s great to go through it and look at the enormous variety of items available. From dog-shaped ice cream molds to large ice boxes and even an almost six-feet high machine that could be used for beating 90 – 100 egg whites. Not exactly for the home chef.

A handy machine to beat 90-100 egg whites at the same time. It could run on an engine or be powered by the kitchen help.

And of course there was the copper section as well. On page 8 we discovered the pans we had procured, listed as a sauteuse évasée  and a plat à sauter respectively, available in sizes ranging from 16 to 40 centimeters. You can find them at these two links provided, historic reminders of the esteemed company created by J. Jacquotot, supplier to France’s great kitchens and friend of a king.

 

Page 8 of the 1925 Jacquotot catalogue showing the saute pans.

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