Of all the types of copper pots and pans I have, it is the daubières that seem to have the most personality. This one is named Charlemagne.
- Type: Tin-lined daubière in hammered finish with brass handles fastened with three copper rivets; cap-style lid with brass handle fastened with two rivets on each bracket
- French description: Daubière étamé et martelé avec poignées en laiton munies de trois rivets en cuivre; couvercle emboîtant avec poignée en laiton munie de deux rivets en cuivre
- Dimensions: 40cm long by 22cm wide by 22cm high (15.7 inches by 8.1 inches by 8.1 inches)
- Thickness: 2.1mm at rim
- Weight: 6812g (15 lbs) without lid, 8884g (19.6 lbs) with lid
- Stampings: “DUVAL 2 R. MIROMESNIL”
- Maker and age estimate: Duval; prior to 1896
- Source: Etsy
A daubière is a box-shaped vessel with a tight-fitting lid designed for daubes, a braised French stew. This one, at 40cm by 22cm (almost 16 inches by 8 inches) can take a chicken or a couple of game hens or a nice pot roast. I haven’t used it yet but as I write this, winter is settling in and it’s prime braising season. The lid of this one has a couvercle emboîtant with a slightly indentation intended to direct condensation back into the food.
That said, this particular daubière has some structural flaws related to its age and it probably won’t be my first choice. I still love it, of course, but it’s got issues.
Like many non-round pots (this cocotte, for another), this box-shaped daubière was hand-formed using dovetail seams to join separate pieces of copper. The seams are sealed with brass and you can see them if you look closely. Here’s the dovetail seam that runs around the perimeter of the base of the pot, where the copper that makes up the bottom of the pan is joined with the panels that rise up to form the sides.
Look closely above and below the handle and you’ll see dovetail seams continuing vertically up to the top of the pan. This is where the two panels forming the sides were joined together to enclose the box shape.
Unfortunately it looks like one of the seams on this pot has started to fail: there’s a crack at the point where the base dovetail intersects with the side dovetail.
This crack penetrates all the way to the interior. Here’s a photo from the interior showing the crack.
What does this mean for the pan? Well, it may no longer be water-tight, which means it’s not useful for cooking until the crack is repaired. And yes, it can be repaired — coppersmiths and retinners routinely check and repair failed dovetail seams. (Some failures are more fatal than others, of course, so check with your copper specialist if you have a pot in need of a fix.)
Despite this, I’m not throwing this pan away, but I’ve retired it to a display area. I’m sure the pan would prefer to be used but until I can make arrangements for repair of such a special pan, it’s better off relaxing. And this is a very special pan. If you haven’t caught it already, take a look at this maker’s mark:
Duval is a lesser-known chaudronnerie that went out of business at the turn of the 20th century, and there don’t seem to be very many stamped products out there (or at least that I can find). The best source of information I’ve found on Duval comes from TJFRANCE at France Lorraine Collection:
Duval is simply the old boiler factory which was located at 2 rue de Miromesnil before LEGRY. LEGRY took over this boiler making by buying it from the widow of Monsieur Duval!….Concerning your pot DUVAL, I forgot to tell you that it dates from before 1896. It is an old grandmother!
(This quote is buried in a comment on a thread on Chowhound about a different copper topic altogether, but such is the dearth of information about copper that I have to snatch information where I can.)
Based on this I feel fairly confident that this daubière is from 1896 or earlier. It’s gone through several retinnings and polishings that have softened the hammered finish to a subtle undulation. Still, that texture is enough to catch and scatter light like the surface of water, and is beautiful.
The years have weakened this pot’s dovetail seam to the point that it has failed, but I don’t mind. This may be one of the oldest copper pots I own (and the date of the end of the Duval mark helps to pinpoint its age), if not the oldest.
It is for this reason that I named it Charlemagne. Those of you who are late Roman and early Medieval history nerds (don’t all shout at once) will recognize Charlemagne, “Charles the Great,” as the first emperor of France in 800 AD. Such a storied name seemed to me to suit this magnificent daubière, which now reclines in peaceful reflection, gazing benevolently upon its younger brethren, as is only fitting for so august a personage.