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Trio of pans “Edmond James de Rothschild”

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These are the most historical of the pans I have, and while they’re not monumental pieces, I find them and their backstory fascinating.

Trio of pans “Edmond James de Rothschild”

We’ll talk about the pans in a moment, but first, a little history.

These pans are from the Château Rothschild, a (currently) crumbling castle in Boulogne-Billancourt outside Paris. Joseph-Jean-Baptiste Fleuriau d’Armenonville, treasurer of Louis XIV, first built a castle there circa 1703 as a waypoint for nobility traveling from Paris to Versailles. Baron James Mayer de Rothschild purchased the property in 1817, and in 1855 tore down the existing château and commenced construction of a completely new structure, the Château Rothschild. This neo-Louis XIV style building, larger and more magnificent than the previous genuine Louis XIV edifice, was completed in 1861.

According to le Parisien, the Rothschild family used the place for fabulous parties and salons for tout Paris. At Baron James’s death in 1868, his son Edmond James de Rothschild inherited the château and lived there until his death in 1934. In 1939, when the Nazis invaded France, the Rothschild family fled to Britain; the château was occupied and looted by Nazis and then sacked by American troops in 1945. The Rothschilds never returned and the property was abandoned and fell into decline.

In 1979, the Rothschild family sold the property to the city of Boulogne for a symbolic one franc. Saudi Sheik Khalid Abdulaziz Al Ibrahim purchased the property in 1986 for $45 million and began a series of half-hearted construction and restoration projects. Despite multiple promises by the new owners, the château remained un-renovated, a project that is estimated to cost tens of millions of euros. In 2016, the property was sold again (purportedly for €10 million) to Novaxia, a French investment and asset management firm, but that sale is currently under dispute; in 2018 Sheikh Abdulaziz sued his own lawyer over the sale, and at the time of this writing, the château’s future remains uncertain.

Now let’s look at these three pans.

Trio of pans “Edmond James de Rothschild”

  • Type: Tin-lined glazing pan in hammered finish with an iron handle fitted with three copper rivets; fitted and indented lid with an iron handle fastened with two copper rivets
  • French description: Casserole à glacer étamé et martelé avec une queue en fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre; couvercle emboîtant avec queue en fer muni de deux rivets en cuivre
  • Dimensions: 21cm diameter by 10 cm tall (8.1 inches by 3.9 inches)
  • Thickness: 2.2 mm at rim
  • Weight: 3012g (6.6 lbs) without lid, 4178g (9.2 lbs) with lid
  • Stampings: “E. de R.”; heraldic baron crown; “3”
  • Maker and age estimate: Likely Gaillard; 1880–1900?
  • Source: barttof

Trio of pans “Edmond James de Rothschild”

  • Type: Tin-lined sauté pan in hammered finish with an iron handle fitted with three copper rivets
  • French descriptionSauteuse étamée et martelée avec queue en fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre
  • Dimensions: 23cm diameter by 6 cm tall (9.1 inches by 2.4 inches)
  • Thickness: 2.5mm at rim
  • Weight: 2400g (5.3 lbs)
  • Stampings: “E. de R.”; heraldic baron crown; “4”
  • Maker and age estimate: Likely Gaillard; 1880–1900?
  • Sourcebarttof

Trio of pans “Edmond James de Rothschild”

  • Type: Tin-lined glazing sauté in hammered finish with an iron handle fitted with three copper rivets; fitted lid with a side-mounted iron handle with two copper rivets on each bracket
  • French descriptionSauteuse à glacer étamée et martelée avec une queue de fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre; couvercle emboîtant avec une queue de fer sur le côté munie de deux rivets en cuivre sur chaque support
  • Dimensions: 21cm diameter by 6cm tall (8.1 inches by 2.2 inches)
  • Thickness: 2.6mm at rim
  • Weight: 1946g (4.3 lbs) without lid, 2866g (6.3 lbs) with lid
  • Stampings: “E. de R.”; heraldic baron crown; “5”
  • Maker and age estimate: Likely Gaillard; 1880–1900?
  • Sourcebarttof

The stamps on the pans deserve a closer look. They are identical aside from the numbers; here’s the stamp on pan 4.

Trio of pans “Edmond James de Rothschild”

 

That is the official heraldic crown of a Baron under the ancien regime in France. The crown is wrapped in a string of pearls.

Trio of pans “Edmond James de Rothschild”

Each pan also has a number — 3, 4, or 5 — and a corresponding number on the appropriate lid. This would help a busy kitchen match pans to proper-fitting lids. The pan below is a casserole à glacer, or glazing pan, with a tight-fitting cap-style lid meant to contain moisture like a mini-braising pan. The indentation running around the perimeter of the lid is intended to catch and direct condensation back into the pan instead of leaking out around the edge.

Trio of pans “Edmond James de Rothschild”

 

All the pans appear to have been made by the same workshop. The iron handles are affixed to the pans with three copper rivets that protrude slightly.

Trio of pans “Edmond James de Rothschild”

 

The interior rivets are flattened but do not lie completely flush.

Trio of pans “Edmond James de Rothschild”

 

The two lids are of slightly different design. They are both couvercle emboîtants  — that is, cap-style lids with a projecting flange intended to create a good seal. The lid on the right, with its indentation, is a tell-tale sign of a pan intended for braises and other wet cooking methods: it’s designed to catch and direct moisture down into the food, rather than allow it to leak out over the edge.

Trio of pans “Edmond James de Rothschild”

 

The seller, barttof, speculated that the flatter of the two lids could be inverted and used as a crêpe pan. Note how its handle is not set at the same flat plane as the lid itself, but rises away to create space for the chef’s hand to grasp it. While I think this is certainly possible, I note that there are no marks of wear on that surface and the royal crest is as crisp and clear as on the others. Perhaps the kitchens at the château were as reluctant as I would be to lay the royal crest directly on the cooktop!

Aside from the royal stamp, these pans don’t have a maker’s mark. Edmond James de Rothschild was lord of the château from 1868 until his death in 1934, which gives us a wide 66-year time window for when these pans were made (and by whom). The seller speculates that these pans are the work of Gaillard and I think that’s possible. A royal household would have commissioned a set of copper pans directly from the maker with no need for the maker’s stamp, and I suspect few makers would have dared to place their name near a royal emblem.

I don’t have an iron-handled sauté or saucepan of definitively known Gaillard make against which to compare these, but the interior rivet treatment (flattened but not flush-set) reminds me of those on my 50cm Gaillard stewpot. This may be a red herring, however, as the exterior rivet treatments are not the same.

I will continue to research this. Regardless of who made these pans, they are beautiful and I am lucky to have them. I can’t help but feel that pieces such as this belong in a museum. Until that day I will preserve and protect them as they deserve.

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