This beautiful piece served in the Spanish royal court.
- Type: Tin-lined braisière with iron handle fastened with three copper lids; cap-style lid with iron handle fastened with two copper rivets
- French description: Braisière étamée avec queue de fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre; couvercle emboîtant avec queue de fer munie de deux rivets en cuivre
- Dimensions: 23cm wide by 14cm deep by 14.5cm tall (9.1 inches by 5.5 inches by 5.7 inches)
- Thickness: 1.4mm
- Weight: 1798g (4 lbs) without lid; 2588g (5.7 lbs) with lid
- Stampings: “VA” cypher with crown
- Maker and age estimate: Unknown; 1906-1941?
- Source: Newlyn Tinning
I have a few daubières — box-shaped pots with brass handles for low-and-slow cooking in an oven. But this is a braisière, an earlier design for cooking in a hearth. The French word braise means “ember,” as in the hot coals of an open fire; the method of braising was originally to nestle a pot like this deep into the warmest part of the fire where it would sit for a few hours, tightly capped.
What differentiates a braisière from a daubière is its projecting handle. It comes in handy to help a cook position the pot deep into the fire, but when ovens came into common use towards the end of the 19th century, the braisière needed a redesign to fit into a tighter space. Voilà, the familiar suitcase-like daubière — the same idea, but with close-set brass handles that are much more compatible with the confines of a modern-style oven.
I initially thought that this royal “VA” cypher was for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of England, but I am wrong: it is “AV” for King Alfonso XIII of Spain and his wife Victoria Eugenie of Battenburg. (There is a connection to Victoria and Albert — Victoria Eugenie was their granddaughter.) The dual cypher would have been in use from the date of their marriage in 1906 until Alfonso’s death in 1941.
This little daubière is absolutely exquisite, and worthy of royal service.
The geometry is just beautiful. It’s a lovely perfect lozenge shape. The curve at each end is absolutely even. The interior corners are smooth and regular with no lumps or bumps anywhere.
The base is dovetailed. A craftsman cut crenellations into sheets of copper to form the base and the body of the pan and brazed them together with brass. You can trace the yellow lines around the base and up the side under the handle.
The lid is perfectly fitted. It slides over the top and fits like a glove.
It is a couvercle emboîtant with a recessed area. I believe the indentation is intended to collect condensate on the interior of the pan and direct it to drip down onto the food.
The rivet work is particularly fine. They are flush to the interior surface both on the pan body and on the inside of the lid.
The handles have experienced some deterioration — nothing too serious, but there is definite pitting in the iron. It adds some interesting texture to the piece but I’m going to keep the iron well waxed to forestall additional rusting.
The hammering is subtle on the flanks of the pan. It feels like a ripple under the fingertips and is only visible in light.
I wish I knew who made this. The handle baseplate — usually an indicator of a pan’s country of origin — is unfamiliar to me: it’s neither the near-oval that became the dominant French aesthetic, nor the arrow-head shape that is associated with English makers, nor even the bar with rounded ends of the American style. It is possible that it is Spanish in work and design, but I know very little about this region.
But whoever made it was wonderfully skilled. It’s a marvelous piece of work and worthy of the kitchen of a king’s palace. Nearly two hundred years have passed and it has come down in the world quite a bit, of course, but even with the passage of time, its innate quality has not faded. This is a beautiful pan and just as useful today as it was then, and I am so grateful to have it.