Guest showcase: Two Jules Gaillard oval cocottes



I think these are the work of young Jules Gaillard at the start of his forty-year career.

Guest showcase: Two Jules Gaillard oval cocottes

Type Two tin-lined oval cocottes in hammered finish with brass handles attached with three copper rivets; lids with brass handles attached with one copper rivet on each side
French description Deux cocottes ovales étamées et martelées avec poignées en laiton munies de trois rivets en cuivre; couvercle avec poignée en laiton munies d’un rivet en cuivre sur chaque côté
Dimensions 20cm long by 13.2cm wide by 8.6cm tall
(7.9 by 5.2 by 3.4 inches)
24cm long by 15.3cm wide by 8.6cm tall
(9.5 by 6 by 3.4 inches)
Thickness 1.8mm at rim 1.8mm at rim
Weight 1170g
(2.6 lbs)
(3.8 lbs)
Maker and age estimate Gaillard;
Owner Stephen Whalen

I’m particularly fond of copper with a “Jules Gaillard” stamp. My current theory is that young Jules was apprenticed to the Gaillard chaudronnerie in the early 1890s and for a time was producing his own copper from the same location; there is also a “Gaillard” stamp that I think represents work from the main chaudronnerie over the same period of time. In 1903, the name of the firm changed to “J. & E. Gaillard” when Jules and Émile Gaillard took over. (I think they were brothers.) The two split in the early 1920s and Jules continued as “J. Gaillard” into the 1930s. (After World War II, the firm continued as Établissements Jules Gaillard et fils with much simpler modern stamps.)


The timeline above is a guess, however, pieced together from spotty records, and it’s quite possible there were multiple Jules Gaillards and other complications that I can’t track. But at the very least, pans I’ve seen stamped with the full name “Jules” all seem to have late-19th century craftsmanship. These cocottes are perfect examples: their oval bases are dovetailed. (My 30cm Jules Gaillard dovetailed rondeau is another example.) This metal joining technique was supplanted by welding starting in 1901 and seems to have fallen out of use by the 1920s.


The handles and rivets also show evidence of hand-work. The external rivet heads are rounded but show slight facets from hammering; the internal rivets are flattened virtually flush to the surface. To me, these look like hand-made rivets that have been inserted and finished by hand.


Each piece also has a beautiful lid. Note the deep drop of the rim — this helps the lid settle onto the rim of the pan and create a good seal. Cocottes like these could serve as small braising vessels, for which a well-fit lid is crucial. Note the flush-set rivets on the underside of the lids, just as elegant as those on the pan; antique-era lids like these were usually made for the pan and have the same quality and heft. The downside of this is that should an antique pan and its lid be separated, it can be difficult to find a replacement lid to fit as well as the original — another reason to treasure intact pan-lid pairs like these.


They are modestly sized — the smaller one, at 20cm or just under eight inches wide, is just big enough for a small chicken. I don’t think cocottes like these were intended for a restaurant, but they are perfect for a home cook and for that reason I find them particularly desirable. I don’t get the chance to haul out my big rondeaux very often, but these are the right size for regular old weeknight cooking.

As you can see in the photos below, owner Stephen Whalen has opted to polish them but has not had them retinned. I think that’s a fine decision. Speaking for myself, I’d use them as they are — I’d give them a good wash with soap and water, give the tin a firm but gentle scrub with a non-scratch sponge, and then get cooking.


And they’d be outstanding. I’d like to congratulate Stephen on these two pieces — not only are they historically interesting and in great physical shape, but they’re also useful for every-day cooking. That to me is the central pleasure of collecting antique copper — you really can use them today with as much pleasure as their former owners did more than a hundred years ago.

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