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15cm Van Neuss saucepan, “Leopold”

VFC

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Readers Martin and Nick figured out the provenance of the monogram on this little pot.

Type Tin-lined saucepan with wrought iron handle fastened with three copper rivets
French description Casserole russe étamée et martelée avec queue de fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre
Dimensions 15cm diameter by 10cm tall (5.9 by 3.9 inches)
Thickness 2.2mm
Weight 1570g (3.5 lbs)
Stampings G.M. VANNEUSS BRUXELLES; royal crown with cipher
Maker and age estimate Possibly Van Neuss, perhaps 1835-1865?
Source FrenchAntiquity (Etsy)

This petite saucepan is the work of Van Neuss, a coppersmith in Brussels and the antecedent of the famed Pommier. The firm was founded in 1830 by Michel Van Neuss, and my study of business records suggests that his nephew Gérard-Michel took the helm of the company from 1880 until his death in 1901, after which his grandson Hippolyte Pommier took over the firm. As will be discussed in greater detail towards the end of this post, I believe that this pan was made by Michel Van Neuss between 1835 and 1865, and subsequently stamped by his nephew Gerard-Michel, perhaps when the piece was serviced for retinning.

In support of that research, the pot itself carries signs that it was made in a prior era.

First and foremost, this is a 15cm piece — an odd size, literally and figuratively. By the early 20th century, French and Belgian pieces were standardizing to even centimeter increments — 12, 14, 16, and so forth. (As reader Nick points out, Gaillard still offered odd-size casseroles in its 1914 catalog; the Jacquotot 1925 catalog provides only even increments.) I suspect this had to do with the shift from hand-cutting copper sheet to machine-pressing. Prior to that shift, the smith judged the size of the pieces as he went and the result often ended up being somewhere in between an exact dimension. This is just fine for cooking, of course, but unless the smith also made a lid for the pot, finding a fitted lid can be a challenge. (This may be why many lids of that era are the flat lollipop style, the “universal lid” that will fit any pan smaller than itself.) One of the benefits of shifting to die-pressed manufacturing that produced perfectly consistent pots and lids was that they are all guaranteed to fit each other.

Another sign of this piece’s antiquity is its proportions. Take a look at this bright shiny 15cm pan in between my modern-era 14cm and 16cm pans.

Notice how this 15cm is so much taller than the others. It’s a style of saucepan that seems to have been more common in the 19th century, but that was disappearing by the early 20th. I consider this a casserole russe, distinct from the shorter casserole we know today. (Nick adds that Gaillard still offered casseroles russes in 1914; the Jacquotot 1925 catalog conflates russes with casseroles à jus.) The origin of the russe is service à la russe, the innovation introduced in 1810 by the Russian ambassador to France at a sensational dinner in Paris. I do not know when the tall proportions of the casserole russe gave way to the squatter shape of the casserole, but it seems reasonable to me to suppose that the same shift to machine-cutting and -pressing also drove standardization to the proportions of pieces as well.

And there’s also the handle. It is made of wrought iron, and for a type of metal that is supposed to have grains, it is an exceptionally grainy example.

Wrought iron contains streaks of slag — impurities that are usually hammered out of the metal through a process of heating and hammering it. As the iron is worked — that is, wrought — into its final shape, the slag creates streaks called grains that follow the contours of the shape. The best place to look for grains is on areas where the metal has been worked the most: the baseplate, the underside of the curve of the handle shaft, around the hanging loop.

 

But this is the grainiest wrought iron I’ve ever seen. Compare the photos above to some other examples below.

 

As you can see, the wrought iron handle of this 15cm Van Neuss piece is much rougher than the other examples. I don’t know much about metallurgy: what could cause the difference in the texture of one wrought iron handle from another? The wrought iron on this saucepan’s handle looks almost eroded — is such a thing possible?

There is yet another odd quality to this handle: it is undersized. In the photos below, this 15cm saucepan is on the left, and on the right is a 12cm early Legry (likely 1896 to 1910 or so, also with a wrought handle). The Legry is a smaller pan than the Van Neuss, but its handle is much burlier. In my opinion, the handle on this 15cm pan would be more appropriate for a smaller piece.

 

This would not be a big deal but for the weight of the pan. I measured the rim at 2.2mm and the piece weighs 1570g, about 3½ pounds. The shaft of the handle is so slender that the pan rotates easily in the hand. That makes it difficult for me to tilt the pan to pour from it, and for me that’s a flaw in this piece.

Could the handle be a replacement? That’s certainly a possibility, but looking carefully at it, I think it’s unlikely. The set of the rivets is cockamamie and unique and I see no evidence of filled or re-drilled holes. Also, cast iron handles were coming into production by the 1880s or so and supplanting wrought iron handles that were more expensive and more difficult to make. If this pan was made circa 1880 and its original handle failed sometime after that, it seems to me that the replacement would likely be a cast handle, not another wrought one.

 

The time frame for the maker’s stamp, the archaic casserole russe form, and the wrought iron handle all suggest to me that this is a pan of the 19th century, not the 20th. And a final element in the mix is this wonderful owner’s mark.

This is a royal cipher — a monogram custom-designed for a monarch or a member of the nobility, used to claim anything from a castle to a teaspoon. Researching these marks is difficult for me — I am not aware of a searchable repository of these, and so I resort to Wikipedia, and specifically one particular contributor named Glasshouse who has taken the time to recreate many historical ciphers. They are beautiful designs, some perfectly balanced and symmetrical, and others unexpectedly hard-edged and off-balance, and I’m grateful to Glasshouse for capturing and preserving so many of them.

Unfortunately the cipher on this piece is not a clear match to any of them. My first attempt to identify the mark settled on Ludwig  III of Bavaria, but reader Martin suggested that the monogram more likely belongs to one of the kings of Belgium. Martin located a coin struck in 1905 for Leopold II (reign 1865-1909) with the same distinctive L surrounded by many elaborate flourishes.

 

 

At the suggestion of reader Nick, I reached out to the Association de la noblesse du royaume de Belgique (ANRB) to ask whether the monogram on the pot is indeed that of Leopold II. Here is their response in the original French, followed by my translation:

Nous avons bien reçu la photo du poêlon en cuivre avec monogramme. Cela pourrait être celui du premier Roi des Belges, Léopold 1er, et le chiffre 32 pourrait correspondre à l’année de son mariage, soit 1832. Le monogramme du roi Léopold II est représenté par deux « L » entrelacés. Il serait bon de vérifier l’origine de cet objet et le poinçon éventuel.

We have received the photo of the copper pan with monogram. It could be that of the first King of the Belgians, Leopold I, and the number 32 could correspond to the year of his marriage, 1832. The monogram of King Leopold II is represented by two interlaced “L’s”. It would be good to check the origin of this object and the possible hallmark.

As above, the ANRB do not believe the monogram is from Leopold II but rather that of his father Leopold I, who was born in 1790 and reigned from 1831 until his death in 1865. (I respectfully disagree as to the significance of “32” — it is most likely an identifier for the pan itself, and the match to his marriage year is most likely just a coincidence.) This suggests that the pan was made sometime between 1831 and 1865 as well, earlier than I had supposed.

In light of this, and in response to reader requests in the comments, I’d like to take a closer look at its construction.

The sides and base of the pot are seamless, indicating that it was formed from a single piece of copper bent into shape. I do not see a dot on either the internal or external surfaces.

 

There is a faint bevel on the edge of the base, but the pot has been polished so many times that the contours have softened. I can feel the edges of the bevel more clearly than I can see them.

It is also not straight-sided. As you can see below, the pot has a slight flare from base to rim.

As this pot is not dovetailed, the other possibilities for its shaping are that it was deep-drawn (punched with a press), spun on a metal lathe, or hand-raised (completely shaped by hand-hammering). To cut to the chase, I think it was hand-raised and not spun or drawn, and I’ll tell you why.

I don’t think this piece was machine-pressed because of the texture of the metal. During the deep-drawing process, the copper flows like a liquid — it is stretched and compressed into its new three-dimensional shape. While the piece’s thickness can vary from base to rim, the change should be even around the circumference. But this piece has too much variation. I can’t capture it in a photo but when I pinch the sidewalls and run my fingers around the circumference, I detect slight swells and depressions. Had the metal flowed into shape, I do not think those variations would be there.

I also don’t think it was spun. In my experience, spinning leaves tracks on the surface of the pan and I do not see any traces of that on this piece. As examples of what I would expect to see, I offer the three spun pieces below: on the left, my much-maligned Baumalu skillet; in the middle, the bottom inch of a 22cm modern-era Mauviel soup pot; and at right, the bottom inch of a modern-era 32cm Mauviel stewpot. The Baumalu skillet shows clear track marks; in the middle piece, the Mauviel smith applied surface hammering (martelage) all over the surface except that bottom half-inch or so (constrained perhaps by the configuration of the hydraulic hammer in use?); and on the Mauviel piece on the right, the martelage was applied so haphazardly that the track marks are still visible between the hammer strikes. (I am coming to suspect that martelage was a technique developed to work-harden “soft” copper that was spun or pressed. It would also conceal the telltale marks of spinning — but only if the craftsman took the time to apply the hammering over every inch of it!)

 

Of course I would not expect to see traces this sharp on a saucepan approaching 200 years of age. And yet look at the all-important monogram stamp: this area, presumably spared rough treatment in order to preserve the mark, has the same exact appearance as the rest of the pot. There are no faded tracks or remnants of martelage here — the stamp sinks evenly into the surface.

But both of these opinions are just that. I do not have positive evidence that it was hand-raised, only the absence of evidence that it was spun or pressed. And of course that evidence could have been erased: the piece have been spun and then lightly hammered all over to flatten the traces. But I have another piece of evidence: a 14cm G.M Vanneuss saucepan — later than this one — that is dovetailed. If the chaudronnerie Vanneuss had a machine press or metal lathe under Michel (1835-1880), why cease using them under his successor Gèrard-Michel (1880-1901)? (Post to come soon on this one — it’s fascinating for other reasons as well — so you can check it out for yourself.)

If I were a lawyer, which I am most certainly not, I would say that the evidence I have is not conclusive, but may enough to raise reasonable doubt. I doubt this piece was spun or pressed.

But readers, what do you think?

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49 Comments

  1. An interesting find that I would later like to compare with my recently acquired 26 cm sauté pan, which is also stamped by G.M. VANNNEUS BRUXELLES.

    But first to the additional royal stamp. I also clearly read an L, which I assign to King Leopold II (December 17, 1865 – December 17, 1909) of Belgium. This gives a temporal correspondence between the manufacturer’s stamp and the reign of the king, but above all an important phase of Belgium’s history is adequately represented. The small European region of Belgium has long been part of Spanish, Austrian and, most recently, Dutch monarchies. The Belgian Revolution led to independence from the Netherlands in 1830. As King of the Belgians – not Belgium – the parliament appointed the German Prince Leopold von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld because he had lived in England for a long time and was therefore familiar with parliamentary customs. Leopold I was the first king of the Belgians from 1831 to 1865. He was followed by Leopold II, from whose court kitchen the small saucepan is likely to come. (“Greetings” from Wikipedia)

    1. Martin, that would make a lot more sense. My only area of doubt is that the monogram shown on the pot doesn’t match the monograms shown on Glasshouse’s reproductions for Leopold II. But let me amend the post with that suggestion and let more readers weigh in. Perhaps there are other versions of the monogram out there that Glasshouse hasn’t captured?

  2. TJ France posted a document1834 issued by the royal court during the reign of Leopold I., first king of the Belgians that identifies the boilermaker M.G. Van Neuss as a purveyor to the royal court.

    M.G. Van Neuss (more exactly Hubertus Michael Van Neuss) founded about 1830 the craft company. Since he himself remained childless, his nephew G.M. Vanneus (pay attention to the changed order of the abbreviated first names!) got into his uncle’s business around 1865, which he took over management in 1880.

    1. Martin, you are correct! I’ll clarify the language in the post. My Pommier field guide also touches on this but I think it could be more clear. Thank you!

  3. Not only do you have to pay attention to the monogram with the letter L, but also to tiny details of the crown. The cross on top of the crown of the Belgian kings is almost straight, that of the Bavarian kings has curly ends. The exclusively white pearls of the Belgian crown are entwined with leaves. The Bavarian crown has multicolored pearls or diamonds that are framed by an elaborate pattern. My photos of copper pans of the court kitchen of the Bavarian royal family show clearly the differences in the crown.

    I found other images of Leopold II’s monogram on which the L is very similar to the stamp on the pan.

    https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_Monogram_of_Prince_Leopold_II_of_Lippe.svg
    https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_Standard_of_King_Leopold_II_of_Belgium_(1865%E2%80%931909).png
    https://www.colleconline.com/de/Search?pleId=05ddec6c-d814-4bc4-85e9-371492a12e06&pleType=UnderCategory2
    https://www.colleconline.com/de/items/160852/monnaie-monde-2-centimes-leopold-ii-belgique-1905

    1. Martin, you solved it. Ludwig is Leopold. I’ve updated the post — many thanks for your investigative work!

  4. The history of European noble houses with their infinitely branched family trees is really a labyrinth in which it is easy to get lost. But I was lucky.

    But now, as announced, to my only Vanneuss pan. I bought this sauté pan because VFC has already very well defined the period of use of the “G.M.Vanneuss Bruxelles” stamp (approx. 1880-1992). So my sauté pan was made in the same period as the saucepan described above. Since the production fell around the time of the change from manual to industrial production, I was hoping for information on the type of production. The sauté pan has an outside diameter of 26 cm, the height of the side wall 7.3 cm, weight 2.63 kg. For the size it is more of a “lightweight”. This was confirmed by my measurements of the thickness of the copper sheet. At the very top I measured 1.8 mm, about 2 cm deeper I found a thickness of 2.3 – 2.5 mm. I doubt whether the bottom is a little thicker than 2.5 mm. The weight is too low for that. I also found a slight flaw: the floor is completely smooth, which speaks for a (partially) industrial production, but slightly curved outwards, i.e. convex. When the sauté is placed on a table, it tilts towards the handle. On the opposite side, it stands out approx. 0.6 cm from the plate. However, this is not a problem for the intended use on a gas stove. I suspect that the slight curvature was caused by overheating the pan. The bottom of a pan made of thicker copper (3mm) would not have arched. However, it is also conceivable that the production was not perfect from the start. Only when I looked very closely in the side light could I see the remains of a “martelage” on the side wall. The pan must have been used and polished frequently so that the hammer pattern is almost completely flattened. So probably the pan was a little heavier at the time of manufacture.
    The handle is forged and shows the typical fine lines. On the top, these fine lines run evenly lengthways to the handle. The pattern on the underside is more irregular. The lines are shorter and partly run diagonally towards the outer edge. Overall, the handle is completely smooth and neatly processed. With a width between 2.7 and 3.1 cm, it is slightly wider than typical French handles; the lower curve feels flatter. Support plate approx. 13 x 3 cm. Drop-shaped hanging loop. I can see an embossed thin “2” on the underside of the handle. The inner rivets are large and flat, but not completely flush with the side wall. The rivets on the outside are in the shape of a flattened hill. Since a slightly larger circle can be seen around the rivets, it is possible that the rivets were originally larger and were later replaced. Unfortunately, I have only seen a few pans from Vanneuss, so I do not know whether and which rivets are typical for this manufacturer.
    The pan could be described as hybrid, as it shows elements of both handcraft and industrial production.

  5. Another great acquisition of a historical pan and excellent research on the royal monogram.

  6. Hello estimated copperheads and detectives,
    If I’m not mistaken, I see on the pan a 3 arches crown, representing a crown prince, and not the five arches of a king’s crown.
    (see chapter on coronets rankings in the wikipedia article on Belgian heraldry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgian_heraldry).
    Leopold II ascended to the throne in 1865 i.e. about 15 years before Van Neuss became MG Van Neuss.
    Would the L on the pan have referred to him, it should therefore have been accompanied by a 5 arches king’s crown.
    As it is not, I suggest the mystery remains to be solved, the quest for the elusive Prince L. has to continue and VFC has to edit her article again (sorry).
    This is quite fun !

    P.S. :I regret to say that at this stage, I do not have any solution to offer. I thought about the next King Leopod (n°III) of the Belgians. But as he was born in 1901, the same year MG Van Neuss became Van Neuss H Pommier (according to VFC’s own Field Guide to Pommier), I do not think he is Prince L either.

  7. Nick, a good observation! In fact, this stamp is shows a crown prince’s crown. In my link “https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_Monogram_of_Prince_Leopold_II_of_Lippe.svg” Leopold II is referred to as the Prince of Lippe, but the monogram is already adorned with the royal crown. All previous titles of nobility (and possessions!) continue to be valid with the attainment of higher dignities.

    I would like to add some trivial practical considerations. You become crown prince at birth. As a rule, it takes decades to succeed the previous king or queen. With the appointment, the entire property, insofar as it was previously provided with the insignia of a crown prince, must be re-decorated. That will certainly take months, if not years. Just imagine the effort of melting down all the coins and minting them again! This can only happen gradually, while the previous coins are of course still valid during the transition period. In addition, I can well imagine that lesser items were not re-stamped at all or that the stamps that were in use earlier were still used for a while.

    So I continue to assume that the pan presented by VFC comes from the household of Leopold II, but was possibly acquired at the time when Leopold was still Crown Prince. There is no doubt that a Belgian aristocratic family with official residence in Brussels chooses local craftsmen as suppliers. As already mentioned, it is documented that Vanneus was one of these suppliers to the royal court.

    Unfortunately, the reign of Leopold II, who was an advocate of an aggressive colonial policy, must be viewed critically today.
    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_II._(Belgien)

  8. When I think of the equipment of the palace kitchens of a royal dynasty, I can hardly imagine that with every change of the current ruler and thus owner of the entire inventory, all stamps were removed and replaced with new ones. For me, the complete exchange of the pans is even less likely. Rather, I suspect a supplement if necessary. Aristocrats are known to be very conservative and anxious to preserve their possessions for centuries. At weddings, nobles like to be chauffeured in carriages instead of in one of their luxury cars. We should therefore not forget that property can be inherited. However, this makes an exact chronological assignment even more difficult using an aristocratic monogram alone. As always, other criteria such as construction must be taken into account.

  9. Martin,
    Leopold ceased to be crown prince upon his accession to the throne in 1865. A pan acquired before that time by Leopold’s household may indeed bore the 3 arched crown prince crown but the maker’s stamp should then read Van Neuss Vernimmen or Van Neuss and not MG Van Neuss as the chaudronnerie did not become MG Van Neuss before 1880.
    In addition, Leopold II, prince of Lippe (1796 – 1851), sovereign of the German Principality of Lippe, should not be confused with Leopod II (1835 – 1909), King of the Belgians.

    There were at least two other Ls around that time in the Belgian royal family, two children of Leopold II :
    – Prince Leopold of Belgium, Duke of Brabant, Count of Hainaut but he died in 1869 aged 9 ;
    – Princess Louise. I do not know if she possessed her own pots and pans (as opposed to her father’s and then her husband’s) but I must say that the idea of VFC having the pan of a princess pleases me much.

    Maybe a kind and more expert soul at the Office généalogique et héraldique de Belgique (http://oghb.be) or at the Association de la noblesse du royaume de Belgique (https://www.anrb-vakb.be/fr?lang=fr) would respond to a request of our French speaking Queen of all things Copper, would she be so amused as to contact them ?

    1. Martin and Nick, this is a great discussion. One thought: I have never seen an MG Vanneuss or Vanneuss-Vernimmen stamp. If the chaudronnerie Van Neuss made the piece in the mid-1800s and then serviced it over its lifetime, perhaps the GM Vanneuss piece was applied belatedly to claim it?

      For me, the most compelling evidence of the connection to Leopold II is the very distinctive shape of L as shown on the coin that Martin found. I’ve never seen any other typographic L like it. Nick, I will take your suggestion and write to the Belgian authorities to see if they can substantiate the connection.

      Thank you both for this fascinating discussion.

  10. Nick, darn it, the wrong Leopold II (Lippe) got in my way in between! Thanks for the clarification. There are a surprising number of Leopolds in aristocratic circles. I would also find it very pleasant if one could find another royal L-person as the legitimate owner of the pan, since I no longer sympathize with Leopold II the Belgian due to his brutal colonial policy. But that’s another topic. I think the idea of adding a princess or a gallant gentleman to the side of the queen is wonderful.

    VFC, it would be great if you got a satisfactory response to your inquiry. Good luck!

  11. Nick, it is logical that the two stamps – crown and company stamp – should match in terms of time (I had also seen this discrepancy), but in the last few weeks I have become skeptical about the correct stamping of the pans by some manufacturers. I would prefer it not to be.

    The possibility of a later addition of the manufacturer’s stamp, as discussed by VFC, cannot be ruled out. An indication that the pan was made earlier could be the less than optimal handle. On the other hand, I would then expect a toothed pan base. Why does VFC always raise difficult questions? 😉

  12. VFC,
    the L on the pan is indeed quite elegant but it is far less complex and specific than the one on the coins found by Martin (by the way, aren’t they two Ls on those coins ?). Without its crown, it would just be a regular stylized cursive capital L. In the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, wealthy families in Europe had lots of their belongings marked as a matter of course (embossed, engraved, embroidered, painted or otherwise decorated). And it was not only the case of the aristocratic elite. They were whole books dedicated to the various styles applicable to monograms, ciphers, coronets and coats of arms. See https://archive.org/details/gri_33125012958639/mode/2up for examples. Please take a look and let us know if you think that the style of the L on the pan would have been described as particularly uncommon at the time. The fact that it is an isolated letter (as opposed to a pair of initials), that it has a crown and even that its has been stamped on a simple cook pot hidden in a kitchen is on the other hand unarguably rare.
    As for a belated stamping of the pan by GM Van Neuss during servicing, one can indeed imagine it happening. It is a truly smart and elegant idea. Do you know if such practice was common ? acceptable ?
    In any case, let’s hope the Belgians will cooperate !

    1. Nick, thank you for finding that wonderful book! It is absolutely marvelous. I spent quite some time paging through it and admiring the intricate designs. The book helpfully groups many of them by style — Renaissance, Louis XIV, Louis XVI, etc. — so I could see different expressions of the aesthetic of the period. What a treasure — thank you.
      But I did not see an L like the one on the pot in question with its distinctive “forelock” (so to speak). (I invite eagle-eyed readers to search as well!) I agree with you that the coin’s version has fancy embellishments around it, but the forelock is there, and to my eye, that’s what makes this L unique and connects the pot with the coin.
      But of course if this is the case, there will be more historical evidence. I have contacted both Belgian organizations and have sent them photos. No replies yet but I will certainly update you when they reply!
      Thank you again for entering this fascinating discussion!

  13. Martin,
    I understand TJFrance is also skeptical about the possibility of dating a pan based solely about the maker’s or store stamp. What happened in the last few weeks that led you to change your mind ?

    1. Nick, I’ve been considering TJ’s position as well. At first I was affronted at the idea that stamps were not useful, but I have come around to appreciate his perspective. I’ve seen a few pieces now with double or over-stamped maker’s marks — I’ll feature one of them in an upcoming post — and that proves his point that on occasion some makers used stamps to claim others’ work. I’ve also seen marked pieces that are clear outliers — like the pot in this post — with craftsmanship that doesn’t seem to align with my understanding of the timing of the stamp. Ultimately, I have come to see that stamps need to be considered in the context of the entire piece: for a given period of time, each maker had a style based on the craftsmen and tools in use, and a stamp design that may or may not have been applied to each piece. We are left to assemble the picture from the puzzle pieces provided. When all the pieces fit together neatly, the answer is obvious, but the pieces can be misshapen, so to speak. I think TJ may have been trying to make this point and I was not initially receptive to it, but after some time and consideration I am seeing the truth in it. Now the challenge for me is how to discuss these examples (and I have a few of them!) in a coherent and satisfying way for the site.

  14. Nick, like you just wrote, our sources are thin. Business start-ups, mergers and closings of businesses, few catalogs, many variations of company stamps and a few guesses about how the pans were made. Did I forgot something? We know very well about the purely manual production of copper pans in the 19th century and of course we know the modern industrial production methods. But the area in between, especially during the years 1880-1940, at least I know very little.

    Studying hundreds of photos of copper pans and using my own collection, I found too many contradictions and exceptions that made me doubt that I could reliably date pans using stamps. Even if further technical criteria are included, this is often vague. I do not know whether TJ’s bold assertion is true that even the pans with the famous stamps were made by numerous small craft workshops in Paris and Villedieu and therefore show a certain variance and have been given different stamps. But neither can I refute this claim with facts.

    VFC has collected and systematized the available information with incredible energy and shares it with us in a selfless way. I know neither a better nor a more beautiful summary of the knowledge of our hobby. Even if you squeeze the internet like a duck press, the essence is thin. Very little has been published on this marginal topic. I suspect that countless good analog sources about the production of copper pans and about the organization of businesses have not yet been digitized and are hidden in libraries.

    During the last few weeks I have been trying to find out something about the first phase of the (partial) industrial production of pans (period 1880-1920). So I researched the first machines that could be used to deep-draw pans, or looked for small factories in which the corresponding machines were used for production. It was pretty frustrating. Unfortunately, I do not speak French, but with the help of today’s translation options, I have also scoured these sources on the Internet as well as possible. So I found some books about the beginnings of industrialization in France – unfortunately they are written in French and not digitized. By the way Belgium was the most progressive industrialized country in Europe around 1900.

  15. Nick, the album you linked is an excellent suggestion. I had to look at it and download it right away. With more suitable keywords than I used them so far, I found other sources that might be useful to me. So far, however, I have not been able to find the exact font with which my three royal “Welfen” lids (see my post last year) were stamped.

  16. Martin,
    I doubt you’ll ever be able to ! Even within the confines of one given style, the exact shape of a letter in a monogram may vary depending on the others letters it is combined with and more generally on the options the artist retains (in terms of respective positioning, overlapping, tilting, mirroring, flourishes…) and of course on his personal “touch”. Further variations could also appear depending on the surface (metal, cloth, wood, paper, stone…) and method (paint, engraving, stamping,embroidery…) of application.
    This is not typography. Evidently, legibility and readability are not prime factors. You have to de-cypher the symbol. There is neither typesetting nor fonts in monograms , except maybe for the economy class versions but certainly not for your German princes. I’m quite sure that in their case, everything was entirely custom made, with great care, by the best artists and craftsmen.
    I missed your post on the Welfen lids last year but very much enjoyed reading it today. Very nice post and very nice pieces !
    I’m happy the album pleases you.

    PS : for me a cypher is a monogram with a crown but some use the two terms interchangeably.

  17. Nick, what made me search so intensely was my conviction or stubbornness I had seen this type of letter (so a kind of “typography”) somewhere before. You are certainly right, however, that monograms in general, and for high-ranking aristocrats in particular, are custom-made. But sometimes artists lean on archetypes to express a certain state of mind or ideals (Renaissance – ancient Greece). But I shouldn’t waste my precious time looking for the “needle in the haystack”. Thanks.

  18. VFC,
    I almost missed your recent posts as they were up there and I only looked at the bottom of the discussion (and I didn’t receive any specific alerts in my mailbox).
    I must say that I have found the timeline based on the chronology of the stamps quite satisfying and enjoyable. I suspected it might be not as perfectly accurate as lots of us would have liked it to be. One must however acknowledge that you have always taken great care in your writings to underline where there were uncertainties and assumptions in terms of provenance, technique or chronology. I have learned lots of things here, thanks to you, that remain perfectly valid and I still think that maker’s or store stamps can be used to gain useful if not foolproof information. I trust you will find the right twist for this site.
    Oh, by the way, I recently acquired a crêpe pan with a Lecellier stamp that I haven’t seen in your field guide. Interested ?

    1. Nick, I appreciate the vote of confidence 🙂 Thank you for contributing to the discussion here. And I’ll shoot you an email about the Lecellier stamp — thank you!

    1. So it could be earlier, for Leopold I? That thought occurred to me also. That would place the pot earlier in time — he reigned from 1831-1865, during the MG Vanneuss period. Thank you for unearthing this example. I still have my queries out to the two Belgian authorities, but neither has replied. I shall have to escalate my French emails from “polite and deferential” to “assertive but respectful” 😉

  19. LOL. I think that if you receive word from them within a week or two that should still count as extra super diligent and helpful on their part.

  20. Nick, at least a Belgian Leopold, for a change L I. I also played through variant L III. But I think both variants are less likely. Presumably, the Belgians shouldn’t be irritated by too many design variants for the means of payment and the stability of the royal family should be underlined.

    VFC, authorities work slowly, sorry, carefully.

  21. At the risk of being annoying or boring, I can’t stop thinking about this little saucepan as it raises so many questions that extend beyond itself.

    The inferior execution of the forged handle contradict the apparently perfect manufacture of the body and the stamps that identify the pan as part of a court kitchen. The shape and quality of the craftsmanship of this handle does not even come close to the two other pans (another saucepan and a sauté pan) I know with identical manufacturer’s stamps. The handles of the latter pans are wider, the width only decreasing slightly from the wide, right-angled handle rest to the eyelet, the handles are only slightly curved (almost like English pans), and their size harmonizes with the dimensions of the pans. Amazingly, the bottom of the 20cm saucepan I know is dovetailed, but not the bottom of my sauté 26cm. Common features: all 3 handles are forged (albeit in different quality), the type of rivets are similar. Did the handle come from a different workshop than the other two handles? Could it have been made earlier? Did the chef of the court kitchen accept the somewhat “weak” handle when buying this pan because the small pan would be used less often or was the thin handle forged especially for small (women’s) hands?

    I still have photos of a heavy stockpot with G.M.V. stamp. This one is also dovetailed and has scrolled brass handles. So I know 4 pans that all have the same stamp (1880-1892), but were made in quite different ways.

    The completely different handle, perhaps also the proportions of the “Leopold” pan, raise the question of whether the pan was actually manufactured by G.M.V. after 1880. Or did it come from the uncle’s era, in which G.M.V. was already active there, but still under the direction of his uncle. Was the pan only given the new stamp after G.M.V. had taken over his uncle’s business? VFC mentioned that they did not know of any stamps from the VanNeuss-Vernimmen era. Neither do I.

    Why do the punches show different degrees of wear, with the 4 stamps on one side of the pan being close together? In particular, the clearly worn crown right next to the perfectly preserved L raises questions for me. Was the stamp impressed less deeply from the beginning, i.e. was it set with less care? Or was this stamp set years before any other stamp? The greater wear compared to the workshop stamp could be seen as small evidence of earlier production.

    But this hypothesis contradicts the modern production of the pan body. However, I dare, against all reason, either to question the method of manufacturing the “Leopold” pan or to push the date of the introduction of machine manufacturing methods forward towards the middle of the 19th century. If the latter were true, this would support both the thesis that traditional and mechanical production methods existed side by side for several decades and the thesis derived from this that production was distributed among numerous small craft businesses that had their own individual characteristics.

    The 4 pans I know, all from the same workshop and with an identical stamp but with very different production, speak for the thesis of diversity and proves the great difficulties of a temporal classification. But approximations are good too.

  22. Hi, I have just read this with great interest, there is one thing that grates, seems wrong, that has not been mentioned. I have NEVER seen a pan with any kind of insignia crest or crown linking it to any level the nobility that has a prominent maker stamp. Kings, Queens and their children tend not to buy off the shelf but commission items. Would any maker have had the audacity to put their name on a royal commission? I think it is far more likely to have been done when it was replaced and left the royal house and serviced for re-sale.

  23. Roger, an interesting consideration. But take a look at my “Welfen” lid. After all, one of them bears the stamp of the coppersmith from (Friedrich Ludwig) Paulmann, Hanover. He may not be internationally known, but his work has been excellent. Artists (painters, musicians) also signed their works or even dedicated them to their prince or client. In the past, the Queen occasionally drove her Land Rover herself and royal luxury cars, whether Rolls Royce or Bentley, were clearly recognizable as such. Quite a few manufacturers advertise their approvals as purveyors to the court or with their prominent customers. I remember also M.G. Vanneuss had such an award as purveyor to the court. As far as I know, he was the first in Belgium (the monarchy was still young). There are many examples, but I’ll agree with you, there are certainly also custom-made products for which the manufacturer had to guarantee discretion.

  24. I would like to add that aristocrats and celebrities have special designs created for themselves that the manufacturer is not allowed to manufacture and sell for others. There are also strictly limited and therefore high-priced products that ordinary people cannot afford, but which some newly rich celebrities stock up on and brag about. I could give examples.

  25. Martin, the system of royal warrants for cars, tailoring, tobacco products, spectacles, firewood, radio receivers and so forth is alive and well in the UK. I still think that actually putting you name on the product next that of your patron is “brass neck “of the most shameless kind.

  26. People obviously have a strong need for orientation, classification and role models. Our community is not the worst example of this. We love stamps and numbers that allow us to categorize our pans. That gives security. Well-made pans are great for cooking – regardless of whether and which stamp they have. But the myth that wafts around a historical pan that was used in a luxury restaurant, a court kitchen or on the Orient Express lends wings to our imagination and perhaps inspires our culinary skills. In addition to rational abilities, we humans also have a need for emotions. I think it’s all about balance, as always.

    s.

  27. VFC: Leopold I never held the title of Crown Prince of the Belgians (Duke of Brabant). This title was first used in modern times by his son, who later became Leopold II. Since the saucepan, as Nick discovered, does not show a Belgian royal crown, but the crown of a crown prince, there is still only one option for me. So the saucepan is likely to be much older than initially assumed, which is also supported by the proportions of a “casserole russe” you described and the peculiar handle.

    Theoretically, the period 1835-1865 is possible for production. Now you can speculate cheerfully who actually made the pan – uncle MPV, nephew GMV, another journeyman in the Van Neuss house or a completely different workshop. But one thing is certain for me, in this case you should not use the workshop stamp alone to determine origin and age of the pan.

    What is most astonishing to me is that it was possible to machine copper pans as early as the middle of the 19th century. More photos, especially of the bottom of the pot, could help to better understand the technical development.

    1. Martin and Nick, I’ve amended the post to reflect what you have discovered. (I should probably rewrite the monogram section entirely — I’ll work on it this weekend.) I will also take you up on the suggestion to photograph it in more detail so we can evaluate its construction. Thank you both so much for the lively discussion — I am really enjoying it. (I also have posts on a couple more interestingly-stamped pieces coming up!)

  28. Is the diameter slightly smaller towards the base of pan?
    I have assembled a vintage set of base heavy pans and most are odd sizes at the rim as a result of having a slight flare. I have always assumed that they were spun and the former had sloping sides to make removal easier. Usually the walls get thicker towards the base with most of the reduction in diameter on the inside.

  29. VFC,
    I’m sorry if I unwillingly misled you to believe I was suggesting the L on the pan referred to Leopold I, King of the Belgians. My point in bringing up the 5 centimes coin from 1837 was merely to reinforce my previous contention that the L with a forelock was not necessarily specific to Leopold II.
    Indeed, I had discarded the idea of the pan belonging to Leopold I for the reason explained by Martin : as the first King of the Belgians, Leopold I had not been a crown Prince of Belgium before his accession to the throne (and I doubt that as a German prince of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (until 1826) and of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (after 1826) living in England, a. his cypher would have been based on the sole initial of his first name and b. he owned any Belgian made copper pan).
    On the subject of the construction of the L pan, I am clearly not an expert and have a few questions and observations I’d like to submit :
    1. how does one determine whether a pan has been deep-drawn or made by hand and hammer when there are no dovetails?
    2. As regards the handle, my first take was to blame its sorry state to heavy rust rather than to poor execution.
    3. In its 1914 catalog, Gaillard still offers casseroles russes. They are indeed available in 2cm increments. But the regular casseroles, the saute pans, as well as the flat and fitted lids are offered in 1 cm increments. By the way, in this same calalog, Gaillard claims that its batterie de cuisine is entirely produced by hand and hammer.

  30. Nick and Roger, thank you for your suggestions and memories. I would be very happy if someone could find exact data as to when the first machines for deep-drawing metal plates, especially for the production of copper pans, were introduced, what they looked like and with what precision they worked. The drawings and photos of such machines I found mostly show quite monstrous things. It can be assumed that these presses already existed in the second half of the 19th century. At first they were operated hydraulically with steam engines, later electrically-hydraulically. I have sent VFC some pictures of such machines, as well as references and sources on early industrial production. Maybe one day it will turn into a mosaic that will help us understand this time better.

    Today’s deep-drawing presses are characterized by the highest precision of the results, as we all know them. The deformation of copper disks using lathes (spinning) also delivers far more uniform results than hammering with hundreds or thousands of hammer blows. As I already wrote elsewhere, the thickness of the side wall can be varied continuously when spinning, just like the cross-sections of the best Gaillard pans. Lathes already existed in the middle of the 19th century, probably even earlier. Of course, there were also many types of presses that could be used, for example, to produce perfectly flat copper plates. In earlier times copper plates were leveled with huge stone slabs. I would see spinning as a kind of manual manufacture at this time. Today there are spinning machines that can be programmed, which means that manual intervention is hardly necessary.

    Nick, in short, pans made entirely by hand show irregularities, which I find beautiful and “livelier”. The deep-drawn modern pans from Mauviel of the “M’tradition” series are also hammered in the final processing, but this is largely done by machine.

  31. Readers, THE BELGIANS HAVE SPOKEN. I’ve updated this post with the response from the ANRB as well as extensive changes (in the latter half or so) based on Nick and Martin’s findings and questions. (I have a second query out to a different Belgian group and will report back.) I’ve also added photos with a closer look at the piece and my own speculation as to its manufacture. Please take a look and let me know what you guys think. And thank you, as always, for teaching me and for making this a better site for all readers.

  32. VFC, your plea, backed up with photo evidence, convinces me. Since I know these fine grooves in spun pans, I agree with your suggestion that the shape of the pan was created by hammering. Sometimes I don’t just have a blind spot in my eye and a lot more in my brain. So I always had the image of a blacksmith hammering a pan into shape from the inside in the classic way. How is that supposed to work with such a narrow pan? But now it’s dawned on me. The blacksmith can also work the pan from the outside, as is done, for example, with the traditional Japanese “Shibori” technique (cold hammering). Bravo! Now for me royal cipher, time and technology fit together again.

    The ANRB responded faster than I expected. But I don’t find his answer very convincing either. In contrast to Nick, the organization did not recognize that it was “only” a crown prince’s crown and not a royal crown. Like you, I think “32” is a registration number that we often find on pans in large kitchens. In 1831 Leopold I took his oath on the constitution as the first king of the Belgians. His son Leopold was born in 1835. He was entitled to the title of Crown Prince from birth. Thus, the pan must have been made and stamped with the crown prince`s stamp in the following years, but before the beginning of the reign as Leopold II. So I would say 1835-65.

  33. Since no further comment has been added yet, I humbly allow myself a few crazy thoughts about the age of the pan. Where did the Crown Prince live when he was born in 1835? But certainly with his parents in the royal residence or in one of the other castles that were available to the royal family. As a child, did he need complete kitchen equipment that had to be marked with his monogram? I think the prince and the entire royal family were catered for by the court kitchen, whose pans and other inventory were marked with Leopold I’s monogram. Did the prince even need his own kitchen equipment, and if so, from when? Probably at the earliest from the point in time when he moved into his “bachelor” s place and founded his own household. That will hardly have been before his 20th birthday, i.e. around 1855-60. Remember, in 1865, when he was 30 years old, he became King Leopold II. From this point on, the entire household was to be re-stamped again.
    So maybe it was completely different and at some point the small pan was added to the other pans in the court kitchen at a suitable occasion. Was the pan a gift from the coppersmith?

  34. Thanks for the update, VFC !

    I am, like Martin and yourself, pleasantly surprised by the celerity of the answer of the ANRB but disappointed by its quality. It’s evidently very hypothetical and not very informative to say the least.

    So far the only Belgian royal symbol we have found that bears any kind of similarity with the princely stamp on the L pan is the one on the 1837 and 1905 coins (copper by the way) and the similarity is in fact limited to a common graphical element, what VFC called the forelock. I must say I am very frustrated with this symbol : I can’t read it (is it a very convoluted and adorned isolated L or are there different interlaced letters?) and I don’t understand what it stands for (if it’s supposed to symbolize Leopold I then why is it put on the 1905 Leopold II coin? I searched the web but haven’t been able to find any other instances where it is used). May, I suggest, VFC, a second mail to your Belgian penpals with pictures of both coins attached?

    Thank you very much, VFC and Martin, for the explanations on the different manufacturing techniques. I’ve done some additional research on the subject and dug up a few youtube videos that I think the readers of this site might also find interesting or at least entertaining (VFC, of course, feel free to edit in case you think this is not the right place to post):

    1. an expose on the various techniques used by Mauviel in 2013: manual spinning (potato steamer), automatic spinning (some item I didn’t identify in stainless steel), pressing (method used for a majority of products including sauce pans, frying pans, saute pans, jam pans), “hand crafted manufacturing” (apparently welding and hammering for braisières, turbotières and other fish poachers), hammering (surface hammering “to hide the defects, reinforce the raw material and be esthetic”. This does not seem to be fully automated: a guy is showed holding the pan to the hydraulic hammer) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVB9jgrLe0I
    2. Jim Hamann explaining how he makes his copper pans at Duparquet (manual spinning, no hammering) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTztlpAcips
    3. a story from French television on a traditional dinandier in the Auvergne region of France (you see him raising a pan with the hammer) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrFX2bELPxM
    4. another French traditional dinandier explaining and showing the different steps of raising a copper vase with the hammer : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5847Xk1-MPQ
    5. traditional production of hand-hammered Tsuiki copperware in Japan (the methods and tools appear to be overall similar at what is done in France but the ambiance of the workshop is strikingly different. What they do to obtain the surface finish of their teapots and vases is fascinating) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odWl4M-Pzw0
    6. a story from the Swiss television on another traditional dinandier somewhere in an isolated corner of the Swiss alps making huge cauldrons for cheese making and cow bells : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIVQFRa8Q0A

  35. “HEUREKA!” I found it! Or, I got it. With Archimedes you can be sure that he really found the solution.

    But I also venture a new explanation for the “L” on the pan and on many historical Belgian coins. The “L” does not stand for a royal name, but for the HERALDIC ANIMAL of the Belgian coat of arms, the LION. In French “lion”, Dutch “leeuw”, German “Löwe”, Latin “leo”.

    Although it might be obvious, the name “Leopold” is not derived from “Leo”, the lion, but from the Old High German name “Liutbald”, which is made up of the name syllables “liut” (Old High German for people) and “bald” (Old High German for “bold, brave”). https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold

    What do you mean?

  36. Hi Martin,

    Maybe it’s the effect of too much copper but you’ve lost me there :-))
    Indeed, what do you mean ?

  37. Hi Nick, it’s possible that my humor got a bit toxic over the years. But I’m sure your immune system is up to it.

  38. For my part, I am content to assume the L is associated with Leopold I, but the exact timing is up in the air. If it is indeed a Vanneuss piece (and I have no reason to assume otherwise), it was made sometime after 1830 (well, perhaps 1828, when Michel married the widow Vernimmen), my guess is during Michel’s tenure up to 1880; I am still inclined to put it at the early end of that range. I have sent a note back to the ANRB to inquire as to the significance of the three-pronged crown versus the five, and I have yet to hear a response from the other Belgian authority, the OGHB. I will advise when I have an update.

    Nick, as to your post suggestions, I too have been ruminating on the various manufacturing methods and a way to show them in practice and in evidence on specific pieces. This ambitious goal is, however, fraught. Like Martin, I’m stuck in the gray area of the 19th century when hand-crafting, hand-cranked machinery, early water-powered machinery, steam-powered machinery, and then finally electric/hydraulic/pneumatic machinery were all in the mix. There are so many variables at play. But I like your suggestion of demonstrating each technique, perhaps showing one or two clear examples, and allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about the pieces they can examine on their own.

    This has been a fascinating discussion and I thank you both for your thoughtful and articulate contributions. You have prompted me to think about stamps, and specifically the greater question of whether and how to rely on them. I have a couple of posts simmering right now with pieces with interesting stamp situations and I hope you will take a look at them as well when they go live in a week or two.

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