Many good things come together in this petite pan.
|Type||Tin-lined sauté pan in hammered finish with cast iron handle fastened with three copper rivets and fitted lid with cast iron handle|
|French description||Sauteuse étamée et martelée avec queue en fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre et couvercle à degré avec queue en fer|
|Dimensions||18cm diameter at rim by 6cm tall (7.1 by 2.4 inches)|
|Thickness||2.8 to 3mm at rim|
|Weight||1949g (4.3 lbs) pan body alone; 2616g (5.8 lbs) with lid|
|Stampings||On pan: E de R PARIS 1924, 18; on lid: Jules Gaillard 81 Faubg St Denis Paris, E de R PARIS 1926, 18|
|Maker and age estimate||Gaillard, 1924 (pan) and 1926 (lid)|
This pan is a standout for me: it’s quite thick for its small size, it is absolutely beautifully made, and its stamps not only establish an interesting provenance but also enable me to identify and date it quite precisely. It’s an added bonus (and a very significant one) that this piece also anchors a specific Jules Gaillard stamp to the 1920s; as I posted recently, I had previously mis-dated this stamp to an earlier period and this pan’s lid provided me the physical evidence I needed to correct myself. I will always feel fortunate to have found this piece and to have added it to my collection.
This is a sturdy little pan. I measured the rim at 2.7mm but at 1949g (4.3 lbs) it handily outweighs another 18cm modern-era sauté I’ve measured at 3.5mm and 1600g. This is high-quality cookware and it is very well-made.
The handle is cast iron and beautifully smooth in texture. I don’t see any filing marks, which suggests that either the post-casting finishing was done so finely as to leave no trace, or the piece was so well cast that it didn’t need any. I see this same beautiful finish on early 20th century Gaillard (which I suspect this piece to be) but I don’t know enough about the composition of iron alloys and the methods of casting to be able to speak with authority as to the causes for its unique appearance.
The interior and exterior rivets have been flattened. I detect what I suspect are traces of size numbers on the interior rivets, which I would expect for 20th-century mass-produced rivets.
The base is seamless, and for a pan of this thickness, this construction is another indication of 20th century manufacture: it must have been pressed in a machine powerful . I also detect two beveled planes around the edge of the base, a sign of quality craftsmanship. (The pan has been polished quite a bit over its lifespan and the bevels have been softened and so the area under the handle baseplate is where they are most detectible.)
The lid has the same smooth cast handle as the pan. The top-side rivets share the neat flattened appearance as the external rivets on the pan body; the inner rivets are flat and flush to the surface.
It’s difficult to capture with a camera but the lid is slightly warped. You can spot it somewhat in the photo on the left above, at about 2 o’clock on the rim. It appears that some downward force was applied to the lid and while the spine of the cast handle kept half of the disk flat, the un-stabilized half yielded and formed a very slight crease to the right of the stamps. The photo below is an attempt to capture it again, on the right side towards the far edge. The lid sits reasonably flat on the edge of the pan and is still usable in my opinion.
Now, I’d like to turn to the stamps. Both pan and lid carry an owner’s mark (E de R Paris), a size (18), and a date (1924 or 1926); the lid carries an additional maker’s mark for Jules Gaillard. Based on the physical evidence of the pan’s craftsmanship — thick copper that must have been machine-pressed, mass-produced rivets, cast iron handles, and a high level of hand-finishing — everything about this piece points me to the conclusion that this pan was made by Gaillard for the household of Baron Edmond James de Rothschild (1845-1934), whose principal residence was château Boulogne-Billancourt — also known as château Rothschild — on the outskirts of Paris.
It is this now-derelict château that I suspect was the household for this piece (and others bearing the E de R stamp), and I dearly wish we had period photographs or diagrams of the building in its prime. Edmond lived there until his death in 1934, after which the property was managed for a short time by his daughter Alexandrine until the Rothschild family fled Paris for England in 1939. The abandoned château was devastated by successive waves of wartime occupants — first the Nazis and then the Americans — and it has never recovered. The Rothschild family effectively donated the property to the city of Paris; the building was sold in 1986 to a property investment firm, but at this moment in time the building slips further into decay while it awaits what would be an enormous financial investment for repair and restoration.
The 1924 pan and 1926 lid are clearly not original to each other. Aside from the clearly differing dates, the typeface of the stamps is different — the letters were impressed with physically different stamps.
At the moment my assumption is that it was World War II that scattered the copper pans of château Boulogne-Billancourt to the four winds. Edmond de Rothschild’s daughter Alexandrine never lived there after his death in 1934 — in fact, it would seem no Rothschild inhabited the place after Edmond — but I expect she would have kept it intact. The Rothschilds fled France in 1939 ahead of German invasion in 1940; Rothschild property and possessions in France were subsequently seized by the Vichy regime.
It is a miracle that any copper from the kitchen at château Boulogne-Billancourt has survived. I sigh to think of the great pieces that must have been lost. At only 18cm (7.1 inches) diameter, this pan would have been among the most modest members of the batterie de cuisine of a household of such grand scale, but perhaps it was its diminutive size that saved it. How grateful I am to have care of it in the present day.