“It is the first I purchased, and the oldest.”
VFC says: Please enjoy this guest post by Matt C.!
This guest post discusses an item of cookware less common in the annals of Vintage French Copper, a saucepan of rolled rim construction that is neither vintage nor French. This saucepan is also unique to my collection because it is the first I purchased and the oldest.
I’ve been collecting antique and vintage metalware including kitchenalia since my youth but only purchased my first copper cookware about half-a-dozen years ago. The saucepan in question was hanging in a local bric-a-brac store with a large vintage, early twentieth century 6-litre saucepan from Skultuna Sweden (Skultuna incidentally was founded in 1607 and continues to this day). I purchased the pair for $AU50 ($US35).
My saucepan has a diameter of 26 cm, height of 9.5 cm and weighs 1670 g. The rim is rolled over a presumed iron ring and has a 1-mm thick sidewall below the rim. The interior has been tin-lined.
There is a divot in the centre of the underside of the base, showing the coppersmith used a compass to mark out the radius of the circle of copper cut from a flat sheet to form the pan.
The handle is wrought from an approximately 11-mm-thick copper bar or rod with a heart shaped flared end fixed to the pan body with three copper rivets and a pierced hanging hole at the end. Streaks in the copper show where the coppersmith has wrought the bar.
The handle is stamped with an embossed “touchmark” or “foundry mark” near the body of the pan. This is the “Three Towers” heraldic symbol for the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, which was granted the coat of arms in 1661 by King Frederick III of Denmark.
The towers represent the castle of Absalon, which stood in mediaeval times where the royal palace of Christiansborg now stands. The heraldic escutcheon is topped by the indistinct initials of the maker, perhaps “DP”, and has the date “1795” below, probably dating the foundation of the workshop. I cannot identify the maker and curators at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen advise eighteenth century copper marks are poorly-documented.
Danish silver is hallmarked with the same “Three Towers” over three wavy lines signifying the three seaways flowing between the main Danish islands. The fineness or purity of the silver as a percentage out of one hundred is embossed in the middle of the waves. Below at left is a silver hallmark from a late nineteenth century Danish berry spoon in my collection of fineness 83 – 83% purity. Vintage Danish copperware sometimes bears a similar touchmark to the Danish silver hallmark. A mid-century copper samovar from my collection has the touchmark below at right.
I have found online similar dated touchmarks to that on my saucepan on other antique Danish copperware, including those depicted below. Two are from near identical copper pots with the touchmark initials AB over the three towers and the date 1812 below. These are by A. Bergstrøm who had the contract to supply such mess pots to the Danish Royal Infantry. The stamped numbers below (N:145 and N:297) presumably identified the infantryman.
A third example, shown at right, has indistinct initials over the three towers and a date in the 1760s.
The Danes have a rich metalworking history in gold, silver, copper, pewter, and steel, with the silversmith Georg Jensen perhaps the most famous artisan. Danish metalware has a reputation for quality and simplicity of design. This is exemplified by two vintage twentieth-century Danish copper beer measures (1 litre and 330 millilitre capacities) I have, which exhibit both exceptional craftsmanship and purity of form. They also preserve some of the design and technical legacy of my eighteenth century pan. Rims are rolled over probable iron rings. The handles are thick copper (6-mm-thick on the largest) with flared, heart-shaped flanges affixed with copper rivets (three per flange on the largest, one on the smaller). Interiors are tin-lined. The 1 litre measure is 16.5 cm tall by 11 cm diameter and weighs 1220 grams, with the smaller of 12 cm height, 8 cm diameter and weighs 640 grams.
They are formed from seamless cylinders of 2-mm-thick copper, plugged with soldered bases. Compass divots show these plugs were measured the same way as the pan base.
How did two Scandinavian saucepans with manufacture separated by perhaps a century end up together 17,000 km away in a junk store on the Pacific Coast of Australia? Small numbers of Danish and Swedish immigrant farmers settled in the region over the second half of the nineteen century and it is possible that the pans arrived with such settlers.
VFC says: Matt, thank you so much for this wonderful showcase. These pieces are beautiful and I am so glad they found their way to you, so far from the place and time they were made. I also want to express my appreciation for the attribution to Denmark — as you note, this is a region of coppercrafting about which I have little knowledge. I am so grateful to you for introducing us to Danish copper cookware and for providing history and useful information about the markings.
A question for you and the readership in general: I often see unmarked pieces like your saucepan with a similar handle style: all-copper construction, a heart-shaped baseplate, and a long slender handle shaft. The workmanship is clearly of the antique era and I have heard them attributed to Russia or Eastern Europe. Could this handle style be instead a Scandinavian design element?