French silverware and art of the table

“Eating with silverware gives more sophistication to the meal and therefore in principle the pleasure is tenfold.”

David is our expert today. He will guide us through the history of French silverware, in particular since the 19th century (he is the author of the 400 page book « French Silver Cutlery of the XIXth Century », Editions Faton). Silverware and France appear to be his two passions. He will also share with us his own history with France. He is a former antique dealer, and he happily describes himself as a compulsive silver collector. He will  explain the importance of the meal in French society, the idea of a “bon vivant” that is typically French.

David you are British, so what made you come to France in the first place? Was it a choice, or the result of life’s chances?
« I would say both! My father is Scottish and my mother Hungarian. The chance of my life was indeed that I was born in France, near Paris. I don’t have French nationality, but I was born here; but we left  when I was 2 years old. Throughout my childhood, I thought that one day I would move back to France. Before Paris, I lived in New York where I met my wife. We spent our honeymoon in Paris. And at that time, we told ourselves that Paris was where we should retire. Finally we came back to Paris much earlier, in 1991. This summer we moved to Burgundy Franche-Comté, in the Haute-Soane department. We have moved into a 19th century apartment in the small and charming ancient town of Gray, which first existed in the year 951. »

How did you become interested in silver ?
« I started buying silver before settling in France. As an antique dealer in New York, I mostly bought furniture. Actually it was then that I also started buying French and other silver pieces. »

So it became a passion for you?
« I would say, rather that it almost became an illness. Like for all collectors once your are « caught », it attracts you irresistibly. »

What do you admire most about silver?
«  It is a mixture of the quality of workmanship with human intelligence. It is a question of the design of the object and its purpose. The 19th century is a very interesting period where there is a lot of historicism in the design of objects in general. When you look at a well designed and well made object it becomes a thing of beauty. »

Then it is important that the object has a function?
« Yes, the object has a function, and that function is part of its beauty. For example, the better the quality of both workmanship and design of cutlery, the greater the pleasure experienced in using silver cutlery.
What is also interesting is that in the 19th century, there was solid silver cutlery and also less expensive silver-plated cutlery; which was the precursor of the use of stainless steel which is cheaper still.
The use of silverware became accessible to a large part of the French society, who bought silver-plated cutlery which were exactly the same patterns as those in solid silver. It became  easily possible to eat in style. »

And it is thus in the 19th century that the use of silver-plated wares became widespread?
« Yes it was a century of inventions. From the 1830’s silver-plated metal became  readily available.  The trigger was when the French company Christofle, which was at first the only important specialist in silver-plated wares, managed to sell them to the imperial family. For example, at the Chateau de Chantilly, you can see a whole cutlery service and also soup tureens, all in silver-plated metal. So it’s a combination of access to luxury with the possibility of having well-made, high quality and not necessarily very expensive pieces. »

When did the goldsmith’s trade first appear?
« Gold and silversmiths existed in ancient times, but Its apogee was the 18th century.  I was still expensive in the 18th century and restricted to the aristocracy which used only solid silver. As for all decorative arts, furniture, glassware, ceramics, porcelain, the 18th was the apogee of extreme luxury; the 19th was the century of access to luxury for the class just below the aristocracy, the bourgeois class. “

Of all the pieces you have, what are your favorites?
« There are many pieces that I like very much. There is not one single piece in particular. Each piece is different, just like people. There are pieces set with semi-precious stones, there are pieces in vermeil, engraved pieces. I recently bought a small mocha spoon, that has a figure of Napoleon on the handle, which is something you seldom see. It’s not worth a lot of money but it’s a spoon that was made for Napoleon’s admirers in the later 19th century and for a collector it’s quite rare today. »

When you buy a piece of silver, do you try to trace its history, to find its origin?
« Yes certainly. I look at the quality of the object but the first thing to do is to look at the maker’s marks and hallmarks. By observing the marks we can know where the piece was made, if it is French or not. We can see if it was made in Paris or in the provinces. We can find the name of the silversmith.  With the name of the silversmith and the type of mark we can often date the piece with more or less precision. In France in the 19th century, dating a silver objet is more difficult than previously because there is no date stamp for each year. The margin for dating is more vague, but still possible, using the guarantee mark and the silversmith’s mark, because many silversmiths had rather short periods of activity.”
Buying and collecting silver in general and cutlery in particular is interesting  because we eat 3 meals a day, so we use the cutlery every day. You can find antique silverware in antique shops, antique fairs, auction rooms, and even our own grandparents’ homes. It is possible to start with a small spoon that you found at grandma’s; then you can begin to understand how and why the spoon is interesting, by looking at the style, the quality of work and by studying the silver marks. This leads us to look for other similar pieces elsewhere, and once we start, we are lost, and can’t stop. It is easy to have hundreds of pieces of cutlery at home. Pieces which we use on Sundays, others which we use at Christmas or very rarely because they are so rare and beautiful that we don’t want them to get damaged… »

For you, using silverware during a meal changes the taste of food?
« It’s partly about the taste of the food but more important is that it changes the attitude of the person and consequently the experience. It’s comparable drinking Champagne in a plastic or crystal glass, it’s a totally different experience. If you’re at a friend’s house or in a restaurant and you drink from a crystal glass, it’s the same drink, but it changes everything. It’s like when you’re dressed in jeans and a t-shirt you’re more comfortable and then if you put on more sophisticated clothes, you’re already more sophisticated. Eating with silverware gives more sophistication to the meal and therefore in principle the pleasure is tenfold. »

Is there anything you would like to say that I haven’t asked you about, or that is important to you about the place of silver in a meal ?
« The most important thing when you think about a meal, is that the art of the table makes you feel better, it is the difference between eating and dining.
What is interesting in France is that this idea of the importance of the meal, is present in all social strata. There are different levels of wealth in different classes, but in all classes in France, there is an understanding of the importance of the meal. This is typically French. That it is always possible to eat well. This is the richness of French ‘art de vivre’, whether you live in Paris or in the countryside.

This is found elsewhere, but it is an idea that spread from France in the 18th century.  C’est l’art de vivre à la française! »

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Atelier mode à Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris

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Passages Secrets, attentif au bien-être des femmes ne pouvait résister à vous présenter Tanya Heath. En effet, ces créations s’inscrivent totalement  dans notre parcours Secrets d’Elégance. Plus besoin de cacher une paire de ballerines au fond de son sac à main. Découvrez la solution pour réconcilier confort et élégance : Faire du talon un accessoire de mode ! Un simple clic permet d’adapter son style à chaque moment de la journée. Tanya est soucieuse d’investir dans un mode de production responsable. Originaire du Canada, elle est également éperdument amoureuse de la France. Ainsi, ses collections sont réalisées par des artisans français dont les savoir-faire témoignent d’une réelle innovation technique.

Avec Tanya Heath, vous n’aurez plus peur de tourner les talons !

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Papiers peints de créateurs Paris

C’est l’histoire de trois amis passionnés par les Arts Décoratifs et la restauration d’intérieurs historiques. Un beau jour ils se prenne de passion pour une technique artisanale tombée dans l’oubli : la dominoterie.

En 2012, ils décident donc de s’associer pour faire renaître ce savoir-faire français du XVIIIe siècle.  Ils fondent alors l’entreprise A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson, spécialiste de création et d’édition de papiers peints dominotés. Ce nom est un hommage à la Marquise de Pompadour, née Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, amatrice des arts et de papiers peints.

C’est tout le charme des décors intérieurs intimistes du XVIIIe siècle que propose de faire revivre ce trio de passionnés.

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Visite atelier accessoires mode

Un atelier artisanal d’accessoires de mode très nature !

Les fondateurs de Maison Baluchon, créateur d’accessoires de mode, évoluent en Haute-Marne. Ce territoire naturellement riche et préservé est leur source d’inspiration. De la sorte ils ont choisi de créer une marque qui reflète leur environnement direct.

La société conçoit des accessoires de mode et donne la part belle au sur-mesure. Elle mobilise des savoir-faire locaux de couturières, d’artisans d’art ou petites mains. La marque assure toute la réalisation, du crayonné à la façon, de l’impression du tissu au travail du cuir…

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Accessoires luxe Paris MAISON ALEXANDRA SOJFER

Dans cette boutique où accessoires de luxe et beaux objets ne font qu’un, le parapluie est roi.  La maison Alexandra Sojfer conçoit des parapluies et autres objets d’exception. De fait, leur création requière un savoir-faire unique. Tous les objets sont montés à la main dans les ateliers de la marque. Les matières premières font l’objet d’une sélection soignée et exigeante. En outre, chaque modèle est cousu, pièce par pièce, dans les ateliers. Qu’il s’agisse des séries suivies ou des pièces uniques numérotées, le processus est identique. Il s’agit donc d’un artisanat rare.  Grâce à ce savoir-faire transmis au fil des générations, la maison Alexandra Sojfer s’inscrit dans la grande tradition du luxe à la française.

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Visite artisan accessoires mode Eventails Paris

Fondée à Paris en 1827 par Jean-Pierre Duvelleroy, La maison d’éventails Duvelleroy n’a eu de cesse de se réinventer. A l’origine elle est née d’un rêve, celui de remettre l’éventail aux mains des femmes. Un bal somptueux donné par la duchesse de Berry exaucera tous ses vœux. En effet une danse relance la mode de l’éventail et lance la maison. Celle-ci gagne sa réputation avec ses éventails couture, rebrodés de sequins et ses éventails en plumes marquetées ou entières. Depuis elle est devenue le fournisseur attitré des plus célèbres femmes de ce monde. Depuis les années 2010 la maison Duvelleroy connaît un renouveau grâce à l’engagement de deux passionnées : Raphaëlle de Panafieu et Eloïse Gilles.

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Salon thé – Thé parfumé Potager du roi Versailles

Plus qu’à une simple dégustation de thé parfumé, nous vous invitons à une escapade royale. Fondée en 1672, par Pierre Diaz, « La Distillerie Frères » fut la première parfumerie à distiller les essences de lavande et de rose. A l’époque on les utilisées pour agrémenter les gants. Au XVIIIe siècle, la reine Marie-Antoinette en apprécia particulièrement son essence de rose. D’ailleurs, elle supervisa elle-même l’achat du produit.

En partenariat exclusif avec le Potager du Roi de Versailles, Nina’s Marie-Antoinette perpétue un savoir-faire d’excellence. Il incarne à lui seul un réel héritage. Le thé iconique Marie Antoinette est aromatisé avec les pommes et roses du Potager du Roi. Instantanément il nous envoûte dans l’art de la dégustation royale. La boutique au décor intime et féminin nous charme autant que l’histoire de cette maison… Une escapade royale en toute simplicité !

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Visite Dégustation chocolat MOF Paris

Patrick Roger est un chocolatier aussi reconnu qu’atypique. Vainqueur de la Coupe du monde de chocolat en 1994, Meilleur Ouvrier de France en 2000, il est également sculpteur. Ses boutiques, vertes, arborent ses œuvres et renferment des trésors qui contenteront les gourmets les plus exigeants. Plongez dans l’univers de ce créateur de génie !

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History of a French hand-fan maker

The Parisian and couture spirit of Duvelleroy

Once upon a time in 1827, Jean-Pierre Duvelleroy dreamt of creating couture hand-held fans for fashionable Parisian women. Following a lavish ball in which fans were a required accessory for a particular dance, Jean-Pierre’s dream came true. His elegant fans became the talk of the town and his company Duvelleroy was born. 

No details were spared in the French art de vivre of Duvelleroy fans. This became even more clear in 1851 at the Universal Exhibition when the young fan-maker won first prize at the Crystal Palace in London with a hand-made fan for Queen Victoria. From then on, the finesse and craftsmanship of the fans were recognized for their unique French savoir-faire. Duvelleroy won many gold medals, including the Légion d’Honneur, the Greatest Order of Merit in France. That began Duvelleroy’s prestigious position as the supplier of hand-made fans to various courts, beginning with Queen Victoria. It was also Duvelleroy who created Eugénie de Montijo’s fan for her wedding with Napoleon III as well as gifts for the spouses of statesmen during their visits to France. Among them was the Empress of Austria, the Queen of Sweden, the Queen of Denmark and the Queen of Bulgaria. The Parisian who’s who and style mavens would also be found gracing the streets holding a Duvelleroy fan in their hands.

The Belle Époque period that followed allowed Jean-Pierre’s heir Georges Duvelleroy to flourish creatively, with artists including Billotey, Abbéma and Maurice Leloir taking part in the creations. From this Art Nouveau style which took into consideration a more organic and curvy aesthetic, two house emblems were born. The “Balloon” fan was named after the aerial shape of its leaf and the daisy as a signature stamped on each rivet. By the end of the 19th century, Duvelleroy had further entered the art world with collaborations by famed illustrators Paul Iribe, Gendrot and Gicar. Their advertising work even led to hand-fans for luxury greats including the Ritz. In a word, the Duvelleroy Maison was thriving!

As for the fans themselves, what were these elegant accessories used for, exactly? More than to offer relief from the heat, handheld fans were used among a certain class of ladies as a form of discreet communication. In 1711, Joseph Addison wrote in The Spectator: “Women are armed with fans as Men with Swords and sometimes do more execution with them.” While illustrated instructions on how to use a fan already existed, the London branch of Duvelleroy published its own version of fan gestures used to send messages including “I love you” by drawing the fan across the cheek or “follow me” which involved carrying the fan in the right hand in front of the face. This fit right in with the maison’s playful spirit.

To complement the hand-fans, Duvelleroy also created select accessories required by their clientele for a life of refinement. These included an array of elegant evening purses and innovative binoculars, all led by Georges Duvelleroy’s forward-thinking direction. This all changed after World War I when this way of life ended and fabric hand-fans lost their luster. Meanwhile, ostrich fans increased in popularity during the roaring 20s and it was the Duvelleroy Maison that made the white ostrich feather fan worn by the Queen of Egypt Farida Zulfikar for her wedding with King Farouk in 1938. After fan maker and painter Madeleine Boisset and Georges Duvelleroy’s daughter took over the maison, adhering to the savoir-faire passed down from each generation, it was their evening bags that kept the business active. 

In 1940, Jules-Charles Maignan acquired the maison and along with skilled fan-maker Boisset by his side, the business continued to thrive after World War II. As one of the few fan-makers still in business, their main activity focused on selling and restoring antique fans. Archives from the Duvelleroy Maison were passed on to grand-son Michel Maignan in 1981 with the wish by Jules-Charles, “I give it to you so that you can make something out of it.” Consequently, the patrimony was presented in retrospective exhibits around the world, from the Galliera Museum in 1886 to England’s Duvelleroy Exhibition: King of Fans, Fan-maker to Kings, in 1995.

Was this the end of the Duvelleroy Maison? Not if Michel Maignan could help it. In 2010 he joined forces with Eloïse Gilles and Raphaëlle Le Baud, two young women passionate about brand heritage and artisanship. Their reawakened maison brought back to life the French fan-making savoir-faire while respecting the tastes of modern times. Each new creation encapsulates the Parisian and couture spirit of Duvelleroy. While more luxurious fans are often composed of silk, feathers, and ebony the prêt-à-porter series combines cotton, wood, and sometimes even leather. From bright color palettes to more muted hues, the selection of hand-held fans at Duvelleroy’s boutique in Paris’s left bank is endless. Customization of all the fans is also available by adding initials in gold letters.

The latest Duvelleroy collection named Menagerie, recalls the house’s tradition of painting their clients’ pets on the hand-held fans. This playful heritage is animated in a collaboration with multidisciplinary artist MV de Bascher who gives life to Dédé the dog, Fifi the hamster, and Léon the cat. These furry creatures are designed in a vintage etching style with a nod to Japanese pop. This historic house also released a book, Treasures of the Parisian Couture Hand-Fan as well as wall lamps in the shape of fans, and feather headdresses to complement the hand-fans.

By Kasia Dietz