A French "Porte-Dîner" (Food Carrier)
19 cm diameter x 11.8 cm high (25 cm with handle raised)
Provenance: Private collection UK
The porte-dîner was a distinctive form of pail in use in France between the 17th and 19th Centuries for carrying food to work (it could be said to be a forerunner to the French gamelle d'ouvrier (tin cantine/lunch box)).
The Dictionnaire Universel François & Latin, pubished by Étienne Ganeau in 1704, discusses names for various utencils used for carrying victuals and mentions how:
"Les Marchands ont des pots d'étain avec un couvercle en forme de plat, qu'on appelle porte-diner, dont ils se servent quand ils sont à leur boutique" ("merchants have tin pots with a plate-shaped cover, called a porte-diner, with which they serve themselves when they are at their shop).
Also the 1728 edition of the celebrated French-English "Royal Dictonary", compiled by the lexicographer Abel Boyer, defines the porte-diner as "a Vessel used to carry in the Dinner to Workmen".
They were used therefore by relatively humble folk (they are sometimes now referred to as Shepherd's Lunch Pails) and would have been amongst their owner's most prized possessions - occupying the same place as the pewter 'porringer' in Early Modern England.
As a hardy and highly practical utensil, the form of the porte-dîner changed very little over the centuries. The type of model, as here, with Baroque style cherubs faces beneath the loops for the handle, is a form which is especially associated with Burgundy. Many of those originating from this region are struck with the touch-mark of the Bouvier family of pewterers, who were active in Clamecy between 1623 and 1881.
The wear and patina on this particular porte-dîner, along with the fact that the touch-mark has rubbed to beyond legibility, suggests it is an extremely old example which was in regular use and which probably passed down through several generations of a family.
For a porte-dîner of similar form and of similar dimensions see The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1990.199.9a,b (Gift of Stephen Benjamin, 1990). For another with the pewterer's mark of the Bouvier family see Art Institute of Chicago Ref. No. 1938.806 (The William Owen Goodman and Erna Sawyer Goodman Collection).
p.147 Susan Wise [Editor], "Selected Works of 18th Century French Art in the Collections of The Art Institute of Chicago", Art Institute of Chicago, 1976
pp.85-87 Vanessa Brett, "The Phaidon Guide to Pewter", Phaidon, Oxford, 1981
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