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History of the Tureen

What is a Tureen?

A tureen is a large, deep, covered dish originally used for serving soup or stew. The purpose of the tureen is to serve a large number of people at the dinner table whilst presenting a beautiful, interesting or grandiose example of silverware or ceramic. Generally tureens are circular or oval in form and handcrafted in silver.

Tureens would be fitted with cast handles and domed lids, often embellished with ornate finials. As these pieces of tableware became a symbol of wealth, many were engraved with marital or family armorials. The feet and handles of tureens provide opportunity to display the elaborate decoration.

The History of the Tureen

The word ‘Tureen’ is derived from the French word ‘Terrine’ – based on the Latin term ‘Terra’ meaning Earth - as originally tureens would’ve been crafted in earthenware and ceramics. Though it is contested that the origin of the tureen’s name is slightly more anecdotal, legend has it that the tureen was named after Vicomte de Turenne, a French military leader in the 17th century. Turenne was reportedly found eating his broth from an upturned helmet on the battlefield during a lull in combat and thus the tureen (supposedly) was born.

Sterling Silver Tureen

Marine motifs were very popular, with oysters, mussels, lobsters and dolphins nesting against rocky backgrounds, along with a prevalence of other natural motifs such as vegetables. This decoration will have served as a suggestion towards the ingredients of the soup rather than being solely ornamentation- seafood was considered a luxury.

Tureens were said to have been introduced to England via the French court in the early 18th century as a functional table piece from which a host could serve soup or stew. Louis XIV’s taste for hot, rich stews is often credited as a major influence in the use of tureens. As with anything that he was seen to use, the members of his court and French high society emulated him and used tureens to display their own wealth. In the 18th century, dinner services took on a role of importance and formality. Often the tureen was the principal piece of table settings, as it was much larger than most other items. During this time, tureens were displayed with matching stands and ladles and by the late 18th century sauce boats were replaced with smaller sauce tureens, often matching their larger counterparts. Sauce tureens, in addition to holding hot sauces, were used to hold mustard and other cold accompaniments to meat.

Tureens’ popularity throughout history has largely been due to the nature of meals served at formal dinners which, until fairly recently, was predominantly liquid based and would have been cooked for hours in one large pot. These meals, while still having the potential to be refined and sophisticated, were unfortunately difficult to present to guests in an aesthetically pleasing form.

Sterling Silver Tureen
Andrew Campbell started trading in antiques during the 1970s. Initially, Andrew lived in the South of England, travelling the country, searching for items of silver to buy. Andrew sold these items at various London markets and antique fairs. Over time, and through selling at a range of venues, Andrew built up a large and diverse customer base from private buyers to national and international trade customers.
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