Antique Chafing Dish Planters
4" x 7" x 5"
This silver-plated chafing dish, also known as a cloche, is from the Victorian era, approximately 1870. The name “chafing” comes from the French word chauffer, meaning “to make warm.” Originally, this dish would have been used for cooking or warming. The chafing dish is much like a portable grate, raised above a brazier by a tripod, and heated using coal or oil. The chafing dish is ideal for preparing foods that require a more gentle treatment and less direct heat, such as fish or eggs. They are also used to keep foods warm, including those served at buffets. The chafing dish possibly extends as far back as ancient Rome, where the Roman scholar Cicero (106 BCE–43 BCE) described a similar saucepan. Chafing dishes were used in the Middle Ages, and archeologists often uncover fragments during excavations of medieval cities. Over time, they rose in popularity, and by the Victorian era, enjoying “chafing dish suppers” was common practice. Cookbooks were even produced that focused on chafing dish recipes. Representations of chafing dishes appear in artworks too, which further demonstrates their popularity. Diego Velázquez (1599–1660) represents an elderly woman frying eggs using a chafing dish in his An Old Woman Cooking Eggs (National Galleries Scotland, Edinburgh). The current chafing dish has been cut in half and transformed into a pair of flower hangers.
At this time in Europe, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 occured between the Second French Empire and the North German Confederation. The conflict was provoked by Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898), who wanted to unite Germany under Prussian rule by making them fight a common enemy. Bismarck succeeded in irritating Napoleon III (1808–1873), who was already determined to reassert France’s dominant European position, a fact that appeared in question following their loss in the Austrian War of 1866. The war ended with a Prussian victory, and resulted in both the creation of a unified Germany, and the end of French hegemony in continental Europe.