The FRENCH Watering CanRelated image

Original “watering pots”, were terracotta and very heavy.  Popular in the mid 1800’s were French ones with one large handle that arched from the front to the back of the can; this did make it a bit more troublesome to balance the can while watering plants that were on higher shelving.  But, none the less were functional and beautiful.

Below is one of the many French water cans that we sell at RF Antiques.  It has the original one handle design that I find to be charming and contrary to what John Haws notes of design, the French design is quite adequate!


The change in style begins with Madagascar and the growing of vanilla beans.  While tinkering with growing the vanilla bean plant in Madagascar a man named John Haws found the current design for watering cans to be awkward and hard to maneuver.

When John Haws returned to England he found himself in the midst of a gardening explosion very popular during the Victorian era.  The wealthy upper class were constantly searching for the perfect garden to put on display.  Ornamental gardens and greenhouse cultivation with plants in self contained areas required a lot of hand watering.  Image result for images of victorian greenhouses and watering cans

Image result for images of victorian greenhouses and watering cans

In 1885 John Haws applied for and was issued the first ever patent on a watering can with his new handle design. His patent claimed:

“This new invention forms a Watering Pot that is much easier to carry, and at the same time being much cleaner, and more adapted for use than any put before the public”

His new invention introduced the addition of a second handle.  The previous French design had just one large front to back handle. Haws revised design had a “carrying” handle on top and a “tipping” handle on the back of the can to allow a more even distribution of water and his design also called for a spout located at the bottom of the watering can to allow for easier watering of plants on high shelves. Photobucket

Image result for images of john haws first watering can

Watering Can Fact: The spout is capped with a fitting made of small holes where water is expelled from a very gentle flow to a heavier flow, dependent upon the delicacy of the plant being watered. This ‘cap’ is also known as a ‘rose’– It comes from the French word arroseur which means sprinkler.


Sotheby’s director and “gardenalia” expert Alistair Morris is quoted:

“There is nothing more emblematic of gardening than a watering-can,” he says. “It is a simple vessel with a pure purpose which started out as a pottery pot and only turned into a can made of metal in the late 17th century.”

THEREFORE, this “simple vessel” has been used extensively as subject matter for artists all over the world.  It adds that element of “connection to the painting” that artists strive for.

Woman With Watering Cans by L. E. Adan

Image result for images of women in france with watering cans

A Girl With a Watering Can by Renoir 1876

Theophile Emmanuel Duverger

Related image

Martha Stewart shares a video on antique watering cans of all kinds and the history of the watering can.  Click on the link below to enjoy this short and enjoyable watering can excerpt.

As history would dictate through progressive movements the quality and production techniques of the watering can improved dramatically with the Industrial Revolution, when the heavy terracotta

Related image

and copper was replaced by tinplate and lighter metals as seen below.  Lighter metals allowed for the increase in weight once water was put into the vessel making it naturally heavier.The watering cans in the above picture are at our garden antiques shop, RF Antiques, 251-928-8336 Call us to check availability of all French watering cans or call Aubergine Antiques, our French culinary shop, 251-928-0902 for information on our supply of copper watering cans.


Au Revoir!  A La Prochaine!!


White Asparagus

Oui, Je manges des asperges blanches!!

Yes, I eat white asparagus!  

When we think of asparagus we think of typical green asparagus that we buy at the grocery store, but asparagus in Europe can be green, purple and WHITE.

Image result for images of white asparagus being harvested

In European cultures, in particular France, Spain, Netherlands, Switzerland and especially Germany–White Asparagus is consumed heavily.

On the seasonal food calendar in France, the front end of summer on through early September is a high point for asparagus.  Here, bunches and bunches of asparagus at the height of the French market season.


Growing white asparagus is more labor intensive than growing green asparagus.  White asparagus is the same as green asparagus, but grown without daylight. Denying the spears daylight as they grow prevents photosynthesis from taking place and this is the process that produces the green coloring in plants.

The plants are grown in the dark by piling soil on top Image result for images of white asparagus being harvestedof the spears as they appear and then cutting them well below the surface with a special knife before they grow through the soil into the daylight.Image result for images of white asparagus being harvested

Asparagus that is allowed to grow up and through the top of the soil and receive sun, of course are green because of photosynthesis–as the asparagus looks below.asparagus

White asparagus in particularly is snatched up for delicate dishes.  Below is a typical French asparagus recipe that is easy to try AND delicious.

Asparagus with vinaigrette & poached egg (serves 4)Asperge et vinaigrette

For the vinaigrette:

5 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp mustard
1-2 garlic cloves, ground
1 & 1/2 tsp walnut vinegar (alternatively, you can use wine vinegar)
Salt & pepper – for seasoning
Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir until the vinaigrette is smooth.

For the poached eggs:

4-6 eggs
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

In a shallow pan of boiling water, add 2 tsp of vinegar. Prepare your eggs by breaking them into little cups/pots so it’s easier to pour into the boiling water. When the water is boiling, pour in the eggs in different areas (maximum four at a time – or the water temperature will get cooler). Leave them alone, cover with a lid for 3 minutes, then check if they need a bit of ‘pushing and shoving’ to make their form rounder. You can use a large slotted spoon for this. Depending on how well you like your eggs cooked, 3 minutes should complete the task. When ready spoon each egg at a time onto a plate. Set aside.

For the asparagus:

A bunch of asparagus, depending on size count 4-6 asparagus per person.
A handful of chives (chopped finely)

Wash the asparagus under cool running water and trim away the bottom 1/3 of the stalk. With a vegetable peeler, peel off the rough part (leave the tip intact).

Fill a medium to large saucepan with water, about half way to the top. Add salt and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and reduce heat slightly – cook for 10 minutes, or until crisp and tender, depending on thickness of asparagus. Drain and place on a serving plate. Place poached egg on top, drizzle with vinaigrette and sprinkle with chives.


In Europe, & France for sure, white asparagus gets just as much attention as the green variety. You’ll see it on restaurant menus steamed and served with hollandaise sauce, a poached egg and chives.Related image

Asparagus is so abundant in France and other places in Europe – an asparagus majolica plate to serve it on would not be uncommon.  Here are some of these beautiful type plates found at our French culinary store, Aubergine Antiques.

So, EAT MORE ASPARAGUS: 5 good reasons

It’s loaded with nutrients, it can help fight cancer, it’s packed with antioxidants, it’s a brain booster and it’s a natural diuretic!!


**special thanks to umami mart and mimi thorisson of medoc france, & pinterest for information 

Au Revoir!  A La Prochaine!!


Chatelaine (chain)

The name chatelaine derives from the French term châtelaine – which means wife of the lord of a castle or a woman who owns a large house or is in control of it OR a set of short chains worn on a belt that carried necessary items needed in the home.

From the 16th century, women often wore a decorative clasp at the waist with a series of chains attached, called a chatelaine. Suspended from it were useful household accessories such as scissors, keys, and sewing tools. Crafted from precious metals, chatelaines were considered as jewelry and status symbols.Wedgwood Chatelaine, Indianapolis Museum of Art. Chatelaine, Tassenmuseum Netherlands. Chatelaine bag, LACMA.

Wedgwood Chatelaine, Indianapolis Museum of Art. Chatelaine, Tassenmuseum Netherlands. Chatelaine bag, LACMA.

Status among women

 The woman with the keys key equipage

to all the many desks, chest of drawers, food hampers, pantries, storage containers, and many other locked cabinets was “the woman of the household”. Carrying this chatelaine was a sign of status and power – This person directed all the servants and possessed total authority over who had access to what.

A tid bit:  When a woman married a son and the couple moved into his father’s house, the son’s MOTHER would have authority over the keys to the locked items.  BUT, if the mother became a widow the keys and the status that came with them, were passed to the wife of the eldest son.  If the woman of the house had to be absence then the controller of the keys was passed to the head housekeeper.

Often times younger women in the house would want the appearance of this responsibility, and would wear decorative chatelaines with a variety of small objects Image result for chatelaine jewelry that french women wore

in the place of keys, especially bright and glittering objects that could be used to start a conversation.

Early 19th Century Gold Sewing Chatelaine in Original Case

Early 19th Century Gold Sewing Chatelaine in Original Case

inspiringdresses: Chatelaine with watch, key, pomander, ca, 1770, BritishMFA

Chatelaine with watch, key, pomander, ca, 1770

Abiti Antichi Chatelaine in argento. Punzoni Citta' di Londra; anno 1892. Maker Samuel Jacob. Composta da quaderno, matita, porta metro, forbici e portaditale. Rif: chatelaine 5 Clicca sulla foto per vedere altre immagini di questa chatelaine.

Chatelaines were worn by many housekeepers in the 19th century and in the 16th century they often typically used as watch chains for the most wealthy.

This is a Georgian chatelaine which clipped to the waist band or belt of a dress for holding such items as the mistress of the house would need with her throughout the day. It might include her seal, watch, scissors, thimble, a vinaigrette, or a key holder.This is a Georgian chatelaine which “is a device which clips to the waist band or belt of a dress for holding such items as the mistress of the house would need with her throughout the day. It might include her seal, watch, scissors, thimble, a vinaigrette, and a key holder.”

Here is the front

and back view so you can  see how the chatelaine would be clipped to the waistband of the woman’s dress.


A locket such as this sterling silver one would be used for rouge/powder and attached to the Chatelaine chain.  Antique French 800-900 Silver 'Poudrier' Compact locket for chatelaine. LOVELY <3 @

Chatelaines were made of precious metals: gold, sterling silver, but many were made of steel as the one showed below.  This one made of cut steel is also from France, late 18th century; the tools include a disc shaped pin cushion, a button hook, a thimble holder with steel thimble, and a folding corkscrew for perfume bottles.

Fine Mint 2671, cut steel chatelaine, France, late 18th century; “Five matching attachments to the waist plaque. The tools include a disc shaped pin cushion, a button hook, a thimble holder with steel thimble, a folding corkscrew for perfume bottles and a decorative cut steel attachment made of 5 chatelaines.

And of course, all the Queens had beautiful chatelaine adornments to their dresses.  Here Marie Antoinette walking with her children is wearing decorative chains with charms – certainly a sign of wealth.

An up close view of the chains:

Marie Antoinettes Marie Antoinette's gold watch and chatelaine with diamonds and rubies, 1y V Oswald V Oswaldgold watch and chatelaine with diamonds and rubies  –  Very opulent & decorative.

Even today, women enjoy a new interpretation of history with a modern twist as symbolism in unexpected places turns up:  The chatelaine is officially on the fashion runway as Prada shows off the updated chatelainePrada_AW16_chatelaine2


CROWN AND COLONY ANTIQUES carries Chatelaines when they can be found!!  They have become rare commodities, but here is a picture of what we currently have in our shop.  251-928-4808

Au Revoir!  A La Prochaine!!




Image result for images of cloche in france

European growers have made use of small-scale greenhouse methods since the early 1600s. The simplest forms of greenhouses were the “cloche”, a bell-shaped jar or bottomless glass jug that was placed on top of the plants, and the cold or hot frame, a small seedbed enclosed in a glass-topped box. SchietraamA Three light Frame as used in French Gardens.

In the hotframe, decomposing horse manure was added for additional heating.  Something like the above glass frame would be placed on top of a wooden box with seedlings buried in the box.  Glass was difficult to obtain in large sheets so these were made with fragments and separated with wood or rods of metal.  Another fine example of these framed heat facilitators are in the picture below.

Image result for images of cloche in versailles gardens

BUT, there’s something charming about a bell jar… or cloche (pronounced kloshe).

Image result for images of cloche in franceCloche were first used in France around 1600 and then in England about 1629.  In 1677 square cloche emerged.

This is a picture of a 17th century kitchen garden.  Cloches are used in great numbers and several young plants were housed under each.

Related image

Charming and rare, vintage cloche

The French developed the glass cloche, or bell jar, formed from a solid piece of dome-shaped glass. The purpose was to protect an early garden plant from bleak cold and frost.

Image result for images of cloche used in a winter garden outside

However, as you may expect, glass was  expensive to use in the garden and might break leaving shards of glass in the dirt. So the cloche were a very valued concept for the garden and were used with great care.

Garden cloches.

In the 1600s, garden designer and author John Evelyn listed glass cloche (klŌ-shh) as an essential garden tool in his book Elysium Britannicum.  Image result for image of book Elysium BritannicumThomas Jefferson employed these techniques in his extensive vegetable garden.

This modern day garden at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, would also use, not only glass cloches, but also ones made of terra cotta in the spring and fall when protecting the seedlings from frost.

Image result for the garden at thomas jefferson's home using cloche

You can see on the terra cotta cloche they have a lid or ventilation that can be removed or adjusted as needed to cool or heat up the planting.

Image result for the garden at thomas jefferson's home using cloche

Image result for the garden at thomas jefferson's home using cloche      Image result for the garden at thomas jefferson's home using cloche

Below, glass cloches stacked during summer in a French garden:  This gives one an idea of how valued this simple garden tool was.  They were used in abundance and it was most common to see them in gardens.


NOTE:  If the tender plants were not watched carefully the very plants intended to protect would sunburn.  Often times gardeners would knock the “knobs” off with a hatchet to allow heat to escape. 

Image result for images of cloche used today in the gardens at versailles

The Sun Kings Garden

Kitchen Garden of King Louis XIV

Here in this royal garden that produced food for thousands in Louis XIV’s court the cloche was also used to propagate plantings.

At the Potager du Roi (The Kings vegetable or kitchen garden), a high wall surrounds 16 square gardens for vegetables. Behind it are 29 enclosed gardens. Making the most of the horticulture knowledge of the time, Jean De La Quintinie,  director of the royal fruit and vegetable gardens,  thoughtfully plotted the gardens to create individual micro climates. This allowed him to provide for the king’s table year round and to experiment with exotic melons, nettle clumps and berries.  The CLOCHE was instrumental in this endeavor.

This Kings garden had fine examples of espaliered fruit trees. The garden, which produced fresh vegetables and fruits for Louis XIV and his court, was created between 1678 and 1783.  It still produces more than 50 tons of fruits and 30 tons of vegetables as well as edible flowers, which are sold in Versailles markets and at the King’s Garden shop.


In France a cloche was used to cover the brides head piece worn on her wedding day and carried high symbolic content.  It was the bride’s mother who designed and gave the globe to her daughter.

Nearly all of them had mirrors. A mirror represented sincerity. The large mirror in the middle is the marriage mirror, the reflection of life. The small rectangular mirrors are the number of years the couple courted. The small losenge-shaped mirrors are the number of children wanted.

The domes would also cover doves (made of metal or resin) which are the symbol of peace, ivy leaves for attachment, grapevine leaves symbolized a life of abundance and prosperity; oak leaves to show strength,  love and health and of course linden which was the symbol of fidelity (which is why linden trees are often planted at the entrance of a property), clover means happiness, a sheaf of wheat is to remind the husband that he has to work every day of his life to keep his wife and children happy and sometimes daisies where placed under the dome which are the traditional flowers of lovers.


AUBERGINE ANTIQUES carries French cloches.  Please call us if you are interested in owning one of these functional and beautiful pieces of gardening history.  You can ring us at 251-928-0902 or visit our website:

Au Revoir!  A La Prochaine!!

FRENCH ART and how one French woman contributed to history….


Image result for images of the people in the monuments men

Ghent Altarpiece

Did you know that during World War II, the Nazis executed the greatest art heist in history?  It was left to a special Allied military unit, the Monuments Men,  to get Europe’s priceless cultural treasures back.

An organization with established initiative beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and with General Dwight D. Eisenhower repeatedly ordering his forces to assist the MFAA (also known as Monuments Men) as much as possible, it was the first time in history an army attempted to fight a war and at the same time reduce damage to cultural monuments and property.


 Before Adolf Hitler became the German dictator that he was he had a much different passion and that was ART.  But after Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts rejected a teenage Hitler for his “unfitness for painting,” his singular dream of becoming an artist was crushed.

The Academy in Vienna

Image result for images of Vienna Academy of fine arts

Hitler’s interest in art never waned which became evident when he led the Nazis in a very deliberate systematic looting of famous works of art.  His goal was to not only rob millions of people of their lives and futures, but wanted to strip them of their past as well.

Image result for images of hitler acquiring art during wwII

Hitler’s forces plundered priceless paintings, sculptures, drawings, religious relics and cultural artifacts from all over Europe (France, Poland, Italy and so on).  His loyalists went into churches, private homes, universities etc and collected everything of value.  He was especially committed to collecting art from Jewish families.  He acquired musical instruments, entire libraries, Torahs, church bells and stained glass right out of the Strasbourg Cathedral.Image result for small images of strasbourg cathedral

France. Strassbourg Cathedral. "The largest clock you'll probably ever see is inside. It's amazing to watch it working."

However, with the foresight of a French woman named Rose Valland and the establishment of the Monuments Men, a group of approximately 345 men and women from fourteen nations comprised of museum directors, curators, art historians, archivists, architects, educators, and artists that served with one common goal: to save cultural treasures from the destructiveness of war, and theft by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Rose Valland ( 1898 – 1980 )Image result for image of rose valland


The unassuming heroine of French culture during World War II, Rose Valland was born in Saint-Étienne-de-Saint-Geoirs, France on November 1, 1898.   She was extremely well educated in art with degrees from École des Beaux-Arts in Lyon, the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and advanced degrees in art history from the École du Louvre and the Sorbonne in Paris!

In 1941 she became curator of Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris.  In 1942 the Nazis over took the museum and made it their headquarters for ERR, the Nazi art looting organization created by Hitler.

Related image

This organization stored paintings and other works of art stolen from private French collectors and dealers.  Jacques Jaujard, Director of the French National Museums including the Louvre, immediately instructed Valland to remain at her post in the museum to spy on the Nazi theft operation.  What she did in addition to that is the reason many pieces of art are back with their rightful owners today.

Her quiet demeanor kept her under the radar and unsuspected as she carefully and secretly kept meticulous notes on the destinations of train car shipments filled with looted art from all over France.

Image result for images of written notes by rose valland

What the Germans also did not know was that she spoke the German language allowing her to gather critical information from the conversations of drivers, guards, and packers, which she relayed to Jaujard and the French Résistance.

Paris was liberated by the American forces late August 1944 – this liberation placed Valland in an even more serious situation because of the enormous amount of information she had collected that was in her personal possession.

The information she collected would serve as a treasure map for Capt. James Rorimer, with the Monuments Men, who had orders to recover as much stolen art as possible.  Her information would serve them in finding multiple repositories of looted art in the Neuschwanstein Castle in the Bavarian Alps — All of which was stolen by the Nazis from private collectors and art dealers in and around France!!

Image result for images of Neuschwanstein Castle in the Bavarian Alps

Thousands of pieces of art were also found in copper mines and salt mines.

Image result for images of written notes by rose valland

The notes of Rose Valland alone were instrumental in expediting the restitution process of returning objects to their rightful owners with well over 5 million pieces being returned to their rightful owners.

“Art belongs to humanity. Without this we are animals. 
We just fight, we live, we die. Art is what makes us human”.
– Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director, Hermitage Museum 

A MUST SEE MOVIE for enjoyment:

our poetic license [was] we wanted to let these guys have some flaws and have some fun. … Listen, the good news is, 80 percent of the story is still completely true and accurate, and almost all of the scenes happened. Sometimes they happened with other characters, sometimes it happened in smaller dimension. But that’s moviemaking. -George Clooney (Entertainment Weekly, August 12, 2013)

A modern day movie based on some events of the Monuments Men:  History Vs. Hollywood
Related image
If you love art, have an appreciation for history and enjoy preservation – please, we invite you to visit our website: and view our French paintings and architectural elements (click on Paintings and Decorative Accessories)  Purchases can be made through Crown and Colony  251-928-4808
**Any pictures depicting this historical remembrance were borrowed from internet sites for educational purposes only and we thank all who generously make these available for us to learn from**

Au Revoir!  A La Prochaine!!