Few other dishes carry as much of the mystique and history as the Tureen. Such a simple dish, really, and practical for serving only 6 or so people, but nonetheless a part of legend. It’s designed for serving soups and stews and for centuries could be found in various designs but have remained constantly the same – an elegant shape with domed handled lid, and handles on the bottom dish. Few other dishes carry the history and tradition of the tureen. More elegant contemporary designs or older antique versions will display with an under tray.
500 years ago, it was common for soup to be the primary European meal, and was originally thought to be called an ecuelle. A smaller dish, with handles and a lid and meant to picked up and drunk from. It was with this prominent and frequent table presence that the soup tureen was born. With a plethora of inexpensive soups, stews, broths and chowders making up the common meal, it was natural for artisans to seize the opportunity and begin crafting appropriate wares.
Though practical in use to serve the communal meal and keep the dish warm, it evolved into an elegant table centerpiece across all society levels. Artisans have approached the soup tureen as the most elegant dish amongst the china set, the art piece if you will, of the serving set. The table quickly became the place for daily graces and ceremony with the elegant soup tureen holding court over the family’s table. Overtime, the one course meal evolved to courses, and the various soup bowls to support a more complex society’s traditions followed. The tureen provided an economical way to make a lasting and elegant impression on dinner guests while serving affordable meals.
Thus the tureen has claimed it’s permanent and noble place in history, the Campbell Museum shares “whether named to honor the French military hero Marshal Turenne or called a pot a oille-a Catalan-Provencal soup- came into use in the later seventeenth-century France. Most seventeenth-century silver tureens were melted down to finance the wars of Louis’ late years and may be glimpsed only in paintings. During the mid-eighteenth century tureens in appropriate naturalistic shapes, such as tureens in the form of a head of cabbage, were popular.” Perhaps you have also heard of Thomas Germain, a Parisian silver smith who made a tureen in 1733 which sold at Sotheby’s during a 1966 New York auction for $10,287,500. One of the few, and rare remaining Parisian silver soup tureens.
During the eighteenth century, craftsmen raced to meet the demand for pretentious services, developing extraordinary tureens from a variety of rare and precious resources. Fashionable forms, precious metals, expensive decorations created some amazing works of art, all to serve soup. No other serving vessel can claim this artistic persistence to create a master piece for the table.
If you would like to review our 800+ soup tureen selection, click here. You’ll also find additional information on soup tureens, bowls and ladles. As you serve your soup, cherish the noble soup tureen’s heritage and bring the tradition to your own table. You’ll be eating with Kings when you serve your soup in a tureen.