Object Lesson | Panetière – French Bread Safe

Porch Nook's "Object Lessons" is a series of short articles sharing my vintage and antique finds over the years, containing just enough information to make you dangerous at the local flea market*. Happy hunting!

Porch Nook | Panetière – French Bread Safe
19th Century - value as of 2/15/22, $1900-$3600*. With each passing year it becomes harder to find these celebrated symbols of the Country French tradition of bread making. The Panetière was a worthy alter used to lock away perishable treasures from the household’s children and pets, placed on a table or hung from a wall. An heirloom piece handed down for generations to celebrate and appreciate the bounty of their land.
Porch Nook | Panetière – French Bread Safe, hanging on the wall of a dinning room

The Panetière was created and used exclusively in Provence, France from 17th thru 19th Century. Then after World War I the Panetière’ tradition began to expand throughout France. In the beginning, the Panetière was a simple perforated wood box placed on a table. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the ornate hand carved crowns, aprons, snail feet, and small doors began to appear.

Porch Nook | Panetière – French Bread Safe, Snail legs handcarved Porch Nook | Panetière – French Bread Safe, hand carved crown Porch Nook | Panetière – French Bread Safe, hand carved door and key

Then during the 19th century, the design evolved once again adding turned spindles and acorn-shaped finials (also described as “candeliers”, or “chandelles”).

Porch Nook | Panetière – French Bread Safe, spindles and finials

French carpenters, called “menuisiers”, had a long-standing tradition of carving their initials into their creations. I was so excited to discover that a perfectly preserved example of this practice could be found along the back of my antique** 19th century Panetière’s crown! This talented sculpturer, with the initials “FE”, masterfully created a motif glorifying French country life, including leaves and flowers, bunting and musical instruments.

Porch Nook | Panetière – French Bread Safe, artist initials signature

Today Panetière are highly sought after for display on top of a sideboards or credenzas and hung on a dining room or kitchen walls. They are used often to display fine China, glassware, or seasonal floral bouquets. Some cleverly discovered this cabinet can be used as a wine safe, or as an end table, nightstand or pedestal to prop artwork or plants.

Porch Nook | Panetière – French Bread Safe, hanging on the wall of a kitchen

When acquiring a Panetière, the value widely varies based on its attributes. The type of wood used (walnut or fruitwood) have little effect on the value. However, the quality of the following play an important role:

  • Quality and condition of carved embellishments
  • Overall architecture
  • A bombe (rounded) front is highly desirable
  • Condition of the metal hinges, keyguard and lock
  • Have the original working key
  • Have original spindles and finials
Porch Nook | Panetière – French Bread Safe, bombe front

So, as we enjoy the lingering scent of freshly baked bread escape the local bakery, we can thank the French for the ceremony of appreciation and family, encapsulated in this fine antique ~ the Panetière! It is my hope someday one will cross your path so you, too, can enjoy its history and tradition.

Porch Nook | Panetière – French Bread Safe, hanging in a living room
Porch Nook | Panetière – French Bread Safe, sitting on buffet


*For the sake of transparency, Porch Nook in not an antiquities dealer, nor do I specialize in antiques. However, for many years I've gained experience acquiring and selling old stuff, and hung around a lot of people who also like to acquire and sell old stuff. I gotta’ tell'ya, they're my kind of people...smart, creative, not shy and will tell you what's what. 

**The term "ANTIQUE" should be reserved only for items greater than 100 years old. Outside of the practice of buying and selling items, however, use of the word "ANTIQUE" can be understood to attach no specific age to an item. Some collectors hold to an 80-year marker. The 80-year marker considers the heritage of the item in that it reflects the span of two generations, with one generation traditionally considered to be the length of 40 years.  Click here to learn more about the differences between "ANTIQUE" and "VINTAGE".

Porch Nook | Panetière – French Bread Safe



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