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Title: Delftware  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Delft, Pottery, Tin-glazed pottery, Tin-glazing, Faience
Collection: Articles Containing Video Clips, Delft, Dutch Golden Age, Dutch Pottery, Tiling, Types of Pottery Decoration
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Window display of Delftware in the market place, Delft

Delftware or Delft pottery, also known as Delft Blue[1] (Dutch: Delfts blauw), is blue and white pottery made in and around Delft in the Netherlands and the tin-glazed pottery made in the Netherlands from the 16th century.

Delftware in the latter sense is a type of pottery in which a white glaze is applied, usually decorated with metal oxides. Delftware includes pottery objects of all descriptions such as plates, ornaments and tiles.


  • History 1
  • Objects gallery 2
  • Tile gallery 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • External links 7


The earliest tin-glazed pottery in the Netherlands was made in Antwerp where the Italian potter Guido da Savino settled in 1500.[2] The manufacture of painted pottery spread from Antwerp to the northern Netherlands, in particular because of the sack of Antwerp by the Spanish troops in 1576 (the Spanish Fury). Production developed in Middelburg and Haarlem in the 1570s and in Amsterdam in the 1580s.[3] Much of the finer work was produced in Delft, but simple everyday tin-glazed pottery was made in places such as Gouda, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Dordrecht.[4]

The Chinese-style pattern of the kylin animal in an intricate network is used frequently in Delft, both in blue and white and polychrome decorations.It holds an D mark on the base The D mark is unidentified. Considering the various items from various periods with this mark it possibly is just a general indication of the town of Delft as the production center.

The main period of tin-glaze pottery in the Netherlands was 1640–1740. From about 1640 Delft potters began using personal monograms and distinctive factory marks. The Guild of St Luke, to which painters in all media had to belong, admitted ten master potters in the thirty years between 1610 and 1640, and twenty in the nine years 1651 to 1660. In 1654 a gunpowder explosion in Delft destroyed many breweries and as the brewing industry was in decline, they became available to pottery makers looking for larger premises; some retained the old brewery names, e.g. The Double Tankard, The Young Moors' Head, and The Three Bells.[5]

The use of marl, a type of clay rich in calcium compounds, allowed the Dutch potters to refine their technique and to make finer items. The usual clay body of Delftware was a blend of three clays, one local, one from Tournai and one from the Rhineland.[6]

From about 1615, the potters began to coat their pots completely in white tin glaze instead of covering only the painting surface and coating the rest with clear ceramic glaze. They then began to cover the tin-glaze with clear glaze, which gave depth to the fired surface and smoothness to cobalt blues, ultimately creating a good resemblance to porcelain.[7]

Delftware depicting Chinese scenes, 18th century. Musee Ernest Cognacq

During the Dutch Golden Age, the Dutch East India Company had a lively trade with the East and imported millions of pieces of Chinese porcelain in the early 17th century.[8] The Chinese workmanship and attention to detail impressed many. Only the richest could afford the early imports. Dutch potters did not immediately imitate Chinese porcelain; they began to do so after the death of the Wanli Emperor in 1620, when the supply to Europe was interrupted.[7] Delftware inspired by Chinese originals persisted from about 1630 to the mid-18th century alongside European patterns.

Around 1700 several factories were using enamel colours and gilding over tin-glaze, requiring a third kiln firing at a lower temperature.

Delftware ranged from simple household items – plain white earthenware with little or no decoration – to fancy artwork. Most of the Delft factories made sets of jars, the kast-stel set. Pictorial plates were made in abundance, illustrated with religious motifs, native Dutch scenes with windmills and fishing boats, hunting scenes, landscapes and seascapes. Sets of plates were made with the words and music of songs; dessert was served on them and when the plates were clear the company started singing.[9] The Delft potters also made tiles in vast numbers (estimated at eight hundred million[10]) over a period of two hundred years; many Dutch houses still have tiles that were fixed in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Dutch Delftware tile

Delftware became popular and was widely exported in Europe and even reached China and Japan. Chinese and Japanese potters made porcelain versions of Delftware for export to Europe.

Some regard Delftware from about 1750 onwards as artistically inferior. Caiger-Smith says that most of the later wares "were painted with clever, ephemeral decoration. Little trace of feeling or originality remained to be lamented when, at the end of the eighteenth century, the Delftware potteries began to go out of business."[11] By this time Delftware potters had lost their market to British porcelain and the new white earthenware. One or two remain: the Tichelaar[12] factory in Makkum, Friesland, founded in 1594 and De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles ("The Royal Porcelain Bottle") founded in 1653.

Today, Delfts Blauw (Delft Blue) is the brand name hand painted on the bottom of ceramic pieces identifying them as authentic and collectible. Although most Delft Blue borrows from the tin-glaze tradition, it is nearly all decorated in underglaze blue on a white clay body and very little uses tin glaze, a more expensive product. The Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum factory in Makkum, Friesland continue the production of tin-glazed earthenware.[13][14]

Delft Blue pottery formed the basis of one of British Airways' ethnic tailfins. The design, Delftblue Daybreak, was applied to 17 aircraft.

Objects gallery

Tile gallery

See also


  1. ^ Delft Blue,
  2. ^ La Céramique anversoise de la Renaissance, de Venise à Delft, Claire Dumortier, Anthèse, Paris, 1997
  3. ^ Caiger-Smith, Alan, Tin-Glaze Pottery in Europe and the Islamic World: The Tradition of 1000 Years in Maiolica, Faience and Delftware (Faber and Faber, 1973 ISBN 0-571-09349-3, p. 127
  4. ^ Caiger-Smith, p. 131
  5. ^ Caiger-Smith pp. 130–131
  6. ^ Caiger-Smith, p. 130
  7. ^ a b Caiger-Smith, p. 129
  8. ^ Volker, T. Porcelain and the Dutch East India Company, 1602–1683, Leiden, 1955) p. 22.
  9. ^ Caiger-Smith, p. 136.
  10. ^ Caiger-Smith, p. 137 n. 21
  11. ^ Caiger-Smith, p. 140
  12. ^
  13. ^ Klei/Glas/Keram. 13, No.4, 1992. Pg.103-106
  14. ^ "Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum". Retrieved 2012-02-22. 


  • Alan Caiger-Smith, Tin-Glaze Pottery in Europe and the Islamic World: The Tradition of 1000 Years in Maiolica, Faience and Delftware, Faber and Faber, 1973 ISBN 0-571-09349-3
  • Jan Pluis, The Dutch Tile, Designs and Names 1570–1930, Nederlands Tegelmuseum – Friends of the Museum of Otterlo Tiles, Primavera Pers, Leiden 1997

External links

  • Delftware techniques
  • Illustrated history of the Dutch tile
  • History of Delftware
Video on an exhibition of Delftware in Haarlem, Netherlands, October 1958
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