Early Dutch Ceramics - Delft Pottery (Delftware)
When the Dutch began to master the art of making pottery, they established a ceramic production factory in the city of Delft.
The name of this ceramic production centre is the reason why over the centuries, Dutch ceramic art is referred to as Delftware, and this name eventually become one that is applied to all forms and styles of pottery and ceramics production from Holland.
Features of Delftware
Striking features of Delft ornamental and tableware include a heavy but brilliant glaze with notable blue colours (delft blue) and decorations designed on a white background. Sketches used for their designs were conventional patterns, town and landscape scenes.
The patterns were painted prior to the glazing and firing of their ceramic ware. This process of ceramic decoration is known as under-glazing.
18th Century Imitation of Japanese and Chinese Ceramics
By the 18th century, the Dutch made a series of unsuccessful attempts to imitate the ceramic art styles of Japan and China but because of improvements in means of transportation, and the cheapness of Oriental wares which flooded the Dutch markets, they attained no great degree of success.
It was virtually impossible for them to compete with the costs of the cheaper products from the Far East. Their attempts at manufacturing porcelain were also futile, again for the same reasons.
England's Interest in Delft Pottery
During the early years of the century, Dutch ceramics or Delftware was exported to England because the collections were sought after by English collectors and wealthy home owners.
Many of the ceramic pieces like drug pots and apothecary jars were used for commercial purposes by the medical practitioners of the time. Fireplace facings were adorned with small flat Dutch tiles, just as they were used for architectural purposes.
Eventually, in the cities of Bristol and Lambert, the English set up ceramic production factories and imitated Delftware ceramics.
Modern Dutch Ceramics
In modern times, most Delftware objects veer towards the tin-glaze tradition; they are almost always decorated in under glaze blue on a white clay background, with less use of tin glaze which happens to be a more expensive.
Today the words Delft Blue (or Delfts Blauw) has become a brand name and is hand painted on the underside of all authentic Dutch Delftware, a mark that collectors of genuine Dutch ceramic products look for.
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