I visited the Netherlands just once, in august 2008. It was a terrific 15 days vacation, driving around and enjoying a beautiful country. We stopped for a few days in Delft, and we planned a visit to the Royal Delft. The Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles (its real dutch name) is the only remaining factory of 32 earthenware factories that were established in Delft in the 17th century. It is known for its Delftware production, which has been active for more than 350 years, without interruption.
Delft Blue started in The Netherlands around the 17th century when the VOC (the Dutch East India Company) brought the blue painted porcelain back from China. This resulted in an inspiration for the Dutch ceramists, because this fragile porcelain was not created or seen before. For Royal Delft, it all started in 1653 when David Anthonisz van der Pieth transformed his house into an earthenware factory. Unfortunately for Van der Pieth his son was far from interested in this business and therefore he had to sell his factory real soon. This was not extremely difficult because 42 years later this industry was booming in Delft! Royal Delft already had 32 competitors in that year. Of course this was made possible by the high demand for the product and because of the decrease in beer breweries that were suited for transforming into earthenware factories. However, the most important reason, was probably that in the 17th century China faced a civil war which decreased the import of porcelain. Though, this industry did not remain as booming as in the 17th century because in the 19th century (1840 to be precise) Royal Delft was the last factory standing. The reasons for this decrease are mostly to be found in the competition from the English Wedgwood and European porcelain industry; the eastern porcelain was cheaper and… a lack of innovation amongst the Delft potters. In 1876 Joost Thooft bought the factory with the aim to revive the production of Delft Blue. He was very interested in Delft Blue and made the factory be as booming as in the 17th century again. Thooft also worked together with Leo Senf, one of the most important designers of the history of the factory. In the 17th century, Royal Delft had several factories all over Delft. However, this was very inconvenient and in 1916 all the activities were centralised in the location which is still the current visiting address of the factory, at the Rotterdamseweg in Delft. Three years later, the company was awarded by the Royal Family the ‘Royal’ in its name, which is a sign of appreciation for the contribution of Royal Delft for the Dutch Delft Blue industry. Nowadays, the relation with the Dutch Royal Family is still close. In 2003 the company celebrated its 350th anniversary which it did by launching a new line called Jubilee.
Here a few examples of the beauty I saw there…..some items are really unaffordable!
Delftware, or Delft pottery, denotes blue and white pottery made in and around Delft 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. The earliest tin-glazed pottery in the Netherlands was made in Antwerp where the Italian potter Guido da Savino settled in 1500. 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. 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. 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. 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. The Delft potters also made tiles in vast numbers (estimated at eight hundred million) over a period of two hundred years; many Dutch houses still have tiles that were fixed in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The admission fee to the museum allows also a visit to the workshop where you can see artists painting all kind of objects, being able to witness all the phases of the manufactoring, and to the factory itself, to see how everything is made…
The Royal Blue Cow, a big replica of the original cow creamer from 1700
In the oldest part of the building, the museum tells the story of the brand, its memorable works, and presents a selection of old items bought back from the original owners for display….The location in itself it’s a gem…
the most beauitful piece (to me) a Tiles replica of The Night Watch by Rembrandt….
and the exact replica of Vermeer dining room….
Want more? A break at the cafè enjoying the view….