What is Delft Blue Pottery and Is It Valuable?
Along with windmills, wooden shoes, and Dutch cheese, Delft Blue pottery is a staple of Dutch culture. Delft Blue is not as well-known as these other Dutch symbols, though. To respond to the ten most frequently asked questions, I conducted research on Delft Blue pottery and frequently visit Delft.
- What is Delft Blue pottery?
- Why is most Delft Blue pottery white and blue?
- How is Delft Blue made?
- Is Delft Blue valuable?
- How to tell if Delft Blue is genuine?
- How to tell if Delft Blue pottery is antique?
- Where does Delft Blue Pottery come from?
- Where To buy Delft Blue Pottery?
- Is The Royal Delft Factory museum worth visiting?
- What else is Delft famous for besides Delft Blue Pottery?
Continue reading to find out more about the intriguing Delft Blue pottery’s past, or scroll down to the Delft Blue pottery question that most interests you.
The 10 Most Asked Questions & Answers
1. What Is Delft Blue Pottery?
What is Delft Blue pottery, to start with the most obvious query?
The distinctive white tin-glazed ceramic pottery with blue decorations known as Delft Blue pottery, Delftware, or Delft porcelain is traditionally produced in Delft, The Netherlands. Around 1600, Delft Blue pottery was created as a replacement for Chinese porcelain.
White tin-glazed ceramics are made using a method that was developed in the Middle East and then imported to Europe via Spain and Italy to Antwerp. After the Spanish took control of Antwerp in 1585 and introduced these new pottery techniques to The Netherlands, many potters from Antwerp fled to Dutch cities.
The Delft Flemish potters were most successful in perfecting their methods to create much thinner, more opulent earthenware that could be used as tableware and is now known as Delft blue pottery. Although tin-glazed pottery was also produced in other Dutch cities, Delft’s was regarded as the country’s finest.
Around 1600, Delft Blue pottery was first created as a copy of Chinese porcelain that had been brought back to the Netherlands by Dutch merchant ships. Due to the high cost of Chinese porcelain—which could only be purchased by the wealthy—Delft blue pottery quickly gained popularity. However, it was impossible to replicate Chinese porcelain precisely because the clay used to make porcelain contained kaolin, which the Delft potters did not have access to.
Although other color combinations were used, the typical white and blue faience makes up the majority of Delft blue pottery. The majority of the Delft Blue Pottery was domestic tableware for daily use, but vases, picture plates, and tiles were also highly sought-after items. Therefore, it is likely that Johannes Vermeer, a well-known painter who lived in Delft in the 17th century, used Delft Blue dinnerware in his home.
Dutch landscapes, windmills, and fishing boats were frequently depicted in handpainted scenes on Delft Blue pottery. In addition, proverb and saying-themed tiles were popular and found in almost every Dutch home.
Millions of Delft Blue items were produced each year at its peak, which occurred between 1700 and 1750. But kaolin-containing clay, which is used to make Chinese porcelain, was also found in Cornwall, England, in 1745. This discovery made it possible to produce creamware, which was more durable and less expensive than Delft’s tin-glazed earthenware.
English creamware replaced Delft Blue because it was much more durable and suitable for everyday use after Josiah Wedgewood established his factory in 1759. Today, Wedgewood remains a well-known name in dinnerware. I have to admit that Wedgewood tableware is what I use because of how sturdy it is, making it perfect for regular use.
Following Wedgewood’s introduction of English creamware, other European creamware manufacturers in Europe also began creating various varieties of creamware. At the same time, Chinese porcelain dropped significantly in price.
As a result, after 1759, the demand for Delft Blue decreased globally, and almost all 33 Delft Blue factories went out of business. De Porceleyne Fles is the only Delft Blue factory that has persisted and is still making Delft Blue pottery today.
2. Why Is Most Delft Blue Pottery White And Blue?
More than 90% of Delftware was white and blue. Red and orange were also used, but they weren’t as common.
The majority of Delft Blue pottery was white and blue for three reasons.
- Chinese porcelain was also white and blue, and Delft Blue was a substitute for it.
- Red was more difficult to use in the production process than Blue.
- Pottery made of white, blue, and red Delft Blue was much more expensive.
The tin glaze used to cover the pottery is what gives Delft Blue its white hue. Before being fired in a kiln at 800–1000 oC, the earthenware was submerged in a bath of tin glaze made of lead, tin oxide, sand, soda, and salt. Tin oxide becomes opaque, white, and shiny after being fired; this is how the well-known glossy white background of Delft Blue pottery is produced.
Delft Blue’s decorations are blue because cobalt oxide-containing paint was used to create them. Cobalt oxide is grey, but when heated to between 800 and 1000 oC in a kiln, it turns blue. The Blue on the Delftware shone brighter the more cobalt oxide was present in the paint.
Up until around 1750, all of the illustrations on Delft Blue were painted by hand. After that, the first methods for printing images on ceramics were developed. After 1750, Delft Blue Handpainting was still used, but it was only reserved for rare and expensive items.
3. How Is Delft Blue Made?
Gerrit Paape, a potter from Delft, wrote a thorough account of the creation of the Delft Blue pottery in 1794. De Plateelbakker of Delftsch Aardewerkmaker is the title of the book (The Potter or Delftware maker).
Traditional Delft blue production involved several sequential steps that could take two weeks and included the following production steps:
- Mixing and purifying
The various kinds of clay were first mixed and purified.
- Delft blue items were then molded or manually shaped.
Newly formed items needed to dry for a few days prior to baking.
For the first time, the new Delft blue products were baked at 800-1000 oC.
Glazing The newly painted Delft blue items were then submerged in a tin glaze bath.
The new Delft Blue items’ designs were hand-painted after the glaze had dried.
The Delft blue items needed to be baked one last time at 800-1000 oC.
The video of the Royal Delft factory below effectively illustrates how some production steps are more optimized today. Spending two minutes watching this video will give you a great idea of how Delft Blue is made.
4. Is Delft Blue Valuable?
New Delft Blue products cost fair prices. New Delft Blue items are priced in the ranges shown in the table below after doing price research on several websites.
|Delft Blue Item||Price (€)|
|Dinner plate||€ 25-35|
|breakfast plate||€ 15-20|
|Vase (small)||€ 20-30|
|Vase (large)||€ 60-80|
|Wall plate||€ 15-120|
If you want, you can purchase brand-new Delft Blue items that cost a lot more money. Check out the Royal Delft factory website, for instance, to see tulip vases priced at €16,000 or a tile painting of Rembrandt’s Night Watch priced at just €13,500.
Older Delft Blue pieces are significantly more expensive than contemporary Delft Blue items. Although exceptional antique genuine Delftware pieces have been sold for US$ 100.000–200.000, high-quality antique Delftware works typically sell for US$ 3.000–6,000.
One of the best museums in The Netherlands houses the best vintage Delft Blue items. For instance, one of the biggest and most exquisite collections of Delftware can be found at The Kunstmuseum in The Hague. Delftware Wonderware is the name of the exhibition, and I heartily recommend going there.
5. How To Tell If Delft Blue Is Genuine?
Delft Blue is not a trademark; any manufacturer is free to use the name for his pottery. Other Dutch cities and European nations also produced white and blue faience. Delft Blue consequently came to be used to describe any white and blue faience, regardless of where it was produced.
Experts examine the marks made by Delft potters at the bottom or back of Delftware products to determine whether Delft Blue is authentic. The materials and decorations of the Delftware object will also be examined by experts to confirm its authenticity.
To distinguish genuine Delft Blue from white and blue faience produced elsewhere, Delft Blue potters began to paint marks at the bottom or back of Delftware products as a result of the increased competition.
These marks, which typically contained the pottery owner’s initials or full name, were painted at the bottom or back of Delft Blue items. There was occasionally a picture of a pottery symbol.
The remnants of the Delft Blue factory, De Porceleyne Fles, are visible in this image. A nod to its name is made by the tiny bottle.
Only one-third of all Delft potters used marks because the rivalry outside of Delft frequently faked them. To confirm an item is genuine Delftware, experts must also examine the object’s materials and decorations (see below).
6. How To Tell If Delft Blue Pottery is Antique?
Three different factors are carefully examined by experts to determine whether a Delft Blue item is vintage:
- The stains on the item’s bottom are Delft Blue.
- The components used to create the Delft Blue item
- The Delft blue object’s embellishments
The Delft potters used the marks to set their blue and white pottery apart from other white and blue pottery produced elsewhere. Due to the higher cost of pottery from Delft, these marks were, however, faked. To determine the origins of the items, experts must determine whether these marks are genuine and search for additional symbols, words, dates, or numbers.
Materials: Three clays, typically beige, yellow, or light red, were used to create Delft Blue pottery. Items made of antique Delft Blue frequently have small flaws at the rims that reveal the type of clay that was used.
Chinese porcelain is made from stark white clay, which makes it easy to distinguish from Delft Blue. Delft Blue can also be identified by the small notches at the bottom of the item, which were created during the production process.
Decorations: Since genuine antique Delft Blue is always handpainted, these embellishments offer crucial information about the object’s authenticity. Only after 1750 did printing of decorations become practical.
7. Where Does Delft Blue Pottery Come From?
Many people are unaware that Delft is a small city in The Netherlands, so the name Delft won’t be known to everyone.
The pottery known as Delft Blue is made in the small Dutch city of Delft. Regardless of where it was made, white and blue faience has come to be known as Delft Blue, despite the fact that it is not a protected trade name.
You might be curious as to why Delft was more successful than other Dutch cities in creating elegant, opulent tin-glazed earthenware. What was it about this sleepy little Dutch town that made it so extraordinarily successful in the pottery industry?
First and foremost, Delft was the final destination for many of the most inventive potters who emigrated from Antwerp after 1585. The question of why these Antwerp potters chose to relocate to Delft as opposed to another Dutch city arises in response to that.
Delft’s proximity to the Schie River made it the ideal location for pottery bakers. This river provided some of the clay used to make the Delft blue pottery. The additional clay varieties that were imported from abroad were also shipped to Delft.
In order to export Delft Blue around the world, Delft also had an easy connection to Dutch seaports like Delfshaven and Amsterdam thanks to the river Schie. The 33 potteries in Delft produced and shipped millions of pieces of Delft Blue tableware each year at their peak at the end of the 17th century.
One of the original 33 Delft blue potteries still exists, so Delft continues to produce Delft blue pottery. High-quality Delft Blue tableware is still produced at the Royal Delft company’s Delft factory.
If you’re interested in buying Delft Blue, check the bottom to see if it bears the Royal Delft factory mark (see above).
8. Where To Buy Delft Blue Pottery?
There are various ways to purchase Delft Blue Pottery:
You can purchase Delft blue pottery while visiting the city at Heinen Delfts Blauw or the Royal Delft Blue factory store.
You can purchase Delft Blue pottery in Amsterdam at Heinen Delft Blue if you’re there.
At the Heinen Delft Blue website, you can purchase Delft Blue pottery online.
At the Royal Delft website, you can purchase Delft Blue pottery online.
Of course, Delft itself is the best location to purchase Delft Blue pottery. You can shop in a number of locations in Delft and purchase your favorite Blue Delft products.
In the heart of Delft, there is a Heinen Delfts Blauw store on the market square. This store has a sizable selection of Delft Blue ceramics. Because some of their merchandise is made in China, make sure you get the genuine Delft Blue. It would be unfortunate if you were a visitor from China and brought a Delft Blue souvenir back with you.
Delft Blue can also be purchased at the Royal Delft Blue factory (see above). You can take a guided tour of the Royal Delft factory to see how Delft Blue is made. After the tour, visit their shop to purchase their goods. If you want to learn how to make Delft blue pottery and possibly buy some for yourself, that is a great combination.
Although the museum at the Royal Delft Blue factory is not very large, their store is much more impressive than the Heinen Delft Blue stores. Although the products from the Royal Delft factory shop are much nicer, they are also much more expensive.
9. Is The Royal Delft Factory Museum Worth a Visit?
The only factory in Delft still making Delft Blue pottery by hand is the Royal Delft Factory. The Royal Delft Factory Museum, a lovely museum right next to the factory, features exhibits about Delft Blue and how it is made there.
The Royal Delft Factory Museum has evolved into a distinctive fusion of a museum and factory after being fully restored in 2022. In fact, a portion of the tour includes a visit to the factory where Delft Blue pottery is handcrafted when the shop is open.
10. What Else Is Delft Famous For?
The Dutch word delven, which means to delve or dig, is where the name Delft comes from. The location of Delft next to the Delf canal, so named because it was delved, made the name of the town entirely appropriate.
The world-famous Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, who spent his entire life living and working in Delft, is another notable native of the city.
William of Orange, who founded the Netherlands, was born and raised in Delft and is buried there in the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church).
Topic: What is Delft Blue Pottery and Is It Valuable?
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