Saturday, March 14, 2009

Blue Pottery: Delftware, or Dutchware


An industry dies and from its ashes rises a new one. That is the story of Delftware, the blue and white pottery made in the town of Delft in Southern Holland. The term Delftware has almost become a generic one and is indiscriminately applied to Dutch ware, the pottery from The Netherlands.

While photographing Gzhel porcelain collection at Thekkanattu Parayil, Olavipe for the post Art: Blue porcelain from Russia I had come across some Dutchware. That was how I ended up writing this.

In the early 17th century, Delft was noted for several things. It was the home port of the Dutch East India Company. The area had several breweries but the business was on the decline. The place attracted a number of famous painters. Among them was the local maestro, Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). The Delft School, as they came to be known, concentrated mainly on local subjects.

A painting of Delft scene by Johannes Vermeer (from Wikipedia) is reproduced below:

The floundering brewing industry was almost wiped out by what is known as Delft Thunderclap. A gunpowder store in Delft exploded, killing many people and causing extensive damage to the town.

That was on October 12, 1654.

Most of the breweries which survived the calamity closed down. Their buildings were taken over by potters. Pottery patterned on Majolica was already being made in Antwerp and other places, probably by migrants from Italy. After the explosion, the industry focus shifted to Delft.

Then a trend of copying the designs on Chinese blue pottery started. They were popular but slowly gave way to designs with local scenes and religious motifs. The products included tiles, jars, plates, clogs, pictorial plates and so on. Three photos (copyright reserved) taken by me from among the pieces we have are reproduced below:



The popularity and iconic status of Delftware can be gauged by the fact that the tailfins of seventeen British Airways planes were painted with design based on Delftware. See the following photo from Wikipedia:

The golden era of Delft as a center for pottery was from mid 17th century till the 1850s.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)



2 comments:

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

Very interesting and informative post.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Raji, I am happy that you found it informative.