Few decorative objects are as distinctive, or carry as much history, as Delft Blue. In their characteristic blue and white, with elaborately painted patterns, the Delft pottery, whether antique or modern, is instantly recognisable.
Delft pottery, with its iconic blue and white decoration, started being produced in Delft in the Netherlands in the 17th century. For hundreds of years, the special art of painting has been passed on from master painter to student.
Still a source of cultural pride for the Netherlands to this day, delftware has stood the test of time and continues to be in demand all over the world. Its artistry and refinement reveal great creativity and artisanal skill. Today, this style enjoys a revival that makes it popular again - more and more people are discovering the value of Delft blue and Dutch tradition.
As a pure design element, Delft Blue itself is very versatile and enjoys wide usability today injecting striking colours and patterns in home interiors. Consider this elaborately decorated ball vase Mila or a special combination of Delft Blue and Asian Origami art in this Blue Fold vase, both available from NAMI Home.
Photo: Heinen Blauw Delftware
What is Delft Blue?
Delftware was Europe’s answer to the fancy Chinese imports from the East. Delft Blue pottery was first produced around 1600 to copy Chinese porcelain introduced by Dutch merchant ships that returned from China. The Chinese workmanship and attention to detail impressed many. Delft blue pottery became popular because only the richest could afford the early Chinese porcelain imports.
Delftware is one of the types of tin-glazed earthenware or faience in which a white glaze is applied, usually decorated with metal oxides, in particular the cobalt oxide that gives the usual blue. The technique to produce white tin-glazed ceramics spread through Europe via Spain and Italy to Antwerp.
The Flemish potters in Delft succeeded best in refining their techniques to produce much thinner, more luxurious earthenware that could be used as tableware, and we now know as Delft blue pottery. The elaborate, fine artwork that was consequently produced by Dutch artisans was in high demand in the 17th and 18th centuries.
At the height of its production, there were 33 factories in Delft producing ceramics. Only one of the original factories is still in operation today, it is called the De Porceleyne Fles, also known as The Royal Delft. There are still potteries in Delft today producing ceramics. As well as the Royal Delft, there are other factories also producing high-quality handmade and hand-painted Delftware.
The Influence of British Queen
Although Delftware was created as a cheaper alternative to Chinese porcelain, which remained in great demand throughout the 17th Century, the ceramics produced were still the finest in Europe. Elites from across the continent, including the Sun King, Louis XIV, would own pieces.
However, it would take a British Queen to turn Delftware into a truly luxurious product. Mary Stuart, the daughter of James II, had married the Dutch Prince William of Orange, in 1677. They spent time in the Netherlands and developed a passion for Delft pottery. Mary in particular became a collector of Delft pottery, some of which is still on display at Hampton Court Palace in the UK. Mary’s passion for these pieces made them fashionable at the time. Her commissions resulted in the largest and most technically advanced Delftware ever produced, including the elaborate vases and flower pyramids.
Traditional art with a new look
Given the renewed interest in traditional crafts, Dutch delftware is a source of inspiration for new interpretations and modern design. Now a new generation of craftsmen are producing hand-painted Delft-style products, often with irreverent and witty depictions of contemporary life. It is above all the style that provides a source of inspiration for new products, though the tin-glazing technique is also still used.
Traditional Dutch delftware is handpainted, but in 1750 a printing technique – transfer printing – was developed for applying the decoration. These days screenprinting is used, and the result can barely be distinguished from handpainted.
Today, Delft Blue is the general term referring to the product, but there are only a handful of companies producing the hand-painted traditional pottery. Heinen Delfts Blauw is one of the last remaining workshops in the Netherlands still using traditional, Delft Blue pottery techniques.
Today Delft Blue pottery bring authenticity to home interior. After a long spell of minimalist aesthetic and monochrome designs, consumers are embracing patterns again - the exquisitely patterned look is at home in contemporary and traditional, modern and rustic-style homes.
Please check Heinen Delfts Blauw Delft ware products available here at NAMI Home.
Photo: Heinen Blauw Blue Fold collection