Delft, the city of "Blue Pottery"


Delftware, or Delft pottery, denotes blue and white pottery made in and around Delft in the Netherlands and the tin-glazed pottery made in the Netherlands from the 16th century.

imagesDelftware in the latter sense is a type of pottery in which a white glaze is applied, usually decorated with metal oxides. Delft is a city that has borne many of the Netherlands’ great painters, scientists and noteworthy historical figures. Names such as Johannes Vermeer and Hugo Grotius are part of its rich cultural tapestry. It is also known as the city of princes – the Dutch royalty are interred in its churches, the most famous of them, William of Orange.Delft started off as a rural village, and received its city charter in 1246. By the 17th century, Delft had become one of the most important cities in the country – a centre of arts as well as a trading port with the Dutch East India Company. Delft’s historic roots are still visible today – observe the buildings in the city centre were erected centuries ago.


The city centre square, Markt, is the best place to start – here locals congregate for drinks in pleasant weather, watch performances or go to the weekly flower markets on Thursdays and Saturdays. Here you’ll find the stunning city hall and the New Church of Delft. Oude Delft is one of the richest historic areas in the city, with lovely architecture such as the renaissance style building, the Arm of Savoy, which  accommodates the Municipal Record Office of Delft. Next to it is a lategothic styled building, the Gemeenlandshuis. Take notice of several plaques on buildings throughout the city that serve as a memorial to Delft’s noteworthy citizens, including one for the personal physician of Prince William of Orange. Also, keep an eye out for cubes around the city featuring some of Vermeer’s paintings.

Delft Blue is the world-famous earthenware that has been produced in the city of Delft since the 17th century. Between 1600 and 1800, this was popular among rich families who would show off their Delft Blue collections to one another. Although the Delftware potters preferred to call their “porcelain”, it was only a cheaper version of the real Chinese porcelain. Delft Blue was not made from the typical porcelain clay, but from clay that was coated with a tin glaze after it was fired. In spite of this, Delft Blue achieved unrivalled popularity, and at its peak, there were 33 factories in Delft. Of all of these factories, the only one remaining today is Royal Delft.


Rise of Delft Blue

Various trends in earthenware may be observed throughout the centuries. In 1550, Majolica from Spain and Italy was the trend. Many potters in Antwerp copied the popular until they were forced to flee the city from Spanish conquerors in 1585. The potters regrouped in Delft, where they concentrated on reproducing the latest trend, Chinese porcelain, starting in 1602. From that time onward, the city of Delft has been inextricably linked to Delft Blue.

Delft Blue today

Between 1600 and 1800, Delft was one of the most important producers in Europe. The Delft Blue was immensely popular, and was collected by rich families throughout the world. Unfortunately, for many potters, Delft Blue also went out of fashion, and one by one, they had to close their doors. The only one that has remained in operation since 1653 is de Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, known as Royal Dutch, a company that continues to produce the Delft Blue pottery according to the traditional methods. Other locations in and around Delft where visitors can see the are De Delftse Pauw and in the many souvenir shops around the central market square (Grote Markt) in Delft.

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