Delft Blue: The story behind the Dutch glory



Delft Blue: who is, especially in The Netherlands, not familiar with this blue and white colour combination? It’s one of the few products that has been in this country for centuries. Even in some questionable ways... But, Delft Blue is way more than just the mill keychain or three euro fifty tile from a souvenir shop in Amsterdam. It’s almost an artistic piece of The Netherlands that is still being produced in the city of Delft. But, what is Delft Blue exactly?



Definition of Delft Blue


Delft Blue is originally a specific type of pottery, also called faience, that you can recognize by the typical blue decoration on a white surface. As the name implies, many -nowadays- products are still being produced in the city of Delft.


You might think the name will refer to the colour, but it’s actually the mix from which the products are made of. Why that is? I will tell you!



Original Delft Blue


We’re going back to the 15th century, to sunny Italy. In this century and in this country, pottery was made of tin glaze, also known as majolica. Flemish potters brought this material in the 16th century to the northern part of The Netherlands to replace the then used lead glaze.


In that time, the Portuguese and Dutch, two of the most influential seafaring nations, introduced the high-class Chinese porcelain, famous for the blue painted decoration on white porcelain. Because this was very exclusive, ‘everyone’ wanted it, but only the richest people could afford it.


The potters from Delft couldn’t make real porcelain, but ‘imitation porcelain’ was their specialty: this was red pottery with a white and opaque surface, later decorated with blue painted decorations. Delft Blue was -kind of- the cheaper version of the expensive Chinese pieces.


But, this colour combination was way more than ‘just a copy’…



The Golden Days


The potters from Delft knew how to improve their pottery and their products became thinner, also called faience. Where Delft Blue started with Oriental decorations, the painted themes became more and more Dutch.


The concept was so loved that, around 1700, there were more than thirty three active potteries. Not only luxury pieces for decoration were being produced, also consumables items came on the market: Delft Blue became very accessible.


Tiles, name cards, candlesticks and vases: the potters from Delft were very busy! Ceramic painters were able to take the products even to a higher level with the most beautiful, small sized paintings. Dutch landscapes, mills and houses from that time: with blue brushstrokes, The Netherlands was immortalized on all kinds of products…



Times are changing...


However, The Netherlands continued to develop as a country and even the interest in the style disappeared. Delft Blue wasn’t that surprising anymore and the concept faded away. To make it even worse: a cheap, but good quality, English alternative came on the market: the Golden Days for Delft Blue were almost ending completely.


Almost? Yes! Not every pottery from that time had to close: even some of those potteries are still active today! Although there are no longer as many potters as then, Delft Blue is still very popular because it’s typical Dutch; a style that reminds us all of the glory days back in time…



Modern Delft Blue


The Delft Blue collection of Dominique Laurine doesn’t exist of porcelain: here, it is the colour combination! To make it even more Dutch, you will find Delft Blue animal prints like Old Dutch breeds, such as sheep, cattle and horses. Or, what about themes like the Dutch coastal area with typical dune birds, like the northern lapwing, or the Dutch herring?


It’s a tribute to the Dutch glory: a style that has fallen into disrepair, but, even centuries later, still proves to be timeless…


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