The Origin of Delft Blue
At the end of the 16th century, first the Portuguese and later also the Dutch introduced Chinese porcelain in Europe. This Chinese porcelain was characterized by the blue paint. It was elegant and the porcelain was finer than what was common at the time. It quickly became very popular, and only the rich could afford it. Dutch majolica potters soon tried to imitate this. In Delft too, potters started to experiment with new techniques. By adding marl to the majolica, the Delft bakers were able to improve their products. The pottery became thinner in this way, and was called faience. Delftware is therefore really Delft faience.
Is it Called Delft Blue or Delftware?
The first decorations were mainly oriental, inspired by vases from the ming dynasty imported from China. Later the bakers from Delft also started with typical Dutch scenes on the faience. The name "Delft Blue" is now perhaps better known as Delftware or Delft ceramics, but the blue glazed pottery is just one of the variations of Delftware. Other variants of Delftware are the multi-colored farmers Delft and Delft white. Delft blue is by far the most popular variant. Something is called Delfst blue when the pottery has been produced in the Netherlands since +/- 1650 and is covered on both sides with tin glaze. (faience)
Delft Blue, a Quality Product
Until the mid-17th century, Delftware was primarily a utensil. After +/- 1650, more and more pure decorative pieces were made. Due to the increased prosperity and the better techniques, the Delft bakers were able to produce their delftware in a finer and more elegant way than before. Delftware was more than just a cheap imitation of Chinese pottery. In the 17th century, Delft ceramic painters such as Frederik van Frytom, Arie de Milde and Isaac Junius managed to bring their work to unprecedented heights. Their products are true pieces of art. Most Delft blue that you see in museums these days is decorative pottery. Because ceramics are fragile, many utensils have broken.
Many potteries disappeared in Delft in the second half of the 18th century. In 1794 there were only 10 of the 33 potteries. The emergence of cheap but high-quality English pottery led to less demand for Delft blue. The pottery "De Porceleyne Fles", founded in 1653, is the only one of the original potteries that still exists today. Delfts blue has been produced here since the 17th century. Other potteries are: Goedewaagen, De Delftse Pauw, De Candelaer and Heinen Delft Blue.
Delft Blue in Summary
Delft blue is Dutch blue glazed pottery that was made as an alternative to Chinese pottery around 1600. Delftware became enormously popular in a short time and experienced its heyday from 1650 to 1750. There is still a lot of Delft blue being produced nowadays.