Do you admire Chinese porcelain, but scared it will clash with your country cottage? The Asian pottery’s European cousin might be the answer to that empty fireplace mantel begging to be decorated. Delft pottery, also known as Delfts Blauw, is the Dutch successor of China’s iconic blue and white porcelain.
Europe fell in love with the porcelain coming in from China when the Dutch East India Company began to import it. Dutch potters decided to mimic the pottery beginning in the 16th century, but swapped the porcelain material for a less expensive clay called earthenware.
A colorful version of Delftware was also produced that featured muffled reds, greens and yellows; the enamels were labeled polychrome Delft. The Delft Blue and Makkum earthenware were shaped into urns, decorative plates and vases that featured hand painted art. Instead of dragons, cranes and Chinese architecture, the Dutch painted florals, birds and Dutch scenery for a more European touch.
This new art form was not just limited to the classic plate. Tiles were particularly popular amid the spectrum of Delftware, and 400 factories in Holland produced Delftware tiles during the “golden age.” Now, only three factories—the Royal Delft, De Delftse Pauw and Royal Tichelaar Makkum—manufacture the pottery.
Finding Your Own Dutch Pottery
Beware of souvenir stores that sell pretty knockoffs of true antique Delftware. Check out the following pointers to ensure you are buying an authentic piece of Dutch history:
Look for the underglaze marks. Factories hand painted these marks.
Don’t shy away from a few chips. A chip in a Delftware piece shows it is genuine.
Examine the design. An intricate and precise painting means that a real Dutch hand from long ago handled the pottery.
The stranger, the better. Hold on to it if you find a more peculiar piece like a tea canister, cow figure or cruet set. Unlike tiles, these pottery antiques are harder to find and therefore have a higher value.