In theory, the term Delftware or ‘Delft’ can refer to anything from antiques made in Delft during the 17th and 18th centuries, to the very modern tourist pieces still being made in Holland. Concentrate on collecting whichever aspect or era of the industry that most appeals to you.
The origin of most Dutch or Blue Delftware porcelain can be dated back to the 16th Century. A number of Dutch towns were producing multi-coloured “Majolica” ceramics which were imported from Italy and were popular at the time.
Around the 17th Century, the Dutch East Indian Company began importing porcelain from China. This porcelain, especially the blue and white variety became very popular among the Dutch. The Majolica producing factories started imitating this Chinese porcelain for several reasons:
Firstly, Civil war in China meant that exports decreased, which in turn increased demand for the porcelain in Holland. Secondly, the items took a long time to deliver because of the distance. Finally, if the customers requested specific items, they would not always receive what they wanted due to language problems.
Porcelain was a relatively unknown material in the Netherlands, and so the potters attempted to imitate the Oriental products as well as they could with the local clay. They succeeded within a relatively short period of time and soon a large number of factories opened up, especially in the cities of Rotterdam and Delft. This was due to a large number of vacant buildings left behind by the ailing brewing industry.
At the height of its popularity between late 17th to early 18th Century, there were at least 32 factories producing Delftware. By the late 18th Century, when its popularity waned, there was only a handful of companies that still produced traditional, hand-painted Delftware.
The most notable of which were the Delftse Pauw, Plateelbakkerij (Zuid Holland) and the Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles which produced hard, white bodied porcelain, decorated with traditional motifs of Dutch countryside, windmills and children. This manufacture is the most well known of the several manufactures that operate today. Their wares are now produced under the well known name,”Royal Delft”.