Dutch Delftware

The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag has one of the finest and largest collections of Delftware in the world. Delftware is not only a beautiful traditional product and a paragon of Dutch prosperity in the Golden Age, but also an inspiration for contemporary design. Delftware takes a prominent place in the wide variety of applied arts at the Gemeentemuseum. Delftware WonderWare shows the versatility of this traditional Dutch product, then and now. From the typical blue-white to flashing red, snow-white and even Delft black; from 17th Century vases for the very rich to contemporary tulip vases made by Dutch designers like Hella Jongerius and Wieki Somers.

The best alternative to porcelain

From the early 17th Century, the Netherlands was introduced to oriental porcelain thanks the Dutch East India Trading Company (VOC). Gloss, beautiful decorations and exotic forms appealed to the imagination, but only wealthy people could afford to buy these Chinese products. Before long, the Delft earthenware industry came up with a more cost-effective alternative: Hollants porceleyn (Dutch porcelain).

The main difference: Hollants porceleyn is in fact no porcelain at all. That is because porcelain requires china clay, also called kaolin, which is not found in the Netherlands. That is the reason why Delftware factories, such as De Porceleyne Fles, introduced imitation porcelain products made of Dutch clay. They aimed to copy the Chinese product as well as they could. And not without success, because their sophisticated, luxurious earthenware products were widely considered the best alternative to genuine (export) porcelain. That is how Delftware factories became the low-cost warehouses of the Golden Age with an enormous impact on the Dutch way of life.

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