It is the year 1639. A large ship arrives in Rotterdam's bustling port, in the Netherlands. The cargo is unloaded: a treasure-hoard of lacquered tea-sets, hand painted wallpapers, and porcelain vases, from the far-off climes of China.
Elsewhere in the city, in an old brewery building, a potter is lost in his work, painting a white layer onto many tiles. In the corner there are stacked tiles upon tiles: blue and white. Blue and white. Each one holds a scene: some with flowers, others with windmills, and others still with exotic traceries of plumed birds resting in branches of blossoms. The sign above the workshop reads:
Delfts Blauw - Porcelain Pottery,
The Guild of St. Luke.
It was exactly this movement of china bowls, jugs, dishes, and other luxuries, shipped to the Netherlands by the East India Company, that stirred up a vogue in Europe for all things exotic. In England, as in France, the elite sat in their wallpapered parlours and drank Chinese tea out of porcelain cups.
The many potteries of the Netherlands picked up on this mode for chinoiserie, the love of the exotic, and began to imitate the glazed and lacquered look of the porcelain dishes being imported. Potters in places like Delft and Rotterdam refined their techniques, applying a tin-glaze to their plates and tiles, before painting them with a mix of calcined cobalt ore, quartz sand and potash. Thus, the beautiful illuminated whites and deep blues of 'Delfts Blauw' was born unto the world, and then imitated in all manner of chinoiserie furnishings and wallpapers. It was not until the 1700s that porcelain began to be made in Europe, and until then, the Delft Blue potters provided an earthenware equivalent for much less.
The images on Delft serve ware have always evoked a kind of fairytale quality, depicting idyllic scenes of...
Farms and windmills, children at play, ships at sea, flowers & fruit, and biblical scenes taken from engravings.
All of this set alongside a hint of the foreign; of parasols, pagodas, long-legged cranes, and willow patterns.