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Collecting Pottery:
Collecting Old Continental Pottery

Henri Deux Ware, Etc.
Palissy Ware
Paris And Its Environs
Glazed Pottery Of France

Stoneware Of Germany
German And Other Guilds

Stockholm, Rorstrand, and Marieberg

Delft: The Old Signs Of The Potters

Majolica And Luca Della Robia
Castel Durante
Naples, Rimini, Monte Feltro, And Forli
Siena, Monte Lupo, And Pisa
Fabriano, Viterbo, Rome
Venice, Treviso, Bassano, Milan, Etc.

Persia And Damascus
Persian And Other Tiles
Rhodes, Asiatic Turkey, Etc.

Hispano-Moresque Ware

Delft Pottery

( Originally Published Early 1900's )


The history of ceramic art in Holland is mainly centred in the small town of Delft, which lies about nine miles to the north-west of Rotterdam, the first seaport of that country, from which canals extend in all directions. We can assume that in Holland, as in Germany and other countries, common earthenware was made during the centuries preceding the seventeenth, and, going a step further, we may concede that enamelled earthenware was manufactured in the last years of the sixteenth century; but so it was elsewhere. When, however, we arrive at the year 1614 we reach surer ground, for it was then that the States-General granted the first licence to Claes Janssen Wytmans for the fabrication " of all sorts of Porcelain, decorated and not decorated, nearly like the porcelains which came from far-off lands." Yet what is here named porcelain was only faience, an enamelled pottery of fine quality-nothing more. The designs which inspired the potters or plateelbackers were Oriental. Two of these potters were admitted in 1648 as presidents of the important Guild of St. Luc, whose records date from 1613 and whose powers controlled the business of the town, which became famous and rich as the art of the potter developed in imitating the wares of China, which has been noted, and of Japan.

That Oriental country was closed to the outer world. China alone had a limited trade with it, when, in 1600, on April ii, William Adams, pilot of the English ship Charity, one of a small fleet despatched by the " Indish Companie " to take part in the trade to the East Indies, was wrecked on the island of Kyushu, and brought to the shogun's court. He married a Japanese wife and settled at Hemi, a few hours' sail from Yedo, Ieyasu, the shogun's capital. The Dutch first appeared after Adams's shipwreck in 1609, and they were " received in great friendship, making conditions with the emperor (shogun) yearly to send a ship or two." The first vessel to arrive under this agreement was a small yacht in July 1611. A part of the crew went to visit the shogun and Ieyasu, the retired shogun. At the court of the latter the Dutch met some Portuguese who had preceded them by a few days. By the good offices of Adams, the Dutch were successful in obtaining a patent for continued trading.

This event had much influence upon the fortunes of England and Portugal. England, about 1623, was driven from the Japanese trade after losing 40,000, and the Portuguese were banished in 1640, whilst the Dutch were established at Nagasaki in the same year. Through the monopoly thus granted to Holland arose the manufacture of Delft ware, and incidentally the porcelain industry of Europe, for the early models were largely Japanese.

The potters attained success by degrees. The ware was made of clay from Bruyelle, which also supplied the potteries at Brussels, Tournay, Lille, and at other places in the North of France. There was nothing distinctive in the clay nor in the tin enamel which covered the surface of the ware. That tin was imported from England alike by the Dutch and the French. Indeed the tin enamel was used in England, for Sir A. H. Church has said: " I am driven to the conclusion that a considerable manufacture of delft existed there (at Lambeth) at least as early as 1631. Such evidence is chemical and physical as well as literary and archaeological." We know that in 1672 a Royal Proclamation forbad the importation into England of " painted earthenware," in order to protect the home manufacture which had " lately found out " the same art. And the records show that in 1676 John Aries Van Hamme, a Dutch potter, took out a patent " to exercise his art of makeing Tiles and Porcelaine and other Earthen Wares after the way practised in Holland which hath not beene practised in this our Kingdome." Hence we may conclude that in the seventeenth century the English potters at Lambeth were employed in imitating the ware produced by the Dutch, though that made by Wytmans at the Hague, from 1614 onwards, remains unknown.

There is no doubt that the decoration first applied to ware, after it had been fired in the kiln and dipped into the liquid tin enamel, was in blue-cobalt-blue. Painting upon such raw enamel required great manual skill, for retouching was almost impossible upon a glaze easily reduced to powder. Rubbing would destroy it, and water would diminish its strength. When we examine the crude paintings upon old delft we see the beginnings of artistic decoration, which, towards the end of the seventeenth century, developed from the simple blue, yellowish brown, and occasional puce over the stanniferous enamel-but under the thin and colourless lead glaze which formed the actual surface-into polychrome, to which gold was added to complete the glories of Delft dore. Such were the superb pieces with beautiful decoration in red, blue, and gold made by Adrian Pynaker and others, and red, blue, green, and gold by a woman, A. van Kessel, who from 1675 was the proprietor of the factory named " The Double Pitcher," in a mark deposited in the Hotel de Ville, Delft, in 1764, by Thomas Spaandonck.

The output of the Delft manufactories during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was very large. In the thirty fabriques existing during the year 1680, the period of its greatest prosperity, from 1,500 to 2,000 potters were employed out of a population of 24,000. Earlier, in 1659, and later, 1764, only twenty-three factories are mentioned. Still later, in 1780, they were reduced to eleven, and to ten in 1794, whilst in 1808 eight only remain, which, one after the other, disappear: " The Gilded Flower Pot" (De Vergulde Bloempot) in 1816, the remainder a few years later.

In 1764 the Guild of St. Luke ordered all master-potters to deposit their signs and marks, conferring on each the sole right of using it, and imposing severe penalties upon counterfeiters. This wise proceeding makes the work of identification easy, for, though two fires at Delft must have destroyed some of the archives, the researches of M. Jacquemart in Holland in 1852, and the later investigations of M. Havard, have considerably increased the stores of information at our disposal. The list of 1764 is complete, and the Master-book of the Guild contains many marks of the potters who before that year had protected themselves by registering their trade-mark. Such were the marks entered in 1680, though these were ordered by a decree of the magistrates, and there was a further list of master-potters in 1759.

Before dealing with these signs and marks let us further consider what was the decoration applied to the ware by the potters who owned them, who shaped their forms after Japanese and Chinese models until the rococo ornament of Louis XV. style led to alterations, in which flat scroll reliefs were employed more or less effectively. Perhaps increased imports of Japanese porcelain with that of China, after the middle of the seventeenth century, were responsible for new departures in Oriental decoration in which blue, red, and gold were prominent, forming the class celebrated as delft dore. Jacquemart waxes enthusiastic over the inimitable rouge de fey-the iron-red-so bright and so abundant that it dominates the other colours and even the gold, but it must be acknowledged that delft dore attains a high excellence as regards beauty and harmony of colour.

Naturally in course of time artists ceased to be mere copyists of Oriental designs: they modified them, and they frequently neglected them altogether in favour of scenes from Dutch life or from the Bible. The occupations and sports of the people, their commerce, and their homes furnish evidences of originality which were absent in the older wares. Then, too, they imitated the Dresden decoration, notably on large pieces, such as fountains, tureens, and vases; but these imitations are not so striking as the paintings of shipping, of the whale and herring fisheries, and of battles and historical subjects, as well as those relating to mythology. A noticeable feature is the immense number of figures crowded into some of these pictures. The great change in the decoration of delft took place about 1650, and some of the artists responsible for it will be noticed later. They helped to bring prosperity and fame to the town, where, in later times, a lead glaze was used.

The success of the delft manufacture had one curious result. When the master-potters became rich they often changed their names. Jacob Wemmertsz added a new surname, Hoppestein ; Pieter Jeronimus assumed the name van Kessel, Gisbrecht Lambrechtze became Kruyk, Jacob Jacobszoon took the name of Dekerton, and some twenty others followed a similar course. Notwithstanding the care which was bestowed upon the records of the Guild of St. Luke, there remains a great number of unknown marks on faience in the delft style. Some of these might have been made at Amsterdam, where there were f abriques working during the second half of the eighteenth century, or at Overtoom, when from 1754 to 1764 vases, groups, etc., were produced, which have not yet been identified. A mark assigned to Amsterdam is chanticleer-a crowing cock.

We have considered how carefully the Guild of St. Luc guarded the manufacture of faience in Delft. The plateelbackeys, however, apparently did not insist upon the mark being placed on every article which was issued from their f abriques, because a large number of very good specimens give no clue as to the maker; no signature, no initials are found. We have also referred to the changes in the names of the successful potters which took place in the middle of the seventeenth century, when the wares of Delft became famous. M. Havard points out another difficulty with regard to the names of the early potters which may be worthy of consideration. He says : " In those times, indeed, the workmen, the labourers, and others of low condition, were not accustomed to retain their family name distinct ; they restricted themselves, according to the custom in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, to making their Christian names precede that of their father." Thus the man who founded the Guild was Herman, the son of Pieter, and he took the name of Herman Pieterszoon, which was abbreviated into Pietersz. He had a son named Gerrit, who was known as Gerrit Hermansz, and so on through further changes as sons and grandsons followed each other. This custom was disregarded whenever a sufficient inducement arose to make the family decide upon a surname which should remain as its distinctive patronymic.

In following Jacquemart in his chronological list of the chief potters and potteries of Delft, it is noticeable that few of the most distinguished ceramic artists were natives of that town-only the families of Mesch, De Milde, Kam, and Brouwer. The others had to acquire the rights of citizenship. As in England in olden times, the custom of noting inns by signs was followed by similarly distinguishing the houses of traders; hence every house in great leading thoroughfares displayed its sign, and, as far back as Wynkyn de Worde's publication of " Cock Lorell's Boat," early in Henry VIII's reign, one of the passengers is described as dwelling " at the Sygne of the dogges hed in the pot," and many of John Wycliffe's books were " Imprynted at the sygne of the George " by Robert Redman. So in Delft the potteries were known by signs: " De Metale Pot"; " De Paauw," the peacock; " T'Fortuin," fortune; " De Griekse A," the Greek A ; and many others, some of which occur as marks upon the ware in words or slight sketches, such as a bird's claw for " De Klaauw," a rose for " De Roos," and a Moor's head for " T'Oude Moriaans Hofft." Factory marks and makers' marks were both used.

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