Royal Delft – the home of the Blue
Some museums can be so boring. I find myself wandering around like an extra from Walking Dead, the monotony of looking at old pots with little description doesn’t whet my appetite. However, I am thrilled to say that the Royal Delft Museum kept our interest.
It was a rainy morning here in Holland; hence, the idea to visit the museum. I was pleased to hear that Bahar had not been there. We were welcomed warmly and handed an Audio device that we used throughout the place.
What was it specifically that we enjoyed about the museum? The audios were short, interesting and to the point. We learnt about the inception of Delft earthenware. We watched an artist copy an original design. We visited the factory and saw a variety of uses that have been created in the past 400 years. Perhaps you have noticed that the word “variety” is key.
Let’s start with the inception; the Dutch navy captured a ship containing several cargos of Chinese blue porcelain in the 1500s. This blue and white china became very popular amongst the aristocracy, so in the early 1600s, the Dutch East India Company sailed to the Far East and brought back large quantities of Chinese porcelain. Subsequently, the Dutch potters worked out how to replicate the designs, and over time about 32 factories were established in Delft.
Unfortunately for them, the British put a stop to this growth by producing cheaper and more durable china and the Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles was the only remaining factory.
If you have any blue and white chinaware, you will recognise that it is Delft as on the bottom it will have the trademark that Joost Thooft, who bought the factory in 1876, added. It will include his monogram JT, the word ‘Delft’ and two letters which represent the year of production. 2019 is EN.
Back to our history lesson; in the early 1900s, the company was given Royal approval; consequently, the name Royal Delft. A new design was created which included one or more oranges. The museum exhibited a variety of work, from large vases, murals, tiles, both architectural and decorative, and even a dress that was designed in co-operation with designer Pim van den Akker and was included on the International Food Floral Fashion show cat-walk in November 2013. If you are interested in this, it is for sale! I cannot understand why this hasn’t been sold yet!
We were allowed into the factory where we saw a craftsman busy spraying some bowls, and it was fascinating seeing an artist painting a vase. Such precision! And not surprisingly it takes ten years to become a master painter. Even today the pottery is entirely hand-painted in the same traditional method, and we learnt some of the secrets to the production process. As it’s a secret, you’ll just have to visit yourself, but a hint is that the designs involve charcoal and black paint.
Afterwards, we walked into Delft to see the new church (Nieuwe Kerk), which was built in 1381, about one hundred thirty years younger than the old church! We did laugh about it still being called “new”. Part of the spire looked burnt. We were intrigued to understand the story behind this so popped into the Tourist Information Board and discovered that two different types of stone had been used and one of them absorbed the ash from nearby chimneys.
As we were enjoying a bite to eat, the sound of Mini the Moocher filled the air. A band of about 40 males of various ages marched into the market square with their percussion, brass instruments and banjos. It was so nice to hear them and more importantly, seeing the camaraderie between them and their enjoyment of playing and singing a selection of tunes.
A very enjoyable day with much laughter, there always is when Bahar is around.