Notebook, 1993-


POTTERY AND PORCELAIN - Glossary - A List of Museums and Galleries - Ceramics - [A materials resource site with links]

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Pottery & Porcelain - Dutch (cont.)

Polychrome Wares
The coloured wares made in Delft fall into two main groups. Those fired in high-temperature colours and those fired in the muffle kiln.

[a] High-temperature colours. From the late seventeenth century onwards the Delft potters added to their original blue and manganese a dull, coppery green, an iron red, and, rarely, a clear yellow. The red was a novelty in European ceramics, and was introduced at Rouen at about the same time. The whole Delft high-temperature colour scheme was, however, distinctive and unlike anything else. Many coloured replicas of Ming Ch'ing transitional pieces were made, the most popular being the sets of vases intended for the chimney piece or the top of a Dutch cupboard. Of these the most famous were the receded, octagonal vases, of great height, covered with a strewn decoration more reminiscent of Oriental embroidery than of any Chinese ceramic prototype. This design, in which the rusty iron red predominates, was known as 'cachemire', a name which suggests an Indian rather than a Chinese origin. With the exception of SVE, the same factories produced these coloured pieces as made the blue-and-white, LVE being once again the most prolific. The peculiar palette of Hoppesteyn and the monogamist IW has already been discussed. The Rose factory, as ever, produced an exceptional variety, pieces having little in common except their high quality.

The high-temperature colours continued to be used far into the eighteenth century, among other things on the rococo scrollwork, in relief, surrounding plates, barber's bowls, plaques, etc., on which the main decoration was in blue or manganese. [p. 437]

[b] Muffle-kiln colours. Quite apart from the wares more closely in line with the main trends of European fašence, which attempted more and more to compete with the minutiae and brilliant colouring of hard-paste porcelain. Delft produced very early in the 18th century a special imitation of the Japanese porcelain made at Arita, and known throughout Europe as 'Imari' ware. In these most distinctive Delft wares the iron red and blue predominate, supplemented by touches of pure lemon yellow, transparent manganese, and a translucent copper green. At first these were all fired in the high-temperature kiln, but as soon as gold was added to produce the 'brocaded Imari', the muffle kiln was used increasingly, and the opaque colours of the famille rose were imitated more and more. Plates cruets, jugs, and the usual sets of five or seven vases were the main objects produced. Many bear in red the PAK mark of Pieter Adriaensz Kocx's widow. Others, including some of the most original and most brilliantly executed, the letters AR in monogram. Once again, a confident traditional attribution is found untenable, and the significance of the initials remains in doubt. In both these groups the paste is of a very brilliant and warm white, without a hint of blue in it, and the body itself is slightly pinkish.

It was after 1760 that attempts were made to rival the jewel-like brilliance of German porcelain. Small boxes, pipe stands formed as sleighs, pickle trays, butter dishes, and the like were made, decorated with 'Watteau' scenes, or reminiscences of Herold or even--and it is almost the only time it is found on Delft--with a version of the 'Kakiemon' designs so ubiquitous in European porcelain of every kind.

[c] Coloured grounds. In addition to the two main types of polychrome wares described above, must be described the important and highly prized group of coloured grounds.

The most famous, and most prized, of these are the black grounds. These are of two kinds. The earlier type consists of a black enamel painted all over a dark-red clay body, and subsequently decorated in olive green and yellow, sometimes with touches of brilliant opaque light blue, red, and green. It seems that these were intended to imitate lacquer, a novel material enjoying an enormous vogue at the time, and that the olive green and yellow were meant to simulate gold. Such of these rarities as are marked mostly bear the LVE monogram.

The later type, closely associated with Delft Doré bearing the PAK and AR marks, has the background painted over the white body, leaving reserves to be painted in colours, the whole being fired in the muffle kiln. There are also pieces treated in this way but decorated in the usual high-temperature palette.

Apart from the black grounds, there are pieces with deep-olive, chocolate, emerald-green, yellow and turquoise grounds. Each colour seems to have been the specialty of one particular maker, though not all pieces are marked. Thus the turquoise and emerald-green ground, with their ornamentation of brilliant opaque yellow, dark manganese lines, and occasional touches of underglaze blue, often bear the mark IHL in monogram. Chocolate grounds bear a CK in monogram, yellow grounds bear the 3 Astonne, whereas the large and distinguished group of deep olive-green pieces nearly all bear the mark LVD, the last two initials in monogram, as the evidence of the decoration. The olive and chocolate grounds would seem to date from the first quarter of the eighteenth century, the brighter grounds from the third quarter. Mention must also be made of the deep-blue ground pieces with white ornament, generally in conscious though heavy-handed imitation of a well-known Nevers type. Most of these were made early in the eighteenth century at the Paeuw pottery. The blue was painted over the white ground, the white decoration added next, no reserves being left uncovered by the deep cobalt blue. [pp. 437-438]

Dutch Figures
Many figures were made at Delft, most of them in the middle fifty years of the eighteenth century. A distant echo of Meissen, these personages sit awkwardly round candlesticks or small pots. They are much prized rarities, but to anyone not inflamed by a collector's cupidity they seem curiously bad for two reasons. The lesser plastic wares, such as lidded butter boxes, in the shape of boys on goats or eagles, or having the lid shaped as a plover, or grebe, or other marshland bird, are excellent in their simple way and far more pleasing than the analogous boxes made a Marieberg and elsewhere. A favourite type is where the box is in the shape of a curled pike [or even two] with a smaller fish in its mouth. All these pieces are simply coloured with effective lines of colour over the main patches., to suggest feathers, features, and so on. Many bear the marks of the Axe, LPK, or the 3 Astonne. The other reason for surprise at the feebleness of the more ambitious figures is that the Delft potteries showed no lack of plastic skill elsewhere. We do not refer to the very rare and rather absurd Delft violins. These were triumphs of misdirected cunning, only redeemed by the very high quality of the figure painting with which they are decorated, or to the bird cages, which, again, are merely very rare. But plastic skill of a very high order is shown in the numerous types of complicated tulip vases, in which from pyramid and obelisk, or from less easily defined shapes, innumerable orifices sprout upwards and sideways. The masterpieces of the type may be seen in the Long Gallery at Hampton Court and are illustrated in the article by Mr. Arthur Lane already referred to. But slightly less ambitious pieces are by no means uncommon and may be seen in many museums and private houses. It is perhaps significant that all these date from the earlier years, around 1700, whereas the pseudo-Meissen figures and the butter pots are later. [pp. 438-439]

Dutch Fašence Made in Other Towns
Haarlem, as already stated, was early among the places where North Netherlands majolica was made, and a group of tiles with either simple patterns of small motifs arranged in a diagonal cross or attractive animal figures in blue surrounded by a wreath of blue and ochre 'peacocks' feathers', is, on slender evidence, associated with the town. There is no doubt that blue-and-white ware was made at Haarlem until late in the seventeenth century. A few signed pieces by M. van Eems have survived, and there is a record, dated 1642, of a dispute and an agreement between the Verstraetens, father and son, as to which should make majolica and which 'Dutch porcelain' [i.e. blue-and-white faïence]. The Haarlem plates tend to have Dutch scenes rather than Oriental designs, to be deep in the bowl, and to be painted in a very bright light blue, closely resembling that of Frankfurt. The town seems to have produced no wares in the eighteenth century, probably owing to the overwhelming competition of the Delft potteries.

Friesland, situated farther away from metropolitan Holland, and nearer the export market of Germany, produced a very great quantity of rather second-class goods throughout the eighteenth century.

The wares of Harlingen and Bolsward are difficult to identify. Harlingen is credited, among other things, with some very late tea-pot stands, in greyish-white fašence with simple Louis XVI and Empire decoration. Bolsward is even harder to identify, in spite of a magnificent document in the shape of a huge, widely reproduced, tile picture of the inside of a pottery on which one can study most of the processes involved. It is roughly painted in a pale and slaty blue. Much so-called 'Peasant Delft' was undoubtedly made there, and production continued through the nineteenth century until the present day.

With Makkum it is possible to be more definite. Many plates are dated, and quite a few are inscribed. The painting is less fluent than that at Delft, but it is firm and convincing for all that. The blue is dark and slaty, and there is a preference for floral borders and firmly drawn biblical scenes. Marriage plates and alphabet plates were a popular line.

Between 1755 and 1773 a fašence factory at Arnhem produced goods of the finest quality, in a fully understood rococo idiom, and entirely divorced from anything else made in Holland. The beautiful white enamel, decorated with flowers or scenes after French engravings, the amusing tureen shapes, and the firm, crisp lines of tripod coffee pots, close to the admirable Dutch silver of the period, all combine to give Arnhem a high place among the fašence of rococo Europe. It can best be studied in the Musée du Cinquantenaire, Brussels, and the town museum at Arnhem. [p. 439]

Dutch Tiles
Throughout the period under review an enormous number of tiles were produced in Holland and exported all over Europe in vast quantities. Indeed, for many people, these are the most characteristic example of 'Delft'. Ironically, though produced to some extent in that town, by far the greater part were made in Rotterdam or in the various Friesland potteries.

The majolica tiles, dating from early in the seventeenth century [earlier types were almost certainly made at Antwerp], are of reddish clay and are well over half an inch [1.3 cm] thick. They show four-tile patterns of grapes, tulips, and pomegranates, in the usual Netherlands majolica palette, with blue and [p. 439] orange predominating. They were intended as wall tile--a Spanish rather than an Italian use--and the designs may have been prompted by t ose used on Spanish leather. To these were soon added figures of animals in circles, with a simple dark-blue corner motif, the creatures rising on mounds of bright green and ochre, with occasional touches of manganese. The corner motifs soon became large fleurs-de-lis. By 1630 the Chinese fashion had radiated out from Delft, and blue-and-white tiles became universally popular, at first enclosed in a bold and effective late Ming fret. It is odd that actual Chinese scenes, so popular elsewhere, were always uncommon on tiles. At first large figures of animals, soldiers and officers, horsemen and ladies were the main subjects of decoration. As the seventeenth century moved on, these figures grew smaller and at the same time the corner motifs shrank and became insignificant. To the repertoire were added children, putti, marine monsters, innumerable and very attractive ships, from men-of-war to fishing smacks, and an immense variety of small landscapes. Round the turn of the century manganese replaced blue to some extent, especially in the Bible scenes, which from then on enjoyed enormous popularity. In the eighteenth century manganese, or more rarely blue, grounds were introduced, round a central scene painted in blue. Al these types were imitated abroad, especially in England. A very few polychrome tiles in the colours of the muffle kiln have survived, but there is nothing to equal the extent or the quality of the polychrome tiles made in Liverpool in the second half of the eighteenth century, by which time the Dutch industry was declining both in quantity and in quality of output.

Tile pictures have always been popular. Apart from such masterpieces as the huge allegorical scene in the Victoria and Albert Museum--a special commission carried out, brilliantly, after a design by a stained-glass painter--there are innumerable harbour scenes and townscapes on quite a large scale. Most satisfactory are perhaps the huge flower pieces, in their baroque vases, which adorned the kitchens of several palaces in Germany and France. These are painted in the high-temperature colours and are akin in feeling to the 'cachemire' vases.

Innumerable small scenes of six or eight tiles, showing cats, dogs, windmills, horses, bird cages, in fact almost anything, were let into walls of plain tiles in kitchens and dairies, very much as pictures hanging on the wall.

In all their huge production it is difficult to be certain of date or provenance. Thin tiles are eighteenth-century--the thinner, the later. Manganese is not much found before 1700. A slate blue and coarse white suggests Friesland. The subject is as inexhaustible as philately, with which it has points of affinity. Once one has felt the fascination of tiles one is an addict forever, and one may promise oneself, with reasonable confidence, the discovery of an endless series of minor variants on the central themes. The collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum, at the Huis Lambert van Meerten, Delft, in the Boymans Museum, Rotterdam, and in the store rooms of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, are the essential places of pilgrimage. [pp. 439-440]

Dutch Forgeries
Few ceramic groups have been so extensively forged as Delft, and, for various reasons, fašence is easier to imitate convincingly than hard-paste porcelain. Hannover describes a visit to Samson's workshop in Paris, where he could compare original pieces side by side with the replicas, and all collectors would do well to heed his warning against buying important Delft pieces without a long pedigree.

The AK and CK monograms are the most frequently forged of the earlier marks, and the forgers show a strong preference for 'important' reeded vases and for plates in sets, showing the months or some industry such as whale fishing or tobacco curing [a famous faked set of this last, in the cellars of a great English national collection, is illustrated by Knowles]. The PAK mark is also much forged, especially on Delft Doré. The standard of skill in the best forgeries is very high, but the following points may prove helpful.

Suspect any piece in which the blue has an ultramarine tinge, or in which the paste feels hard to faintly granular. In genuine pieces the exposed body of the clay feels soft to the fingernail. Suspect any Ak mark followed by a group of numbers, and any PAK piece of 'Imari' on which the painting is not convincingly neat and controlled.

There is the further problem of distinguishing Delft from German wares, such as those made at Frankfurt and Hanau. It should be remembered that on the German wares the blue used is much starchier and brighter, the use of trek is rare, there is a preference for lobed dishes, which are uncommon in Holland, and that narrow-necked jugs are very common in Germany and very rare in Delft. It should also be remembered that Delft plates are remarkably thin and remarkably light.

Northern French wares, such as white-lobed plates with a central motif of a cherub, a fleur-d-lis or a portrait head, and a frequently found series of puzzle jugs with blue and orange tulips, can soon be recognized by a family likeness and by the fact that the glaze is harder and more parchment-like to the touch.

Good-quality Delft is always very highly glazed yet soft to the touch, and it should be noted that crazing is very rarely found on any genuine piece. [p. 440]

Dutch Porcelain
In Holland Meissen workmen, unemployed during the Seven Years' War, helped to produce hard-paste porcelain at Weesp from 1759 on. The factory, with all moulds and plants, was transferred to Oude Loosdrecht in 1771, and thence to Amstel. [p. 440]

[L. G. G. Ramsey, F.S.A., ed. The Complete Color Encyclopedia of Antiques. Preface by Bevis Hillier, Editor of The Connoisseur. Compiled by The Connoisseur, London. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1962. Revised and Expanded Edition.]



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