The Dutch have an ambivalent attitude to their own traditional blue and white Delftware. I rarely see it in Dutch homes, only in museums or tourists shops. The blue and white pottery leaves me a bit cold, but the tiles on the other hand I do really love. So much so that I was lucky enough to pick up a table top of Delftware tiles, 50 in total for quite a low price. Now, I am not known for my canny way with money, in fact, according to husband I have got ‘a hole in my hand.’ Not a medical condition, just a Dunglish expression roughly equivalent to the English proverb ‘money burns a hole in his/her pockets.’
Anyway, this time, I think I have come up trumps. I believe these tiles are around mid-eighteenth century, in decent condition and highly decorative. They show mainly trades and occupations, a rosy image of Holland with every citizen happily getting on with their work and occasionally having time for a drink, a smoke or flirting with the dairy maid.
The term, Delftware is derived from the Dutch town of Delft where from the seventeenth century potteries produced hand-painted tin-glazed pottery of high quality which was exported all over the world. Alongside their other wares, the potteries in Delft produced tiles but these were not a major product. Most Dutch tiles were manufactured in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Gouda. In northern towns such as Harlingen and Makkum tiles were often the main line of business.
Delftware tiles are eagerly collected. Their hand-painted illustrations provide a unique insight into life in Holland at the time. I saw a few for sale on an antique dealer’s stall at the Noordermarkt last weekend. They weren’t as old, or as decorative as mine and I was told they retail at between 40 and 50 euros apiece! So pretty soon you will see me on the Dutch Antiques Roadshow, Tussen Kunst en Kitsch and I’ll say ‘oh, I think they’re worth about 200 euros all together’ and the expert will say, ‘add a nought to that!’ Clutching my heart, I will be dumbstruck with shock and head straight for the nearest gin and tonic to quieten my nerves. Or failing that I will keep them and enjoy them for as long as I can.