The History Delftware  Until late in the 16th century ceramics were only available to rich people. German ceramics were particularly popular, because they were not too porous.

After 1550, there was an increase in majolica - ceramics developed in Italy and Spain. After a while, Flemish potters started to make imitations. Because of the Spanish occupation, religious persecution and the fall of Antwerp in 1585, a number of potters fled from Antwerp to Delft and they provided the origins of the Delftware industry.

Imitation porcelain

In 1602, the Netherlands became acquainted with porcelain from China. It became so popular that it turned into serious competition for the local potters. In order to save their trade, they imitated the porcelain and created Delftware. Although the Delftware potters liked to use the word ’porceleyn’ for the product they produced, this was technically incorrect. Porcelain is made from porcelain clay (kaolin), whilst Delftware is made from a clay mixture that is covered with a tin glaze after it has come out of the kiln.


Between 1600 and 1800 Delft was one of the most important ceramics producers in Europe. Delftware was extremely popular. Rich families proudly showed off their vases, dishes and tiles. In the 17th and 18th centuries, a large part of the professional population was active in this craft. After the mid-18th century, there was more and more mass production, and the quality started to suffer visibly. Meanwhile, porcelain production also started in the Netherlands. The competition became stronger and stronger and things went from bad to worse for Delftware. In 1840, only De Porceleyne Fles remained. In 1876, Joost Thooft breathed new life into the factory and ensured that Delftware became popular again. And due to his efforts Delftware is still well known around the world.

Delftware Products

Delftware has always had a good name. Prominent citizens had beautiful vases and pots with lids in their cupboards; dishes were on display on the mantelpiece and tiles decorated the walls.

If you could afford it, you would start a best room with your collection. In the early years, there was a very clear influence of the Dutch painting school on the products. Biblical scenes in particular were very popular. Because Chinese porcelain was so popular, the potters imitated oriental scenes. In the 18th century multicoloured statues came onto the market.


It is in the name – polychrome ceramics are painted with several colours. Yellow, green, blue and red-brown in particular are used. The history of Delft Polychrome started in the 18th century. The use of colours originated in the Mediterranean countries, where they had been using such compositions for longer.

Delft black

These unusual ceramics from Delft are also known as Delft’s wondrous black. Instead of a white background, Delft black uses a black background on which different colours are painted. In the 17th century, its producers were inspired by Chinese lacquer work.


Delftware not only consisted of plates, vases and other useful objects. After 1876, there was a rise in construction ceramics –e.g. tile tableaux that could be used to cover the walls. Initially ceramics were mainly used on walls to keep the damp out, but later the tile tableaux mostly served as decoration. This is an example of such a wonderful tableau with a vase full of flowers.

History of Delft

In 1246, Delft received its city franchise from the Dutch Earl Willem II.


Delft flourished and new neighbourhoods were added. As early as 1355 the city reached the size it would remain until the 19th century.


On the 3rd of May 1536 the great fire broke out. How it started exactly is not known, but it is likely that the wooden spire of the Nieuwe Kerk was hit by lightning and flying sparks set the surrounding houses on fire. Some 2,300 houses went up in flames. More than a hundred years later, in 1654, an explosion destroyed part of the city. The cellar of the former Poor Clares convent on Paardenmarkt was used to store gunpowder. This central warehouse for the region Holland contained some 80,000 pounds of gunpowder. The consequences of the explosion were enormous - two hundred houses were razed to the ground, and roofs fell in and windows were smashed in another three hundred houses. In 1660 a new gunpowder house was built about a mile outside the centre.

Dutch East India Company

More than 400 years ago the Dutch East India Company was founded. It was one of the largest trading companies in the world with a fleet of more than one hundred ships, thousands of employees, offices in Asia and six sites in the Netherlands, of which one in Delft. In 1602, Delft was a flourishing city, a centre of painting, arts, crafts and science. The foundation of the Dutch East India Company and the establishment of a branch in Delft added another important aspect - the trade with faraway countries. Spices, coffee, tea and Chinese porcelain now found their way to the Republic of the Netherlands and to Delft.

Knowledge and Culture

In 1842 the Netherlands lagged behind its neighbouring countries from an industrial point of view. The country required technically trained people, and therefore the Royal Academy for Civil Engineers was founded. The Academy used the building vacated by the artillery school. The Academy of then is the Technical University of today, which is also the largest employer in Delft. Some thirteen thousand students are registered with the TU in Delft. Delft is not just a city of culture, but also a city of knowledge. Not just because of the Technical University and TNO, but also because of the many knowledge-based institutes and companies - DSM Gist, the Dutch Normalisation Institute, the Dutch Measuring Institute, Exact Software, Delft Instruments etc. The Netherlands is world famous for its hydraulic engineering works. Students from all over the world come to the TU and the Unesco IHE to gain more knowledge. Large projects are simulated to scale in the WL/Hydraulics.

Delft in time


Nieuwe Delft (New Delft) acquires its city franchise


Start of construction of the Oude Kerk, the Old Church


Start of construction of the Nieuwe Kerk, the New Church


Construction of Oostpoort, East Gate, foundation of Delftshaven


Great fire


Delft joins the uprising and becomes one of the six large cities


William of Orange is murdered by Balthazar Gerards in Het Prinsenhof


Foundation of the Dutch East India Company and the establishment of a chamber in Delft


Piet Heijn, conqueror of the Spanish Silver Fleet, is given a mausoleum in the Oude Kerk


Johannes Vermeer is baptised in the Nieuwe Kerk; the Delft school, including e.g. Pieter de Hoogh and Jan Steen, becomes world famous


Hugo de Groot (also known as Hugo Grotius), legal scholar, dies


Explosion of the gunpowder store


Anthony van Leeuwenhoek, the 'father of microscopy', dies


Foundation of the Polytechnic School, the current Technical University Delft (TUD)


Connected to the railways, the Hollandse IJzeren Spoorweg


Foundation of the Nederlandse Gist- en Spiritusfabriek, considerable expansion, annexation of Vrijenban and Hof van Delft


Prinsenhof becomes the Stedelijk Museum, the Municipal Museum


Expansion to construct the neighbourhoods Voorhof and Buitenhof


TU Delft exists 150 years


Delft celebrates its 750th year as a city


Burial of Prince Claus


Burial of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard, marriage of Prince Friso and Mabel Wisse Smit






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