Typical Dutch 04 – Delfts Blauw (Delft Blue)

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Welcome to learndutch.org’s Typical Dutch Vocabulary. Today we are going to talk about Delfts Blauw (in English: Delft Blue, Delftware or Delft pottery). The most favourite Dutch souvenir. I tell you all you need to know about this Duch porcelain and related vocabulary.

Am I an expert? No, but we’re so lucky with Vanessa! She is a professional guide in Delft and worked many years in the Royal Delft pottery factory. She provided the pictures and wrote the text of this lesson.

Delft is a city in South Holland. It is located here, close to the Hague. It has a lovely typical Dutch historic city center. And Delft is the city of Delfts blauw. Delftware or Delft blue is worldfamous.

It dates from the 17th Century, when a lot of ships of the VOC, the Dutch East India Company (de Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) went to Asia and brought back all kind of luxury goods, such as Chinese Porcelain. In dutch: porselein.

The VOC was the first multinational in the World. And still today – we have the word VOC-mentaliteit (VOC-mentality); which is the typical behaviour of Dutch people to go around the world and to trade and start businesses everywhere.

The VOC first used the Chinaware during the import as ballast on the ships, but soon it became their main trading activity.

Unfortunately a war in China stopped the import. No longer rich people could fill their tables and closets with this precious Chinese porcelain.

But in Holland, business is business and so in Delft, earthenware factories started to copy the Chinese porcelain with Dutch clay (klei). Yes, you hear it right. We copied Chinese products. So don’t blame the Chinese now, for copying our technology.

The Dutch word for earthenware is: aardewerk. The Delft earthenware-copy looked so much like porcelain, people called it soon “Porcelain of Delft”. More than 30 earthenware factories were established in the center of Delft. At first, the Chinese decorations where copied, but after a while, there was a demand for windmills, Dutch landscapes and other typical Dutch decorations.

Also, Delft blue tiles (tegels) were very wanted in those days. All kind of images were painted on these tiles. The tiles were used in the kitchen, the hallway and fireplace. Ideal for the dutch housewife. Why? Because they were easy to clean!

Today Delft blue tiles are still very popular, as a collector item or with a typical Dutch saying, like here: Oost West, Thuis Best. In lesson 6 of our 250 Dutch proverbs lesson, you can find what it mean. And we have a special word for sayings, quotes and aphorisms that appear on tiles: tegeltjeswijsheid, literally translated as “tile wisdom”.

Although the blue is the most popular colour, other colours were produced as well, like Delft red, Delft green and even Delft white.

Of all the 17th century earthenware factories, there’s only one left: De Porceleyne Fles, The Porcelain Bottle, also named Royal Delft. Since 1653 they produce handpainted Delft Blue products in an authentic way.

The process starts with the clay which is poored in a special pre shaped mould. This plaster mould absorbs the water from the clay. When the mould is emptied, a remaining layer of clay stays behind in the mould. That layer becomes the object. When completely dry, it is taken out of the mould and smoothed with a sponge and a knife. Then, the object is fired at 1200 degrees Celsius/2100 Fahrenheit. When taken out of the kiln, it is finally ready to paint.

Only after 10 years of study, a masterpainter can do this job. They only work with two brushes, water and black paint. Black? Yes black! When the product is completely painted and provided with the companies logo and the initials of the painter, it is glazed and fired for the second time. During this process the real magic happens: the black paint becomes blue, Delft Blue.

After 300 years, Delft Blue is still very popular. In every Dutch household you will find probably something with these famous colours. Maybe in an original way, like an old plate from grandma. Maybe in a modern way like a small Delft Blue house from a famous Dutch airline. For 95 years the KLM distributes the small houses filled with liquor in business class. These houses are replicas from real excisting houses and collected by many people. Most of these existing houses are built in the 17th century, the Dutch

Golden Age there where no bounderies for mercantilism. And it was thanks to this Dutch mercantilism, that Delft Blue became such a typical Dutch product.

Want to know more about Delft? I recommend you to visit it. I spent myself a weekend there last month. Delft has a very rich history, not only Delft Blue. It is the cify of the famous painter Johannes Vermeer. And the Dutch Father of the Fatherland, Willem van Oranje lived here and was murdered here. And so much more to discover.

Vanessa is someone who can guide you around.

Hi, I am Vanessa, I hope you liked the video. I am a professional guide in Delft. Of course the most beautiful city of the Netherlands! If you would like to come to Delft and you want to be guided around, feel free to contact me. You can find my details here. Hope to see you soon!

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