Traditional Art

Diving into Art in Delft

On one of my first trips to Europe, I visited Delft, a small town renowned for its art and painting – traditions that have been preserved since well before the 17th Century.

Delft is famous as the birthplace of the talented master painter, Vermeer, and home to the production of the exquisite ‘Delft Blue’ earthenware.

The 2003 movie, The Girl with The Pearl Earring, was set in the town of Delft and based on a novel, of the same name, by Tracy Chevalier. There are reminders everywhere in Delft.

delft blue porcelain
The Girl with the Golden Earring and other themed Delft ware

At the Delft factory, the Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, I took the option of an English-speaking tour. This establishment dates back to 1653, (the Dutch Golden Age). The translations in English were noticeably shorter than the German or Dutch versions, so I can only assume words took longer to say in a different language!

delft blue porcelain

All genuine articles of Delftware have the insignia you see on the header image, on the reverse side of the article. If it is missing, it won’t be a genuine Delft piece, but a cheap imitation – of which there are many.

Not only did I see the production process of a huge variety of magnificent Delft Blue antiques, (even in the ladies toilets where there is a massive mural in painted tiles), but I got to watch the Delft artists at work, painting new earthenware plates and vases.

Painting Delftware

It was interesting to note that prior to painting, the Delft artist traces the designated pattern onto the unfired ?Greenware in carbon, using strategically placed dots, made through holes in the tracing.  The designs are then painted with black paint, and the firing process burns off the carbon dots and changes the black paint to the familiar and beautiful Delft blue colour.

painting delft porcelain

The artists who demonstrate Delft painting, in the public viewing room, only painted for 30 minutes at a time before swapping with other artists, to a private work area. Painting the lines accurately and precisely requires intense concentration. It’s difficult to maintain that level of concentration for any length of time, especially when you have interested tourists gawking at you.

Buying a Piece of Delftware

Heads up: If you’re looking to purchase a genuine Delft hand-painted souvenir, take plenty of money, as it’s very expensive.

There are various colours available too: even green!

delft blue porcelain

The Netherlands’ vast legacy of decoration, both on earthenware and wooden art is a wonderful inspiration to contemporary artists.

Connections between Traditional Folk Art Styles

It is also noticeable to delve a little further back into history and examine the influences that facilitated the development of the many variants of Dutch folk art.

One rustic folk art style is called Hindelooper and was greatly influenced by the Norwegian decorative painting styles called Rosemaling.


Dutch Traders borrowed ideas they had seen on their travels and in turn, these new ideas and influences were absorbed back into parochial Dutch culture and art.

One example is the northern provinces of The Netherlands, where Frisian maritime villages traded far more with other Hanseatic trading towns, such as Bergen in Norway than their own countrymen in Amsterdam, resulting in the integration of the Scandinavian dialects and art concepts into their own culture.

Hindeloopen art
Museum piece of Hindelooper Art
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76 thoughts on “Diving into Art in Delft”

    1. I am surprised that you have not visited before Peggy – I do hope you get to see it one day. My visit was some time ago so there may have been some changes. The good thing about the old towns in Europe is they just get better they don’t knock them down and rebuild.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. We visited Delft in 2006 and I felt in awe of how beautiful the town was. I love places that preserve their traditional arts and promote them too.
    My mum was super excited and picked up a few pieces as souvenirs for our home – pieces that are still on display in my folk’s home.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is fantastic to hear that you appreciate traditional art, Happy Panda. Traditional art is also about society and customs at the time so you get to hear about history too! Did your Mum purchase the blue and white Delft pieces or other items from that delightful place?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The left-hand corner plate in your first photo looks much like the one my parents brought with them when moving to South Africa in 1952. There are three plates. My mother gave me one and my older sister took the other two when my mother passed. My older sister had/has a huge Delft collection. Before moving to NZ I gave my plate to her to go with the other two. The plates are from my grandparents. On one of the old family photos taken in grandparent’s sitting room
    You can see one the wall.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Such a beautiful family heirloom for your sister to have. Some people think having blue and white plates on the wall is old-fashioned. I used to display them in my old home and still have one or two about on the wall in the new house. Unfortunately, the new decor doesn’t always blend with traditional artwork. I have taken to using my Royal Copenhagen Christmas plates on a daily basis. I am careful with them and so far none have broken.
      How is the move coming along? Settled in?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice post. It id open. Mysteries of WP. Delft sounds nice. What is weird is we lived 3 years in Holland and never went. My parents could be weird. (We did tour the countryside in obscure towns to go to auctions and buy Dutch painters and furniture, we didn’t go to Den Haag, or Rotterdam or Delft…
    Be good.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Those obscure Dutch towns might have been more interesting to you as an adult than as a child. I find them so quaint and fascinating and will write about visiting Hindeloopen a little more in coming weeks.
      Why 1972? It reminded me of both a song and a carefree time in my youth. Playing in the street, building cubby houses in the backyard trees,
      being free and safe to roam as we wanted. I was 10.

      Liked by 2 people

            1. I am not surprised you haven’t visited. It is tiny and it takes a long drive/train to get there. It has to be deliberate and now most of the painting studios are closed. The Museum is fantastic though.
              Have a happy and fun weekend too, Brian.

              Liked by 2 people

        1. Lots of inspiration on that site, so thank you Helen. I can definitely see the acanthus motif was used in many of the designs. I will enjoy browsing that site when stuck for inspiration.

          Liked by 3 people

  4. I wish I’d had the opportunity to go there but I’ll have to make do with a bit of embroidery. I have patterns and made one for a friend already. You know how much I love Rosemaling and also the Blue Delft. I don’t know why the green didn’t resonate well for me. What a sweet town. I get why the artists can only work a short time. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The green is a bit harder to like. Blue and white is more attractive to the eye. I think it harmonises better with the white background. Green on white is harder to like. Have you posted some of your Delft inspired embroidery? I would love to see that.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I specially loved the Vermeer museum. His most famous are not here but in Amsterdam, but they explain his life and painting techniques

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It surprises me to hear that so many folk who live reasonably close (in relative terms to my distance from Delft) haven’t visited! I imagined it would be quite a popular tourist destination. Perhaps it is someone to plan to visit post Covid, Margaret? Is it easily accessed from your area?

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I have several small souvenirs from Delft, in traditional blue white colours from my friends who visited it. Hopefully, I’ll get to see more of the Netherlands than just Venlo which I visited last year

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There really is a lot to see in The Netherlands, Tanja. You are fortunate that it is not so far for you to travel to visit. I hope you do get to see more. Did you fly or take a train/drive to Venlo last year?

      Liked by 1 person

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