Another Look at Delft Ware Pottery

14 Feb

One of my previous posts about pottery was that of the  ( Post Medieval period ) in which  I spoke of the beautiful Delft Wares. The Delft potters are one of my favorites so I thought that those of you also interested in pottery in Archaeology would enjoy further reading on this subject.


Delftware began during the reign of Henry Vlll. a derivative of Italian Maijolica. Delftware is a type of earthenware characterized by its opaque white enamel glaze , made from a mixture of tin and lead ash, powdered glass and water.

Before the development of this revolutionary enamel, British potters had been severely restricted in terms of decoration by the drab browns and greens of the clays they were forced to use. The clean white finish of the Delftware allowed the potters to paint patterns, landscapes and even portraits. They painted their designs in bright colors derived from various minerals- cobalt blue was the most popular, although copper green, manganese purple, iron red and antimony yellow were also used.

The first London Delftware dates from around l550, and includes plates, vases and drug jars in various colors . Much of the English Delftware tended to imitate Chinese, while London potters began to develop their own distinctive style during the l7th century. Straight- sided posset pots( from which hot, milky  alcoholic beverages were drunk and barrel- shaped  mugs were among the new forms that emerged at this time.

Blue and White Delft Posset Pot c l700

Blue and white Delft Posset Pot c l700

English Delftware Polychrome Posset pot c l670-l690

English Delftware Polychrome Posset Pot c 17th century

My favorite at this time, those beautiful ” Blue dash chargers” characterized by a series of blue marks around the rim, were made in various sizes and designs, including depictions of Adam and Eve, pictures of tulips and portraits of statesmen- images of Charles the second are particularly prevalent

Delft blue dash charger Royal portrait poss William lll

Royal Portrait Blue Dash Charger Possibly English c l690. Probably William lll on a rearing horse.

The l8th century craze for tea inspired the creation of a plethora of tea bowls, pots, caddies cups and saucers all made in Delftware. As the public appetite for Delftware grew, yet more forms were introduced by potters, including flower bricks and puzzle jugs. These latter were often painted with witty inscriptions challenging the reader to drink without spilling.

London Delft Chinoiserie Flower Brick c 1760

London Delft Chinoiserie Flower Brick c l760

Delftware Flower Brick

Delft Blue and White Flower Brick early l8th century

The Delftware potters always had one eye on the Orient for their inspiration. The technique of decorating in white on a pale blue background was almost certainly the result of endeavors to replicate a similar style of ornament found on Chinese pots, just as the tin glaze used on Delftware was born, at least in part, from a desire to mimic fashionable Chinese porcelain.

English Delft Puzzle Jug poss Liverpool c 1740

Delft Puzzle Jug possibly Liverpool c l740.

It is interesting how the puzzle is solved. The jug’s handle and rim were made hollow, something like straws . The handle opens to the inside of the jug near the bottom, then goes up the side a little, bows out, and then connects to the opening inside the rim. To successfully drink without spilling, the drinker has to suck from the correct spout. Some puzzle jugs had additional holes which had to be covered with a finger before the ale could be drawn, or hidden holes to make the drinking even more challenging.


Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Archaeology and Pottery


3 responses to “Another Look at Delft Ware Pottery

  1. dorannrule

    February 15, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Rita, I am especially interested in this since I believe I had ancestors from Delft, Holland. I thought the Delft pottery originated there. Thanks for sharing.


    • ritaroberts

      February 15, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      Hi Dora, How exciting you have ancestors from Delft. I envy you. Yes, the pottery was first made in Delft in and around the Netherlands from the l6th century.


      • dorannrule

        February 16, 2014 at 1:19 am

        Thanks for the clarification Rita….



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