Many people think of Delft as a simple ceramic decorated in blue with windmills or flowers. In fact that merely represents a tiny portion of Delftware.
At the beginning of the 17th Century the potters in the Dutch city of Delft began to produce plates, dishes, plaques, tiles, pots and vases. They developed these from European Majolica, but were also influenced by Chinese porcelain. Over the next lœ centuries they made a product that was to turn their city into a household name. Many pieces were decorated in blue, but polychrome (multi colour) was also used. Some pieces were very simple and others sophisticated and highly decorated. At the peak, over 30 potteries produced Delftware using a tin-glaze technique. The Royal Kingston, Royal Delft exhibition displayed many 17th and 18th century pieces, illustrating the development from the early beginnings to this so-called "Golden Age".
Some Dutch potters relocated to Britain in the 17th Century and thus Delftware was also made in England (particularly in London), Scotland and Ireland.
In the 18th Century, English ceramics (particularly Wedgewood) surpassed Delftware, leading to the closure of most of the Delftware factories. By the mid-19th Century, only one Delftware factory remained: De Porceleyne Fles ("The Porcelain Bottle").
Founded in 1653, De Porceleyne Fles changed ownership in 1876. The new owner wanted to revive Delftware by using new production techniques and new artistic styles. A substantial increase in public interest followed, and the "Royal" predicate appeared in the early 20th Century: Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, Anno 1653 or Royal Delft.
Porceleyne Fles Delft is made and painted entirely by hand. As the company's products gained international acclaim, the interest in Delftware grew tremendously. This gave rise to a plethora of imitations and inexpensive tourist souvenirs, most of which are transfer-painted.
The interest in both antique and modern Delftware is at an all-time high.