Why I Still Love Blue Dutch Delft Tile

by Emmi Micallef September 15, 2016

antique delft tile and antique Belgian bluestone flooring

Spending some time in Amsterdam this past summer, I saw the ubiquitous delftware bowls, plates and mugs.  Commercialization to the extreme, tourists seemed to be buying them perhaps for a fond memory of their trip.  One bowl here, one plate there...I was not impressed.

The reason for my discontent came to me afterward, while researching Delft Tile for this blog. 

According to historian Caiger-Smith, "Some regard Delftware from about 1750 onward as artistically inferior...little trace of feeling or originality remained...and at the end of the 18th century - the Delftware potteries began to go out of business."

This made sense to me for my eye was always drawn to those Delft tiles during the Dutch Golden Age during the early 17th century.  This was when the Dutch East India Company, having a lively trade with the East, imported millions of pieces of Chinese porcelain.  It was the Chinese workmanship and attention to detail that impressed so many where only the richest could afford these early imports.

17th century Delftware pottery, Pushkin Museum, Russia

This vase is found in the Pushkin Museum, Russia as a representation of early fine Delftware imitating fine Chinese porcelain circa 1680.

The early Dutch potters began to imitate the Chinese porcelain - with acute attention to detail and artistry provoking emotions of joy and fond remembrance of life living in Amsterdam during it's Golden Age.

 Antique Delft Tile

As I ruminate this time period and the Delft potters paintings, I conclude how appealing to me, this idea, that authentic 17th century life in Amsterdam was captured and fired onto hand made porcelain tiles.  No archaeologist needed to understand what a slice of life was like during this time period...which seems to me tranquil and idyllic.  Observing children at play or the numerable ships coming into port - artists retold seemingly happy stories unfolding before them.

I also am amused that Delft tiles at this time where of course for the rich...adorning palaces and great kitchens...

Antique Delft Tile

This photo is the kitchen of the Amalienburg, Nymphenburg Palace...and shall I bring your attention to the hexagon terra cotta tiles?  Antique French hexagon terra cotta tiles, perhaps?

Antique Delft Tiles

This photo above is an antique Delft tile installation of a swimming pool in the same palace.

antique delft tiles

And this room is found in the Chateau de Groussay, Montfort near Paris with an installation of 10,000 antique Delft tiles.

The following photo below is one of my favorite for it's artistry and color of the antique Delft tile...

antique delft tile

which happens to be a toilet in the Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen.

Here is a photo of a fireplace...an installation found in the home of...

antique delft tile

Victor Hugo...in his dining room, Hauteville House, Guernesey 1860.

On our trip to Amsterdam this summer, walking through Rembrandt's house...

Antique Delft Tile in Rembrant's house

Rembrandt installed a Delft Tile baseboard.

And finally, this wonderful 17th century historic kitchen in the Hospice Comtesse, Lille France. 

antique delft tile

Please note the antique Belgian bluestone flooring and the antique terra cotta bricks in the fireplace. It never ceases to amaze me how lasting and beautiful there historic decorative materials are....

But onto my second point - that these 17th century Delft tiles also found themselves in humble dwellings - like this old farmhouse interior in Hoogland near Utrecht.

Antique Delft Tile

Or this classic farmhouse in Amsterdam where the yellow wall marries so beautifully with the blue delft tile ships.  I imagine this farmhouse is near one of the busy shipping ports or maybe even a ship captain's home?

Blue and White Delft Tile Ships

But I cannot help continue to ponder deeper why I am drawn to Delft tile, aside from it's historical perspective. Perhaps it's the blue glaze.  Rolling with this idea. I researched the color blue and from a psychological perspective, "the color blue reduces stress, creates a sense of calmness, relaxation and order...it is also considered a nostalgic and most universally liked color." 

Yes - I can understand this.  But there is something more.  I have concluded that when I observe an entire wall, or room for that matter, of finely painted Delft tiles - the juxtaposition of the tiles, each telling it's own story, communicates charmingly with it's neighbor. This in turn creates a larger narrative which makes my imagination soar. (This is a good thing...) Following this - the intricateness of the paintings become interconnected as a final abstract form - essentially creating larger geometric patterns that imposes upon a room a grander scale of visual delight.

Phew!  Who ever thought so much about Delft tile???  Well, that would be me - and it began when I was a child sitting in some sort of tea parlor.  It was a sunny day - I recall white trim and delft tiles reflecting into my vision from every corner of the room.  I was mesmerized - certainly one of "those" moments frozen in time as if it were yesterday.

When I began working with François in 2000, I could not stop dreaming about painting my own Delft tile collection.  I wanted to, perhaps, relive this Golden age of Amsterdam where life seemed endlessly charming and idyllic.  

Delft Tile

Delft Tile

Delft Tile

antique delft tiles

 As I look back at my work - which took, may I say, years to accomplish...I feel I recreated a version of this classic Delft Tile in my own style - with less flourish and more clean to the eye...but not without passion...perhaps like those Delftware potters so long ago - capturing their idyllic life unfolding before their eyes.

Delft Tile and Antique Belgian Blue Stone Flooring

If you are interested in viewing my Dutch 17th Century Antiqued Delft Tile Collection, please click here.

Thank you for your time in reading this blog...

Emmi Micallef. co-owner Historic Decorative Materials, a division of Pavé Tile, Wood & Stone, Inc.


Emmi Micallef
Emmi Micallef


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