Tallship "Batavia"
The Netherlands
We pay tribute to The Netherlands as a maritime nation, as well as the home of Dutch tiles. We pay tribute to Friesland, the northern province, which played such an important and significant role in the Dutch tile industry.

Flag of Friesland

Dutch Tiles: Introduction

My interest in Dutch tiles grew slowly. My first love was the Tile Stoves [Kachelöfen] which I found in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. On my early travels in Europe the museums, palaces, and castles revealed so many unexpected delights. I had neither heard of, nor seen, tile stoves and their beauty made an immediate impression. That items intended for the prosaic function of heating could also be so lovely was a revelation.

While going to every museum, palace and castle I also made my first acquaintance with Dutch tiles, without actually realizing their significance. One of the most famous locations for tiles still to be seen in situ outside the Netherlands is probably the kitchen in the Amalienburg Hunting Lodge built in the park surrounding Schloss Nymphenburg in Munich. Nymphenburg was built as a summer residence for the Bavarian Prince Electors [Kurfürsten] and grew over a period of about 200 years. It was begun as a celebration of the birth of Max Emanuel, heir to the Wittelsbachs' Prince Ferdinand Maria and his wife Henriette Adelaide in 1662/3.

Prince Elector Max Emanuel continued building at Nymphenburg, following in his mother's footsteps. He had been Governor [Stadholder] in the Southern Netherlands and had travelled in the Northern Netherlands and was familiar with Dutch tiles and with the popular fashion for Chinese decoration. He added buildings, the Pagodenburg and Badenburg, at Nymphenburg designed in the Chinese style.

The Amalienburg was begun in 1734 by architect François Cuvilliés, an architect from the Spanish Netherlands, for Prince Elector Carl Albrecht. It is a delightful little building with silver, blue and yellow Rococo decor and a central circular Hall of Mirrors (Spiegelsaal). Tiles used in the Amalienburg had been largely intended for use in the Residenz, but a fire had damaged construction and the tiles salvaged were routed to the Amalienburg.

It is judged that the Amalienburg tiles were made by factories in Delft and Rotterdam in cooperation. Although most Dutch tiles were produced in cities other than Delft, Delft produced tiles and tile-pictures that were elegant and of the highest quality. These tile tableaux were exported for specialized markets for use in the castles and palaces. Rotterdam also made high quality tiles and tile-pictures for export.

My one visit to Amalienburg was many years ago and in those days I didn't have a camera with flash even when one was allowed to take photos in museums and so on. I have only my memories for a first hand account aided by coloured illustrations in books. Unfortunately, copyright restrictions prevent me from reproducing these. As it is on the tourist route, I wonder - does anyone out there have a guaranteed copyright-free picture to contribute?

You must try to visualize it: the Amalienburg kitchen is divided by pillars into two parts. One part was for cooking and the other acted as a dining room where the aristocracy could enjoy gracious indoor picnics, no matter what the weather. The walls are completely lined with tiles. Visualize three polychrome flower-vase tableaux which stretch the width of the fireplace dominating the whole room. These pictures measure 13 by 6 tiles. Columns garlanded with flowers adorn the pillars. White wall tiles highlight tiles with blue Biblical motifs, manganese decorations, Dutch landscapes and polychrome panels depicting Chinese scenes.

The flowers, lots and lots of flowers, are diverse- tulips, the flower which is so important to the Netherlands, daffodils, lilies, carnations among others. The flower urns have a variety of scenes on their sides, and have blue handles. A parrot stands on his perch at one side of the urn and a cock stands on the other. There are butterflies and little birds flying in and around the flowers and a peacock is perched on one side of the vase. Romance reigned.

Tile Stoves (Kachelöfen)

Romance reigns also in tile stoves. Centuries pass between stoves made with tiles in simple shapes and the gorgeous fully developed tile stoves. My original intention was to show how these early tiles changed over time and finally blossomed into the stoves which we can still see in museums and palaces. Belated thoughts over copyright obliged me to abandon that approach, as far as illustrations are concerned. Shapes known in nature and universally in use are, I hope, free for all and free-hand drawing when and if I can manage it! If anyone has a photo to contribute which is copyright-free, it would be welcome.

The German-speaking countries where these stoves flourished used the word Kachel for the stove tiles and the word Fliesen for wall tiles. The tin-glazed stove tiles are largely relief tiles (they provide better heating) mixed with flat ones and plaques with pictures, text (poetry, religious or philosophical thoughts and sayings). They can be monochrome or polychrome.

The tile stove to end all tile stoves has to be one found in the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum) in Zurich. In 1620 it was made for an apartment in the "Alten Seidenhof" (Old Silk Court) in Zurich and has been installed in the Museum, along with the room's original coffered ceiling and magnificent panelling.

The stove was made by Ludwig Pfau (1573-1630), a member of one of the leading families of potters (Hafner) in Winterthur, a town northeast of Zurich. Winterthur was renowned for the quality of the stoves made there and their fame spread.

This polychrome tile stove stands on decorated animal-shaped feet; there is a seat on either side of the stove, with a step for each. The whole is decorated with figures, faces, fables, men on horseback, verses or texts in decorated plaques; the top is crowned with scrolls and figures; it is imagination come to life. Many interesting tales could have been told around these stoves; the children could have gathered for instruction; the old could have kept warm. I'm sure Keats would have applied his lovely lines to tile stoves and the Amalienburg as in "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness."

Destruction resulting from wars, both political and religious, and construction projects has left the world a much poorer place when so many wonderful works of art, wonderful buildings and other creative works have been destroyed. We should appreciate and care for those we have left. [TOC]

A Very Brief History Of Tiles

Tiles developed over the centuries as one product of earthenware pottery. Medieval tilers used lead glazes on the red-firing clay which hardened in the firing process, the surface becoming transparent, thus protecting the clay and making it stronger and waterproof. Designs could be inlaid before glazing by stamping them into the clay, then filling these areas with slip ( white liquid clay). Tiles could also be simply covered with slip before glazing, giving them a different colour from tiles without a layer of slip. These could be then be used to make decorative patterns. The earliest tiles were used for flooring. These were largely for churches, "stately homes", or other institutional buildings. Only the wealthy could afford them.

Enter tin-glazed tiles:

However the opportunities for sophisticated decorations required the development of the tin glazes emerging from the Middle Eastern countries. Detailed and beautiful decorations could be created. Islamic conquests spread the glories of Islamic art and architecture further north through Spain. Spanish pottery spread through Italy [via Majorca, hence majolica and the French word faience from Faenza where it was popular] then further north to Antwerp in Flanders (Southern Netherlands) and then further into Northern Netherlands. Colours used in majolica tiles were blue, orange, green, yellow and purple. Over time, the Spanish and Italian influences waned as other influences took precedence and Dutch tiles developed their own special characteristics.

Early in the 17th century the United Dutch East India Company imported blue and white Chinese porcelain and this became all the rage. It was expensive. The Dutch potters tried to imitate the Chinese porcelain but the process for true porcelain was not yet available to them. However, in the town of Delft from the 17th century, the potters created a very superior earthenware product which became known as delftware. The stages in making delftware were briefly as follows: clay was shaped, dried and given a first firing. Tiles were then glazed with liquid white tin glaze. The design was pricked through on a piece of paper, the spons,and when laid on the tile, the pattern was transferred to the tile by pouncing through the holes with charcoal. The outline of the pattern was clear enough for the painter to complete the painting. The tiles were then fired a second time. The firings were at a temperature of 1000 oC (1800 oF) In special cases, some tiles were fired a third time in a muffle-kiln at a lower temperature in order to emphasize colours which would not react well to the high kiln temperatures. The use of Chinese patterns in blue on white on high quality delftware made the similarity to Chinese porcelain sufficient to make the products very popular. Delftware was exported in vast quantities. Tiles were only a part of the Delft output, but the fame of the "Delft blue" pottery was such that the name of Delft became synonymous with Dutch tiles. Habit is hard to break. The main centers for tile manufacture were Rotterdam, Utrecht, and the Friesland towns of Makkum, Harlingen and Bolsward.

When majolica floor tiles proved to be too delicate for heavy usage, tiles moved to the walls. Single tiles and tile-pictures (multiple tiles combining to make a picture-religious, floral, etc.) were used in kitchens, around fireplaces and as baseboards where floors met walls. As the Netherlands is built on rivers, canals, and alongside the sea, tiles were used as insulation and protection against water seeping into houses. Tiles and tile pictures were exported to countries such as Portugal, Spain, France, Germany and Britain. The aristocracy of these countries valued the workmanship and spectacular effects achieved by the tile makers.

One of the great tilers was Guido Andries. Andries had moved from Italy to Antwerp at the beginning of the 16th century, where he changed his name from Guido di Savini. Antwerp and Guido Andries will be discussed in a separate section.

By the 19th century advances in machinery for making pottery and the use of wallpapers undermined the demand for the hand-made tiles. As fashions change, however, an interest in hand crafts returned. Collectors both private and institutional, antiquarians and the small humble tourist, have been both good and bad for tiles. Good when tiles are saved from the wrecker's ball but bad if it encourages the dismantling of remaining in-situ locations- farms, cottages, houses, big and little. Building codes and demolition regulations should be as strong as possible so as to save this fragile heritage. [TOC]

Influences of History on the Development
of the Tile Industry in The Netherlands

The period of history known as the Eighty Years' War, 1568-1648, was the period in which revolt against Spain broke out in the Netherlands, thus changing history and serving as a pivotal force in the development of the Dutch tile industry.

The Netherlands (Lowlands) at that time, consisted of modern day Belgium and the current Netherlands (Holland) The area was ruled by Spain and the religion was primarily Roman Catholic. In 1555, when rule was passed from the Emperor Charles V to his son Philip II, conditions in the Netherlands changed for the worse.

The Catholicism in the Netherlands was of a somewhat milder kind than that practiced in Spain. Many non-Catholic religions such as Lutheranism, Anabaptism and Calvinism coming in from neighboring countries were growing in popularity. Philip reacted harshly to these trends. He was a fanatical Catholic and would tolerate no deviations. He did not understand the people, did not speak their languages and disapproved of the noblemen's way of life. Antwerp and Amsterdam were busy trading ports; rivers and canals transported goods throughout the country; commerce flourished. Taxes levied by Spain were resented. It would not be the only time in history that imposition of taxes from a foreign ruler would cause trouble! The Inquisition was applied with vigor and brutality. Revolt broke out.

This is the same Philip who in 1554 had married Mary I of England ("Bloody Mary"), daughter of Henry VIII. Mary died in 1558. She was followed by Elizabeth I. Elizabeth gave aid and comfort to Philip's enemies, for her own purposes of course, by raiding Spanish ships, confiscating goods and money and generally making Philip's life as miserable as possible. Elizabeth knew that the revolt would delay any attempt to invade England so gave the northern provinces a certain amount of help. Philip retaliated finally in 1588 by sending The Spanish Armada against England. We all know how that turned out!

Philip II died in 1598. In 1639, the Dutch won a great sea battle, the Battle of the Downs, against the Spaniards. This Dutch victory did for the Dutch what the victory over the Spanish Armada had done for England. Spain lost control of the seas and Spanish control in the Netherlands was soon broken. In 1648 the Treaty of Munster ended the Eighty Years' War and the United Provinces were liberated from Spain. The Netherlands had won their fiercely fought struggle for independence.

The combination of political and religious upheavals in different parts of Europe led many craftsmen to migrate. Artists and craftsmen were driven out of their homelands and neighboring countries benefited from the influx of talented people. Tile makers in Antwerp left during the Spanish persecutions and moved, for example, to the Northern Netherlands and England. In 1685, Louis XIV of France, made history by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes which had given the Huguenots (Protestants) freedom of religion ( in 1598) and rights to careers and justice. The exodus of between 200,000 and 300,000 of these skilled people was a loss to France but a gain to many countries e.g. England, Holland (some went on to South Africa), Germany, Switzerland and America. All these dates we had to learn in school take on a new meaning when they fit into our hobbies and our own research!

Visited by Margot Allingham (mallingham@bcitra.bc.ca)

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