This piece has an insurance-replacement value in the $1,200-$1,500 range.
Dear Helaine and Joe:
This dish always hung in my mother’s house until her death in 1988. Neither my siblings nor I know anything about it. I have tried to research Delft pottery, but I see it is always blue. Do you have any idea how old this piece is and what it may be worth?
L.B., Humarock, Mass.
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First of all, Delft pottery is not always blue and white. There is also “polychrome Delft,” and this multicolored ware can be highly desired by collectors.
The story of Dutch Delft (there is also English Delftware, which can be very valuable as well) really begins with the Chinese, Spanish and Italians. When Chinese hard-paste porcelain began turning up in Europe at the beginning of the Renaissance, no one knew how to replicate this very fine ware.
They tried using ground-up glass (frit) or soapstone mixed with white clay, but all they managed to produce was a soft-paste porcelain that was very beautiful in its own right but less durable and versatile than the real Chinese product. The Spanish and the Italians made a tin-glazed earthenware by covering the pottery with a glaze whitened with tin oxide — the same sort of stuff people on the beach use to wear on their noses for protection from the sun.
The Dutch started making this ware in the 16th century in a number of towns, including Middleburg, Haarlem and Amsterdam, but much of the finer ware was made in the small town of Delft. The making of pottery developed here in part because of what has been called the “Delft Explosion.”
The 1654 explosion happened when kegs of gunpowder stored in a convent exploded and essentially leveled the town. This conflagration destroyed the brewing business in Delft, but left behind big buildings that could be repaired and used as potteries.
The Delft pottery industry flourished until the mid-18th century. By that time, workers at Meissen in Germany had learned how to make true Chinese-style hard-paste porcelain and the secret was spreading across Europe. The quality of Delft pottery is said to have declined after about 1750, but it was still widely made throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
The lovely round wall plaque in today’s question is in the style of Fredericus Jacobus von Rossum Chattel (1856-1917), who painted on canvas, board and Dutch Delft tile. The scene of a person walking down a path beside a canal with trees on either side is very similar to Chattel’s work.
There is a monogram on the face of the plaque, though we can’t be sure if it is that of Chattel. The mark on the back of the plaque only identifies the place of manufacture as Delft and that the piece was hand-painted.
The date looks like 1857, but it is much more likely to be 1887 because that would fit into Chattel’s lifetime much better because neither he, nor anyone else, painted this piece when Chattel was 1 year old.
As for value, this piece has an insurance-replacement value in the $1,200-$1,500 range.
(Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of “Price It Yourself”(HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, PO Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928. Email them at email@example.com.)