Study: one of the largest known Dutch Delftware plaques
Former curator of ceramics at the famous Dutch Princessehof ceramics museum in Leeuwarden, drs. Jaap Jongstra, is a specialist in the field of the Amsterdam production of blue and white ceramics. We're happy and thankful that he took the time to present his view on one of the star lots in our upcoming auction:
Lot 288: A massive Amsterdam Delftware plaque dated 1743:
"The wedding at Cana"
The oval plaque is painted in blue and white with ‘The Wedding at Cana’.
It measures 66 x 52,5 cm.
On the tiled floor a cartouche is reserved, bordered with floral motives.
The cartouche contains a Dutch rhyme of four sentences, a Latin phrase, the reference to the biblical verse John:2 and the date: Anno 1743.
Noteworthy is the fact that the verses 1-7 are missing. The rhyme reads:
Heel Kanaa staat verbaast dat Christus op dat veestmaakt wijngaart sap dat aan geen wijngaart is geweesten kan de flauwe geest met nieuwe lust ont steekendaar selfs de wijn stock bloijt daar kan geen wijn ont breeken(freely translated into)
All of Cana is amazed that Christ at that feastmakes wineyard juice that comes from no wineyardand can spark the tame spirit with new passionEven there where the vine grows no wine shall be missedThe Latin phrase reads: SOLATIUM PIORUM CONIUGUM CHRISTUS and can be translated as ‘Christ comforts the pious spouses’.
At the wedding Jesus turned water into wine, the first miracle he performed.
The design is based on an engraving by Dirck Strijcker, which in turn was based on an engraving by Jacob Matham.It is very well possible that plaques like these with ‘The Wedding at Cana’ were intended as wedding gifts.
The raised rim is molded in relief with flowers and foliate, bordered at the top with a winged cherubs head of which details are painted in blue. Just under the cherubs head and opposite in the cartouche two molded leafs spring out on the surface of the plaque. A rim with a molded design and two springing leaves are unrecorded so far with Amsterdam plaques.Large plaques from the Amsterdam tile factories are known from the eightteenth century, but only a few have dimensions above sixty centimeter.
This plaque, with a height of sixty six centimeter, is the largest one recorded so far.Compared to plaques made in Delft, the Amsterdam plaques stand out in two ways. Stylistically they are more related to the Amsterdam production of tiles, tile pictures and "pièces de forme", rather than the Delft examples. Secondly, there are important differences in production techniques. Delft plaques are molded in plaster molds and fired on pins in saggars. The plaques from Amsterdam were not fired in saggars, but were standing on their sides on two small clay cylinders between rows of tiles. The back of the plaques was leaning against the rows. These production differences leave other marks on the plaques then the pin marks on Delft plaques and are important keys to establish Delft from non-Delft production.Using molds enables a Delftware pottery to produce the same shape over and over again, up to dozens or even hundreds, depending on how long the molds could be used. The Amsterdam plaques are all handmade and can therefore be considered as incidental products instead of regular production.
A second Amsterdam plaque with ‘The Wedding at Cana’ is known at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille (inventory number C 1012). The depiction, the cartouche and the dimensions are practically the same. Only the raised rim is flat and painted and not molded. Furthermore, the Lille plaque is not dated.Both plaques are attributed to the tile factory De twee Romeinen (The Two Romans) at the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. The attribution is based on the mention of a plaque with the same depiction in the will of Willem Willemsz. van der Kloet from 1737. He was the owner of the company. The plaque was hanging in his bedroom and is mentioned as ‘een steene theeblad verbeeldende de bruijlofft van Canaa’, which means ‘a stone tea tray depicting the Wedding at Cana’ (Amsterdam city archive, Notary Archive, entry 5075, inventory 9638, july 16th, 1737, notary Gerrit Brouwer). In old sources, such as wills or inventories, plaques are referred to as tea trays because of the resemblance in shape between plaques and tea table tops.Literature:Annie Castier, Catalogue des Céramiques du Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, Lille 2008, p. 101Jan Daniël van Dam, ‘’Delfts’ uit de provincie. Aardewerk uit Hollandse tegelfabrieken’ in: Vormen uit Vuur (1999/3-4), pp. 36-39, 54-55