Title   Plateelschilder (Search for the image)
Translated title Faiencer
Intro Text by dr D. Barnes, accompanying Bramer’s drawing of a faiencer (`plateelschilder’)

Code of occupational group 89530
Description At the right, a bareheaded potter sits on a low box, with his legs extended in front of him. He turns a kick wheel with his left hand. His right hand holds the top of a clay jar with a wide mouth. Three clay items, unfired but drying to the leather-hard stage, are next to the potter. A
faiencer sits on a slightly higher wooden box facing the potter. He holds a large plate flat in his left hand and is painting a design on its surface with his right hand.

At the far left, there is a stack of plates on the floor awaiting the faiencer's attention. Behind the two workers, there is a narrow table against the wall which holds completed bowls, plates, and a pitcher. Other ceramic items, including a round jug, decorative bowl, and large platter, are displayed on a wall shelf above the table.

Delft was a city famous for its pottery works. Within Bramer's lifetime, during the years between 1639-1674, some 14 different potteries were opened with names like Alpha, The Double Jug, The Porcelain Bottle, The Rose, Peacock, and The Stag.* In the 17th century, "porcelain" was made locally in Delft to resemble dishware Dutch merchant ships had been importing from China. Thinner, finer decorative objects were made by mixing locally available Dutch clays with clays taken from the riverbanks of the Ruhr in Germany and lcheld in Belgium. These clays were sold to Delft potters by specialized clay sellers who transported their loads via boat on the inland canals and waterways.

Often potteries utilized the skills of potter-turners who twisted the newer clays into more ornate shapes. The more elaborate the pottery item, the more likely its surface was painted by pottery painters or faiencers. The color on Delftware was painted on baked clay pieces. The pieces were then glazed and fired again so that the colors fused with the glaze and became quite brilliant. Efforts were made to imitate the coloration of imported Chinese porcelain, often blue figures on white ground, or of Spanish majolica, utilizing several colors. Several faiencers were listed as members of the Gild of St. Luke in Delft. Bramer would have known them and their work.

Skillfully decorated Delftware can be seen in many domestic interiors and in still lifes. The image of the potter and faiencer was not repeated by other Dutch artists during the 17th century, although it is clear that in the 16th century Jost Amman had included a potter in the Ständebuch who operated the kickwheel with his feet. It is certainly conceivable that Bramer drew his inspiration for this drawing from the Amman woodcut. It is equally plausible that Bramer observed his fellow townsmen/gildsmen and decided to include them, especially since their products were much sought after. He, himself, provided some designs that were later executed by faiencers on pottery.

Source Donna R. Barnes, Ed D, Street scenes, Leonard Bramer's drawings of seventeenth-century daily life (Hofstra Museum exhibition 1991). Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York.

Click here for the introductory essay on Bramer's drawings.

Notes * See W. Pitcairn Knowles, Dutch Pottery and Porcelain, 1904.


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