The Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles is the only remaining factory of ± 32 earthenware factories that were established in Delft in the 17th century.
Although it is not exactly sure when the first factories were started, it is known that as early as in the second half of the 16th century, there were factories in Amsterdam, Haarlem and Middelburg that produced multicoloured (or polychrome) earthenware. Dutch potters learnt this trade from their Italian colleagues. It was presumably not until the end of the 16th century that the first pottery was founded in Delft. After that, the number of factories rapidly increased. Firstly because Dutch seamen caught several cargos containing Chinese porcelain and introduced it to the Dutch. Secondly, and most importantly, because tradesmen with the Dutch East India Company (founded in 1602) brought back large quantities of Chinese porcelain from the Far East. This type of porcelain, which was decorated in blue on a white background, was very popular among the Dutch, and soon afterwards Dutch potters started to imitate it.
Porcelain and Delft
Porcelain was a material unknown in the Netherlands, and so the potters attempted to imitate the Oriental products as well as they could with local clay. They succeeded in a relatively short period of time, and shortly after that a large number of factories were founded especially in Rotterdam (12) and Delft (32). This development took place in the first half of the well in the two cities mentioned before. It may have been because a number of buildings in Delft were left vacant because of the ailing brewery industry.
The 17th century
“De Porceleyne Fles” ( The Porcelain Jar) was founded in 1653 by David Anthonisz. v. d. Pieth, at the Oosteinde in Delft. After two years, the factory passed into the hands of Wouter van Eenhoorn and Quirinus van Kleijnoven. Wouter van Eenhoorn was a businessman who also ad financial interests in other potteries, such as „De Griekse A”, “De drie vergulde Astonnekes”, “Het Hooge Huys” and “De Paew”.
Little is known about both the financial and the artistic results of the various companies, and conclusions can only be based on deeds of purchase and sale, contracts , etcetera. Consequently, we can only suspect that in the period during which “De Porceleyne Fles” was owned by Van Kleijnoven and Van Eenhoorn, the factory was prosperous and was one of the most important companies.
In 1653, Van Eenhoorn sold his share of the company to Van Kleijnoven, who then owned the factory. After Van Kleijnoven deceased in 1695, his widow continued the business, but after two years she sold it to Johannes Knotter. He was the first one to introduce the jar in the trademark.
The 18th Century
Johannes Knotter owned the company for only four years, and then sold it to Marcelis de Vlught. Like the previous owners, De Vlught was neither a potter nor a painter, because no works of him were ever found. He therefore hired Jan Sixtus van der Hoeck, a master