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Of the more than 30 pottery factories that were located in Delft and the surrounding area around the middle of the 17th century, De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles is the only one left.
It is not certain at what time the first workshops emerged. It is known that in other places, such as Amsterdam, Haarlem and Middelburg, pottery with multi-colored decors on a white background was already being made in the second half of the 16th century. This was done with a technique that the Dutch potters had learned from their Italian colleagues. The first company probably only started in Delft at the end of the 16th century.

The situation changed when the Water Beggars, while capturing Portuguese ‘Kraken’, also found Chinese porcelain among the cargoes and brought it to Holland. After the founding of the East India Company in 1602, the porcelain with blue decors on a white background was very popular here and so the Dutch potters soon tried to make something similar.

Porcelain and Delft

Porcelain was an unknown raw material here. Experiments were conducted with native clay to imitate the Eastern product as closely as possible, which was achieved fairly quickly. These attempts were mainly made in Delft and Rotterdam and once they succeeded, the number of companies in these cities expanded significantly. Ultimately there were 12 factories in Rotterdam and no fewer than 30 factories in Delft.

The 17th Century

This development took place in the first half of the 17th century. It is not entirely clear why Rotterdam and Delft came to the fore so strongly. In the case of Delft, it may have had something to do with the number of vacant buildings, as a result of the demise of several breweries in the city.
In 1653, ‘De Porceleyne Fles’ was founded by David Anthonisz van der Pieth, at the Oosteinde in Delft. After just two years, the pottery was transferred to Wouter van Eenhoorn and Quirinus van Kleijnoven. Wouter van Eenhoorn was a businessman and had financial interests in several Delft potteries. At that time, the business owner of a company also participated in production himself, for example as a master potter or master painter. Guild tests had to be passed first.

In 1663 Van Eenhoorn sold his share to Van Kleijnoven, who was the sole owner from then on. After his death in 1695, his widow continued the business for a number of years, after which she sold it to Johannes Knotter in 1697. He introduced the bottle as a mark for the first time.

The 18th Century

In 1701, Knotter transferred the company to Marcelis de Vlugt. He was most likely not a potter or pottery painter himself, because not a single piece by him is known. He probably employed the master painter Jan Sixtus van der Hoeck, who was known for his beautiful decorations. In 1750 the company passed into the hands of Christoffel van Doorne. He died in 1762, after which his son became owner. Pieter van Doorne died in 1770 and in 1771 his widow sold ‘De Porceleyne Fles’ to Jacobus Harlees. After 70 years (since Johannes Knotter) the bottle reappears, which has remained part of the well-known brand ever since.

After Harlees’ death in 1786, the factory passed into the hands of his son Dirck. But he could not keep his head above water during the difficult period of the French Revolution and the occupation, so he sold the factory to Henricus Arnoldus Piccardt in 1804. He was succeeded in 1849 by his daughter, Geertruida Piccardt. The Delft industry faced various difficulties in the course of the 18th century. It started with the discovery of porcelain clay and the spread of porcelain in Europe – a product that became a difficult competitor for Delft pottery. This was followed in 1746 by the invention of white baking clay by the Englishman Cookworthy. That clay produced a product that was in many ways superior to Delft. This earthenware therefore did not require a white opaque glaze to be applied, so the more refined decoration was now covered with a transparent glaze.

The 19th century

By the end of the 19th century, only a shadow of the once flourishing craft was left. Of all the factories, only Piccardt had managed to stay afloat. He had largely given up the manufacture of old Delftware and had switched to mass production of cheap printed pottery. In 1876, an engineer from Delft, Joost Thooft, bought the factory. He wanted to restore the old craft, but also saw that innovation was needed to make this successful. The old, brittle pottery type had been discredited and would certainly no longer be successful. Thooft found the solution in the use of a composition of the white hard and tougher English pottery. Together with Abel Labouchere, with whom he started working in 1884, he succeeded in manufacturing a product that gained a good name all over the world. Joost Thooft added his monogram JT and the word ‘Delft’ to the brand. Thooft died at the age of 46 and Abel Labouchere then continued the factory alone. In 1904 the company was converted into a public limited company. As a token of appreciation for the efforts the company had made since 1876 to restore the name of Delft and that of the ceramic industry, the designation ‘royal’ was granted in 1919.


Founding of the “De Porceleyne Fles” earthenware factory by David Anthonisz van der Pieth.


The height of the faience industry: there are 32 earthenware factories in Delft.


The factory is owned by Johannes Knotter, a merchant from Leiden.


Introduction of the “flesje” [small bottle] in the trademark by owner Jacobus Harlees.


Decline of the earthenware industry due to:

  • competition from English Wedgwood and the European porcelain industry
  • Eastern porcelain is cheaper
  • lack of innovation amongst Delft potters.

Ca. 1840

Around 1840 the Porceleyne Fles is the last remaining earthenware factory.



Geertruida Piccardt expands production with fireproof bricks, keeping the company afloat.



Delft engineer Joost Thooft becomes the new owner of the Porceleyne Fles. Introduction of the current trademark. His aim is to revive the production of Delft blue.


The years with Leon Senf as a desginer: one of the most important designers in the history of the Porceleyne Fles after his apprenticeship with an important painter: Cornelis Tulk.


Creation of the Building Ceramics department after which the Porceleyne Fles received many important orders for architectural ceramics, including one for the Peace Palace in The Hague.


World exhibition in Paris: the Porceleyne Fles wins the Grand Prix with the coloured ceramic panel gallery which is still on display in the courtyard.


Conversion into a public limited company.


Relocation within Delft from Oosteinde to the Rotterdamseweg.


The predicate ‘Royal’ is awarded as a show of appreciation.


Establishment of the Experimental Earthenware department. Aim: to enable recently graduated ceramics students to experiment with materials from the factory.


The introduction of Black Delft celebrating the 325th anniversary.


The introduction of Jubilee to celebrate the 350th anniversary.


January: takeover of Leerdam Crystal BV by transfer of shares

September: expansion of the group with Royal van Kempen & Begeer BV.


Opening Royal Delft Experience