Potter to the King

No.  This isn’t about Josiah Wedgwood.  Although, if he were around today, he’d probably say it should be.  He was potter to a queen.  Still, Wedgwood might assert that his 1763 marketing coup of labeling himself potter to royalty was a first.  It made him rich.  And famous.  But the assertion would be wrong.  He wasn’t the first.

150 years earlier, German immigrant Christian Wilhelm called himself “Gallipotter to the King.”  A “gallipotter” made delftware.  Or faience.  Or maiolica.  Whatever you want to call it.  He called it, for reasons lost to time, “gallipots.”  The king to whom he was potter would a few years later also lose something.  His head.  He was Charles I.

At the time, the colorfully painted earthenware coming out of Holland was all the rage.  Charles, as any self-loving king would, liked to surround himself with finery.  And as far as European pottery went, Delftware was right up there.

The English were enthralled.  They sought out delftware potters and their knowledge.  In 1567, Antwerp potters Jaspar Andries and Jacob Janson were two of the first to be enticed  (as refugees with no choice?) to England.  They set up shop in Norfolk.  In 1571 they moved to London, near the future lodgings of William Shakespeare in Aldgate.  They probably chose Norfolk first because of it’s clay, the primary source for potters back in Delft throughout the 17th century.  It also didn’t hurt that practically all the tin used in Holland and Italy for this kind of work came from Cornwall.  The locals eagerly learned the trade.  Delftware potteries in London, Bristol and Lambeth would flourish – until Wedgwood came along.

There was an awkward spell during the Commonwealth era.  With ornamentation out of official favor, most delftware decoration was either subdued or non existent.  G.F. Garner, author of English Delftware, felt this to be a particularly delightful period in that the charming forms were allowed to exist on their own merits.  But some highly decorated items were still made.  Even chargers with images of Charles I.

Christian Wilhelm died in 1630, about 20 years before Charles lost his head.  Had Wilhelm lived maybe he, like so many others, would have knuckled under and produced plain Commonwealth delftware for a time.  Maybe he would have made some of those Charles I chargers that still found their way out the shop door.  And just maybe, had he come up with a more pleasant sounding name than “Gallipotter” to the King, he might have been as well known today as Josiah Wedgwood.

Readings:
English Delftware. GF Garner.  Van Nostrand Co., Inc./New York.  1948.

Dutch Pottery and Porcelain. W. Pitcairn Knowles.  Scribner’s/New York.  1940?

If These Pots Could Talk. Ivor Noël Hume.  University Press of New England/Hanover, NH.  2001.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , ,

6 Responses to “Potter to the King”

  1. Colette Ruhenkamp Says:

    Greetings, this is really a genuinely absorbing web weblog and I’ve cherished studying a lot of in the content and posts contained on the internet internet site, keep up the outstanding work and want to go through a good deal additional stimulating content articles in the future.

  2. Winds of Change | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] suppliers of up-to-the-minute pottery fashion to the entire world.  Silicon Valley meets Madison Avenue.   About the only thing Henry Ford added to the picture over a century later was additional […]

  3. Dinner with George Washington | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] rage.  It was cheaper than porcelain and sturdier than delft.  Salt white soon toppled delftware’s predominance – and was just as quickly supplanted by […]

  4. Bastard China | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] traveled next – along with French (and Italian) potters – the English called it ‘delft‘ after the eponymous Dutch town – and still more 16th/17th century immigrant Dutch […]

  5. River Gods | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] River Gods favored Dutch delftware over English delftware.  Maybe this was because Dutch delftware painting, being directly inspired by Italian faience, […]

  6. Fringe Elements | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] tossed together.  But closer examination reveals an intense, studied effort.  This was 17th century delftware from Southwark on the Thames River, opposite […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: