Delft – city of our royal family, Johannes Vermeer and Delft blue
Delft is loved by so many people, so we decided to check out this city and found out why. This place is absolutely stunning and has a lot to offer.
Prince William of Orange
Have you ever noticed the Dutch wearing orange (clothes and accessories)during the Olympics? When supporting our Dutch national soccer team? Or while celebrating King’s Day? Have you ever wondered why the Dutch wear orange? Well it all has got to do with our founding father named Prince William of Orange. Got it? He was born on April 24th, 1533. At the age of eleven he inherits his uncle’s possessions as his uncle had no children of his own. Among these possessions is the Principality of Orange. As a result he inherits the title Prince of Orange. Due to this legacy William of Orange was a rich man and by marrying Anna van Egmond he became one of the richest nobles of Europe.
In 1572 he resides in Delft as this city is one of the best defensible cities of Holland. He moves into a former monastery which he renamed into ‘Prinsenhof’, meaning Court of the Prince. During that period Holland is at war with Spain and as the king of Spain considers William of Orange a traitor to his country he puts a price on his head. The person who kills the Prince of Orange will receive 25.000 golden ducats/coins.
In these days, this is an enormous amount of money, so William of Orange is hunted. He survives two murder attempts, however on July 10th, 1584 he is shot by Balthasar Gerards in his own home Prinsenhof. This time the attack succeeds. Unfortunately for the murderer he gets arrested and is prosecuted to death. So the assassination did not make him a rich man. Up until today the bullet holes are still to be seen in the Prinsenhof. Nowadays the Prinsenhof is a museum where the visitor is informed about the history of the Netherlands. A history which is closely related to our royal family.
Traditionally the family is buried in Breda, however the city is occupied by the Spanish during the assassination of William of Orange. So his body is buried in the New Church of Delft. Since then all our kings, queens, and other royal family members have been entombed in the royal crypt of the New Church. The monumental tomb of William of Orange is still to be seen in the New Church in Delft.
The New Church
You can find the New Church on the market square – one of the biggest historical squares of Holland – opposite to the stunningly beautiful city hall of Delft. The church tower is, after the church tower of Utrecht, the highest tower of the Netherlands. You can climb it, however please bear in mind there is no elevator and you need to conquer 376 steps before you can enjoy an amazing view.
The Old Church
Besides the New Church there is the Old Church in Delft. It is easy to recognize, as it has a leaning tower. It’s even worse than Pisa’s Tower. In this church you can find the tombs of several famous Dutchmen, such as Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, Piet Hein, Maarten Tromp and the painter Johannes Vermeer.
Vermeer is one of the most famous painters of Holland. He was born in 1632 in Delft and passed away in 1675 in this city. He has lived his whole life in this city. Vermeer is renowned because of his gift to catch the light perfectly. His paintings mostly show women in daily life. The girl with the pearl earring is world famous. One suspects he only painted around 45 pieces, of which 35 remained. This is the reason why it is thought he only painted for third parties.
Besides painter he was an art dealer. However, in 1672 the economy collapsed. This crisis was so bad, even schools and shops closed down for a longer period of time. The year 1672 is still known as the ‘disaster year’ in Dutch history. For Vermeer this meant he hardly had any income as the art dealing industry crashed totally. He suffered so badly from this situation he collapsed in December 1675. It never became clear what exactly hit him, but a day later he passed away, leaving a wife and 11 children, of which 10 were still minors.
Vermeer Centrum Delft
In the Vermeer Centrum you can find a lot of information of this master of light. You can find images of all this paintings, but also information about his way of painting and his life in Delft. On their website you can find everything you need to know about the center.
During the Golden Age the Dutch get to know Chinese porcelain, imported by merchant ships. This porcelain became so popular the Dutch earthenware factories in Delft endured very heavy competition. Creative and resourceful they decided to imitate the Chinese porcelain and did this in such a successful way, Delft blue became very popular.
Between 1600 and 1800 the Delft blue ceramics industry reached its peak. The products were all hand painted and rich families loved showing off their Delft blue tableware. A big part of the Delft working population worked in this industry during the 17th and 18th century and Delft became one of the most important ceramics producers of Europe.
De Porceleyne Fles
From 1750 more and more mass production appears on the market, which does harm the quality of Delft blue. The competition became heavier and the earthenware industry in Delft began to suffer a downward spiral. In 1840 the only factory left is ‘De Porceleyne Fles’. In 1876 this factory revived and made Delft blue popular again. Therefore Delft blue is still renowned worldwide, as well as it is sold worldwide.
Paint your own Delft blue piece
De Porceleyne Fles, also known as Royal Delft still exists. Up until today all pieces are painted by hand. You can watch the painters at work, and you can also follow a workshop and paint your own plate, tile or vase. On their website www.royaldelft.com you can find all the information.
Besides Vermeer, Delft blue and our royal family, Delft has so much more to offer. Delft has a world-famous highly recommended Technical University attracting students from all over the world. This gives Delft a lively, young and international cultural nightlife. Delft has a lot of nice cafés, trendy bars and great restaurants. . There are also many special shops in the city center.