DATE: ca. 1715-1730 (made)
PLACE: Delft (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Tin-glazed earthenware (delftware) with painted enamel decoration

Though the secret to manufacturing porcelain was unknown to Europe until the early 18th century, Dutch potters were able to produce vast quantities of convincing imitations before then. Natural, locally sourced clays were moulded to the desired forms, coated with an opaque white glaze to disguise the muddy colour after firing, and painted with polychrome enamels. Tin-glazed earthenware produced in this manner could not replicate the translucence of Chinese and Japanese porcelain, but closely resembled its milky white ground and exotic decoration at a much lesser cost. After the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, the porcelain industry in China went into decline and Dutch traders turned to potters in Japan for the export wares that they required. The palette that emerged, characterised by underglaze blue, red, and gilding such as on this example, was known as Imari, named after the Japanese port from where these wares were shipped to Europe.