Recently, I saw the Rembrandt in America exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The show was interesting, as it was largely based on the subject of attribution. It featured over fifty works by Rembrandt, attributed to Rembrandt, by Rembrandt and his workshop, his workshop, and artists of his style. Many pieces in the exhibition have had attributions to Rembrandt that were later revoked. Experts, museums, and curators still debate the authenticity of certain works. Last year, I witnessed this conundrum firsthand at a lecture by Ernst van de Wetering, the leading Rembrandt expert. Van de Wetering spoke about his authentication process for a rediscovered Rembrandt self-portrait that was once thought to be by Frans Hals (among others).
At the Cleveland Museum of Art exhibition, works were organized in the galleries by genre, rather than by artist. Authentic Rembrandts hung right next to paintings by artists of his influence. This strategy allowed viewers to be the experts. Better yet, the museum asked exhibition visitors for their own opinions on attribution.
The CMA has a smart (and successful) tactic. For every major exhibition, the museum builds a specialized gift shop at the end of the last gallery. It is always chock-full of goods related to the show visitors had just experienced. True to tradition, Rembrandt in America was no exception. I got a wonderful souvenir: a piece of Delft pottery bearing a portrait of Rembrandt. It’ll be hard to forget where this piece came from!
What are the two tiles below the dish, you ask? Well, one thing always leads to another. Shortly after the Rembrandt exhibition, I stumbled upon two vintage Delft tiles at an antique shop.
The tiles are from De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles (The [Royal] Porcelain Jar), now called Royal Delft. These pieces bear the trademark of Thooft and Labouchère, the owners of De Porceleyne Fles since 1876. On the top is a quickly rendered jar. In the center, are the initials “JT,” which stand for Joost Thooft. Below, is the city of Delft. The initials of the artist are on the bottom left, the object number is in the center, and the date code is on the bottom right. According to the “BW” date code, both of my tiles were made in 1952.
De Porceleyne Fles was founded in 1653. Delftware was originally influenced by blue and white porcelain from China. While Chinese pieces of the time were made of hard-paste porcelain, Delftware was made of tin-glazed earthenware – a cheaper alternative, with a relatively similar look. There is so much history associated with Delft, but I think I’ve talked enough for today. Just for fun, here is a short promotional video by Royal Delft: