Midnight Blue by Simone Van Der Vlugt. Blog tour with Afterword.
Amsterdam 1654: a dangerous secret threatens to destroy a young widow’s new life.
Following the sudden death of her husband, twenty-five year old Catrin leaves her small village and takes a job as housekeeper to the successful Van Nulandt merchant family. Amsterdam is a city at the peak of its powers: science and art are flourishing in the Golden Age and Dutch ships bring back exotic riches from the Far East.
When a figure from her past threatens her new life, Catrin flees to Delft. There, her painting talent earns her a chance as a pottery painter. Slowly, the workshop begins to develop a new type of pottery to rival the coveted Chinese porcelain – and Delft Blue is born. But when tragedy strikes, Catrin has a hard choice to make.
I thought this book might be a bit hard going to read as it is set in Amsterdam in 1654 and translated into English. I needn't have worried as I found it quite an easy read. I was awful at History I school ,I found it very boring but books like this set around historical events always awaken my interest.
Poor Catrin, married to a brute of a man who beats her for no reason,it is no wonder when he dies she can only feel relief. Catrin has a secret and before anyone finds out she has to leave her home and family. Secrets have a way of catching up on you and Catrin flees further than she intends to and ends up in Amsterdam. Everything is settled for a while but once again Catrin has to move and this time to Delft. This is where Catrin finds her niche in life, painting China and we hear the story of how Delft Blue porcelain began.
I loved the descriptions of old Amsterdam and Delft. The excitement of traveling through the waterways on any kind of craft which was usually carrying goods for trading. The horror of the plague as it spread through the towns and villages and the fear held by everyone.
Catrin experienced hardship along the way but her meeting of each of three brothers and their friends helped her to live,love and find peace with her past.
This was a good read and there was never a dull moment throught the story. I don't think you have to love historical books to enjoy this,it's not too heavy on the history.
Halfway through the seventeenth century, known to the Dutch as the Golden Age, Delft Blue stormed onto the market and became enormously popular within a very short time. Anyone who wanted to show he had both money and good taste bought some. The supply of original Chinese porcelain had been well-established in the period of 1620–47, thanks to the voyages of discovery and the VOC expeditions that followed, until a civil war in China put an end to it. From then on, a number of Dutch cities, including Delft, Haarlem and Amsterdam, tried making the beloved pottery themselves. They called it Dutch Porcelain; the name Delft Blue didn’t come until much later.
Between 1654 and 1690, the number of potteries in Delft exploded; by around 1700 there were almost forty. The craze for decorative ceramics reached its peak between 1680 and 1730. Delft Blue found an important ambassador in Princess Mary II, the English wife of the Dutch Stadtholder Prince Willem II (William III of England). Her fascination with Delftware and enthusiasm for collecting it led to more orders from the nobility and royalty.
At the end of the eighteenth century, the earthenware industry collapsed due to competition from English porcelain. There was a revival in the mid-nineteenth century, but after the Second World War much of the once so beloved tableware was put away in the attic for good. Delft Blue was deemed fussy, old-fashioned tat. The only place its popularity remained undiminished was abroad, primarily in Japan and America.
The last few years have seen the white-and-blue pottery gradually being rediscovered in the Netherlands. KLM flies in Delft Blue aircraft and the loyalty scheme where you could collect little Delft Blue houses if you flew business class sparked a craze. Today there’s no getting away from this centuries-old export. Everywhere, from the lifestyle section of the exclusive department store Bijenkorf to the shelves of bargain homeware chain Xenos, there is Delft Blue in the form of knick-knacks, oven gloves, duvet cushions, bike panniers and anything else you’d care to name.
The real Delft Blue is still an expensive porcelain that is much loved abroad. At The Porcelain Flask (De Porceleyne Fles) in Delft, the ceramics are still fired and painted by hand. It’s worth the trip to take a look around the factory, along with the many foreign tourists, and see the painters at work.
The Porcelain Flask began on the Oosteinde (East End) but is now located on Rotterdamseweg, a little outside the old town in Delft. During the last century, another three companies were set up: The Delft Peacock (De Delftse Pauw), The Blue Tulip (De Blauwe Tulp) and The Chandelier (De Candelaer). The four of them brought the name of Delft Blue to the attention of tourists and other enthusiasts.
The characters of Quentin (Quentin) and Angelika (Engeltje) van Cleynhoven are historical figures. In 1655, Quentin and Wouter van Eenhoorn took over a pottery they named The Porcelain Flask. In a trench on the grounds of number 171 Oosteinde, where the business began, a hundred and twenty objects from the early period of the ceramics factory were recently found, including a platter with the inscription ‘Engeltie Kleijnoven, 1673’. This is probably a commemorative plate on the occasion of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. In the archive records, the name Cleynhoven is spelt with both a C and a K.
The Lotus Flower pottery never really existed. Nor did Catrin or Evert; they are figments of my imagination.