Design & Decoration S03 ep14 : Robert Aronson, Delft Ceramics, [Amsterdam]
Interview with Robert Aronson
This elegant gallery on the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, specializing in Dutch Delftware, is run by Robert Aronson - fifth generation in a traditional family business founded in 1881. The recently refurbished modern gallery displays some of the earliest and rarest objects produced by the Delft factories in the 17th century, as well as a superb collection of 18th-century animals, figures, plaques, chargers and other interesting wares. Additionally, there is a fine selection of Continental furniture also from the 17th and 18th centuries."
Aronson Antiques is a family business founded by my great, great grandfather in 1881 in the
eastern … city of Arnhem. He and his son moved to Amsterdam about 110 years ago now and
we’ve been in Amsterdam since then.
It was a friend of my father’s actually that at a party asked me for a glass of water, we sat inside
because it was very hot outside and we started chatting and he said what is it you would like to do
with your life, where would you like to go, would you like to lead a group of people, would you
like to work alone, what kind of things would you like to do. With every question he asked I gave
an answer and he said but that you can also do in Aronson Antiques within the company.
When I got into the business we were antique dealers. We had glass, we had silver, we had
furniture, we had rugs, we had tall clocks everything.
In the mid 90’s we spoke my father and I and we said to each other if we want to show ourselves
on the international playing field we have to show an expertise so we decided then to specialise in
Dutch Delftware that was something that we both liked very much, very close to our hearts, and we
decided to do it very slowly, very slowly get rid of first the silver then the glass then the tall
clocks, slowly, slowly moving to only Dutch Delftware and it was only until 2002 when we were
able to buy a collection of Dutch Delftware from a private collector in Belgium that we were able
to make a book about that collection and we firstly first showed ourselves being specialist in Dutch
From 1602 Chinese person was very in fashion all over Europe and the Dutch traders brought it
into the port of Amsterdam and moved it from there all over Europe. When in the mid 17th Century
there was a war in China between the Mings and the Man Chus, the entire importation stopped,
there was hardly anything coming into Holland any more and that’s where the Delft people stepped
into the niche and said listen we can also make this, they were marketing the Dutch Delftware,
earthenware as porcelain.
It was only until the early 18th Century, so half a century later, that we found out in Europe what
the difference was between ceramics and porcelain.
The Delft people were so incredibly strong in making wonderful stuff they were copied by the
French, by the Germans by China even and we see that the east India traders took pieces of Delft
back to China to have it copied there. So the interaction was enormous.
The nice thing is with an object of art instead of a painting is that everything needs to be right. In a
piece of Delftware for example you need to have the right paintwork, you need to have the right
glazing, you need to have the right earthenware, the weight of the piece needs to be right and in
certain instances I can just feel an object and say this is not right. Simply because of the weight,
not even looking at the paintwork, the glaze or the actual earthenware.
Chinese porcelain was mass produced, the painters were sitting in rows all painting the same thing,
lots and lots of it was made and with Dutch Delftware in many cases you can almost shake hands
with the person who made it, we can see thumbprints, we can see where pieces were held, smudges
in the paint.
The market for Dutch Delftware obviously is smaller also, especially at the moment with China
becoming so strong and in a certain way I still think that Dutch Delftware is undervalued. I would
say in the mid level field there is a comparable price level.
It’s oddly enough not so much a Dutch thing, about 10% of my clients live in Holland, all the
others live in Belgium, France, Germany, America, I have clients all over the place.
Of course in the early 18th Century they had to make a choice, porcelain was coming in from China
and was being made in Europe, they had four choices actually. Either to close their doors and to
stop working altogether, they could start making tiles, tiles were not coming from China, there was
an option of doing very low level items, farmers plates and cups and saucers, very simple things
that were very cheap, or they could go to figures and things that people would enjoy, high quality
but in earthenware still and that’s what happened and that’s what I try to focus on also, especially
in the 18th Century to only have the top Delftware and that only one of those four things are.
They’re not as refined, they’re a bit cruder and they often tell very nice stories of every day life, I
even have a figure now of a lady cleaning the seat of the toilet.
From the late 19th Century onwards the Wright Museum has a collection, 1911 the Brussels
Museum was bestowed a collection, beautiful collection but nowadays we see the museums in the
United States also buying beautiful pieces of Dutch Delftware and really trying to up their quality
and the collection of Dutch Delftware yes.
The Dutch Delftware is such an important link between the Far East and Europe. It was really the
first time that the East met West.
No a very funny story is when I met a gentleman actually who I thought had just come from Paris,
he had told me that and he said I’ll buy a couple of your pieces on one condition, that you bring it
to my house and I said yes of course I’ll bring it to your house in Paris, that’s not a problem. He
said no, no I don’t live in Paris I live in Sao Paolo, so I went to Sao Paolo and that week that I was
there I actually met what is now my wife. She was a friend of the daughter of the client.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Robert Aronson, Delft Ceramics, Amsterdam