The Magical Temptation of Tiles
The head of the devil has been scratched out on an eighteenth-century Bible tile depicting Christ's temptation in the desert. A damaged tile, and therefore not worth a great deal. And yet for a cultural historian it is very interesting, as it has to do with a type of black magic based on the idea that you can actually summon a figure up by depicting it. And in the case of the devil this certainly was not the intention.
The magic of the wall tile affects us in many different ways, as no one knows better than Jan Pluis. On the occasion of his eightieth birthday we celebrate his outstanding contribution to research into the Dutch wall tile in this country as well as abroad. With his many publications he has not only systematically revealed a huge amount of information, but has also made many people susceptible to the magical temptation of tiles.
From Alexander the Great to Jephthah
A remarkable phenomenon in graphic art is that one and the same image may represent different people or places. In the sixteenth century this was a common enough occurrence in the case of views of villages and towns, but there are also instances of mythological and historical scenes being reprinted as Biblical scenes. A slightly later example of 1608 by Antonio Tempesta is a print showing Alexander the Great spurring on his troops in a battle against the Persians, which was used later to represent the Biblical hero Jephthah as commander in the battle against the Ammonites.
Sponsen and stencils
Designs have traditionally been transferred on to tiles by means of a spons made of paper. When an inventory was made of 6,400 sponsen in the Municipal Museum Het Hannemahuis in Harlingen different types of sponsen and stencils were found, which came into use towards the end of the nineteenth century. These sponsen are made of tracing paper, and the stencils of parchment, tinfoil or zinc. For a design from 1918 showing the Flemish lion and the first line of the Flemish national anthem a spons was made, and also a set of five stencils for a larger size tile with the same design.
Sijbrand Tjallingii's Tile Designs in the Years 1880-1910
Further study of the sponsen for tiles and tile pictures of Sijbrand Tjallingii, kept in the Municipal Museum Het Hannemahuis in Harlingen and in the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, now makes it possible to describe a number of characteristics of the products of Tjallingii Pottery on Zoutsloot in Harlingen. Various series of tiles with ships, landscapes, large flowers and Biblical scenes are discussed in this article, as well as the use of colour and characteristic versions of corner motifs. The choice of models was often novel and original. Sijbrand Tjallingii introduced several technological innovations, such as an extruder and a tile grinding machine. He also participated in the Mutual Tile Register that the manufacturers of ‘old Dutch’ tiles set up round 1900 to protect their new designs.
Hendrik Bouma, Midlum; The Models He Used
Hundreds of sponsen and designs belonging to the Frisian tile painter Hendrik Bouma (1913-1971) have been preserved. From 1962 he painted on antique white tiles, and many of his tile pictures were sold by dealers while he was still alive as eighteenth-century delftware, even sometimes to museums. In this article the author shows which models he used for his tiles and tile pictures with ships and Biblical scenes. It turns out that these are based partly on eighteenth-century prints, but also on drawings and photographs of tiles often published for the first time in the 1960s.