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Wall tile

  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (made)

  • Date:

    1625-1650 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware with painted decoration

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 7, The Sheikha Amna Bint Mohammed Al Thani Gallery, case CA19

During the second quarter of the 17th century, the Netherlands was an extremely prosperous country with a very active business and farming community. The province of Holland particularly had a booming economy and as many new houses were being built, tiles were much in demand for their interior decoration. Whereas formerly tiles were made for use on the floor and were very thick in order to withstand the pressure, from this period onwards they were used on the walls and could therefore be made more thinly. This was possible due to technical improvements in mixing the clay that made them less likely to warp and shrink. The reduction in clay used also made them cheaper to make and to transport. Motifs painted in blue became more and more popular, influenced by imported porcelain brought from Asia by the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost Indische Compagnie). There were many different types of decoration used on tiles; the main ones being flowers, birds, animals, biblical scenes, ships and soldiers. Michael Archer, in his catalogue of British delftware in the museum (Delftware, The Stationery Office, published in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum,1997), discusses how tiles were used in middle-class Dutch interiors: 'The larger fireplaces in a house were always surrounded by a considerable area of tiling, and a single band of tiles frequently formed a skirting at floor level, as can be seen in pictures by Pieter de Hooch of the mid-seventeenth century. His A Mother's Duties (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) shows part of a partition wall between rooms covered in tiles and in surviving houses there are high dados, the risers of staircases and large areas in cellars, kitchens, larders, dairies, and elsewhere, all covered in tiles.'

This tile forms part of a group decorated with soldiers or militiamen. Most depictions of musketeers and pikemen derive from Jacob de Gheyn's Wapenhandelinghe van roers, musquetten ende spiesen (The Exercise of Arms), an illustrated drill manual published in The Hague in 1607. This became very popular as its prints showed Dutch infantrymen in a series of poses, each one corresponding to a particular command. This tile shows a soldier brandishing his gun, a large, heavy musket. This group of tiles all have a simple design in the corners known as the 'ox-head motif'. This actually has nothing to do with oxen but is a reduced stylised version of a popular leaf motif found painted in reserve on earlier tiles.

Information summarised in part from: A Survey of Dutch Tiles by Jan Daniel Van Dam, an essay in Dutch Tiles, Philadelphia Museum of Art,1984,and the following catalogue by Ella Schaap with Robert L.H. Chambers, Marjorie Lee Hendrix and Joan Pierpoline.

Physical description

Wall tile with painted decoration depicting a musketeer. Ox-head corners. Blue.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (made)


1625-1650 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware with painted decoration


Height: 130 mm, Width: 130 mm

Descriptive line

Tile of buff-coloured earthenware painted in cobalt with an image of a musketeer. The musketeer’s back is to the viewer. His musket is slung across the back of his shoulders. Netherlands, 1625-1650

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Dam, J. D. van, et. al. Dutch tiles in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia : Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1984.

Labels and date

Wall tile
made Netherlands 1625-1650
Tin-glazed earthenware with painted decoration

3664 E-1853 [16/07/2008]






Ceramics; Delftware


Ceramics Collection

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