In keeping with the holiday spirit this week’s article is a short feature of a recently donated artifact which has been cataloged in the objects collections of the Greene County Historical Society’s Bronck Museum.
A gift of the family of the late Peter Van Vechten Hamill, this beautiful Delft tile was retained in the care of a branch of the Van Vechten family that found itself in Wisconsin in the second half of the 19th century. The tile ostensibly came from the old Van Vechten house in Catskill, though this is not definitively known. Delft tiles were originally manufactured at Delft in the Netherlands and became immensely popular during the mid 17th-century in part for their emulation of the color palette of expensive Chinese porcelain. The growing demand for these tiles was such that within a century there were manufacturers making “Delft” tiles in England and North America — so without further scrutiny it is unknown whether the Van Vechten tile is a North American or European example.
Regardless of its provenance, the tile is perfectly representative of the type which would have adorned the fireplace of a colonial dutch home.
This particular tile shows a scene from the Bible, specifically Luke 2:8 in which an angel appears to the shepherds announcing the birth of Jesus. Spiritually themed tiles like this would have brought a well known scripture passage to life; ornamenting the imagination of listeners young and old gathered near the hearth to hear readings on winter evenings. In this way the Van Vechten tile had two purposes: it was an object of inspiration and education while also serving as a conspicuous demonstration of the family’s material wealth.
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