Highlight of show of Dutch Delft Puzzle Jugs at Aronson Antiquairs.

NEW YORK, NY.- At the 60th Annual Winter Antiques Show in New York January 23 – February 2, 2014, Aronson Antiquairs of Amsterdam will showcase an amusing collection of “Suijgkannen” or Delft “Puzzle Jugs.” 

Delft Puzzle Jugs from the 17th and 18th centuries are among the most prized examples of the amusing novelty, but Delft examples were seen as early as 1650. The style gained popularity throughout Europe. Puzzle Jugs were designed with hollow rims and handles and diverting spouts and tubes. They challenged and entertained guests at both homes and taverns. You never knew if a dinner party would be a success and whether your guests would like the food and wine and have a good time. But with a variety of Puzzle Jugs on hand you could get a good laugh out of those trying their dexterity and luck by making a game of it,” says Robert Aronson, fifth generation Dutch Delft dealer of Aronson Antiquairs of Amsterdam. 

Puzzle Jugs got their name from their ingenious design which could include a perforated neck, and hollow handle and rim. Sometimes as many as five or six concealed tubes or pipes were incorporated into the jug, making it even more difficult to imbibe the liquid, most often ale or wine. The trick was to drink the liquid without spilling the jug’s contents all over your shirt. It was common for tavern-keepers to offer these jugs in various drinking games, with guests wagering on who would master the puzzle. It helped to be highly dexterous and clever – itself a challenge during a night of merriment

The oldest known, the ‘Exeter Puzzle Jug’, was produced in western France around 1300 and was discovered in England in 1899. It was given to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, Devon UK. 

“Many Puzzle Jugs had inscriptions on the body of the jug that ranged from simple to poetic, typically something along the lines of ‘Here gentlemen, come try your skill, I’ll hold a wager, if you will, that you don’t drink this liquid all without your spill or let some fall.’” 

At the 60th Annual Winter Antiques Show in New York in January, Robert Aronson says highlights at the Aronson Antiquairs stand will include nine outstanding Delft Puzzle Jugs from a private collection including…. 

A blue and white Delft Puzzle Jug from the Ten Tooren-Smith Collection, The Netherlands dates to 1760 and portrays an elegant couple on the body. The gallant gentleman is doffing his hat and approaching his sweetheart who is holding a fan. The 22.8cm puzzle jug features a baluster-form body and panels of trellis diaperwork beneath the floral and foliate-pierced neck. The puzzle is in the tubular rim affixed with three nozzles which interrupts a flowering vine border continuing onto a hollow loop handle.” 


A second Blue and White Ring-Form Delft Jug dates to 1725-35 and features a circular body painted with a Chinese pheasant perched on a c-scroll forming the stem of a flowering leafy peony branch. It is pierced with three roundels, each centering a six petal flowerhead below three teardrop-shaped nozzles issuing from the tubular neck.” 24.4cm. 

A third Delft Blue and White Puzzle Jug 23.4cm high is from an earlier period, 1688-92, and was in Dr Gunther Grethe’s Hamburg Collection. 

Aronson says, “This jug has a GV mark in blue, probably is from Gijsbrecht Claesz, Verhaast. The spherical body is painted with a large insect and birds in flight above a chrysanthemum border. The cylindrical neck is pierced with three four-petal blossoms and eight dots against a foliate-patterned blue ground between floral borders, and affixed beneath the rim with a tubular device molded with seven blossoms, one of them pierced, and continuing into the flower and scroll-patterned hollow loop handle.” 

Aronson says that the whimsical characteristics of Delft Puzzle Jugs appeal to collectors now because, “These are novelty pieces with amusing stories to tell that reveal how people lived centuries ago. Those who enjoy having a peek at what brought a smile to the face of our ancestors collect Delft Puzzle Jugs now. We are lucky to have acquired this collection of nine examples.” Prices range from $16,000 - $25,000. 


Robert Aronson says, “The Netherlands introduced the production of earthenware in the first half of the 15th century as trade with Italy, Spain and Portugal expanded. By the 17th century the Dutch East India Company had introduced Europe to Chinese porcelain and exports flourished as the West strived to duplicate the Chinese formula for fine blue and white porcelain. When war in China interrupted the trade, potters in Delft expanded their businesses to create earthenware versions of ‘porcelain.’ In fact, the word “Delftware” only came to describe items made after 1650. At the height of production The Guild of Saint Luke counted more than 30 factories in the small city of Delft. They were innovative and adapted to fill the needs of clients all over Europe, with the term ‘Delft’ becoming synonymous with 'Faience.’”

Robert Aronson has added a modern twist to the business by embracing 21st century technology and e-commerce in ways his forebears could never have imagined. “I’ve given Aronson Antiquairs a contemporary outlook that best serves both new collectors and old, using the latest tools, from Facebook and Twitter to You Tube video. Now, in whatever way that is most convenient for them, people interested in learning about Dutch Delft may examine our unrivaled collections, and come to understand the unique qualities of Delftware -- more easily than at any time in our company’s 130 year history.” 

Aronson Antiquairs numbers among its clients the world’s leading connoisseurs as well as major museums including The Wadsworth Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The British Museum and Holland’s own Rijksmuseum. 

Robert Aronson is Acting Chairman of the Executive Committee of The European Fine Arts Fair (TEFAF in Maastricht each March) and is chairman of The Dutch Antique Dealers Association. His late father, Dave Aronson, headed TEFAF for a decade before his death six years ago. 

Regardless of whether you visit us at fairs, come to our galleries in Amsterdam or shop at our web sites at www.aronson.com and shop.aronson.com there is truly no greater way to learn about and enjoy Dutch Delftware. No one has greater access to the best pieces entering the market. And it is always our pleasure to help new collectors gain the knowledge and confidence they need to build a truly satisfying collection.”