NEW YORK — Bold and colorful, Gaudy Dutch pottery stands out admirably but also marries well with other hand-painted wares and folk art. Made in England by Staffordshire, Derby and Worcester potters for the American market between 1810 to 1820, Gaudy Dutch had a short production run — only 16 patterns have been identified — but its popularity endures. Its heyday was in the 1980s and 1990s, but collectors still seek out patterns and forms, and prices have rebounded in recent years.
Created in the Asian aesthetic to resemble Imari, Gaudy Dutch reportedly got its name for its fan base in America. “The term ‘Gaudy Dutch’ was adopted because the boldly decorated pieces became extremely popular with the Pennsylvania Dutch community,” said Heather Cline, ceramics department head at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates in Mount Crawford and Harrisonburg, Virginia. Gaily colored, these wares are similar to Pennsylvania Dutch painted furniture and accessories and fraktur that were popular with German emigrants who settled in the Keystone State.
“Makers, attempting to copy the fashionable Imari designs of the Chinese and Japanese market, marketed these affordable, bright colorful pieces specifically for American buyers,” according to Kovels.com, noting that Gaudy Dutch wares typically employ blue underglaze with overglaze enamel decoration in reds, oranges, yellows and greens. Flowers were a favorite motif and account for more than half of all Gaudy Dutch patterns, including Carnation, Dahlia, Single Rose, Double Rose, Primrose, Sunflower, Strawflower, War Bonnet and Zinnia. A quick scan of top-selling Gaudy Dutch wares at auction bears this out. A porcelain Carnation teapot and a plate in the King’s Rose pattern sold together for $3,000 plus the buyer’s premium in March 2020 at Alderfer Auction.
Imari-style decoration on fine hard paste china was expensive, but soft paste wares such as Gaudy Dutch could be sold for reasonable prices and attract more buyers. Among the factories that produced these wares, the names of which are often marked on the bottom of the pieces, are Riley, Enoch Woods and Sons, Burslem and Rogers.
The vivid patterns look great in a cupboard and look even better laid on the dinner table. “I think that those who collect Gaudy Dutch are attracted to the bold, colorful hand-painted decorations,” Cline said. “Collectors are looking for pieces that exhibit this the most, so they strive for pieces that are not scratched or that have heavy losses to the enamel decorations.”
Aficionados often will collect Gaudy Dutch by pattern, but some seek forms not usually found in a particular pattern, such as a coffee pot or teapot, she said. Rare patterns include Dahlia, the ironically-named No Name, Leaf, Primrose, Strawflower and Zinnia. As these items were hand painted, variations in individual patterns are common and add desirability. A No Name plate often described as the Holy Grail for Gaudy Dutch collectors brought $9,500 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2017 at Conestoga Auction Company Division of Hess Auction Group.
While plates are common, platters are scarce and especially sought-after. A former collector recently told Cline that he only knew of platters being made in the Double Rose pattern, two of which are in Winterthur’s esteemed collection.
“Hollowware, especially larger pitchers and tall-domed coffee pots, are quite rare,” Cline said. A fine example is a Butterfly pattern coffee pot that has a dome lid and stands 11in tall. Boasting double-sided decoration with an orange butterfly surrounded by green and yellow leaves above and blue-green leaves below, the pot sold for $11,000 plus the buyer’s premium in March 2022 at Conestoga Auction Company Division of Hess Auction Group.
A Gaudy Dutch grouping sold at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates in July 2021, comprising a single cup and saucer pairing in the Leaf pattern and one in Dahlia, brought $4,250 plus the buyer’s premium. “I believe this particular lot did well because each pattern is one of the more desirable and ‘rare’ ones,” Cline said, noting rarity can trump condition. “The colors and decorations were wonderful on these sets as well. Even though each piece had some minor imperfections, it did not take away from the decorations.”
Another example in the Leaf pattern, boasting extensive polychrome decoration, is a waste bowl that earned $2,300 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2021 at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates.
The striking designs and bold colors of Gaudy Dutch may not be as restrained as a Lenox china dinnerware service, but they are anything but gaudy, despite their name. Cline said, “While a layperson may look at the pieces and see the same, dare I say, ‘gaudy’ decoration, a collector appreciates that each piece is hand-painted and just a little bit different. No two pieces are exactly the same.”