Commemorative tableware: a Dutch Delftware charger

This extraordinary Dutch delftware charger dating from 1692 reflects the extent to which memory of the Protestant Reformation had penetrated domestic settings by the end of the seventeenth century. It shows the religious reformers John Wyclif, Martin Luther, Jean Calvin and Theodore Beza seated at a table upon which stands a lighted candle symbolising the Gospel. Opposing them are the pope, a cardinal, a bishop and a monk attempting in vain to blow out the flame. Modelled on an influential engraved print that was repeatedly published throughout the seventeenth century, this object also commemorates a personal rite of passage. It is inscribed on the back with the names of Jan van Dieninge and Jannetie van Wyn Bergen and may have been made to mark the anniversary of their marriage in 1680 or perhaps Jan’s election an as officer of his Amsterdam guild. Intertwining remembrance of a private event with remembrance of an international movement that permanently ruptured medieval Christendom, this compelling artefact illustrates the role of material culture in the forging of collective memory of the Reformation as a vital historical juncture. AW

Delftware charger, Dutch, 1692

British Museum, London: 1891,0224.3

Image: © Trustees of the British Museum

Further Reading

‘The Candle is Lighted, We Cannot Blow Out’, print by Thomas Jenner (c. 1620): British Museum, registration number 1907, 0326.31.

Alexandra Walsham, ‘Domesticating the Reformation: Material Culture, Memory and Confessional Identity in Early Modern England’, Renaissance Quarterly, 69 (2016), pp. 566–616.

Joke Spaans, ‘Faces of the Reformation’, Church History and Religious Culture, 97 (forthcoming, 2017).

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