The Rijksmuseum owns approximately 7250 ceramic objects, subdivided into porcelain (more than 4600 pieces), majolica (app. 400), faience (app. 1750) and stoneware (app. 850). The difference between these types of earthenware has to do with the material they are made of, or manner of production. For instance, majolica is a type of earthenware covered with an opaque white lead glaze and then decorated on the outside with metal-oxide glazes, often in vivid colours. Faience earthenware is covered on both sides with a layer of tin glaze. Because of the constitution of its clay stoneware can be fired at a high temperature (1200°C) without losing its shape. And porcelain, which is made of kaolin or porcelain clay, is fired at an even higher temperature.
Thanks to Fritz Mannheimer, an Amsterdam banker, the Rijksmuseum holds one of the most important collections of Meissen porcelain outside of Germany. In 1710 the first European porcelain factory was established in the German city of Meissen, near Dresden. Among other works, it produced exceptionally large figures of animals. The museum has also acquired costly pieces from other countries, such as the multi-coloured vases made in the town of Sèvres in France, as well as porcelain manufactured in the Netherlands.
In 1916, thanks to the heirs of J.F. Loudon, the Rijksmuseum was gifted a magnificent collection of blue-white and multi-coloured Delft faience. One of the most prized pieces in this collection is the earthenware violin. The holdings of Delft earthenware comprise objects from around 1640 to the end of the 19th century, including the famous tulip vases in the shape of a pyramid. The stoneware consists primarily of luxurious utilitarian objects.