"I was blown away by the colours and the craftsmanship, and it's almost perfect condition," said Frits van Geldorp from ABC Building Contractor in Levin about Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom's latest acquisition, a 1920s tile tableau.
On a visit to the museum he was shown the tableau, one of many made a century ago to adorn shops belonging to Dutch supermarket chain De Gruyter. He was so taken with the tableau that he offered to install it for free.
"It wasn't easy to install. It is very heavy. But with a little help from bystanders, my son and I got it lifted into place. Being of Dutch origin, I of course have some 'Delfts Blauw' (blue Delftware) at home.
"But the Gouda work in this tableau is coloured and that makes it very special," van Geldorp said.
He was impressed with the almost perfect state the artwork was in.
It was made by the Plateelbakkerij Zuid-Holland, which produced pottery and tile tableaus in the town of Gouda from 1898 until 1965, when these kinds of ceramics went out of fashion.
For a while, the factory was internationally famous, exporting work around the world, especially to the United States.
Supermarket chain De Gruyter, whose origin goes back to the early 19th century, used the Gouda tile tableaus to promote its cocoa and tea to its customers. They would have had an imposing presence in their stores at the time.
The exact age of the tableau is unknown, however, De Gruyter started its 40-year close collaboration with the factory before the 1920s. By then a young artist by the name of Jan van Ham had perfected the technique of painting the tableaus.
Over the years, hundreds of shops were decorated this way. A special painting studio was set up specifically for the work on the De Gruyter tableaus.
Each grocery store would place a tableau on the wall above and behind the counter in the store. They depict scenes of the consumption of tea and coffee in the Far East.
This particular one shows a Japanese scene with women in kimono. The intention was to promote tea drinking and make it more popular.
Several scenes were turned into tableaus and depicted tea drinking as well as coffee drinking.
When the De Gruyter stores were closed in the 1970s, the tableaus were usually wrecked, however, this rare one was removed in perfect order. There are others that have been found, unfortunately with the odd missing tile or tiles.
De Gruyter became a supermarket chain in the late 1900s and at its high point has 550 stores, employing 7500 people. In 1912 De Gruyter began roasting coffee.