Firmly established by the 11th cent., ceramics became an integral element of architectural decoration in Spain, chiefly for floors and wainscots, their richness exemplified in the Alhambra at Granada. From Spain the art was transmitted not only to Italy and Holland and from there to England, but also into Mexico by the Spanish conquerors. The Spaniards in Mexico developed a distinctive style from the 16th to 18th cent., especially applied in the external decoration of domes.
At Delft, Holland, tile manufacturing began early in the 16th cent., and by 1670 numbers of factories were making the celebrated blue-and-white Delft tiles, which enjoyed great popularity in N Europe and were exported to the American colonies for fireplace facings. In Holland tiles were used to cover large wall spaces in rooms, often being arranged to form complete pictorial murals. In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland tiles were used to cover heating stoves as early as the Gothic period and into the 19th cent., and numbers of these, decorated and beautifully executed, still remain. In modern times the vastly increased use for tiles, as in bathrooms, kitchens, and swimming pools and in industrial buildings, has created an extensive tile industry.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.