Philip Fruytiers

Philip Fruytiers (Antwerp, 1610 – 1666) was a Brabants painter and baroque engraver. Until the 1960s he was especially known for some miniature portraits in watercolor and gouache. Since then, several larger canvases have been signed with the PHF monogram, which has led to a renewed appreciation for his contribution to Antwerp Baroque.

He was the son of Jan Fruytiers and Catharina Vervloet. He is mentioned as a pupil of the Jesuit college in Antwerp in 1627. There is no information available on his artistic education. He became the master of the Antwerp Saint Lucas Guild in 1631-1632. He is described in the register of the guild as a painter, painter and engraver. He was very active between September 1630 and 18 October 1665 in the Sodality of the Bejeweled Young Men, a brotherhood for bachelors established by the Jesuits.

He was the teacher of Ambrosius Gast (II), Gualterus Gysaerts, Franciscus Fruytiers, Adrian Cockx (1649-50), Wauter Gyssels (1662-63) and Gregoris de Vos (1663-64).

By the middle of the 20th century, Philip Fruytiers was known as miniature painter and portraiture working in watercolor and gouache. The best known miniature, Rubens’s four children and Hélène Fourment with two servants (1638, Windsor Castle, Berks, Royal Collection) is probably the portrait mentioned in the inventory of the Rubens estate in 1641, on which the cost of the framework and Glass still owed. The image of Philip Fruytiers as a miniaturist and aquarelist was based on the descriptions in the early biographical works by Cornelis de Bie and Arnold Houbraken.

Although Cornelis de Bie pointed out that Fruytiers also painted altarpieces, only works on paper or parchment were attributed to him until the 1960s so that the established view of the nature of his work was not challenged. In the 1960s this view had to be revised when three great great saint paintings with the monograph ‘PHF’ dated 1652 (Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp), previously attributed to a hypothetical painter PH Franck, were identified as being of Fruytiers’s hand. The same signature was then found on another altar piece (c. 1659) in the parish church in Zundert, North Brabant. This led to Fruytiers’ attribution of other paintings in museums in Brussels, Antwerp and Madrid, and in the parish church of Gistel, West Flanders. Drawings for altar pieces are preserved in Antwerp (Municipal Prentenkabinet), New Haven (Yale University Art Gallery) and Berlin (Kupferstichkabinet).

Fruytiers also painted large-scale portraits such as that of David Teniers, the Young and the Three Children of Rubens (circa 1639, ex-Koetser Gallery, London, 1975). An expressive portraiture of Joannes Tollenaere (after 1643, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library) is a preliminary study for engraving.

Fruytiers was active as an etcher and his etched portraits of the Capucine Innocentius de Caltagirone and of the mathematician and astronomer Govaert Wendelen belong to the best Flemish portraits of the 17th century. Fruytiers also designed for the prints of devotional books and for other religious prints by Cornelis Galle II, Conraad Lauwers and other Antwerp engravers.

Fruytiers’ style is much closer to the refinement and finesse of Anthony van Dyck than the more monumental art of Rubens.