Jan Fyt

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Big dog, dwarf and boy Jan Fyt 002.jpg
Big dog, dwarf and boy

Jan Fijt or Johannes Fijt (or Fyt) (15 March 1611 – 11 September 1661) was a Flemish Baroque painter, draughtsman and etcher. One of the leading animaliers of the 17th century, he was known for his refined depictions of animals and his lush hunting pieces. [1]

Southern Netherlands historical region in Belgium

The Southern Netherlands, also called the Catholic Netherlands, was the part of the Low Countries largely controlled by Spain (1556–1714), later Austria (1714–1794), and occupied then annexed by France (1794–1815). The region also included a number of smaller states that were never ruled by Spain or Austria: the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, the Imperial Abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy, the County of Bouillon, the County of Horne and the Princely Abbey of Thorn. The Southern Netherlands were part of the Holy Roman Empire until the whole area was annexed by Revolutionary France.

Baroque cultural movement, starting around 1600

The Baroque is a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, music, painting, sculpture and other arts that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the mid-18th century. It followed the Renaissance style and preceded the Rococo and Neoclassical styles. It was encouraged by the Catholic Church as a means to counter the simplicity and austerity of Protestant architecture, art and music, though Lutheran Baroque art developed in parts of Europe as well. The Baroque style used contrast, movement, exuberant detail, deep colour, grandeur and surprise to achieve a sense of awe. The style began at the start of the 17th century in Rome, then spread rapidly to France, northern Italy, Spain and Portugal, then to Austria and southern Germany. By the 1730s, it had evolved into an even more flamboyant style, called rocaille or Rococo, which appeared in France and central Europe until the mid to late 18th century.

Etching intaglio printmaking technique

Etching is traditionally the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio (incised) in the metal. In modern manufacturing, other chemicals may be used on other types of material. As a method of printmaking, it is, along with engraving, the most important technique for old master prints, and remains in wide use today. In a number of modern variants such as microfabrication etching and photochemical milling it is a crucial technique in much modern technology, including circuit boards.



Eagles Jan Fyt - Eagles.jpg

Jan Fyt was born in Antwerp as the son of a wealthy merchant. [2] He was baptized on 15 March 1611. [3] In 1621 he was registered at the Antwerp Guild of St Luke as an apprentice of Hans van den Berghe (also referred to as 'Jan van den Bergh'), a Dutch painter and draughtsman who had trained with Goltzius in Haarlem and later with Rubens in Antwerp. [4] Fyt then likely completed his training with the leading Antwerp animal painter Frans Snyders from 1629 to 1631. He became a master of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke in 1630. [3]

Antwerp Municipality in Flemish Community, Belgium

Antwerp is a city in Belgium, and is the capital of Antwerp province in Flanders. With a population of 520,504, it is the most populous city proper in Belgium, and with 1,200,000 the second largest metropolitan region after Brussels.

Hendrik Goltzius Painter from the Northern Netherlands

Hendrick Goltzius was a German-born Dutch printmaker, draftsman, and painter. He was the leading Dutch engraver of the early Baroque period, or Northern Mannerism, lauded for his sophisticated technique, technical mastership and "exuberance" of his compositions. According to A. Hyatt Mayor, Goltzius "was the last professional engraver who drew with the authority of a good painter and the last who invented many pictures for others to copy". In the middle of his life he also began to produce paintings.

Animalier person who creates artworks featuring animals

An animalier is an artist, mainly from the 19th century, who specializes in, or is known for, skill in the realistic portrayal of animals. "Animal painter" is the more general term for earlier artists. Although the work may be in any genre or format, the term is most often applied to sculptors and painters.

After setting out on a trip to Southern Europe in 1633, Fyt stopped for a while in Paris. He traveled on to Italy the following year. He worked in Venice for the prominent Sagredo and Contarini families. During his stay in Italy, he most likely visited Naples, Florence and Genoa. [1] He resided in Rome in 1635. Here he joined the Bentvueghels, an association of mainly Dutch and Flemish artists working in Rome. It was customary for the Bentvueghels to adopt an appealing nickname, the so-called 'bent name'. Fyt was reportedly given the bent name 'Goudvink' ('bullfinch'). [3] The Italian art historian Pellegrino Antonio Orlandi stated in his Abecedario pittorico of 1704 that Fyt also spent time in Spain and London. [5]

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.

Venice Comune in Veneto, Italy

Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is situated on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are located in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers. In 2018, 260,897 people resided in the Comune di Venezia, of whom around 55,000 live in the historical city of Venice. Together with Padua and Treviso, the city is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), which is considered a statistical metropolitan area, with a total population of 2.6 million.

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Diana's hunt, collaboration with Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert Jan Fyt - Diana's hunt, 1650.jpg
Diana's hunt, collaboration with Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert

By 1641 Fyt is recorded back in Antwerp where he remained active for the remainder of his life aside from a brief trip to the Dutch Republic which he is believed to have made that same year. Fyt ran a successful studio in Antwerp which produced many copies of his creations. He became a wealthy man and maintained a network of contacts with patrons and art dealers both at home and abroad. [1] He was frequently mentioned in judicial documents in Antwerp in relation to disputes and court cases with other painters and members of his own family over money. [5]

Dutch Republic Republican predecessor state of the Netherlands from 1581 to 1795

The Dutch Republic, or the United Provinces, was a confederal republic that existed from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution of 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first Dutch nation state.

Fyt joined the Guild of Romanists in 1650. The Guild of Romanists was a society of notables and artists which was active in Antwerp from the 16th to 18th century. It was a condition of membership that the member had visited Rome. In the year 1652 the Guild chose Fyt as its dean. [1]

Guild of Romanists

The Guild of Romanists or Confrérie van romanisten was a society which was active in Antwerp from the late 16th to the late 18th century. It was made up of notables and artists of Antwerp who had visited Rome and offered artists access to the networks of Antwerp's urban elites.

Fyt married Françoise van de Sande on 22 March 1654 and the couple had four children. He died in Antwerp on 11 September 1661. [1]

Fyt's pupils included Pieter Boel and Jaques van de Kerckhove. [3] Pieter Boel's style remained very close to Fyt's. [1]


The spoils of the chase guarded by a dog Jan Fyt - The spoils of the chase being guarded by a dog, a landscape beyond.jpg
The spoils of the chase guarded by a dog

Fyt was a versatile still-life specialist. Although better known for his hunting, game and animal pieces he also painted beautiful still life compositions with flowers and fruit. He was very prolific and is believed to have produced around 280 paintings, many of them signed and dated. His works were sought after by important art collectors of his day and are now in the collections of many leading international museums. [5]

Fyt’s animal still lifes are generally more refined than those of Frans Snyders as he catered primarily to the tastes of an aristocratic clientele. His palette was likely influenced by his exposure to Italian art and was more striking than that of Snyders. His works show gradually more dynamic movement and asymmetry. [1] Fyt’s frenetic nervous brushstrokes, and his freer and more Baroque compositional style differed also from those of Snyders. [6] Fyt was particularly skilled in the delicate rendering of the various textures of the fur and plumage of the animals he depicted. [7]

Hunting pieces

Fyt innovated the genre of the hunting piece by moving the scene in which the dead game was displayed from an indoor table top to an open landscape. [8]

Dead Game with Dog Jan Fyt - Dead Game with Dog.jpg
Dead Game with Dog

He was the first artist to depict game as a subject of hunting rather than as food displayed in a home or kitchen. He did not place fruit and vegetables in his game pieces but rather dogs forming part of the hunting scene in an outdoor landscape. [2] As the game was no longer shown as food but as a trophy, these works have been referred to as trophy pieces. This new approach to the display of game as part of the hunt caused Fyt to include hunting equipment and tools in these works. [9] Hounds play an important role in these pieces and together with the hunting equipment they point to the proximity of the master. Fyt occasionally included portraits of individuals and families in these game pieces. [2] While hunting was at the time still a pastime reserved for the aristocracy, the well-off urban elite were eager to acquire Fyt’s game pieces to decorate their houses with these tokens of a lifestyle only open to aristocrats. [10]

Some of his game pieces display the scene as if seen through the eyes of an animal witnessing the scene. An example is the Dead Game and Weasels (c. 1642, Detroit Institute of Arts). The adoption of the animal viewpoint has been interpreted as Fyt’s reflection on new philosophical and scientific ideas on the differences and similarities between animal and human consciousness that were developed in 17th-century Europe. [11]

Fyt’s innovative game pieces were influential on artists practicing the genre in France and the Dutch Republic. [2]


Portrait of a boy, a collaboration with Erasmus Quellinus II Erasmus Quellinus II - Portret van een jongetje.JPG
Portrait of a boy, a collaboration with Erasmus Quellinus II

As was the custom in Antwerp at the time, Fyt collaborated regularly with other painters who were specialist in other areas such as figure, landscape or architectural painting. He thus relied on figure painters such as Cornelius Schut, Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert and possibly on occasion Jacob Jordaens and on figure and architectural painters such as Erasmus Quellinus II. [1]


Jan Fyt produced many drawings of animals based usually on studies from nature. The Hermitage holds a large gouache drawing of a Fox Hunt . It is rich in colour and carefully executed and was likely intended as a model for tapestry cartoon. [12]


Fyt was an accomplished etcher and he produced a series of etchings depicting mainly animals and dogs. These were published in his lifetime in two sets referred to respectively as the Set of the Dogs and the Set of the Animals. The set of 8 prints of the Dogs series was published in 1642. The title plate shows two hunting dogs in front of a pedestal with a dedication to the Spanish Don Carlo Guasco, Marquess of Soleno who was the patron of the publication. The other plates show dogs in the middle of various activities and situations. [13]

The Set of the Animals were a set of 8 depicting billy goats, an ox, a horse, a recumbent dog, a recumbent cow, a wagon near a tree, a recumbent cow and two foxes. [14]

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Vase of flowers Jan Fyt - Vase of Flowers.jpg
Vase of flowers
  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Matthias Depoorter, Joannes Fijt at Barok in Vlaanderen
  2. 1 2 3 4 Liechtenstein, the Princely Collections, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985, p. 295-296
  3. 1 2 3 4 Joannes Fijt at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (in Dutch)
  4. Jan van den Bergh at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (in Dutch)
  5. 1 2 3 Jan Fyt at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
  6. Jan Fyt, The spoils of the chase being guarded by a dog, a landscape beyond at Sotheby's
  7. Jan Fyt, Hunting dogs and wild rabbits at the Liechtenstein Museum
  8. The Collector's Cabinet: Flemish Paintings from New England Private Collections, Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1983, pp. 54–55
  9. Linda Kalof, Looking at Animals in Human History, London, UK: Reaktion Books, p. 105
  10. Jan Fyt, Still Life with a Red Curtain at the Norton Museum of Art
  11. Sarah R. Cohen, Life and Death in the Northern European Game Piece, in Early Modern Zoology, vol. 7, no. 1, 2007, pp. 603–640
  12. Jan Fyt, Fox Hunt at the Hermitage
  13. The Set of the Dogs at the British Museum
  14. Jan Fyt (1611-1661), The Set of Animals (set of 8)]

Further reading