In the first publications on Dutch Delftware from around 1860 it was still assumed that the Dutch old masters had painted plaques themselves. Connoisseurs thought that painters like Vermeer not only painted in oils but also on ceramics.
The paintings on Delft earthenware are, however, almost all made by anonymous artisans with the help of pouncing templates. An exception to this practice is Frederik van Frytom, who worked as an independent pottery painter in Delft. The superior quality of his paintings uncovers a professional artistic training.
Frederik van Frytom is considered the most accomplished artist to have painted on Delftware.
He is known to have painted in oils but his greatest achievement was his work on Delft pottery for which he had an unparalleled talent and where he achieved a remarkable technical and artistic mastery. He took the greatest care in the choice and preparation of high quality materials for his work and used a tin glaze of exceptional purity and a luminous and subtle cobalt blue.
His work sometimes depicts imaginary landscapes but mostly represents scenes from the neighbourhood of Delft and are probably with help of his own original drawings. In general they are his original compositions and not like with most delftware after prints or drawings used as a template. They are original works of art.
Little is known of his early life, Vecht, his biographer, suggests that he was born around 1632 which would make him a near exact contemporary of Johannes Vermeer. They must surely have known each other since both artists belonged to the reformed (Calvinist) Church.
Van Frytom was not registered as a master potter in the Guild of St. Luke of Delft and it is probable that he was one of the few privileged outworkers who were allowed to work from home which was possible with special permission from the syndics of the guild. A Guild edict stated a maximum of six such painters were to be allowed.
Although van Frytom was not a master of the Guild, he was well connected with them as the will of his widow states: ‘Elisabeth Verschouw, spouse of Frederick van Frytom, servant of the guild of St. Luke at Delft, bequeaths 100 florins to the orphanage’.
It is evident that van Frytom held his plaques in high esteem as his will of 14th February 1701 states: ‘Last will and testament of the worthy Fr. van Frytom, sitting in a chair while ill: leaves to Elisabeth Verschouw 2 fired stoneware pictures….’ (Vecht p. 31). He died in July 1702.
In 17th and 18th century inventories such plaques as the above described in the last will of Van Frijtom mentioned as porceleyne schilderijtjes (porcelain paintings). This indicates how they were used: To be hung on a wall with or without a frame just as a painting in oils.
About fifty plaques are known, mostly in collection of Dutch museums. A remarkable large part of them broken and restored. This plaque has not been previously recorded. Many of the plaques were in notable noble collections, of which the finest are a pair from the Prussian Royal Collection now in Huis Doorn The Netherlands, the home in exile of the last German Hohenzollern Emperor Wilhelm II. The only other octagonal plaque, perhaps the pendant to ours, depicts probably the village of Ouderkerk on the river Amstel and was already acquired in 1865 by the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, OCD 2-1865.
Known examples of van Frytom plaques in Public Collections outside of Holland and Belgium:
A pair of plaques in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. (Thornton Wilson bequest).
Two in the Musée de la Céramique, Rouen (one on loan the Musée de Sèvres)
One rectangular plaque in the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
One circular plaque in The Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
One square plaque in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.
One rectangular plaque in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston since 2012
A.Vecht, Frederik van Frytom 1632-1702, Life and work of a Delft pottery decorator, Amsterdam 1968
Frederik van Frijtom en landschappen in blauw, exhibition catalogue Museum Boymans- van Beuningen 1968
J. Nieuwstraten, ‘Frederik van Frytom Faience-tekenaar en Landschapschilder’ in Bulletin Museum Boymans-van Beuningen XX no. 1 (1969),pp. 2-36.
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