The website of the Auricular Style: Frames project

by The Frame Blog


After Sir Anthony van Dyck, Self-portrait with sunflower (circa 1675-7), Ham House © National Trust images

The Auricular Style: Frames conference, held at The Wallace Collection on 5th-6th October 2016, was extremely rewarding in its bringing together of different perspectives and transnational views of this amorphous and slippery subject.

The Dutch papers provided a broad and fascinating introduction, seeking to discover the roots, early expression and development of the Auricular in the Netherlands, and to establish it as a stylistic language in continuous use from the early 1600s to the late 1670s. The evidence for its origins and flowering ranged across the production of engraved ornament and borders, domestic furniture, architectural flourishes, gravestones, embossed gilt leatherwork and church furnishings (and, of course, picture frames), as well as examining the perhaps better-known body of silverwork by the Van Vianens.

A French paper shone a rare and welcome light upon a style which produced some notable makers of engraved ornament and metalwork in Paris, before evolving into an idiosyncratically delicate form of Mannerism.

The Italian speakers covered the establishment of Florentine Auricular style in architectural designs, carved hardstone and interior frescos from the 16th to the early 17th centuries, and considered the morphing forms of ornament in the Medici frames, and their connections with Italian Mannerist sculpture. These frames in the collection of the Palazzo Pitti were also analyzed from the standpoint of their unique crafting and their conservation.

German Knorpelwerk or Ohrmuschel-style was introduced via pattern books, engraved portrait frames and interior painted and plasterwork cartouches. The Auricular style in Britain was examined through the imported engravings which fed, and the European artists and craftsmen who nurtured, it, during the earlier 17th century, and its continuance during the Restoration; alongside frames in specific collections, and those made for the Fire Judges.  Revival Auricular frames were also considered, as well as the influence of the grotesque and zoömorphic on modern and contemporary art.

Outside the lecture theatre, a display of posters included illustrated pieces on 17th century British plasterwork, a ‘Sunderland’ frame, and Frank Salisbury’s early 20th century Auricular-style frames for his work.

At the end of the conference, an informal discussion of the various papers presented emphasized the need to consider the political background and wars of 17th century Europe, which formed a background to the flourishing of the Auricular style, and also the importance of the court of Rudolph II at Prague as a fermentation cask for its growth and later diffusion. The idea that the Auricular might emerge from such intense scrutiny as clearly definable was replaced by the acknowledgment that it was an even more broadly-based and mutable style than had hitherto been thought; endlessly fascinating and impossible to be neatly categorized.

With thanks to all the delegates who presented such knowledgeable papers on a strikingly varied range of topics, to those who attended and added so much to public and private discussion, to everyone who gave greatly-needed practical help, and to Arnold Wiggins & Sons and ICON for their extremely kind support of this project.

Arnold Wiggins & Sons is displaying a hang of 17th century Auricular frames, including some from the series made for portraits of the Fire Judges in the early 1670s. This will be open from 5th October-16th December, 10.00-5.00 pm on weekdays, in its gallery at 31 Bury Street, London SW1Y 6AU.



Abstracts of the various papers have already been published; see below for links. The papers themselves will be published shortly.

Day One

9.40: ‘The Auricular Style in Dutch Furniture ‘ (Professor Reinier Baarsen, Leiden University / Rijksmuseum). Read the abstract here

10.25: ‘Auricular Ornament in Dutch Architecture, 1610-1675’ (Assistant Professor Pieter Vlaardingerbroek, Utrecht University / Heritage Office of the City of Amsterdam). Read the abstract here

11.20: ‘On the Inception of Auricular Ornament: metamorphic bodies and the fleshy frame (Dr Allison Stielau, University College London). Read the abstract here

11.55: ‘A French Auricular? A Brief History of a Style’ (Dr Marika Knowles, Harvard University).  Read the abstract here

12.20: ‘German Knorpelwerk: Auricular dissemination in prints, woodcarving, stucco and painted wall decorations, 1620-1670’ (Assistant Professor Daniela Roberts, Würzburg University).  Read the abstract here

2.10: ‘Gilt Leather: a creative industry avant la lettre‘ (Dr Eloy Koldeweij, Cultural Heritage Agency, the Netherlands).  Read the abstract here

2.35: ‘Dutch Auricular Woodcarving’ (Ada de Wit, Radboud University / Wallace Collection). Read the abstract here

3.00: ‘The Auricular Frame Depicted in Paintings’ (Lynn Roberts, The Frame Blog).  Read the abstract here

3.50:Auricular Frames in the Netherlands’ (Hubert Baija, Rijksmuseum / University of Amsterdam).  Read the abstract here

4.25: ‘Between Amsterdam, Paderborn and Rome: a remarkable frame in the collections of the Louvre’ (Dr Charlotte Chastel-Rousseau, Louvre).  Read the abstract here


Day Two

10.00: ‘The Development of an Auricular Style in Florence’ (Adriana Turpin, Institut d’Études Supèrieures des Arts).  Read the abstract here

10.30: ‘Anthropomorphism and Zoömorphism in the Medici Picture Frames’ (Marilena Mosco, former Director of Palazzo Pitti).  Read the abstract here

11.00: ‘Technical Aspects and Conservation Concerns in Florentine Auricular Frames’ (Aviv Fürst, Palazzo Pitti). Read the abstract here

12.00: ‘”All decorated with gilded frames”: a 17th-century British “Gallery of Beauties” in context ‘ (Honorary Professor Karen Hearn, University College London). Read the abstract here

12.25: ‘Documenting Developments in the Taste for Auricular Framing in England, 1620-1700’ (Jacob Simon, National Portrait Gallery).  Read the abstracthere

2.10:An Auricular Frame amongst the Founder’s Collection of the Ashmolean Museum’ (Tim Newbery & Jevon Thistlewood, Ashmolean Museum). Read the abstract here

2.35: ‘Framemaking for the Fire Judges’ (Gerry Alabone, National Trust / City & Guilds of London Art School). Read the abstract here

3.00: ‘Notes on the Revival of the Auricular Style for Picture Frames’ (Christopher Rowell, National Trust).  Read the abstract here

3.55: ‘The Auricular today’ (Steve Shriver, art+works). Read the abstract here


Poster presentations exhibited during the conference will be edited with the papers & published, fully illustrated, for free download on the website, which it is hoped will become a hub for future related research.

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