auricular style: frames

A centre for research & papers on frames in the Auricular style

‘All decorated with gilded frames’: a 17th-century British ‘Gallery of Beauties’ in context: an abstract by Professor Karen Hearn


Detail of frame on Portrait of  Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland; painting currently attrib. to Remigius van Leemput;RCIN 402551 © Royal Collection Trust

In 17thcentury Britain there was evidently a significant demand for sets of small-scale head-&-shoulders copies, painted after contemporary portraits. Often made after originals by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), the sets generally consisted of female portraits, suggesting that they may have been intended as ‘galleries of Beauties’. Many sets must now be dispersed, since various individual small portrait heads can be found. However, some groups have survived, too – often in carved and gilded Auricular frames.

This paper arises out of the speaker’s ongoing research into the Anglo-Netherlandish portrait-painter Cornelius Johnson (1593-1661) and his nephew and pupil Theodore Roussel (1614-1689). George Vertue later wrote that Roussel ‘afterwards livd a year with Vandyke.& coppyd his pictures on small panels’. Accordingly, surviving small-scale portrait groups have tended to be attributed either to Roussel, or to the London-based Flemish copyist Remigius van Leemput (1607-75; also known as ‘Remy’).

A little-known but particularly interesting group survives in the collection of Her Majesty The Queen – all surrounded with carved and gilded Auricular frames. Listed at Windsor Castle in an early-18thcentury inventory of Queen Anne’s goods as: ‘14 … Ladies heads Copys by Remy’, by the reign of George III (when they hung in the ‘Room of Beauties’ at Windsor) their attribution had changed to Theodore Roussel.  In reality, the small portraits that make up this Royal Collection group – which are copies of originals by Van Dyck, by Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680) and by the miniaturist Samuel Cooper (1607/8-1672) – seem to be by a number of different hands. This paper will not only focus on the Auricular frames around this group of small-scale paintings, but will consider them in the context of other surviving portrait-head groups of similar date.


Karen Hearn FSA was the Curator of 16th & 17th Century British Art at Tate Britain, London (1992-2012), and is now an Honorary Professor at University College London. Her work focuses on art in Britain between 1500 and 1710, and on British-Netherlandish cultural links during that period. In 1995, she curated the Tate exhibition Dynasties: Painting in Tudor & Jacobean England 1530-1630, for which she received a European Woman of Achievement Award. She subsequently curated the exhibitions Van Dyck & Britain (2009) and Rubens & Britain (2011-12) both at Tate Britain, and in summer 2015 Cornelius Johnson: Charles I’s Forgotten Painter, at the National Portrait Gallery. Her book Cornelius Johnson was also published last year, and she has now embarked on a full-scale monograph on this Anglo-Netherlandish portrait-painter.

The Auricular Today – putting an ear to the ground: an abstract by Steve Shriver


Mars-1 (aka Mario Martinez), Nuclear Mystics, 2009

When I first discovered the pleasures of Auricular ornament in Alain Gruber’s 1994 book on the history of decorative arts a few years ago, I was immediately struck by the similarities of the work of Lutma et al to that of Salvador Dalí and the biomorphic Surrealists. This relationship lay not only in the swooping curves and drooping forms of the figures and landscapes described, but also in the malleability of their meaning, where forms never quite coalesce into that which they seem to imply, instead forming a hallucinatory and often times erotic series of folds, bumps and extrusions.

For the purposes of this paper  I would like to focus on a number of works by modern and contemporary artists who speak in the language of the Auricular, whether they are aware of it or not. Many artists in the 20-21st centuries have used elements of this vocabulary which derives from the original manifestation of the 17th century style; however, with the lessening importance of art history in a fine art degree these days, it is easily possible that some of them have never been conscious of their predecessors in the Auricular.

I shall attempt to trace aspects of the grotesque, the use of masks, and the meltingly fleshy forms of zoömorphic motifs in the work of artists from Picasso to Roberto Matta, and later in paintings by Pop artists such as Basil Wolverton, ‘biomechanical’ artists like H.R. Giger, and street artists like Mars-1.


Steve Shriver is a visual artist and art historian who has spoken and exhibited worldwide. He has taught at the Palos Verdes Art Center, The Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, American Society of Interior Designers, The Representational Arts Conference, and the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, South Carolina. He has public murals in Hermosa Beach and San Pedro, California, and numerous private murals around the world. You can see more of his work online.

Technical Aspects and Conservation Concerns in Florentine Auricular Frames: an abstract by Aviv Fürst

Aviv main photo with cleaning test sm

Pair of Auricular frames, associated with works by Livio Mehus of 1684, Palazzo Pitti, Florence; cleaning test inset

The recent project of cataloguing the rich collection of antique frames contained in the storage rooms of Palazzo Pitti (a project carried out from 2012-15 and directed by the curator of the 16th-17th centuries department, Anna Bisceglia), has brought to light a great number of treasures. It has also made possible the identification of many of these frames as the original settings for numerous paintings in Florentine museums and churches.

My talk will focus in particular on a pair of monumental Auricular frames from these rooms, recently discovered as belonging to two paintings by Livio Mehus, dated 1684. The frames are currently undergoing a conservation treatment, enabling the close inspection of various technical issues: we will examine aspects such as structural joinery, timber, plaster and bole color, gilding methods and finishes. Attention will be drawn to several curious technical peculiarities in their construction, carving and gilding procedures. Some of these features are unique to Florentine frames of the period from 1600-1700, and are mostly present in Auricular patterns: a discussion will follow as to how and why these distinctive technical ‘trademarks’ enhance the Florentine Auricular style to such great effect. Several fragmentary specimens from authentic Baroque frames will help to demonstrate the technical traits.

A further technical comparison with Florentine Auricular frames created during the 19th century revival of the style will suggest how different technical procedures accentuate different aesthetic results: with a gap of two centuries, Florentine Auricular revival frames present very different effects indeed.

Throughout the talk, we will also discuss problems relating to the restoration of Florentine Auricular-style frames, and specific dilemmas regarding the cleaning process involved.


Aviv Fürst has worked in Florence since 1996 as a specialist in the restoration and conservation of gilded objects, including treatment of gold grounds in mediaeval and early Renaissance paintings & altarpieces, Baroque to NeoClassical frames, and gilded sculptures. He has worked extensively for the main Florentine museums (Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti, Accademia, Galleria Corsini) and churches (Santa Maria del Fiore-Duomo, Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella). Major projects include work on the gilding of large painted crucifixes in the Uffizi, Accademia, and Museo Bardini, altarpieces by Gentile da Fabriano, Lorenzo Monaco, Sassetta, Neri di Bicci, &c; frames (mostly Baroque) on paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, Pontormo and Botticelli, amongst many others. From 2012-15 he carried out systematic preliminary treatment on the vast frame collection contained in the Palazzo Pitti storage rooms, as well organizing and preparing a catalogue of this collection. He has published reports on the conservation of the Filippino Lippi altarpiece frame in S. Spirito, a Raphael leaf frame in Galleria Estense, and many other frames in the Palazzo Pitti.

Dutch Auricular Wood Carving: an abstract by Ada de Wit

A de Wit image Auricular Style Frames sm

Carving, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Photograph: Tom Haartsen

It is significant that, although the Auricular style in metalwork developed early in the 17th century, surviving Auricular woodcarvings are later, usually dating from the second half of that century. Furthermore, they are far less daring than their metal counterparts, often combining realistically carved motifs such as fruit and flowers. In this context, two carvings require extra attention: one in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London and the other in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. These are two very similar open panels, probably from a balustrade, having an abstract and fluid form which was unparalleled in woodcarving but close to metalworks. Unfortunately, both objects have unknown provenance, although on a stylistic basis it can be assumed that they are Dutch.

These two pieces are the focus and starting point of my paper, which aims to trace the evolution of the Auricular style in Dutch woodcarving. The paper will try to answer the questions as to when and where woodcarvers adopted this style. In my research I will use a stylistic and comparative analysis supported by archival research. As the oeuvre of woodcarvers was very broad, various types of objects will be discussed, ranging from picture frames to overmantels and from secular to church furniture. The examples I will discuss come from different provinces, although attention will be given to woodcarvings in buildings designed by the architect Pieter Post (1608-69) in South Holland, and a pulpit in Bolsward, Friesland by Johannes Kinnema (d.1673).

Woodcarving will also be discussed in the Anglo-Dutch context, as many Dutch artists and craftsmen moved to England in search of commissions. Among them was the celebrated carver Grinling Gibbons (Rotterdam 1648 – London 1720). The paper will investigate whether Dutch carvers in Britain worked in the Auricular style and had any influence on English woodcarving.


Ada de Wit is a curatorial assistant at the Wallace Collection, London, and a PhD candidate at the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Her research centres on woodcarving in the Anglo-Dutch context (1650-1700). She worked previously for Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, on the collection of decorative arts, where she researched the history of the carved staircase (1699-1700) in the Museum, the results being published in the Burlington Magazine, February 2016. Ada has MA degrees in Art History, and in Decorative Arts & Historic Interiors, and has received various scholarships, including grants from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, from the Furniture History Society, and from Stichting Daniel Marot Fonds. After woodcarving, her research interests focus on furniture and silver.

An Auricular Frame amongst the Founder’s Collection of the Ashmolean Museum: an abstract by Tim Newbery & Jevon Thistlewood

T Newbery & J Thistlewood image sm

Picture frame from the Founder’s Collection of the Ashmolean Museum © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

In 1683, the Ashmolean Museum opened to the public on the top floor of a new building in Broad Street in Oxford. It was a repository for a collection provided by Elias Ashmole, and the other floors were occupied by rooms for the teaching and practice of science. This collection included a number of paintings, principally portraits, which where they survive are thought to be still housed in the same frames they arrived in.

One of these frames is a great example of an Auricular frame. It accompanies a portrait of an unknown young man in armour, probably a knight. Given the generally accepted information on Auricular frames in England, this one probably originated around the mid-17th century and was – also probably – owned by Ashmole (or possibly the Tradescant Family) prior to 1683. Ashmole was a staunch Royalist throughout the English Civil War, and established international connections through Royal appointments, and by his writing the History of the Order and Institution of the Garter. Whilst the attributions of artist and sitter for this portrait have been debated, and have become more uncertain in recent times, the presence of an apparently original picture frame has never featured in the debate. Likewise, the few historic descriptions of the portrait in exhibitions and catalogues have also refrained from mentioning the frame.

This paper aims to a provide a detailed account of the frame for future record, provide a context for its presence within the Founders Collection, and make comparisons with other Auricular frames since accessioned into the Ashmolean Museum Collection. Where the information exists, direct comparisons of carved features on frames within other collections will also be explored. As a final exercise the frame will be examined in unison with the portrait it contains, in order to ascertain whether together they can tell us more about each, individually.


Timothy Newbery studied picture framemaking and the history of frames with Paul Levi between 1978-87. In 1987 he established a workshop in London making and restoring picture frames & sculpture bases for Old Masters. He has catalogued frames in the National Trust, and in museums in European & North America. He has written several publications on this subject, including Italian Renaissance Frames (with  George Bisacca & Laurence B. Kanter, 1990), Frames and Framings, 2003, and The Robert Lehman Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Volume XIII: Frames, 2007.

Jevon Thistlewood received an MA in the Conservation of Fine Art from Northumbria University in 2000, specializing in easel paintings. Previous qualifications include a BSc in Chemistry and a MA in Sculpture Studies from the University of Leeds. In 2007 he was accredited with the Institute of Conservation and came to the Ashmolean Museum as a Paintings Conservator. His research interests centre on the examination of techniques & materials used in painted surfaces.

The development of an Auricular Style in Florence, c.1600-40: an abstract by Adriana Turpin

Adriana Turpin Image 2

Ottavio Miseroni, double mascaron tazza in green and red agate, c.1605, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Bernardo Buontalenti (1531-1608) produced designs for architecture and works of art at the Medici court in the late 16th century, developing fluid and naturalistic motifs which have elements in common with those of the Van Vianens. Among the most famous examples is his design for a vase, executed in lapis lazuli in the Grand Ducal workshops and mounted in gold & enamel by Jacopo Bylivelt (1581-4), now in the Museo degli Argenti. Buontalenti’s work continues the zoömorphic tradition of the Miseroni family in Milan, who had supplied a number of commissions for Cosimo I de’ Medici in the 16th century. Although these works in hard stone have been much studied by such authorities as Rudolf Distelberger, Willemijn Fock and Anna Maria Giusti, the latter have concentrated on their stylistic development, rather than their rôle in the early development of the Auricular style in Florence. Of particular interest here is the relationship between the Florentine court and that of the Emperor Rudolph I in Prague. Not only were there familial ties, but Rudolph acquired works of pietre dure from Florence, and persuaded Castrucci to work at his court. Such exchanges need to be examined in order to explore the relationships between the artists of the two courts and the possible exchange of motifs and designs – for example, on a lapis lazuli vase designed by Buontalenti (Kunsthistorisches Museum), and a frame on a sculpture by Donatello presented by Claudia de’ Medici to Archduke Leopold in 1624.

In his capacity as court architect, Buontalenti extended zoomorphic elements from vases and tazze to architectural forms: his fluid, fleshy curves used for the cartouches in the door frames of the Supplicants in the Uffizi (1576-7) and his designs for windows & other architectural features reflect this. His followers continued to include such motifs, e.g. in a casket for Cosimo II de’ Medici by Matteo Nigetti (c.1560/70-1648), who succeeded Buontalenti and worked extensively on the Capella dei Principe. The use of such organic motifs was one of the elements leading to the development of the Auricular and its interpretation in Florence, particularly, for instance, in the development of the cartouche by Agostino Mitelli (1509-1660), who came to Florence in 1637 to work on the ceiling paintings of the summer apartments at the Pitti Palace. His bold and innovative illusionistic paintings (1604-1607), created in partnership with Angelo Michele Colonna, have long been admired; the designs for cartouches are particularly interesting as they reflect the same interest in fleshy, scrolling strapwork as of Florentine craftsmen. The final part of this paper will explore the origins of Mitelli’s interest in this type of cartouche and its possible relationship with the frame surrounding a Madonna & Child by Andrea del Sarto, thought to have been bequeathed to Grand Duke Cosimo I in 1615 by the Marquese Botti, and in the collection of Charles I by 1642, when it was inventoried at Somerset House.


Adriana Turpin studied History at Oxford and Art History at the Courtauld Institute. She is the Academic Director of two MA programmes on the History and Business of Art & Collecting, run by the Institut d’Études Supèrieures des Arts in Paris, validated by the University of Warwick. She is a founder member of the Seminar on Display and Collecting at the Institute of Historical Research, and is the co-editor of their publications.

Adriana has written on a variety of topics related to collecting and to the history of furniture, including most recently ‘The Value of a Collection: Collecting Practices in Early Modern Europe, Locating and Dislocating Value: A Pragmatic Approach to Early Modern and Nineteenth-Century Economic Practices, eds. Bert De Munck & Dries Lyna, 2014; ‘Objectifying the Domestic Interior: Domestic Furnishings and the Historical Interpretation of the Italian Renaissance Interior, The Early Modern Italian Domestic Interior, 1400-1700, eds. Erin Campbell et al, 2013; and ‘The Display of Exotica in the Tribuna’, Collecting East and West, eds. Susan Bracken, Andrea Galdy & Adriana Turpin, 2012.

Documenting developments in the taste for Auricular framing in England, 1620-80: an abstract by Jacob Simon

J Simon - image Van Dyck Self Portrait

Van Dyck (1599-1641), Self-portrait, c.1640-41, National Portrait Gallery, London

The taste for Auricular picture frames in England, indeed for carved and gilt frames in all styles, is one of the most extraordinary developments in the history of framing. How does one explain this sudden flowering from the 1620s onwards and why did it come about? How was the Auricular used and how and why did this style as used in England differ from the Continent? What did the style take from the Continent and what did it give back? And what led to its demise later in the 17th century?

While the influx of Italian pictures and to a lesser extent Italian picture frames were important to the style, the dominant influences on taste were Netherlandish and northern European. Access to engraved ornament, such as portrait prints, was one factor. Arguably of greater importance was the role played in London by artists, engravers and craftsmen with international experience. It was they who worked to fulfill the wishes of a group of prominent collectors and patrons at the court of King Charles I.

Influential players in the process included the architect Inigo Jones, the keeper of the royal collection Abraham van der Doort, artists such as De Critz, Gheeraerts, Mytens and Van Dyck, engravers from the De Passe family, sculptors such Maximilian Colt and Nicholas Stone and, of course, framemakers like Zachary Taylor and Henry Norris.

After the Restoration in 1660, the style developed into what we call Sunderland frames, known as ‘leatherwork’ at the time, with even more stylised ornament, which breaks into the surface of the painting. How far can we document the process by which a style of this kind becoming increasingly elaborate and is then replaced altogether as it ceases to be fashionable?


Jacob Simon is Research Fellow, National Portrait Gallery, and Editor of the Walpole Society’s annual journal for British art history, both voluntary positions. He served as Chief Curator at the National Portrait Gallery from 2001 until his retirement in 2011, and has occupied other museum positions. He served in a voluntary capacity on various National Trust committees, 1969-2002. He has organised exhibitions including English Baroque Sketches (1974), Thomas Hudson: portrait painter and collector (1977), Handel: a celebration of his life and times (1985) and The Art of the Picture Frame (1996). His research interests include four online resources on the National Portrait Gallery website, recording the lives and work of British artists’ suppliers, British picture framemakers, British picture restorers, and British bronze sculpture founders and plaster figure makers.

Auricular ornament in Dutch architecture (1610-75): an abstract by Dr Pieter Vlaardingerbroek

P Vlaardingerbroek - image - Auricular Style Frames

Philips Vingboons (1607-78), drawing for a porch in the home of Joan Huydecoper, 1639

When speaking about Auricular ornament in Holland, most art historians refer either to works of art in silver in the first decades of the 17th century or to the revival of the style as can be seen in picture frames and furniture of the third quarter of that century. This revival is generally ascribed to the edition of prints from around 1650, made by the silversmiths Lutma and by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, son of an Amsterdam goldsmith. Their cartouches were a source of inspiration for many Auricular oeils-de-boeuf on façades alongside the canals, and we have the impression that this kind of ornament was taught to students during their formation in becoming craftsmen. A set of newly-discovered architectural study drawings seems to point in that direction. It is as if there is a absence of Auricular ornament between 1620-50.

Despite the existence of Auricular ornament in architecture, it hardly plays a rôle in scholarly publications about Auricular ornament. This is rather a pity, as datable examples of the style can be found in churches and public buildings. One of the most wonderful examples of Auricular ornament in Holland dates back to c. 1650. The magnificent choir screen of the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam is a combination of architecture and metalwork by Johannes Lutma. This screen can however not be disconnected from earlier examples in the 1640s and 1630s. We know of several works of around 1640 by the architect Philips Vingboons, in which Auricular ornament is used, both on façades and in interiors. There are several gravestones from the 1630s which also show a fully developed Auricular ornament.

Even in the work of the sculptor & architect Hendrick de Keyser Auricular ornament already existed from 1610 onwards. As a sculptor he also worked with bronze, which might explain the early use of such ornament, and its transfer to work in stone. Interestingly enough, he was born and educated in Utrecht, the centre of the Auricular style in the Netherlands; and even more interestingly, he was a close friend to Hendrick Goltzius, the renowned Haarlem painter, who had already designed prints with Auricular ornament in the 1590s. It is therefore not at all surprising that Haarlem probably has the earliest such ornament to be seen in Dutch architecture: Lieven de Key used it around the Haarlem coat of arms on the side façade of his Meat Hall (1601-03). And as a result of the friendship between Goltzius and De Keyser it is hardly surprising either that Auricular ornament found its way into architecture and the decorative arts in Amsterdam. Hendrick de Keyser often used it in his architecture, and his many sons – who were active in both architecture and sculpture – took it further into the third and fourth decades of the 17th century. Pieter de Keyser is responsible for some very early and datable examples of Auricular style in Amsterdam around 1620.

In short, in my paper I want to show many examples of early Auricular style, existing within the field of architecture. By doing so, I will try to prove that this style was used continuously during the period 1600-75.


Dr Pieter Vlaardingerbroek is an architectural historian, working at the Heritage Office of the City of Amsterdam and as an assistant professor at Utrecht University. In 2011, he published his PhD research on the Amsterdam Town Hall. In 2013, he wrote and edited books about the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, the architect Adriaan Dortsman (1635-82) and the Amsterdam Canals.

Notes on the revival of the Auricular style for picture frames: an abstract by Christopher Rowell

C Rowell Lely Penitent Magdalen Kingston Lacy

Peter Lely (1618-80), The pentitent Magdalen, c.1650-55, Kingston Lacy, The Bankes Collection (National Trust)
The carved giltwood frame is in Auricular style but appears not to be the original, given the Revivalist feel of the ornament, exemplified in the mask in the centre at bottom and in other elements of the design, notably the cresting and the rather flat and partly incised carving.

The aim of this paper will be to discover more about the 19th century revival of the Auricular style in picture frames, concentrating on evidence for the Auricular revival in National Trust collections. The idea for this study derived from Kingston Lacy, Dorset, one of the country’s oldest picture collections, founded by Sir Ralph Bankes (1631?-77) in the 17th century. There are numerous 17th century paintings with frames in contemporary style influenced by Auricular ornament, including portraits by Van Dyck and Lely.

Other Auricular frames appear to be, at least partly, later in date, either aggrandized or made anew to the order of William Bankes (1786-1855), who commissioned the extensive remodelling of the house and the re-arrangement of the collection. This he did largely in absentia, having been outlawed for a homosexual act in a public place in 1841. Afterwards he based himself in Venice, but travelled elsewhere in Italy, and in France, commissioning fine and decorative art from contemporary artists and craftsmen. The family tradition that he visited Kingston Lacy secretly by night, disembarking from his yacht, has recently been proved to be true. He had travelled in Spain during the Peninsular War, building up an impressive collection of Old Masters to add to the family collection. His framing of pictures was related to his exotic tastes in interior decoration.

Subject to documentary research, it is hoped that discoveries will be made in the voluminous Bankes archive to substantiate what appears to be a characteristically precocious Auricular revival, in tandem with Bankes’s interests predominantly in French, Italian and Spanish revivalism. Bankes, an amateur artist, took a close interest in his commissions, working with the protagonists and providing designs. He is known to have commissioned the magnificent carved walnut frame of the Kingston Lacy ‘Raphael’ Holy Family, looted by the French from the Escorial and acquired by Bankes in colourful circumstances during the Siege of Pamplona, during the Peninsular War in 1813 (see Christopher Rowell, ‘The Kingston Lacy ‘Raphael’ and its Frame (1853-56) by Pietro Giusti of Siena’, The National Trust Houses & Collections Annual 2014, pp. 40-47, published in association with Apollo).


Christopher Rowell is the National Trust’s Curator of Furniture (2002-); Chairman of the Furniture History Society (2013-); and a member of the UK Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (2015-). He has published widely on country house collections, furniture and the display of art. He was editor and principal contributor to Ham House: 400 Years of Collecting and Patronage (Yale University Press, 2013), which was shortlisted for the 2014 Berger Prize for British Art History. He is currently contributing to a similar book on Hardwick Hall (YUP; forthcoming) and to the National Trust’s Mellon/Royal Oak Furniture Research and Publication Project, which aims to improve the 70,000 relevant entries in National Trust Collections online and to encourage the publication of research, including a book Furniture in National Trust Houses (YUP forthcoming). These categories will all include studies of picture frames.

Gilt leather: a creative industry ‘avant la lettre’: an abstract by Dr Eloy Koldeweij

E Koldeweij - image - Auricular Style Frames

Hans le Maire, Amsterdam gilt leather-maker (1576-1640), gilt leather panel, c.1635-40, detail with Auricular mascaron.

On 4 August 1628 Jacob Dircxz de Swart (before 1594-1641), gilt leather-maker in The Hague, was granted a patent by the States General of the Dutch Republic for fourteen years on a new production method by which it was possible to mass-produce gilt leather with relief patterns. These so-called embossed gilt leathers enjoyed an immediate public vogue. Due to the enormous demand De Swart asked his former companion Hans le Maire (1586-1641), who had moved in 1617 to Amsterdam, to share in his patent. This embossed gilt leather became highly fashionable, both in- and outside the northern Netherlands, not least because specially designed new patterns were introduced which fully exploited the high relief effects. Due to its success, others tried to join in this prosperous venture – one of them successfully: the Amsterdam merchant Maarten van den Heuvel (1585? -1661), who gained protection from the city government of Amsterdam.

The appearance of this embossed Dutch gilt leather was very different from the traditional flat version, the production of which was dominated by leather-makers from Spain and Italy, both of which countries had a long tradition of gilt leatherwork created under strong regulation by the guilds. The patterns of the flat gilt leathers from these countries closely followed traditional textile patterns.

As newcomers to the market, the Dutch gilt leather-makers managed to develop a completely new appearance for their embossed gilt leather. De Swart, Le Maire and Van den Heuvel approached some of the best contemporary artists to produce designs for their newly-developed technique. Amongst these were the painters Andries de Haen and Pieter Potter, the engravers Romeyn de Hooghe, Pieter Serwouters, Christoffel van Sichem sr and jr., and several silversmiths, including some of the best Dutch craftsmen of the period: Hans Coenraadt Brechtel, Michiel Esselbeeck, the brothers Joost and Johannes Lutma, Servaes Kock, François Leermans, Thomas Jacobsz en Elbert Jansz.

Luckily, some of the products from the workshops of Jacob Dircxz de Swart, Hans le Maire and Maarten den Heuvel still survive today. Quite remarkably, the Auricular style is well presented in the patterns of these gilt leathers. One extraordinary example is, for example, the gilt leather wall hanging with its Auricular ornaments from the commissioners’ house on the Leiden-Delft canal; this was delivered in 1649 by the workshop of the late Jacob Dircxz de Swart. Hans le Maire marked some of his gilt leathers with his initials ‘HLM’; one of these, a long panel, has an Auricular style pattern with fruits, flowers, festoons and putti. And from the workshop of Maarten van den Heuvel a gilt leather plaque survives with the portrait of the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf (1594–1632) in a an Auricular style cartouche, dated 1632.


Dr Eloy Koldeweij (1959) studied History of Art at Leiden University, the Netherlands, where he specialized in historic interiors. After his PhD research on gilt leather hangings, he worked in several museums, amongst others the Victoria & Albert Museum. Since 1997, he has been the senior specialist on historic interiors at the Cultural Heritage Agency of The Netherlands. He has published and lectured extensively on gilt leather, and on other topics specific to the historic Dutch interior, including wall-hangings, floors, and stucco & plasterwork. He is currently involved in several projects on interiors, amongst others on interior ensembles, and is also lecturing part-time at the University of Utrecht.