The dissemination of the German Knorpelwerk /Auricular style in prints, woodcarving, stucco & painted wall decorations, 1620–1670: an abstract by Dr Daniela Roberts

by The Frame Blog

D Roberts Painted cartouche sm Queen Esther 1615to20 Golden Hall Town Hall Augsburg

Painted cartouche with Queen Esther, 1615-20, Golden Hall, Town Hall, Augsburg

Through various processes of artistic diffusion in the Low Countries and France, an ornamental style called ‘Knorpel-&-Teigwerk’ or ‘Ohrmuschel-style’ developed, which alongside its use in crafts and architecture also appeared in elements of picture frames.

A specific type of German Auricular frame (such as the ‘Lutma’ or ‘Sunderland’ frame) never evolved, presumably due to the political fragmentation of German regions, the impact of the Thirty Years’ War and the strong influence of the Italian Baroque. Single sheet prints and pattern books for woodcarvers and carpenters, which played an important role in the process of diffusion, detail the specific application of ‘Knorpelwerk-ornaments’, including those for carved picture frames. As material evidence of this stylistic type of picture frame is lacking, my study aims to find examples not yet classified as part of that tradition.

In my paper I will reflect upon different the regional centres and stages of development of the German Auricular Style, in which the Protestant North stands out through its architectural shaped altarpieces and epitaphs. For the South of Germany I will focus on complex secular interior decoration, especially in artistic centres such as Augsburg and Nuremberg. Here an outstanding example of the Auricular in plasterwork, as well as in painted and carved cartouches, can be found in the Golden Hall of the Town Hall of Augsburg. Further, detailed consideration will be given to printed portrait frames, which produced a wealth of forms in the Knorpelwerk-style, from combined tendril and Auricular shapes to abstract material forms, fleshy or bony in appearance.

I will examine the structural composition of the ‘Ohrmuschel-Style’ by considering, in particular, the fluid boundaries between the Auricular and scrollwork, or the frequent blending with earlier ornamental styles and grotesques.

The chief object of this study is to acknowledge ‘Knorpelwerk’ as a tangible ornamental style for framing, and to demonstrate its aesthetic qualities and its capacity to link different media and different dimensions.


Daniela Roberts holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Leipzig and a postgraduate degree in Museum Curator Studies from the University of Munich. After working as an assistant curator at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, she became a lecturer at the Institute of Art History in Leipzig from 2008 to 2012. She then became curator for Fine Arts at the Municipal Museum in Brunswick. In April 2014 she started a new job as an assistant professor at the Institute of Art History of the University of Würzburg.

After completing her thesis on Hans Holbein’s Ambassadors, her research focused on emblematic art and music iconography. Strongly related to her museum work is her interest in collection history, a field she explores by studying framing policies as a measure of institutionalising art.

In respect to her long-term research on 18th and 19th century English architecture, she has currently started to work on her second thesis, Gothic Revival Framing.