Auricular Frames in the Netherlands: an abstract by Hubert Baija

by The Frame Blog

Hubert Baija - image - Auricular Style Frames ed

Isaack Luttichuys, Portrait of a young lady, 1656, in original frame. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Auricular picture frames express a characteristic aspect of the Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century. Auricular wood-carvings originate in the work of the Utrecht silversmith Paulus van Vianen (born 1570), whose vocabulary is based on Italian influences, in combination with his own astute observations of shapes in nature. At the time of his early death – around 1613 – Paulus van Vianen worked in the service of Emperor Rudolph II in Prague. The Auricular style was further perfected by his older brother Adam van Vianen (c. 1568-1627) and by Johannes Lutma (1587-1669).

Adam’s son Christaen (c. 1600-1667) was also a silversmith and worked at the court of King Charles I of England. The Auricular style rapidly spread to decorative applications following Christaen van Vianen’s publication of his so called Constighe Modellen (three volumes of Auricular designs) in Holland around 1648/49. Other artists published their own Auricular model books around the same time, and sensuous Auricular frame designs became a fashionable companion to many a beautiful painting produced in the Dutch Republic.

In this presentation Auricular frames will be discussed in the context of different types of picture frame produced at the same time in the Netherlands. Technical analysis and stylistic characteristics of Dutch Auricular frames will be compared to related frames outside Holland, including in England, Germany and countries around the Baltic.

Dutch carved frames were generally made of limewood, and many of them have simply been thrown away after severe insect damage. Auricular frames were usually gilded, albeit in an unconventional way. This gilding technique often led to deterioration and refinishing, making it difficult for us to understand the initial appearance of these frames. With the help of material science we can now examine original preparations and finishes to provide support for conservation efforts, historical understanding and art appreciation.


Hubert Baija has worked at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam as a senior conservator since 1990, where he is responsible for the conservation of approximately 7000 historical picture frames. He has taught conservation, technical art history and frame history at the University of Amsterdam since 1997.  He gives annual workshops at the International Preservations Studies Center in Mount Carroll, IL, USA, since 2002. He has previously taught at the Australian Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Material in Melbourne, and the Metropolia University in Helsinki.

He has published articles on 17th century gilding techniques, on gilding conservation, and on the original framing of mediaeval panel paintings. He also participated in the English edition of Framing in the Golden Age by P.J.J. van Thiel and C.J. de Bruijn Kops. He is presently a PhD candidate in Conservation Science at the University of Amsterdam.