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

by The Frame Blog

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.