Dutch Auricular Wood Carving: an abstract by Ada de Wit

by The Frame Blog

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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.