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

by The Frame Blog

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.