Between Amsterdam, Paderborn and Rome: a remarkable frame in the collections of the Louvre

by The Frame Blog

Dr Charlotte Chastel-Rousseau discusses a singular and unique example of an Auricular frame in the Louvre.

 Fig.1 Nicolaes Roosendael (c. 1634-1686), Ferdinand von Fürstenberg, bishop of Paderborn, receiving the thesis in theology of the young Hendrick Damien of Amsterdam, o/c, s. & d.1669, 181 x 143 cm., Musée du Louvre, RF 3717 © 1998 Musée du Louvre. Photo: Angèle Dequier

Among the vast collection of 17th century Dutch paintings in the Musée du Louvre, only one is framed in the Auricular style [1] (fig. 1). In fact, Auricular frames are very rare in French public collections in general [2]; a fact which says much about the history of taste and the relatively low interest that these sculptural and highly decorative frames have had amongst French patrons, private collectors and curators until today. Dutch ebonized frames, or French Louis XIII-XIV gilded patterns with a more restrained outline, have in general been preferred for Dutch paintings. The frame surrounding the portrait of Ferdinand von Fürstenberg, bishop of Paderborn (Paris, Musée du Louvre, RF 3717) is all the more unique as it is, very probably, the original setting of the painting, which is dated 1669 and signed by the Dutch artist Nicolaes Roosendael (c.1634-86). It is thus a notable marker, both for the dissemination of the Auricular style and for the history of framing. After briefly presenting the recent history of the frame and the results of its technical survey, this case-study concludes with hypothesis about its commission and the artistic context of its invention and execution.

The portrait, the full title of which is Ferdinand von Fürstenberg, bishop of Paderborn, receiving the thesis in theology of the young Hendrick Daemen of Amsterdam, was donated to the Louvre in November 1930 by Hortense de l’Espine, Princess Louis de Croÿ (1867-1932) as part of a very important donation of around 3800 paintings and drawings [3]. The painting entered the national collection in an antique frame, as specified in the notarial deed: ’18- Nic. Rossendael [sic] (Fürstenberg) Evêque de Paderborn s/ toile H. 181 x L.143. Avec un cadre ancien H. 230 x 195‘ [4]. Although it has not been possible to establish the full provenance of the painting, it is highly probable that it was purchased by the princess’s father, Count Oscar de l’Espine (1827-92), a diplomat and connoisseur, who collected Dutch paintings in the second half of the 19th century [5]. The painting was inventoried at the time of the donation in 1930, although it belongs to a group of twenty-seven paintings which remained in the possession of the Princess de Croÿ and only arrived in the Louvre after her death in 1932 [6]. When she very generously donated such an important part of her collection, the princess stipulated that the paintings should be exhibited together, which explains why the painting is not displayed today in the Dutch and Flemish galleries in the Louvre [7].

 Fig. 2 Details of the two labels at the back of the frame

During the Second World War the painting was evacuated to the Château de Sourches, next to Le Mans in western France, whilst the frame remained in the Louvre [8]. Two labels with the number 377 at the back reveal that it was studied by Christiane Aulanier (1897-72), curatorial volunteer in the Paintings Department at the Louvre, who seized the opportunity of having so many empty settings at hand to conduct the first inventory of the collection of antique frames under the supervision of Germain Bazin (1901-90) [9] (fig. 2). In her inventory, she identified the frame as belonging to the 17th century Dutch school, but without mentioning that it was made in the Auricular style. In her description she only noted: ‘[un] Fronton orné d’une mitre entourée d’une crosse et d’une épée entrecroisés [sic]. En bas armoieries. Etat : la croix manque au-dessus du heaume’ [10].

The frame was reunited with its painting in 1946 and – after a sojourn in storage, and then in the conservation workshop – the whole work was publicly exhibited again in 1955. On October 7, 1962, the portrait was very sadly vandalized, several tears being inflicted in the painted layer and the canvas [11]. Whilst the painting was being restored in 1962-63, the frame was sent to the framing studio [12]. Between 1964 and 1980, both were kept mainly in store: a note on file in the Paintings Department specifies that the frame was then judged to be too damaged to be presentable [13]. Although the painting received the attention of the conservation studio on several occasions, no traces of any intervention on the frame could be traced, either in the documentation of the Paintings Department, or in the files of the Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France. Since 1996 both painting and frame have been displayed together in their present location (Sully, second floor, Croÿ).

Fig. 3 Detail of the letter held by Hendrick Damien

It is almost certain that the painting of 1669 is still contained in its original frame. This assumption is supported not only by the iconography of the frame but also by technical and stylistic analysis. Although the circumstances of the commissioning of the portrait are not documented, the identity of both sitters is established, thanks to the Latin inscription painted in the letter held by the young Hendrick Daemen:

FER. D.G. Episcopo Paderbonensi, Coadjuditori monasteriensi S.R.I. Princip Serenissimo Comiti Pyrmontano et libero Baroni de Fustenberg Clementissimo Domino suo has Theses Dedicat consecratque humillimus cliens Henricus Daemen, Amsteldamensis A°1669’ (fig. 3).

Fig. 4 Details of the coat of arms and the episcopal insignia at the centres of the bottom and top rails

Fig. 5 Details of the back of the episcopal insignas with the mark of the missing cross

The iconography of the frame clearly relates to the prelate: the carved coat of arms in the centre of the bottom rail (fig. 4) and the episcopal insignia (mitre, crosier, and the cross, which is now missing [14]) on top of the frame (fig. 5) all refer to Ferdinand von Fürstenberg (1626-83), who had been appointed bishop of Paderborn in 1661, and co-adjudicator of Münster in 1667, both cities being located in Westphalia in the north-western part of the German Empire.

Fig. 6 Gerard Ederlinck (1640-1707) after Charles Le Brun, (1619-90) Ferdinandi Monaster. et Paderborn. Episcopi Poëma. E Typographia Regia, engraving, 1683, in Ferdinand von Fürstenberg, Poemata Ferdinandi Episcopi Monasteriensis Et Paderbornensis, S. R. I. Principis, Comitis Pyrmontani, Liberi Baronis De Furstenberg (Paris, 1684), Universität Paderborn

Other contemporary objects, such as his episcopal crosier, preserved in the Diözesanmuseum Paderborn, coins in his effigy minted in 1671 and engraved portraits bear similar coats of arms (fig. 6) [15].

Fig. 7 Back of the lower right angle

Technical examination of the frame also allows us to accept it as original, even though it has been renovated and slightly modified throughout time [16]. The frame is composed of a carved gilded front frame in limewood, consolidated by a supporting framework in a darker soft wood, probably pine. The carved frame is composed of two layers of limewood boards, and is assembled with half-lap joints (fig. 7). The supporting structure at the back is composed of two rectangular frames, the inner one creating the rabbet. On the whole, the construction of the frame is typical of 17th century Dutch frames.

Fig. 8 Detail of the reverse of the upper rail with the marks of a previous hanging device

At the centre of the upper rail, the marks of a previous hanging device, very much in accord with 17th century devices, can also be found (fig. 8). The only feature which might bring into question the originality of the frame is the presence of a one centimetre-wide wooden strip along the sight edge. Examination of the back of the canvas reveals that the stretcher was replaced at a relatively recent date; it is possible that this replacement induced some minor changes in the dimensions of the painting [17], which could explain why the sight of the frame had to be reduced in order to retain the picture safely. The carved frame is in good overall condition, although its surface has been regilded more than once.

Fig. 9 Detail of the back of the top left angle with a wood patch

The reverse reveals traces of several minor restorations – most importantly a wood patch at the back of the top left angle (fig. 9).

Fig. 10 Detail of the back of the lower right angle with a line drawn in graphite pencil along the back structure

A more substantial but undated intervention is the replacement of the back structure by a new one [18] (fig. 10).

Fig. 11 Details of the back of the top right angle with a piece of wood attached by nails

In the top right corner an irregular piece in a wood which seems older than the back frame has been nailed on (fig. 11). It could be evidence of the previous structure, or may be an addition to the frame in order to solve difficulties with the hanging.

Fig. 12 Detail of the Auricular ornaments on the frame, bottom centre

The third quarter of the 17th century has traditionally been considered the period when the Auricular style in framing flowered in the Netherlands [19]. The style of this particular frame is therefore very much in harmony with the date of the painting (added with the signature next to the foot of the armchair: ‘N. Roosendael f. 1669’).

Fig. 13 Detail, left side of frame

Unlike most surviving Auricular frames on portraits painted between 1650 and 1680, the Louvre frame is not ornamented by festoons or other figurative motifs. C.J. de Bruyn Kops has described this relatively sober version of the style as ‘pure Auricular carving’ and dates the few remaining frames of this type to the latter part of the 1660s, which would be in line with the date of 1669 [20].

Fig. 14 Detail, bottom left corner

The Louvre frame is characterized by a relatively shallow style of carving (figs 12-14): the design of folds, ripples and volutes is in low relief, and is very graphic and stylized – almost dry – which contrasts with the fullness and plasticity of other contemporary Dutch Auricular frames.

Fig. 15 Nicolas Roosendael (c. 1634-86), Portrait of Gerbrand Moleaner, Elizabeth de Jager and their four children, o/c, s. & d. 1669, 164 x 246 cm., unlocated. Photo: RKD

The frame surrounding the Portrait of Gerbrand Moleaner, Elizabeth de Jager and their four children, for example, a contemporary family portrait painted by Roosendael, also signed and dated 1669, is much more lavishly ornamented, with opulent festoons of flowers and grapes, and is carved in high relief [21] (fig. 15). It seems, however (as far as a black-&- white photograph of this now unlocatable work can be relied on), that the design and the carving of the Auricular motifs are very similar to those of the Louvre frame. A close look at the cascades of folds on the rails suggests that both frames may have been executed in the same workshop in Amsterdam, if not by the same woodcarver. Does this ‘dry’ Auricular style characterize the hand of a particular carver [22]? Is it typical of a particular centre of production at the end of the 1660s? As the corpus of securely datable Auricular frames remains quite limited, it is not easy to interpret the reasons behind these variations in the style. Altogether, many questions remain for the moment unresolved, including the identity of the craftsman who executed the frame.

 In order to establish the reasons that this luxurious and highly-crafted frame entered the collection of an eminent German prelate from a noble family in Westphalia, one need only refer to the cultural and social environment in which it was commissioned. Interestingly, the few biographical facts we know about Ferdinand von Fürstenberg and the painter Nicolaes Roosendael highlight their mutual Roman Catholic connections. Ferdinand von Fürstenberg was born in 1626 at Bilstein Castle in the Duchy of Westphalia [23]. He studied in Cologne where he became close to Fabio Chigi (1599-1667) who, as papal nuncio, was the contemporary diplomatic representative of the Vatican. Following the election of Chigi as Pope Alexander VII in 1655, Von Fürstenberg pursued a successful career in the papal court, and was appointed bishop of Paderborn in 1661. He was, as well as a zealous Catholic, a cultivated man and a patron of the arts, who collected manuscripts and published a collection of Latin poems.

Nicolaes Roosendael was born around 1635 in Hoorn in North Holland, and married a rich Catholic wife [24]; he was active as painter and art dealer in Amsterdam between 1663-86. His Roman Catholic social network was probably instrumental in his receiving the initial commission for the portrait of the bishop, and he may have himself commissioned, or at least suggested, a frame in the Auricular style for the painting. We know that Roosendael travelled from Amsterdam to Rome and back, but it cannot be established that he actually met Von Fürstenberg in either Rome or Paderborn. The younger sitter, Hendrick Daemen (1655-88), was only fourteen or fifteen years old when the double portrait was painted. In the Latin dedication on the painting, he is introduced as an ‘Amsteldamensis’ , possibly making him key to understanding how the German bishop and the Dutch painter got in touch. Daemen was born in Amsterdam in 1655 and according to the dedication, studied theology, seeking out the protection of Von Fürstenberg for this. It has been established that Daemen spent part of his life in Westphalia: he was registered as a City Councillor in Cologne where he died in 1688 [25].

Even though the commissioning of the painting is not documented, one can assume that it was painted in Amsterdam, partly after life as far as the lively, almost dancing, Hendrick Daemen is concerned, possibly partly after an engraved portrait for the more hieratically-presented prelate.

Fig. 16 Abraham Blooteling (1640-90), after Theodor Caspar, Baron von Fürstemberg (1615-75), Portrait of Ferdinand von Fürstemberg, engraving, 1669, 41.7 × 29.2 cm, Rijksmuseum

In 1669, the Dutch engraver Abraham Blooteling (1640-1690) went to Germany [26], where he published a portrait of Ferdinand von Fürstenberg after a portrait by Theodor Caspar von Fürstenberg (1615-1675), the sitter’s brother (fig. 16). Blooteling and Roosendael were both active in Amsterdam at the same time, and it is probable that Roosendael relied on this engraving for his own portrait. The elaborate frame was probably designed in Amsterdam as well, and carved either in Amsterdam or in Paderborn. It is tempting to interpret the graphic quality of its carving as evidence that it was executed in a Westphalian workshop after the Dutch design. But this remains for the moment only a seductive hypothesis, as its style seems very different from German productions of the period.

In any case, whether the frame now in the Louvre was executed in Holland and sent to Paderborn, or executed in Paderborn in the Dutch style, close examination validates its description as an original frame. It can be dated between 1669, the date of the portrait, and 1683, the date of the death of Ferdinand von Fürstenberg, making it a remarkable landmark in the stylistic history of framing and in the development of the Auricular style. We can only hope that new information about the commission of the painting and its frame, and about their early history, will contribute to a better understanding of the dissemination of the Auricular style outside the Low Countries.


Charlotte Chastel-Rousseau was educated at the Ecole du Louvre and at Université Paris-Sorbonne; she wrote her PhD on Royal monuments and public space in Great Britain and Ireland, 1714-1820 (2005, Université Paris I- Panthéon-Sorbonne). She has published work on 18th century British, French and Portuguese monumental sculpture, and has researched the circulation of artistic models and ideas in Europe from the Renaissance to the 18th century.  She has worked for the Louvre since 2007, and was recently appointed head of framing in the Department of Paintings, with curatorial responsibilities for the collection of frames. She is currently conducting an inventory of the collection, which comprises more than 9000 items dating from the 15th to the 20th century, and is preparing for an exhibition on the history of framing at the Musée du Louvre.

[1]  With thanks to Max Dujardin, head of the gilding and framing studio in the Louvre, who was the first to draw my attention to this frame.

[2]  The only other remarkable example in a French museum has been acquired relatively recently by the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris: ‘Frame, circa 1650-1655, Utrecht, gilded and carved limewood , acquired thanks to the support of Mr and Mrs Felix Rohatyn, 2001, Inv. 999.29.1

Auricular frames are also significantly absent from the files of the Maciet documentation, in which several boxes are dedicated to frames (Maciet 341, ‘Cadres de glace et de tableaux’, Paris, Bibliothèque des Arts décoratifs)

[3]  See Catalogue de l’exposition des oeuvres provenant des donations faites par Madame la princesse Louis de Croÿ…, Paris, Orangerie, 1930-1931 ; Clotilde Briere-Misme , ‘Au Musée du Louvre, la donation de Croÿ, les tableaux hollandais’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1er semestre 1933, pp. 231-249, p. 245 et 246 ; Les donateurs du Louvre, Paris, RMN, 1989, p. 180

[4]  Etat descriptif des oeuvres d’art faisant l’objet de la donation par Madame la Princesse de Croÿ aux Musées Nationaux suivant acte reçu ce jour par Maître Moisy, notaire à Paris, November 27, 1930, Paris, Musée du Louvre, documentation du département des Peintures.

[5]  See Jacques Foucart, Catalogue des peintures flamandes et hollandaises du musée du Louvre, Paris, 2009, Gallimard/ Musée du Louvre Editions, vol. II, p. 222.

[6]  ‘ROOSENDAEL Nicolaas [sic], Portrait d’ecclésiastique aux cheveux noirs, H.1.83 L.1.44 RF 3717′, extract of the first manuscript inventory of the Croÿ donation, Paris, Musée du Louvre, Documentation du département des Peintures.

[7]  The fact that it has been presented apart and relatively far from the main collection of Dutch painting partly explains why the frame was only mentioned and not reproduced in the reference article about the framing policy of Dutch and Flemish paintings in the Louvre. See Jacques Foucart & Philippe Lorentz, ‘Une politique d’encadrement pour les écoles de peinture septentrionale’, La revue du Louvre et des Musées de France, 1993, n°5/6, p. 117.

[8]  See Germain Bazin, Souvenirs de l’exode du Louvre 1940-1945, Paris, Somogy, 1992, p. 48-49.

[9]  Germain Bazin worked for the Louvre as curator between 1934 and 1951 and as head of the Painting Department between 1951 and 1965.

[10]  Fiche Aulanier n°377, Paris, Musée du Louvre, Documentation du département des Peintures.

[11]  Ségolène Bergeon, ‘Quelques exemples de vandalisme en peinture’, Cinquième cours international pour restaurateurs, Unesco, 1985, vol. II, pp. 35-46.

[12]  With thanks to Clarisse Delmas, from the Painting conservation studio at the C2RMF, for her kind help with this research.

[13]  See file RF 3717, Paris, Musée du Louvre, documentation du département des Peintures.

[14]  An examination of the back of the upper rail reveals the mark of the now missing episcopal cross.

[15]  See Ferdinand Molinski, Ferdinand von Fürstenberg. Fürstbischof von Paderborn und Münster 1661-1683, Städtische Sammlungen Paderborn 1963.

[16]  I am most grateful to my colleagues from the Gilding and framing studio in the Louvre, who kindly agreed to analyze the frame with me.

[17]  A label on the stretcher indicates that it was replaced before 1941.

[18]  Lines in graphite pencil might have then been drawn along the rails of the previous structure to indicate their position and facilitate their replacement. They are still visible today next to the back frames.

[19]  Paul Mitchell & Lynn Roberts, A History of European Picture Frame, London, Merell Holberton, 1996, p. 82-83; Pieter van Thiel & C.J. de Bruyn Kops, Framing in the Golden Age. Picture and Frame in 17th-Century Holland, Rijksmuseum and Waanders Uitgevers Zwolle, Amsterdam, 1995, p. 13.

[20] Van Thiel, op. cit., p. 272.

[21]  Nicolaes Roosendael, Portrait of Gerbrand Moleaner, Elizabeth de Jager and their four children, signed and dated 1669, location unknown, photo RKD, reproduced with ist frame in R. Schillemans, ‘Nicolaes Roosendael (ca. 1635-1686): portretten in katholiek Amsterdam’, in E. Buijsen, Ch. Dumas, V. Manuth (eds), Face Book. Studies on Dutch and Flemish Portraiture of the 16th-18th Centuries. Liber Amicorum presented to Rudolf E.O. Ekkart on the occasion of his 65th Birthday, Leiden 2012, p. 390. For more details on this painting see, RKD online collections 33457.

[22]  In that case, the original frame of the following portrait attributed to Jan de Baen could have been executed by the same carver: Portrait of Abraham Graswinckel, c. 1667, The Hague, Rijjkdienst Beeldende Kunst, reproduced in black and white in Van Thiel, op. cit., p. 271.

[23] On Ferdinand von Fürstenberg, see: Norbert Börste & Jörg Ernesti (eds), Ferdinand von Fürstenberg: Fürstbischof von Paderborn und Münster: Friedensfürst und guter Hirte, vol. 42, Paderborn/ Munich/ Vienna/ Zurich, 2004, Schöningh; Ein westfälischer Fürstbischof von europäischer Bedeutung Ferdinand II. von Fürstenberg, exhibition Historisches Museum im Marstall Paderborn, 17 September 2004- 9 January 2005.

[24] On Roosendael see : H. Lahrkamp, Westfalen 64, 1986, p. 129-130; P. Dirkse, ‘Nicolaes Roosendael (1634/35-1686). Historieschilder voor katholiek Amsterdam’, Antiek 19 (1984), p. 88-90; R. Schillemans, ‘Altarpieces by Carel van Savoy and Nicolaes Roosendael’, Mercury, 1992, p. 53-59; Schillemans, 2012, op. cit., p. 387-398.

[25] See RKD online collections 986195

[26] See the biography of A. Blooteling published on the website of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums, San Francisco