Auricular Frames

Meaning “of the ear,” the term “auricular” can be used to describe a certain breed of frame resembling ears and earlobes. These frames also featured masks and marine shapes, making the style a popular choice among merchants and traders who lived in seaports and wanted their art to reflect their lifestyle. When Cardinal Leopoldo de Medici, the “brilliant” member of the famous family, decided to reframe his paintings, he used the auricular frame to unify his magnificent and diverse collection.

This Italian carved and gilt mannerist frame of reverse profile in the auricular style features stylized shell motifs at centers surrounded by deeply sculptued scrolls and volutes.
This Italian carved and gilt mannerist frame of reverse profile in the auricular style features stylized shell motifs at centers surrounded by deeply sculptued scrolls and volutes.

While Medici’s framing project happened during the 17th century, the style was developed much earlier — around 1600 — by silversmiths based in Holland. Jan Steen’s 17th-century painting The Family Concert depicts an auricular frame set amidst a lively social scene, suggesting the desirability and stature of such objects in Northern Europe by the mid-17th century.

 Jan Steen, The Family Concert (image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago)
Jan Steen, The Family Concert (image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago)

Interested in auricular frames? Lowy Frame and Restoring Co. has the largest collection of antique frames in the world available for purchase, or we can work with you on a custom product. Get in touch or call 212-861-8585.

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