Tracing the history and meaning of the 17th-century auricular style
The 17th-century auricular or lobate style—Kwabstijl, in Dutch—is one of the most important and remarkable Dutch contributions to the decorative arts in Europe.
Soft, smooth, undulating masses that resemble the curvature of the cartilage of the human ear give this curious style its name. Its forms, rendered in delicately hammered silver and gold, are strikingly modern, suspended between human anatomy and the materiality of slugs or mollusks. The "Kwab" of this fascinating book's title refers to the quivering, blubbery mass of animal tissue and aquatic plants.
Kwab: Ornament as Art in the Age of Rembrandt traces the history and meaning of the auricular style, with its fabulous, organic shapes, from the work of the goldsmith Paulus van Vianen at the court of Rudolf II in Prague to that of his brother Adam in Utrecht and Johannes Lutma in Amsterdam. Their masterpieces were admired as high art by Rembrandt and his pupils, who produced auricular designs themselves. The style migrated from silver and goldsmithing to architectural ornament, interior decoration and the decorative arts.
Designed by Irma Boom and written by Reinier Baarsen, Senior Curator of European Furniture at the Rijksmuseum, Kwab tells the fascinating story of this unique abstract decorative form through silver and gold masterworks, design drawings and prints, paintings by Rembrandt, furnishings and Cuir de Cordoue gold leather wall coverings.