nl en

Making an Exhibition on the Kwabstijl (Auricular style)


Admission requirements

See Teaching and Examination Regulations.


The seventeenth-century kwabstijl, or auricular style, constitutes the most original and revolutionary Dutch contribution to the history of the decorative arts. Strikingly anti-classical, it was most fully developed in the work of the famous early seventeenth-century silversmiths from Utrecht, Adam and Paulus van Vianen, the latter of whom worked in Munich, Salzburg and Prague. The style expanded to from a distinct strand within the decorative arts of the Dutch Republic until about 1670. It reverberated throughout Northern Europe and may be regarded as a precursor of the rococo and art nouveau styles.

A large exhibition on this style is to be held at the Rijksmuseum in 2018. This will attempt to set the work of the Van Vianens and their peers in a wider, international context, and to present the manifold meanings of the mysterious, uncanny kwabstijl. As part of the process of mounting this exhibition, in this seminar we will investigate the possibilities and limitations of such an exhibition and of the accompanying catalogue and presentations in other media. We will address aspects of the style such as its precursors in sixteenth-century Italy, the iconographic interpretation of this almost surrealist idiom, the significance and attribution of Dutch design drawings in this style, the occurrence of the style in furniture, decorative carving, gilt leather hangings etc., and the spreading of the kwabstijl outside the Dutch Republic.

The selection and study of works of art for the Rijksmuseum exhibition will receive special attention.

Course objectives

Students learn to:

  • analyse an historic decorative style;

  • reflect on its origins, significance and afterlife;

  • identify the challenges and possibilities of a museum exhibition dealing with a decorative style;

  • evaluate the specific visual qualities of individual works of art and reflect on their effectiveness in a museum setting;

  • present a poster of their research project in progress before class;

  • evaluate presentations of their peers;

  • present the results of their research in a written paper.


Please consult the timetable on the MA Arts and Culture website.

Mode of instruction

Lecture and seminar course with analysis and discussion of readings.
Museum Visits.

Course Load

Total course load is 10 ec x 28 hours = 280 hours:

  • 11 two-hour lectures/seminars: 2 hours per week x 11 weeks = 22 hours;

  • two excursions to the Rijksmuseum: 2 × 3 hours = 6 hours;

  • study of literature and works of art, in preparation of the lectures/seminars and excursions: 50 hours;

  • presentation at a seminar, including preparation = 82 hours;

  • written paper of 5000 words (in principle the subject of the paper will coincide with that of the presentation) = 120 hours.

Assessment method

  • 30%: icipation at lectures/seminars, including an individual presentation;

  • 70%: – Written paper of 5000 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography.

The only re-sit possibility is a rewrite of the paper (70%).


Blackboard will be used for (general) communication and information.

Reading list

To be announced.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: Please see the website Study in Leiden for information on how to apply/register for this course.

Students who are not in the MA Arts and Culture programme, but who would like to take this course as an optional course, please contact Mrs. Martine van Leeuwen MA the co-ordinator of studies.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.




Dhr. Prof. Dr. R.J. (Reinier) Baarsen