Tag Archives: ornamental print

Lutma’s fleshy cartouches: a weak, blubbery mass of human or animal tissue

One of the highlights in bad taste are two albums by Johannes Lutma (1584 – 1669), engraved by his son Jacob Lutma.

They are albums of ornamental prints, cartouches in the auricular style, titled Festivitates aurifabris statuariis[1] and Veelderhande Nieuwe Compartemente[2].

Why did I say that these plates are in bad taste?

So says my guide Les Maîtres ornemanistes on page 508:

Ces Cartouches, composés dans le genre auriculaire exagéré, sont affreux de formes; c’est la vraie décadence de l’art.[3]

These cartouches, executed in an exaggerated auricular style, are hideously shaped; it is the veritable decadence of art. (tr. mine)

Surely, one of the reasons these plates are considered in poor taste, must be their vulvaesque nature, you have to be pretty green behind the ears not to grasp the yonic symbolism.

In equally bad taste is the Cornelis Floris (1514–1575) album Veelderleij Veranderinghe van Grotissen ende Compertimenten.

One word that keeps cropping up in the vocabulary of these Dutch ornamentists is compartment, one source translates it as panel, although it seems more likely that it has something to do with ‘compartment (heraldry)‘.

As mentioned before, the auricular style is a shape derived from the human ear. In Dutch, the style is called kwab and kwab is the word a weak, blubbery mass of human or animal tissue, such as quivering flesh, or a brain lobe.

Most art historians call this work of Lutma zoomorphic. I’d like to make a case to include in the zoological horror canon.


To avoid all misunderstandings, I can see why others think these plates are in bad taste, but I love them. Publishing negative criticism of stuff I like is one my favourite discourse strategies, see also: Whenever I like something which is considered to be in poor taste.

The ornamental print: the highlights

The past few months I’ve been absolutely smitten with the ornamental print. Interest in these as part of the Old master print aesthetic dates only from the 1870s (when the first museums of applied arts were founded in Europe) and has been on the rise the last few years, thanks to sites such as Il Giornale Nuovo and its heir BibliOdyssey. My fascination with them was rekindled recently by taking the book Quatre siècles de Surréalisme out of my library in September. This post is meant to give you the highlights of my research in the field the past few months.

Thus, ornamental print highlights include:

Elephant coming out of a chimney[1] by Wendel Dietterlin, Bouquet on back of peddler[2] by Isaac Briot, Habit d’orfèvre[3] from Les costumes grotesques et les métiers by Nicolas de Larmessin II, Leviores et (ut videtur) extemporaneae picturae[4], Mask with dishes around the eyes and pointed serrated crests on the cheeks and forehead[5], Cartouche in auricular style (Johannes Lutma)[6], Fontaine Rocaille[7] by Gabriel Huquier, Mascarade à la Grecque album, Jeune Moine à la Grecque [8][9], Œuvre de Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier frontispiece[10], Auricular Cartouche with Figures within a Strapwork Frame[11], An antique vase with handle formed by a dog[12] by Enea Vico, Neuw Grottessken Buch by Christoph Jamnitzer [13], Balançoire chinoise[14] by Jean-Baptiste Pillement.

Some perennial favourites, which cannot be strictly called ornamental prints, need to be mentioned here: Bizzarie di varie figure by Bracelli, Varie Figuri Gobbi by Callot, Les Songes Drolatiques by Desprez, the grotesques of Arent van Bolten[15], the Geometria et Perspectiva by Lorenz Stöer, Scenographiae, sive perspectivae by Hans Vredeman de Vries[16] and Perspectiva Corporum Regularium[17] by Wentzel Jamnitzer.

Illustrations: Fantastic Sea Carriage by Cornelis Floris and Poop of the Soleil Royal by Jean Bérain the Elder.

Ornamental print of a zoomorphic vase by Enea Vico

An antique vase with handle formed by a dog by Enea Vico is an ornamental print from the series Romae ab antiquo repertum MDXXXXIII.

It is somewhat similar to this unidentified zoomorphic Art Nouveau pitcher[2], see zoomorphism.

Important ‘ornemanistes’, as the French call artists practising the art of the ornament, include:In Italy, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720 – 1778); in England Thomas Chippendale (1718 – 1779); in France Jean Bérain the Elder (1640 – 1711), Pierre Lepautre (1648-1716), Claude Audran III (1658 – 1734), Pierre Le Gros the Younger (1666 – 1719), Gilles-Marie Oppenordt (1672 – 1742), Antoine Watteau (1684 – 1721), Alexis Peyrotte (1699 – 1769), Juste Aurèle Meissonier (1695 – 1750), Gabriel Huquier (1695 – 1772), Ennemond Alexandre Petitot (1720–1772) and Juste-Nathan François Boucher (1736-1782). In the Low Countries there are the precursors and major artists of the genre: Cornelis Floris (1514–1575) and Hans Vredeman de Vries (1527 – c. 1607). In Germany the names Daniel Hopfer (1470 – 1536), Peter Flötner (1490 – 1546) , Wendel Dietterlin (c.1550–1599) and Christoph Jamnitzer (1563 – 1618) need to be mentioned.