This marbleized side table is executed in the Dutch mid-17th century 'kwabstijl' or auricular style, whose developement was significantly influenced by the Utrecht gold- and silversmiths Paulus (c.1570-1613) and Adam van Vianen (1568-1627), and by their Amsterdam counterpart Johannes Lutma (1587-1669). The kwabstijl is hence usually associated with the zoomorphic and mysterious objects created by these artists. (A. Gruber (ed.), Classicism and the Baroque in Europe, New York, 1996, p. 27)
The style was however conceived at the end of the 16th century in two centres of Mannerist art, Haarlem and Prague. Haarlem welcomed a large number of artists who fled north after the fall of Antwerp in 1585. The most important amongst these were Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem (1562-1638), Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) and Karel van Mander (1548-1606), who each contributed to the birth of this new current in Mannerism. Goltius for instance, already produced a print around 1595, dedicated to Cornelisz, in which Bacchus holds a cup in a full-blown version of the auricular style.
At the court of Emperor Rudolph II in Prague, the painter Bartholomäus Spranger (1546-1611) stimulated an equally eclectic group of Mannerist artists, which included the engraver Egidius Sadeler (c.1570-1629) and Paulus van Vianen, who became official goldsmith to Rudolph II in 1603. There was a continuous and fruitful interchange of ideas between the Haarlem and Prague artists, partly through exchange of engraved compositions, which would become an essential medium for the spread of auricular ornament throughout Northern Europe. (Gruber, ibid, p.31)
The earliest ornamental engravings incorporating auricular elements were published in Italy by Agostino Musi in 1531 and by Enea Vico in 1543 and predate the birth of the full-blown Northern European auricular style by more than fifty years. The ideas of thse artists were brought to the north by atrists like Cornelis Bos (c.1510-1555) and Cornelis Floris (c.1514-1575), who also published designs which demonstate an interest for monstrous and organic motifs. The auricular style in these prints was however mainly restricted to details, whereas the overall designs remained quite traditional. One of the first series of ornamental prints, which included furniture designs with auricular motifs, was Chrispyn de Passe II's Boutiqve Menvserie, which was published in Utrecht in 1621. These were however still mainly focused on traditional Renaissance ornamental vocabulary, offering only limited choices of auricular motifs to the craftsman. An important influx towards a full-blown version of the auricular style was given by Gerbrandt van den Eeckhout (1621-1674) through his series of model prints titled Verscheydene Aerdige Compartementen en Tafels, which were published in Amsterdam in 1655. These prints included designs for furniture and for precious metals. (Gruber, ibid., pp. 31-36)