Paston Treasures reunited and on display
Rare works of art originally featured in a Norfolk painting have been brought together for a unique summer exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. The Paston Treasure: Riches and Rarities of the Known World runs from 23 June to 23 September. Curated by experts at Norfolk Museums Service and the Yale Center for British Art in the US, the exhibition is the result of a five-year research project to unlock the painting’s many secrets.
Central to the show is The Paston Treasure, a large mysterious oil painting dating from c1663 by an unknown Dutch School artist, donated to Norwich Castle in 1947. The painting’s unique and cryptic subject has mesmerised and puzzled art scholars and historians worldwide.
It features an array of lavish treasures, as well as animals and people. Five of the original objects survive and have been brought together for the first time in three centuries. These include a pair of silver-gilt flagons, a strombus shell cup, two unique nautilus cups and a mother of pearl perfume flask.
In total the show features 130 items including musical instruments, rare timepieces, a globe, jewels, paintings and sculptures, some from prestigious international lenders.
The treasures represent a fraction of what was once owned by Norfolk’s famous Paston family, of Oxnead Hall. The Paston Treasure was commissioned to promote the family’s wealth and sophisticated artistic taste but by the 1730s the Pastons were bankrupt, the collection sold and Oxnead Hall fell into disuse.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to glimpse one of the greatest collections in Britain in the seventeenth century, brought back to Norfolk for the very first time.
Pictured top: The Paston Treasure
Pictured above right: Mounted nautilus cup, Delft, c1592. Collection Museum Prinsenhof Delft. Acquired with the support of the Vereniging Rembrandt. Photograph: Tom Haartsen