The Paston Treasure: Microcosm of the Known World

Thursday, February 15, 2018
Sunday, May 27, 2018

The seventeenth-century painting The Paston Treasure (ca. 1663) is an enigmatic masterpiece. It will make its North American debut at the Yale Center for British Art in an exhibition organized in partnership with the Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, UK. Gathering some of the depicted objects around the painting for the first time in nearly three centuries, the exhibition will trace the genesis and demise of the Paston family collection of treasures from the fifteenth to the early eighteenth centuries. It will explore the making and movement of precious objects, such as mounted nautilus shells between continental Europe and provincial England; and it will reconstruct the networks of artists, craftsmen, and natural philosophers surrounding the Paston family, who established what was perhaps the most extensive cabinets of curiosities ever to exist in England. Furthermore, technical analysis will reveal what lies beneath the physical surface of the painting, helping to understand how it was made and shedding light on who made it and why. The display will include 140 objects from more than fifty international institutions and private lenders.

The Paston Treasure: Microcosm of the Known World is curated by Andrew Moore, former Keeper of Art, and Senior Curator, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, and the organizing curator at the Yale Center for British Art is Nathan Flis, Head of Exhibitions and Publications, and Assistant Curator of Seventeenth-Century Paintings. The co-organizing curator at the Center is Edward Town, Head of Collections Information and Access, and Assistant Curator of Early Modern Art. At the Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, the organizing curator is Francesca Vanke, Keeper of Art and Curator of Decorative Art. At the Center, the curatorial team is assisted by Jessica David, Associate Conservator of Paintings, and by Elisabeth Fairman and Sarah Welcome, Chief Curator and Assistant Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts. 

Unknown artist (Dutch School), The Paston Treasure (detail), ca. 1663, oil on canvas, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Norwich, UK, courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service

An accompanying book, underwritten by the Richard C. von Hess Foundation, will be published by the Center in association with Yale University Press, and will draw upon scholarship in a range of fields, including art history, musicology, the history of collections, the history of science, and the broader social and cultural history of the long seventeenth century.