The Paston Treasure

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The Paston Treasure circa 1670 (246 x 165 cm)

The Paston Treasure is an historically rare record of a cabinet of treasures in British collecting. Commissioned by either Sir Robert Paston or his father Sir William Paston in the early 1670s,[1] the oil painting depicts a small fraction of the Paston family's collected treasures. It was executed by an unknown Dutch artist who resided at the Paston family residence at Oxnead Hall near Aylsham in Norfolk for approximately 3 months, in order to complete the commission.

The objects were collected by Robert and his father, Sir William Paston (c.1610–1663) who made acquisitions on a long journey travelling through Europe and on to Cairo and Jerusalem. The collection consisted of over 200 objects and included many natural curiosities made into decorative art objects, such as mounted seashells and ostrich eggs. The painting was unknown for centuries, and before it was donated to the Norwich Castle Museum in 1947, its last owner warned that it was "very faded, of no artistic value, only curious from an archaeological pint of view."[2] It is now on display, with the strombus shell in an enamelled mount, as part of the Norwich Castle Museum Collection.

The importance of The Paston Treasure lies in the international scope and interest of the objects portrayed, reflecting both exotic nature and the skills of man. It is the subject of an exhibition in 2018 in which Norwich Castle Museum in partnership with the Yale Center for British Art in the USA, reunite, for the first time in 350 years, as many as possible of the objects depicted in the painting.[3] [4]

The Paston Treasure is the subject of a book by senior research scientist, conservator and art-historian, Spike Bucklow. [5]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Alice Spawls (13 September 2018). "At Norwich Castle Museum." Retrieved October 20th, 2018.
  3. ^ "The Paston Treasure, Microcosm of the Known World / East Anglia Art Fund". Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  4. ^ "Spike Bucklow, U. of Cambridge, "John Donne's Melancholic Portrait"". Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  5. ^ The Anatomy of Riches: Sir Robert Paston's Treasure' pub. Reaktion Books 2018

See also

Highlight of the Castle

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