Trea­sures col­lected by a Nor­folk fam­ily al­most four cen­turies ago have been re­united for a re­mark­able ex­hi­bi­tion fo­cused on a paint­ing which has mys­ti­fied gen­er­a­tions of ex­perts

EDP Norfolk - - Inside - The Pas­ton Trea­sure: Riches and Rar­i­ties of the Known World opens at Nor­wich Cas­tle on June 23 and runs un­til Septem­ber 23. mu­se­ums.nor­

The Pas­ton fam­ily’s trea­sure, col­lected in a fas­ci­nat­ing ex­hi­bi­tion

One of the great­est pri­vate art col­lec­tions of the 17th cen­tury was put to­gether by a Nor­folk fam­ily – and im­mor­talised in a lav­ish and mys­te­ri­ous paint­ing.

Within decades the Pas­ton fam­ily was bank­rupt, its pos­ses­sions dis­persed and its grand man­sion crum­bling.

The paint­ing, The Pas­ton Trea­sure, now in Nor­wich Cas­tle, has puz­zled art his­to­ri­ans for cen­turies. It de­picts a daz­zling ar­ray of ex­pen­sive and ex­otic ob­jects in­clud­ing gold and sil­ver, mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, fruit and flow­ers, a lob­ster, a mon­key and a par­rot. The trea­sures in the paint­ing are just a frac­tion of the re­mark­able col­lec­tion put to­gether by one of the wealth­i­est fam­i­lies in Bri­tain.

But they are shown along­side sym­bols of time, van­ity and death, and the paint­ing, by an un­known Dutch master, proved eerily prophetic.

Within less than a cen­tury the aris­to­cratic ti­tles were lost, the trea­sures sold and mag­nif­i­cent Oxnead Hall, near Ayl­sham, where a Pas­ton one en­ter­tained Charles II, aban­doned.

For the past five years ex­perts from the cas­tle, and from the Yale Cen­ter for Bri­tish Art in the USA, have been re­search­ing the his­tory of the paint­ing – and

trac­ing its trea­sures.

They have found five of the ac­tual ob­jects shown in the paint­ing, in­clud­ing cups cre­ated from shells, sil­ver and enamel and a mother of pearl per­fume flask.

When they could not find the ex­act ob­ject, they bor­rowed sim­i­lar mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, time­pieces, jew­els, sculp­tures and more, from mu­se­ums and col­lec­tions around the world.

Joint cu­ra­tor Francesca Vanke of Nor­wich Cas­tle said: “The paint­ing is not just a typ­i­cal 17th cen­tury still life, but the key to un­lock­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing, dra­matic and ul­ti­mately tragic story: of a fam­ily, a col­lec­tion, and a great house.

“The first clues to the story are in this paint­ing. They open up a world we never knew ex­isted, for which ev­i­dence is scat­tered world­wide.”

The Pas­ton Trea­sure, un­known artist, Dutch School, c1663, oil on can­vas. Nor­wich Cas­tle Mu­seum & Art Gallery Pic­ture© Nor­folk Mu­se­ums Ser­vice Motherof-pearl flask, un­known artists, Gu­jarat and (prob­a­bly) Eng­land, early sev­en­teenth cen­tury (body), and...

LEFT: Mounted strom­bus shell cup, at­trib­uted to the work­shop of Stephen Pilcherd and An­thony Hatch, Lon­don, ca. 1660, shell, gilt brass and enamel. Nor­wich Cas­tle Mu­seum & Art Gallery © Nor­folk Mu­se­ums Ser­vice BE­LOW LEFT: Mounted nau­tilus cup,...

© The Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art/Art Re­source

LEFT: Sur­viv­ing pair of flagons, un­known maker, English, based in Lon­don, 1597/98, sil­ver- gilt, The Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art, New York, Gift of Ir­win Un­termyer.

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