[ Exhibits ]

Yale CMI Lends Two Objects to the Yale Center for British Art for Display in its Exhibit

The Paston Treasure: Microcosm of the Known World
May 2, 2018

The seventeenth-century painting The Paston Treasure (ca. 1663) is an enigmatic masterpiece. Commissioned by either Sir William Paston, first Baronet (1610–1663), or his son Robert Paston, first Earl of Yarmouth (1631–1683), the identity of the painter, a Dutch itinerant artist working out of a makeshift studio at Oxnead Hall, remains unresolved, although candidates have been proposed. Adding to its mystique, the painting defies categorization because it combines several art historical genres: still life, portraiture, animal painting, and allegory. It has provided the opportunity to think anew about seventeenth-century studio practice and the painter-patron relationship. The painting now makes 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.

Exploring the world of the Pastons, a landowning family of Norfolk famous for their medieval letters, this display includes nearly 140 objects from more than fifty international institutional and private lenders. On view are five treasures from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that appear in The Paston Treasure painting: one of a pair of silver-gilt flagons, a Strombus shell cup, two unique nautilus cups, and a perfume flask with a mother-of-pearl body, which are gathered together for the first time in more than three centuries. A host of other objects, many with Paston provenance, tell the rich story of collecting within the family from the medieval period until the moment of the making of the painting.

The Collection of Musical Instruments has lent two objects to the exhibit, each resembling musical instruments in the painting: a violin by Pieter Rombouts (1667 – 1740), Amsterdam, c. 1700, and a Baroque-style bow by contem- porary maker David Hawthorne, Cambridge, Massachusetts, c. 2011. It is difficult to say whether the violin in the painting was inspired by an English, Dutch or Italian example, as none of the Paston family’s violins has survived. In any case, the exaggerated corners and seemingly oversized f-holes of the instrument suggest that the painter may have exercised artistic license in depicting these particular features.

The Hawthorne bow is modeled after a “short” bow, ca. 1680, in the collection of Robert Seletsky.  The replica has a round, snakewood stick; clip-in, pernambuco frog; and black hair.

The Paston Treasure exhibition is on display now through Sunday, May 27th.


The violin in the picture shows features of a violin making style that was common during the first half of the 17th century: long corners (due to the lack of corner blocks inside), and f-holes without so called “wings”. see:
-Wim Raymaekers: How the f-hole arose. Sound hole shapes and bridge position on bowed instruments between 1500 and 1800, in The Galpin Society Journal, LXXI, march 2018, pp. 35-56, pp. 145-147 and
-Wim Raymaekers, ‘The Art of Deduction. Violins in Art’, The Strad 123, No. 1464 (April 2012), pp.40–47.

November 27th, 2018 | Wim Raymaekers