Painting which has perplexed historians for years comes to Cromer
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
A mysterious painting that is steeped in history has appeared on the streets of Cromer, adding to the seaside town's existing collection of famous artworks.
The Paston Treasure depicts the lavish possessions of the Paston family, who rose through the ranks of society between the 14th and 18th centuries from rural manor owners in Norfolk to the highest echelons of Stuart and Tudor society.
The original painting, which was commissioned circa 1665 sits in Norwich Castle Museum but now, thanks to Cromer Art Space's The Bigger Picture, Norwich Castle Museum and the Paston Footprints Project, a reproduction of the work has been unveiled in Garden Street in the town.
The Paston Treasure shows a fraction of the Paston's treasures which were collected during William Paston's travels around Europe and Turkey and Egypt.
The painting has perplexed historians for decades and is steeped in mystery.
It is thought to have been commissioned by Robert Paston and painted by an unknown Flemish artist, sections of the image have been repainted and the painting itself disappeared for more than three centuries until it resurfaced in 1947 and was donated to Norwich Castle Museum.
Unveiling the reproduction on Thursday, September 2, Mike Bossingham, the mayor of Cromer said the Paston Treasure was "the most mysterious of paintings."
"I think it's tremendous. I love art anyway and I have been lucky enough to go to some of the great galleries around the world but to have some of those paintings around Cromer is amazing," he said.
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Ruth Brumby, a member of Cromer Art Space, which is behind the Bigger Picture Project which has seen 20 pieces of art appear around the town said the group had wanted to build links with Norwich Castle.
She said: "Part of the aim of The Bigger Picture is to encourage people in Cromer to see paintings they might not be able to access. We wanted to include something from Norwich to encourage people to visit their own local art galleries."
When asked what she made of the painting Ms Brumby said: "It's a very curious painting. I'm interested in how it's similar to what people do today, in that we collect things that are pieces of us but we have a different attitude to collecting things from around the world."
Who were the Pastons and what is The Paston Treasure?
The Pastons were one of Norfolk's most prominent families, who between 1380 and 1750 rose through the ranks of society from rural manors to key roles in the power plays of the Stuart and Tudor courts.
Unusually, for a family of the time, a lot is known about the Pastons thanks to the survival of the family's correspondence.
The Paston Letters, which were first published in 1787, reveal details of the family's everyday lives, the tumultuous events they lived through, their various journeys through the newly emerged law courts, physical and political battles, reckless relatives, marriages and travels.
The Paston Treasure, the original of which measures more than two metres across, depicts an eclectic array of the family's possessions, nods to common Dutch still life items and memento moris.