Unburied Treasure: Yale Center for British Art’s new exhibition The Paston Treasure-Microcosm of the Known World

The Paston Treasure, the enormous centerpiece of the Yale Center for British Art’s new exhibition The Paston Treasure: Microcosm of the Known World, is bursting at the seams with precious objects, sumptuous foodstuffs and other emblems of decadence. On first study, the only thing it seems to lack is an attribution.

Painted by an anonymous Dutch hand in 1663, the work was commissioned to catalogue the crown jewels, or, perhaps more accurately, the crown shells, of the well-to-do Paston family, which had a special preference for opalescent vessels made of polished nautilus and Strombus shells set in intricate stems of precious metal. Also included are elegant instruments and plucked flowers, a lobster sliding from its serving dish, tumbling bunches of grapes and split peaches, candles, an hourglass, a severe clock and a singing parrot, all beneath oppressive swags of red velvet.