09 The Paston Treasure Reworked with Afro Hair products, Côte d’Ivoire prints, Granny’s patchwork, Jessye Norman, Leontyne Price and family luggage from their arrival to the UK

Fabric hangings are backdrop to table covered with numerous different objects; at left Brathwaite sits looking out of frame top left, with stuffed toy monkey on his right shoulder

The original oil painting was commissioned by either Sir Robert Paston or his father, Sir William Paston, in the early 1670s, and depicts a small selection of the Paston family's collected treasures.


Like the Still Life with Moor and Parrot, the original 'Paston Treasure' is another still life. Its presence in England testifies to the burgeoning ambitions of early modern English colonialism, rivalling the Netherlands by 1665.


This is a personal history. Peter has restaged the piece using items and memorabilia from his own family’s immigration to Britain. Peter’s grandmother’s patchwork quilt stands in for the sumptuous damask of the 17th century Netherlands, and his family’s luggage replaces the globe. The record by the opera singer Jessye Norman brings in Peter’s musical career.


In this image re-enactment moves to centre stage as Peter thinks through the ripple effects of Renaissance Europe and contemporary identity. Peter’s family story testifies to the long entanglements of early modern change. What is the legacy of such representation?

Original Work

Foreground shows table covered with numerous precious and exotic objects; at left a young Black man sits with white monkey on right shoulder, looking out of frame top left

Anonymous, 'The Paston Treasure', c.1665. Norfolk Museums Service.


Hear Peter Brathwaite tell us why he restaged the Paston Treasure:

Renaissance Skin · In Focus: The Paston Treasure 1

Hear Peter talking us through specific objects used to restage the Paston Treasure:

Renaissance Skin · In Focus: The Paston Treasure 2


Location D map

Strand Campus, Strand, London WC2R 2LS

Law Building, Somerset House, Strand
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