Music professor identifies piece of music in 17th-century painting

Posted on 26 June 2018

York's Jonathan Wainwright has identified a piece of rare music by composer Robert Ramsey.

Professor Jonathan Wainwright, a professor of music at the University of York, has been studying an enlargement of a piece of music depicted in a painting known as 'The Paston Treasure' (circa 1663). The piece of music, held by the pale little girl, was so accurate that scholars, led by Jonathan, have been able to identify it as a piece of seventeenth century music by the little known composer Robert Ramsey (c. 1595–1644).

The piece is called 'Charon, O Charon, heare a wretch opprest' and only one known manuscript of it known to exist is in the collection of Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford where it has been since 1937. The first recording of the song, commissioned by the Norwich Castle museum from the Royal College of Music, will be played during an exhibition, which opens on June 23 and will be held at Norwich Castle, The Paston Treasure: Riches and Rarities of the Known World.  

Professor Jonathan along with Professor of Music at the University of Southhampton, Jeanice Brooks, has written a chapter for the exhibition catalouge entitled 'Musical Dialogues in the Paston Treasure'. 

Read Framed in mystery: painting tells story of doomed Norfolk family in the Guardian. 

Brooks, J. & Wainwright, J. P. Feb 2018 The Paston Treasure: Microcosm of the Known World. Moore, A., Flis, N. & Vanke, F. (eds.). New Haven CT & London: Yale University Pressp. 162–172, 332-3,, 444, & 553–9 13, Appendix 3, & Catalogue entries 63 & 140

The Paston Treasure: Microcosm of the Known World will also be available in the University Library