One of our exhibitions recreates a 17th century Cabinet of Curiosities, a gentleman’s collection of curios which would have been displayed in a purpose-built room for the benefit of family and friends. A collection like this became the foundation for the world famous Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England’s first public museum, opened in 1683.

Among the items on display is a tiny portrait of John Tradescant the Elder, painted in the mid 17th century and attributed to Emanuel de Critz, who enjoyed a prestigious career as Serjeant Painter to the King. The portrait is little more than a sketch, but is utterly charming.

John Tradescant was an important gardener and travelled the world collecting exotic horticultural specimens for his wealthy clients. As he did so, he assembled an enviable collection of curios, which was built upon by his son. This eventually fell into the hands of Elias Ashmole, who added it to his own collection and bequeathed it to the University of Oxford. The rest is history.

Visit us soon, enjoy our Cabinet of Curiosities and explore the rest of the museum, including our latest special exhibition: Sargent, His Sisters and Their Friends.

Photo credit: Ashmolean Musuem, University of Oxford.