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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Paston, Norfolk (†Norwich) C.14/15

The Three Living & The Three Dead

Three Living & Three Dead, Paston

The figure in the bi-coloured garment with horizontal stripes at the far right may be an attendant on the others (as at Wickhampton) – he might be holding leashes once attached to dogs, again as at Wickhampton, but the clearest figure here is the one next to him, with his long curled hair, pointed beard and left hand placed nonchalantly on hip. It looks, from his upraised right hand, as though the smaller ‘attendant’ figure has seen the Three Dead (they are now effectively gone), but this man, looking at us, seems quite unaware of them. What remains of the third figure, to the left beyond the metal tie-bar supporting the roof, suggests that he is stretching out his right hand to alert his companion. On his left hand a hawk perches. There are some faint patches of pigment beyond, especially at the left hand edge; these may have been a third figure, or, perhaps more likely, the first of the Three Dead.

It is a good-quality, spirited painting, capturing the idea of suddenly-arrested movement, and it is a pity that there is so little left of it.

Paston was of course the home of the famous Paston family, of Paston Letters fame; a 14th century Paston might have commissioned the painting, but there is no record of this so far as I know. The fine 15th century St Christopher at Paston is now also on the site, and these are the only two paintings now visible. But it is known that other paintings, perhaps many of them, are still under the plaster, and now that the costly rethatching of the church roof is complete, the rector and parishioners hope to raise sufficient funds to uncover them.

† in page heading = Diocese