Bedsteads

Bed-chambers and their most important articles of furniture have been repeatedly painted and represented in reliefs (figs. 3—5 and 35—43). The Birth of the Virgin, St. John the Baptist, the Annunciation, the Mira-

v. , Healing and Ecstatic Dreams required such a setting. By means of such depictions we know exactly everything concerning the renaissance beds, although but few of this period have come down to us. In palaces and the homes of well-to-do citizens bedsteads of the XVth century were built rather high from the ground; \y the legs were invisible because two chests were placed close together at either side and sometimes one at thei foot, forming steps to make getting into bed easier,

19. Venice after 1500. Chest with Velvet Mountings

Arts and Crafts Museum, Leipzig

19. Venice after 1500. Chest with Velvet Mountings

Arts and Crafts Museum, Leipzig and at the same time serving as sitting accomodation They were always shaped like simple boxes with flat profiles, but where money was no object to their owners, they were ornamented with intarsia work and sometimes even with paintings2). In the XVth century some bedsteads had long boxes of almost the same size, called carriola or lettucino under the bed, which could easily be drawn out at the foot and may have served as sofas by day3). As a rule the bedstead projected far into the room, the head being placed against the wall; sometimes the whole length was set against the wall or it occupied a niche4). So common were chest steps that

  1. Examples in Palazzo Davanzati (fig. 59) and in the Villa Palmieri near Florence (Illustr. in Hunter's Work, Plate 4).
  2. In inventories painted bedsteads are often mentioned, there is one in the Ospedale del Ceppo in Pistoia (fig. 273).
  3. Vide: "L'Arte e la Casa" in Rassegna d'Arte antica e moderna VII (1920) p. 53, in which a lettucino on a fresco in Fossombrone is reproduced. Bandello mentions this lettucino in his 5 th ancl 40 th tales, saying that such were in use in Tuscany. It also appears in an inventory of Bianca Maria Sforza's dowry and is mentioned in an inventory of Count di Challant in Val d'Aosta. The lying-in bed and cradle must not be confused with the carriola (fig. 278).
  4. This may be seen on a picture of a confinement by Carpaccio in the Academia Carrara, Bergamo; and on the painted wooden alcove by Frederigo da Montefeltro in the palace of Urbino (vide Schubring, p. 340 No. 500) where the lower part seems to be marble and the upper part painted in with trees.

even Piero della Francesca depicted them on his fresco in Arezzo, representing Constan tine's bed in his war tent.

They were even to be found in the homes of the poorer class, although the bedstead may have consisted of nothing but a broad plank placed on two wooden trestlesl).

The head of the bed (superiore) was from the earliest times always higher than the foot (postergale) and in the course of its development more and more resembled the back of the family state chair in size, articulation and ornamentation. In this way it became a thing for itself, while before it must have been like the surrounding chests (figs. 38,59). During the XVIth century the head-board was carved, the design being sometimes repeated on the foot but done more flatly, or a part of the superiore resolved itself into an arcade with gallery (fig. 275).

After 1500, bed-steps went out of fashion and as the sides were then exposed the feet were also carved with balusters. Sometimes in order to accentuate the corners they towered upwards like pillars and were crowned with pine cones (fig. 277). The banishing of the bed chests meant that the bed in losing its broadness now had a scaffold-like appearance. But the artist-craftsman then concentrated his attention to the decoration of the tester which now roofed the entire bedstead, this was either secured to its framework or depended from a broad ring secured to the ceiling2).

In the XVIth century the four-cornered framework was freely copied from marble tabernacles, with finely proportioned noble columns, entablatures and coffered testers. Here also it is crowned with carved figures8). We know that other types also existed, a simple framework entirely mounted in velvet or some other costly material, so that the wooden or metal parts were entirely hidden. Sometimes the bed curtains are adorned with beautiful embroidery designed by some famous artist4). Exactly in such bedsteads their appointments are of great interest. The large pillows at the head sometimes had their counterpart at the foot5). The bed linen was

*) A singular form of bed has been handed down to us in a fresco by Domenico di Bartolo in the Ospedale S. Maria della Scala in Siena. Here the bedsteads take the form of stretchers the sides being fixed into the high-low head and foot, so that the handles project

  1. See fig. 41, where both forms are shown. When the bedstead occupies nearly the whole length of the wall, as in Fra Angelico's predella picture of the Miraculous Healing by St. Cosmas and St Damian, in the Academy in Florence, a curtain depends from a cornice which is fastened to the opposite long wall of the room.
  2. The most beautiful bedstead of this kind is in Sodoma's fresco: The Marriage of Alexander and Roxane, in the Far-nese, Rome; Scarsellino's "Childbed" (fig. 42, 43) is also a remarkable example.
  3. Count Sormanni possesses some embroidery from a bed, supposed to have been designed by Pierino del Vaga; it was reproduced in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1876, and in the Rassegna d'Arte p. 52.
  4. Vide Rassegna d'Arte p. 52.

embroidered of one colour, either a bright one or with gold threads and ornamented with lace insertions. A costly coverlet was used during the day to hide the coloured woollen or silk bed-clothing. The repeated laws against excessive luxury seem to have borne little fruit. It must not be forgotten, that the bed, like the chest, formed part of the marriage dowry, and that ladies of high birth not alone received their guests in their bed-chambers, but also reclining, beautifully dressed, on their beds.

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