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Enquiry from Online Galleries regarding "A massive, 19th century, State Bed re-upholstered in a blue, silk damask brocaded with gold thread rewoven by Rubelli from their archive material. The original gold braidwork re-applied throughout. Reputedly from the collection of Sir Charles Lawes Wittewrong, Rothamsted Park"
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A massive, 19th century, State Bed re-upholstered in a blue, silk damask brocaded with gold thread rewoven by Rubelli from their archive material. The original gold braidwork re-applied throughout. Reputedly from the collection of Sir Charles Lawes Wittewrong, Rothamsted Park
1800 to 1910 English
Offered by Lucy Johnson
The Venetian, silk damask hangings are in the most prized and expensive colour of the late-17th century, ‘blue’, brocaded with gold thread. Until the invention of Prussian Blue in the first decade of the 18th Century, a very good fast blue dye could only be made from lapis lazuli, which was extremely expensive and consequently very few State beds are known to have been upholstered in blue. The colour of the silk changes with the intensity of light and appears peacock green in very little light similar to the image below. I can provide a sample of the silk to illustrate this.
The oak and pine frame are typically upholstered entirely in silk damask. The cornice is surmounted with removable, finials decorated with gold braid. The cornice has characteristic, bold, architectural mouldings which are trimmed with gold braid to accentuate the form. The full length, deep pelmet is also decorated with gold braid to highlight the shape. The canted shape of the canopy inside the damask tester is accentuated by gold braid.
There is a single curtain at the back behind the headboard, and a pair of full length curtains beside which will be trimmed with fringe. The shaped headboard is accentuated by gold braid scroll decoration. There are another pair of full length curtains either side of the turned columns at the front of the bed which will be trimmed with fringe. The columns are decorated with gold braid wrapped around them. The box spring mattress is covered with a silk damask bedspread with a central, gold Fortuny panel. The side rails are fully upholstered in silk damask and a shaped silk damask skirting attaches to this. Unusually, the bed stands on period bun feet which are removable.
The entire structure exactly corresponds with the fashion of the end of the 17th century. It is very hard to date these beds accurately as the timber is protected by the covering and does not oxidize so it is easier to date by the number of times it has been re-upholstered. This state bed was previously upholstered in a crimson, silk damask which had deteriorated completely, a process that would generally take 100 years and when removed the frame bore minute fragments of a blue silk damask which is why I have re-upholstered in this colour.
The accounts of the upholsterers employed by the Crown contain several allusions to "French four poster beds" at this time, and the description probably indicates that, if not actually imported, their design was based on contemporary French models. The names of several contemporary craftsmen who supplied furniture to the Royal palaces and great houses indicate their origin. The upholsterer Francis Lapierre, for example, in 1697 provided the State Bedroom at Chatsworth with a bed at a cost of £470.
RELATED TO : There are 3 known surviving beds with blue upholstery. The blue damask bed from Hampton Court, Leominster, which is based upon a design by Daniel Marot. This bed was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (on display in Gallery 511) by Mr. and Mrs. William Randolph Hearst Jr., 1968 : Accession Number: 68.217.1a. It has recently been re-upholstered in a specially woven silk damask, see below.
Interestingly, the pattern of the damask is identical with that of a Canopy of State in the First Presence Chamber at Hampton Court Palace for which a large quantity of this damask, in crimson, was supplied at 24s. per yard in 1700. There were, until recently, four poster beds of this type in the Bohemian Chamber at Combe Abbey, and in the Green Velvet Chamber at Stoke Edith.
The Blue Room at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, with the Morocco leather covered nailed trunk c.1660-1720 at the foot of the bed. This type of trunk is particularly associated with offices of state and has royal crowns on the hasps. The bed hangings incorporate the original seventeenth century embroidery remounted on later blue damask in 1852. The tapestries are Brussels, sixteenth century and depict gods and planets. NTPL Ref. No.166649
• 4 silk upholstered finials with original gold trimming
• Silk upholstered tester frame with original gold braid trimming with holes for poles to locate into
• 4 tester poles with original gold braid trimming
• Full length silk pelmet with original gold braid trimming
• 2 brass curtain rails detached
• Silk curtain over headboard
• Silk upholstered headboard with original gold braid trimming
• 4 silk curtains – to be trimmed in fringe (see below)
• Rubellin silk bedspread with Fortuny gold silk damask central panel
• Box spring support for mattress. Mattress is required.
• 3 upholstered siderails
• 3 sections of shaped skirting which apply to siderails
The bed is easy to assemble. The side rails have mortices which slot into tennons and are bolted. The silk tester frame has a hole in each corner for the poles to locate into. The curtains hook onto the brass rails fixed into the pelmet. The bedspread fits over the top.
Two years after his execution, Charles 1’s bed of ‘green embroidered satin’ was valued at £1,000, more than three times the sum attached to the King’s collection of Raphael cartoons. A century later London furniture makers Fell & Newton charged the 5th Earl of Exeter the enormous sum of £3,000 for supplying a State bed for the Second George Room at Burghley. No one who has ever marvelled at the State bed of 1688 in the Venetian Ambassador’s Room at Knole, with its hangings of Genoa velvet coloured can doubt the significance once possessed by certain beds. The diarist William Farington viewing the State Bedchamber at Norfolk House in the 1750’s admired the cockatoo-patterned bedhangings embroidered by Mary Blount a celebrated needlewoman and wife of the 9th Duke of Norfolk : ‘ I am sure I remember it begun near twenty years since, and it is just now finish’d, neither Baptiste or Honduotre (Hondecoeter) could paint finer Birds or Flowers than you will find in this work..’
Such beds created by the finest craftsmen using lavish materials, once provided the focal point of those State bedrooms that represented the inner sanctum and culmination of the sequence of formal State Rooms that were once a feature of royal palaces and the grandest country houses. John Evelyn congratulated himself on gaining admittance to Charles II’s bedchamber: that coveted entrée was a sign of rare intimacy. The room’s off-limits quality was signalled by the King’s use of his bedroom as an impromptu supper room when he wished to avoid company. Even in a public age, the bedroom offered a degree of privacy. This exclusivity, connected to notions of status, found expression in the design and manufacture of the bed itself and accounts for Lord Exeter’s huge bill in 1795 and the invoice for £1,219 3s 11d presented to Sir Robert Walpole in 1732 for trimmings supplied for the famous shell-emblazoned State bed in the Green Velvet Bedchamber at Houghton. It represented a significant expenditure for a piece of furniture destined to be used only seldom and in some cases never at all.
In 1793 William Parratt described his wife’s recent foray into interior decoration: ‘ The best, or …State Bedchamber, is furnished in a manner that has half undone me. The hangings are white satin, with French flowers and artificial moths stuck upon it with gum and interspersed with ten thousand spangles, beads and shells.’
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