Notwithstanding their massiveness, these beds were sometimes carried from place to place. For example, a bed belonging to Richard III. was taken by him to the Blue Boar, Leicester, the night before the battle of Bosworth, in 1485. Richard was slain in this battle, and as the bed was unclaimed, the innkeeper held possession of it. A hundred years later a chambermaid while sweeping struck the bottom accidentally and some gold pieces fell out. The bottom, the headboard and the great swelling pillars were found to be hollow and full of money of the time of King Richard. Old beds are rare and are much prized by the museums that own them. The Louvre has a valuable Venetian bed of the Fifteenth Century, a handsome though heavy composition. It stands on lions' feet, has grooved columns, and a canopy bordered with a frieze of foliage. The carving is gilt and stands out boldly from a background of blue.
Pictures and prints give the best idea of the Italian furniture of this age. The beautiful bed and charming bedroom in Carpaccio's Dream of St. Ursula is a correct representation of a bedstead of the Fifteenth Century.
Peter Flotner copied a Venetian bed from a plate in the Dream of Polyphilus (Venice, 1499), and made the Venetian bed popular. This bed had slender balusters standing on lions' paws and supporting the canopy. This type of bed was much used in France during the Renaissance; but the baluster columns were soon supplanted by caryatides. In the famous example in the Cluny Museum, dating from the period of Francois I. and represented on Plate XL, the transition between the balusters and caryatides is very noticeable. The balusters at the foot are very much carved and those on each side of the headboard are antique figures, - a mixture of Du Cerceau and Burgundian carving.
The beds are in various styles, - some are rectangular, have a back, a dais supported by four balusters, and feet carved in the form of griffins, or chimaerae. Other examples are narrower at the feet than at the head, and are shaped like flat-bottomed boats. Three balusters, carved in the form of human figures, two at the head and one at the foot, usually uphold the dais.
The bed was superb in the Sixteenth Century. It consisted of four posts and a frame, four feet, a canopy, a headboard and curtains. It depended for its elegance very largely upon its magnificent hangings, though the woodwork was carved, and frequently gilded, painted, or inlaid.
In the time of Renaissance, we find the bedstead of supreme importance. It is carved in the richest fashion, and is often enriched with gilding and painting; it is also adorned with marquetry. The mattresses, bolsters and pillows are of down or feathers, the sheets and blankets of finest linen and wool, for which Flanders is famous; and the hangings are of silk, velvet, tapestry, serge, or gilded leather. The Renaissance bed is never allowed to stand in an alcove: it is far too handsome a piece of furniture for that. Its canopy, often richly carved, is rectangular and exactly the size of the bed, which is large; and it is no longer suspended by cords from the ceiling, but rests on carved or grooved columns. It is usually finished with a projecting cornice, variously ornamented, and to this cornice the curtains are attached. The old box bed was not extinct as is proved by our example on Plate LXXII. This beautiful Renaissance bed is owned by the Metropolitan Museum of New York.
In almost all cases, the frame of the bed was a perfect square resting on four carved ball feet, the frame handsomely carved. At each corner rose a pillar to support the canopy; the headboard was carved, and behind it hung a piece of tapestry or damask similar to that which lined the ciel, or canopy. Later in the century, the columns were frequently enveloped in the same material as the hangings, which became so important that the sculptor and joiner gave place to the upholsterer and embroiderer. The beds were so high, or built so high with mattresses, that it was impossible to get into them without the aid of bed-steps.
Plate LXXV - Eighteenth Century American Bedstead Metropolitan Museum
In the second half of the Sixteenth Century the slender columns that supported the canopy were supplanted by posts of massive carving. Sometimes these posts are gaine-shaped figures. Caryatides often appear as columns; and sometimes slender pillars cut in the form of balusters, lances or distaffs. Some of these are grooved and some of these are more or less decorated with carving.
The bed of the Princess Palatine Susanna, preserved in the Museum at Munich, and dated 1530, is of the slender type (see Plate X.).
The camp-bed, or folding-bed, that appears so often in the early inventories, was often a four-poster and a very handsome piece of furniture. We hear of a bed in 1550 "in the form of a camp-bed, painted in gold and blue - the canopy, headboard, curtains, coverings, base and four pillars of scarlet red, the lining of the canopy, crimson velvet, and the fringes of red silk and gold thread "; also a camp-bed, "the canopy and hangings of green velvet, bearing the arms of the owner and trimmed with fringe of green silk and gold"; also a "bed in the form of a camp-bed, with great gilded pillars supporting a canopy which was covered like the headboard with cloth-of-gold and crimson velvet." The coverings were the same, lined with red taffeta and three curtains of crimson damask.
The magnificent beds in the Palace in Nancy in 1544 included one of cloth of gold and silver; another of white damask, with patterns of gold thread, silver thread and blue silk; another of violet velvet with silver fringe; another of black velvet; another of black velvet and crimson satin; another of black velvet, yellow velvet and crimson satin; another of yellow satin with lilies in cloth of silver; another of crimson satin and cloth of gold; another of cloth of gold, blue satin and cloth of silver; another of gold damask, crimson satin and cloth of silver.