I visit museums every chance I get and never fail to come away with ideas. During my California RWA trip I made it to both Getty Museums–the Villa at Malibu devoted to classical antiquities and the Getty Center, which contains mostly European fine and decorative arts. Wow. I can’t imagine a more spectacular pair of locations. The latter in particular is the most amazing museum building (or rather complex of buildings) I’ve ever seen.
I took a ton of notes and photos but the single item that struck me the most on this trip is this Turkish style bed–Lit à la Turque– dating from the 1750s. It’s like a huge over-stuffed armchair, suitable for the world’s biggest Papa Bear. Here’s the curator’s description:
“Jean-Baptiste Tilliard made this unusually large bed for a bedroom in a grand private residence. The bed would have been placed sideways against a wall, with a draped baldachin, now missing, above. The large wheels allowed servants to pull out the body of the bed easily, leaving the tall back attached to the wall while they made it up. It was probably set into an alcove or niche in the bedroom wall.”
Mattress on wheels! Love it. You’ll see this in a book one of these days.
So I got to thinking about beds, an item of furniture much used in romances (ahem.) Back in the dawn of history, people crashed on piles of rushes or animal skins. They soon discovered that it was warmer and drier to sleep raised from the floor, thus the bed was invented.
Not until the Renaissance did beds become truly magnificent. And even then I suspect the mattresses weren’t as comfortable as we would wish. No Posturepedics for our couples. But boy did those beds look good. I took a little jaunt through the Victoria and Albert Museum website in search of beds worth of a ducal hero.
The Great Bed of Ware is ten feet wide (Super King size? Emperor size?) and built around 1590 for an inn in Ware, Hertfordshire. It made an appearance in one of Loretta Chase’s books.
This one dates from about 1700, made for the Earl of Melville for the state apartments at Melville House in Fife, Scotland. It has the original hangings of Genoa velvet backed with ivory Chinese silk damask linings embroidered with crimson silk trimmings.
Such “state” beds were often made for the visit of a monarch. Visiting Castle Howard in Yorkshire (which has the giant bed which Laurence Olivier occupied in Brideshead Revisited), the guide told of a young family member who was allowed to sleep in the state bed and left his sneakers behind. The visitors next day found the shoes more entertaining than anything on the tour.
My last V and A illustration is a 17th century Chinese bed. It looks awfully spindly. Even if it had a mattress and hangings I’d be afraid to set an energetic love scene in this. Better the giant puffy armchair.
What’s your ideal setting for a love scene? Does it have to be a bed? If so, what kind?