Oh, I get away from my friends' list for a little bit (*cough*sixmonths*cough*), and I find out everyone's been sloping off to Dreamwidth or WordPress. No worries - I'm staying here, not least because it's easier than updating my woefully in need of new stuff web site.
(Lazy? Me? Oh, you have no idea.)
I've been actually researching some interesting stuff for a post that will eventually become a part of the web site, and it's been occupying my mind a bit, hence the rather thin level of posting lately. Don't worry, I'm getting back to the big thick meaty posts you all know and love (or tl;dr*).
But research begets other research, as they say (or don't). I was looking through a book (English Domestic Needlework 1660-1860, by Therle Hughes - it says 1660, but includes a number of late 16th/early 17th century pieces) for a reference or two, and I started reading the section on bed furnishings.
Now, as long-time readers of my blog know, one of the things I'm working on is a nice tent presentation for Pennsic. Sure, it's only once a year (if that - we'll be going this year), but it's great fun to have a tent that incorporates the Elizabethan life, since it is one of the few times I get to "furnish" in the Elizabethan manner.
Our tent is modern in construction (steel frame) for easy assembly (since I'm incapable of doing much to help), but we've done a lot to make it more suitable, from painting the outside:
(Based on an engraving of Dudley's tent in Ireland)
...To lining the inside:
...and putting up interior drapes to screen the storage area. Bob made a really nice camp bed (he wants to make a newer one), and I painted a floor cloth, we have tables and such, and it's always a work in progress.
But back to the bed - my camp project for this year is to get the bed looking more Elizabethan. The embroidered coverlet isn't happening (it's on hold while I do the jacket), but I want to move from sleeping bags covered with a comforter to a proper-looking (and luxurious) bed. I'm slowly buying things like wool blankets, I keep an eye out on white sales and places like HomeGoods for hemstitched white sheets (linen sheets are not yet on my list, and I'm willing to substitute, as long as it looks right - and has a high thread count!), I'm looking for a suitable bolster (the under-pillow), and even though it uses an air mattress, we took the memory foam topper from our bed last year and it was soooooooooft.
A suitable coverlet is next on my list, aaaand... back to the Therle Hughes book. She talks about bedding, and not only for the permanent beds in fine homes, but also "field beds", beds that were taken on campaign by aristocrats (like, say, Dudley in Ireland). These beds were not just a mattress on the floor, but entire beds, designed to travel, and complete with hangings and curtains. There are multiple mentions of them in wills and other places as sparver beds (source: An Inventory of the Plate, Household Stuff, Pictures, etc, In Kenilworth Castle, Taken after the Death of Robert Earl of Leycester, 1588), and they appear to be canopy beds, with the hangings often supsended from the roof of the tent (or bedchamber) by chains or ropes.
Frustratingly, even though they're talked about all over the place, pictures are not to be found of Elizabethan ones**, at least on a quick search of the intarwebs. There are a lot of canopy beds that are built and draped on a frame, but I want one that is suspended (kind of like a mombasa net, or maybe this one).
Medieval pictures (and reproductions of medieval pictures) abound of suspended canopy beds, but I want to see what they evolved into by the late Tudor period, as interior design was no more static than dress design. Medieval beds are elegant, I grant you:
(This is a 19th century drawing of a medieval interior, just for comparison.) Both pictures show a suspended canopy, and I'm sure the materials are very fine, but the descriptions of the Elizabethan beds are so over the top:
"A sparver bedsted of walnuttree, witha sparver of crimson rased [figured] velvet and crimson tynsell [woven with gold/silver threads] sattin, striped, paned together [sewn in alternating panels], fringed with goulde and silk. Three curteines of taffata crimson. A counterpointe [counterpane, or coverlet] of crimson sattin, quilted and fringed rounde with goulde, containing six breaths of sattin, and iij yards long [six widths of the woven satin, usually about 32-42 inches or so wide from selvage to selvage, and 3 yards in length]."
- from An Inventory of the Plate, Household Stuff, Pictures, etc, In Kenilworth Castle, Taken after the Death of Robert Earl of Leycester, 1588
(This 19th Century bed canopy is somewhat like what I had in mind, but with either a bigger circle brace or a square brace.)
(This modern canopy bed is hilarious, and I want one.)
I'm sure I can locate pictures eventually (hell, I have a huge library of my own to look through), and I'm now dreaming of a fine, fine bed that looks like a million bucks.
(But doesn't cost that, obvs. For those with a million bucks, there are people who will make that sort of thing for you.)
Soft furnishings are one of the simplest ways to bring out the Elizabethan look; they're portable, easy to make (at the simplest level), and they make everything much more comfortable.
And hell, what's another research project added to the list? It's not like I'm busy or anything.
*"Too long; didn't read", for those who do not know. Also known in "the biz" as a "Teal Deer".
**I have a picture of the Van der Weyden bed. It's a little bit helpful, but I want a picture of a really rich bed, like the ones described. After all, who wouldn't want this bed?