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Work Bed from the Château d'Effiat
Department of Decorative Arts: 17th century
Bed and six armchairs
© 1988 RMN / Pierre et MauriceChuzeville
This canopy bed belongs to a set also comprising six fauteuils, which came from the Château d'Effiat near Aigueperre in the Puy de Dôme. Built in the early 17th century for Antoine Coëffier de Ruzé (1581-1632), Marquis d'Effiat, Marshal of France and father of the Marquis de Cinq-Mars, the château kept all its furniture up until 1856, the year it was auctioned off. The bed, which still has its original tapestry, is thus one of the rare surviving examples of 17th century bedchamber furnishings.
A bed à la française
The bed from Effiat is composed of four bedposts with square profiles holding up a canopy whose angles are adorned with finials, fabric vases and braids. When the curtains are drawn, it has the aspect of a cube entirely covered with Genoa velvet. The bed à la française, often represented in the engravings and paintings of Abraham Bosse, became widespread in the 17th century. Its bedposts may be simple, as in the case of the piece in the Louvre, or of turned wood, and the canopy decorated either with plumes or finials. There is another very similar model at the Château d'Amboise. The luxurious aspect of these beds was entirely a factor of the tapestry decoration.
The importance of beds in the 17th century
Beds were greatly prized pieces of furniture in the 17th century and as such described very precisely in inventories. Louis XIII had one covered with purple damask and adorned with large gold embroidery, Richelieu owned another with tapestry of white satin and gold embroidery and Mazarin possessed several. Beds accompanied their owners in their travels. They were taken apart and placed in leather trunks. Often monumental in size, they were set in a corner of the bedchamber. The space between the bed and the wall was called the 'ruelle' (narrow street). This was where private gatherings were held as it was customary to receive company at home while lying in bed.
The predominant role of fabrics and tapestry
The bed's fabric coverings were part of a larger set commonly known as "bedchamber" or "furnishing". What this meant was that the upholsterer supplied the tapestry not only for the bed but also for the generally matching seats (the Louvre owns six fauteuils that go with the Effiat bed), screens and firescreens. The textile decoration was very easily replaced according to the the owner's wishes or following the seasons. The polychromy was often composed of very vivid colors as in the case of the Effiat bed, which is covered with crimson red velvet, and all the tapestry elements were embellished with either braids, lace or embroidery. The Louvre bed has kept its original tapestry made of a ciselé Genoa silk velvet adorned with pineapple motifs alternating with appliquéd silver-embroidered silk. This ensemble is representative of the luxuriousness of the fabrics selected for the interiors of the 17th century. The role of the cabinetmaker was at that time secondary since the furniture's wood frames were hardly ever apparent. On the other hand, the responsibilities of the master upholsterers became then very important. They overseered the turning of the wood pieces, chose the fabrics and the trimmings for the tapestry and did the covering themselves. Finally, they took on the task of selling the furniture in their shops.
BibliographyPallot B., Le Mobilier du musée du Louvre, RMN, 1993, t. 2, p. 26-27.
France (mid-17th century)
Bed and six armchairs
Walnut, ciselé Genoa velvet, silk appliqué embroidery
H. 2.95 m; W. 1.92 m; D. 1.65 m
Provenance: Château dEffiat, Puy-de-Dôme; acquired by the Musée de Cluny at the auction of the châteaus furniture, 1856; loaned by the Musée National du Moyen Age-Thermes de Cluny
CL 2550, CL 2551, CL 2552, CL 2553, CL 2554, CL 2555, CL 2556
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