Beds, 13th to 16th Centuries


A 13th century bed. The turned posts and turned spindles are characteristic features of Romanesque furniture. Note the large through-tenons projecting through the posts.

It is not clear if this is a slat bed, or a rope bed.

 Psalter of Sens, Paris, 1220-1240. Philadelphia Free Library, Lewis Ms. E. 85, fol. 5.

From: L'Enluminure à l'Époque Gothique, Francois Avril, Bibliotheque de l'Image, Editions Famot 1979, p.15.


Another 13th century bed, from a Spanish MS. Very heavy turned posts. The through-tenons in this example are fixed with external wedges.

Once again, it is impossible to tell whether this was a rope bed or a slat bed. Artistic depictions of beds almost always focus on the fabric coverings, rather than the underlying structure.

Cantigas of Alphonso the Wise, El Escorial Library, Spain. Cantiga CXXVI. 

From: A History of World Furniture, Luis Feduchi; Editorial Blume, Barcelona 1975. fig. 112.




(No 14th century examples yet - searching for one that isn't covered by fabric!)



A simple bed from the 1430's (Hours of Catherine of Cleves).

Only the headboard is visible. It is decorated with recessed Gothic arched panels, probably carved into the solid rather than separately framed. The headposts are turned.

 This is most likely a slat-bed, but it is impossible to be sure.

  The Hours of Catherine of Cleves; reproduced from the illuminated manuscript belonging to the Guennol Collection and the Pierpont Morgan Library, introduction and commentaries by John Plummer, pub. George Braziller, New York.

  Folio 79. The Dying Adam Dispatching Seth to Paradise.



Another bed from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves (1430s). The headboard on this one appears to be framed, with rectangular posts  and a horizontal rail. The chair also shows evidence of frame-and-panel construction.



 Folio 41. Deathbed Scene.








A German bed of the 1470s. Rectangular posts with simple carved finials; large headboard and footboard; very deep side-rails. Probably a slat bed. The deep box would accomodate a very thick mattress, probably straw ticking with perhaps a feather bed on top.

This is almost certainly a "box-bed," with boards laid on ledges inside the side-rails to close off the bottom.

South German manuscript of 1475. Wien, Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Hs. 3085, fol. 40r.

From: Alltag im Spät-Mittelalter, Harry Kühnel, Verlag Styria (Edition Kaleidoskop), 1984. Abb. 160.



Another mid-15th century German (Tyrolean) bed. Construction similar to the preceding illustration, but fancier. Cut-out in the side for comfortable sitting.


 Innsbruck, Tiroler Volkskundenmuseum, Inv. Nr. 5508.

Photo from: Möbel Europas 1: Romanik-Gotik, Franz Windisch-Graetz. Klinkhardt & Biermann, Munchen 1982. Fig. 304







An extremely fancy early 16th century "Kastenbett" (chest-bed) from South Tyrol. The pierced acanthus-leaf tracery carving is characteristically Tirolean. Construction is similar to preceding examples, with the posts extended to support the elegant low-arched canopy.


 Burg Kreuzenstein bei Wien.

Photo from: Möbel Europas 1: Romanik-Gotik, Franz Windisch-Graetz. Klinkhardt & Biermann, Munchen 1982. Fig. 303








A French "tester" bed, probably late 15th century. The carved valence would have supported curtains to enclose the bed. Frame-and-panel joinery, with linenfold panels around the base, "parchemin" (simple linenfold) panels at the head, and late-Gothic tracery on the valence.


(Chateau Rochlambert)

 Photo from: Mobilier Moyen-Age Renaissance, Monica Burckhardt, pub. CH. Massin, Paris.







Another late 15th or early 16th century French bed, similar to the previous example, showing the (reconstructed) curtains. Linenfold panelling throughout.

Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris.

 Photo by author.










This extremely grand bed was made for Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby; most likely the second Earl, between 1500-1521. (Grandson of that same Stanley who picked up the crown at Bosworth and gave it to Henry Tudor.) The entire bed is intricately carved with late-Gothic tracery and floral designs, and griffin finials on the posts.

Unlike previous examples, this one may have been a rope bed. This photo shows the bed as it appeared before a reconstruction; the footboard may not be original, and there were probably valence-boards running front to back.


Photo from Oak Furniture, The British Tradition, Victor Chinnery. Pub. Antique Collectors Club, 1979. Fig. 3:454.


More photos of this bed can be seen here.