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Scene in a Bedchamber

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    France (Possibly)

  • Date:

    ca. 1690

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on canvas

  • Museum number:

    P.25-1976

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case WS

This painting appears to show the interior of a French bedchamber at the end of the 17th century. The identification of the painting remains however unclear as this type of furniture was widespread in Europe. The sentiment of narrative innuendo comes from the confusion which reigns in the scene from knocked over pieces of furniture to the abandoned slippers carried away by a little dog.

Physical description

Bedroom interior with red furniture, including a four-poster bed with curtains drawn together; a figure looking through the open door inside a large bedroom; and a small black dog carrying away a red slipper in its mouth. On the left hand-side is a dressing-table with two chairs, one of which knocked over, while cards have spilled from the table. Above the table hangs a large mirror and a portrait, all the walls are covered with tapestries, one of which is is peeling off the wall.

Place of Origin

France (Possibly)

Date

ca. 1690

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

oil on canvas

Dimensions

Height: 47.5 cm estimate, Width: 72 cm estimate, Height: 548 mm wood frame, Width: 798 mm wood frame, Depth: 40 mm wood frame

Object history note

Mrs S. Wolsey; on loan at the museum from 1970 and purchased April 1976.

Historical context note

Originally acquired as an anonymous English work, the identification of the painting remains unclear. P. Thornton published it as a French bedchamber datable c. 1690. The date is based on the tall backs of the chairs and the form of the feet. The floor is decorated in the new French fashion with parquet set diagonally within squares called parquet de Versailles. The bed appears characteristic of French shape with simple lines and the seat-furniture and table-carpet are en suite with the bed-hangings, all of red velvet with gold fringes. Through the door are shown a series of rooms en enfilade which was typical of French architecture but was later imitated in English country-houses and manors.

The difficulty in identifying this painting lies in the fact that the type of furniture, although from French origins, was widespread in Europe as well as the use of hanging tapestries on the wall during the cold season to insulate the room from draughts.

The knocked-over seat and the fact that the bed curtains are tantalisingly slightly ajar imply that some love affair is happening. Moreover the figure leaning against the door frame puts a finger on his lips hinting at secrecy, while the little dog, a traditional symbol of fidelity, is carrying away one of his mistress’ slippers. The tapestry’s corner peeling back above the door adds confusion to the scene, in both literal and figurative ways.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, A French bedchamber, ascribed to French school, c. 1690

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

P. Thornton, The domestic interior 1620-1920, London, 1984, cat. 75, pp. 68-69, illus.

Materials

Oil paint; Canvas

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Symbolic color; Allusion; Trees; Frames (furnishings); Disorder; Domestic; Playing cards; Flowers (plants); Mirrors; Furniture; Paintings; Bedrooms; Rooms; Chairs; Tables (support furniture); Wall-papers; Beds (furniture); Dogs (animals); Windows; Slippers; People

Categories

Images Online; Paintings; Furniture; Gender and Sexuality

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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