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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1520 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved oak

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, case 2

Object Type
Beds of this period - except for the most humble examples - usually had curtains and a tester, a form of roof supported by four posts. The more lavish the textiles, the grander the bed. Most of the woodwork was plain and functional but the front posts, which were visible, were sometimes lavishly carved.

This bed post is a very important early example of the use of classical motifs in England, at a time when the Gothic style still dominated in furniture and architecture. The profile medallion heads, candelabra motifs and drops of fruit all indicate the new interest in classical decoration.

From about 1500, as conditions became more stable, rich households moved less from one property to another than they had done in the Middle Ages. This bed was probably intended to stay up in one house, rather than be moved on a regular basis. It is unlikely to be a travelling bed since there are no holes for the bolt or large peg at the base that kept the bed stable once it had been reassembled.

The blending of classical and Gothic would have been considered the height of fashion, almost verging on the avant garde, in about 1520. It is therefore likely that the bed would have been owned by a courtier, senior cleric or rich merchant.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1520 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved oak


Height: 184.5 cm, Width: 9.5 cm, Depth: 10 cm

Object history note

Made in England.

Bed posts purchased from Basil Dighton for £60

Notes from R.P. 20/311

15/1/20 Minute sheet, H Clifford Smith to Brackett
reports that Dighton bought the pair of Henry VIII bedposts from a dealer in Norwich and offers them to the museum at cost. Dighton referred to them as "remarkable" and Smith finds them "interesting and important examples of Early English Renaissance decoration with arabesques and medallion heads combined with details of Gothic ornament".

19/1/20 Brackett Minute sheet
recommends purchase of these "rare and distinguished carvings…unlike anything we possess".

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

Cescinsky, Herbert and Ernest Gribble, Early English Furniture and Woodwork. II vols. London: Waverley Books, 1922, vol. I, p. 357, fig. 389

Labels and date

British Galleries:
The carver of this bed post has created crude, flat, classical ornament, similar to candelabra and profile heads, but has not succeeded in making a successful version of a classical pier. The base is still decorated with the traditional Gothic form of tracery rather than the fashionable classical mouldings. [27/03/2003]


Furniture; British Galleries


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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