Four-Post Antique Beds - Furniture


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In the early 18thC, up to about 1730, the grandest beds Were the immensely tall and richly upholstered four-post and half-tester type introduced from the European mainland, a few off which have survived in stately homes. From around 1730, these went out of fashion, and the standard bed in households of substance was the four-poster. The richer the owner, the more lavish their decoration and hangings. Many 18thC bed posts were later made into standard lamps and plant and candle stands. 

1700-1750: Full height paneled headboard with minimal carving. Sometimes a show-wood foot rail. Paneled tester gradually replaced by inner fabric covering or drapes. Generally a shallow frieze carved with classical ornament below straight cornice, often surmounted by bold gadrooning. High (sometimes 8-ft) posts divided into three sections a column (often fluted) above a vase (popularly with acanthus carving) above initially a square foot, later, a cabriole leg with lion's paw or claw-and-ball feet. 

1750-1760: Gradual reduction in antique bed height. Fashion for Gothic, rococo and chinoiserie de signs brought elaborate giIded carving for headboard and cornice. Low, shaped headboard (separate from posts) backed by and sometimes covered in drapery. Fabric tester with shaped, usually serpentine, cornice, often elaborately scrolled. Frieze frequently absent. A popular design for posts was Gothic cluster columns above acanthus-carved vase and cabriole feet. 

1760-1800: Generally no headboard on beds, only drapery. Cornices simpler, but often still serpentine, or arched with corner vase finials. Shallow carved frieze. Domed canopies fashionable. Popularly fluted posts, generally more slender and tapering, above vases Or urns on square feet. All parts painted or carted with neo-classical motifs such as anthemions, husks, paterae, or ribbons and garlands ofrtowers. 

Posts generally form continuous uprights from floor to cornice, with bed rails tenoned into them; sometimes secured by metal bolts rather than pegs, the holes concealed where necessary by decorative rosettes or suchlike. Bedding still mostly supported on ropes; wooden slats, running from side to side, were introduced around 1750. 

Relative value? Plain mahogany relatively cheap in four figures; up to five figures for later, painted and I satinwood beds.





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