Bling Bling Bed

Canopy bed, first half 17th century,
oak, 210 x 198.5 x 145.5 cm,
Collection of Rijksmuseum Muiderslot, Muiden, C1913-224.

There are two 17th-century canopy beds in Muiderslot castle. They are called ‘coach beds’ (beddenkoets) in Dutch but clearly they cannot drive anywhere! In this case, ‘koets’ is derived from the French word coucher, to sleep. In other words, a bed for sleeping. We should mention that these beds had another function, too. You could show them off to impress people with your wealth and importance. Beds stood in the living room, quite literally the rooms in which people lived inside the castle. These were usually smaller spaces that were easily heated. This bed is in P.C. Hooft’s bedroom in the East Tower. These canopy beds were the most expensive pieces of furniture in the residence, made from costly oakwood. Since all of the oak forests had already been cut down in the Netherlands in the 17th century, this wood had to be important from the German empire or Scandinavia. Decorative wood carvings of entwined leaves, lush flowers, animals and human heads made the bed even more beautiful. The sleeping area was screened off with rich fabrics to impress visitors even more. Such curtains kept out the cold as well as curious looks. We wonder how comfortable these beds really were. On a straw mattress lay a feather mattress with pillows. People slept semi-reclined, wearing a nightcap to keep their head warm and the fleas out.

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Canopy bed