SUPPORTING INFORMATION : LIFE IN TUDOR AND STUART TIMES KS2
HOUSES AND HOMES
Carved chair 1695-1705
Embroidered hanging made by Mary Queen of Scots
Mirror frame 1660-1680
Throughout the 16th century and in many parts of the country even beyond 1600, particularly in rural areas or less fashionable country houses, inventories of household possessions tell us that many rooms in the house still contained beds. Some great houses had a 'best' bedchamber, indicating a room probably reserved for visitors, but a significant development of the 17th century was the emergence of a 'state' bedchamber: part of a sequence of rooms, for which an especially grand bed would be commissioned. The bedchamber would be preceded by at least one room for private reception by an important visitor, and followed by a small, inner room closer to the bedroom - the whole set of rooms making up an 'apartment', a term derived from the French, with whom the idea began.
Unlike today, beds were highly prized. They were the site of some of the most significant events and rituals of people's lives, often made to celebrate a marriage, a ceremony accompanied by the ritualistic but ribald ceremony of 'bedding' the newly-weds. Childbirth, too, was attended by celebrative ritual. Among the upper classes, witnesses at the birth were a necessary proof of legitimacy. At the close of life, to die with dignity and appropriate leave-taking in your own bed afforded a welcome degree of control over death. In the royal palaces, distinguished foreign visitors would be shown beds in which kings and queens had died.
The style and content of the decoration of beds was therefore of great significance. Their overall architectural form and decorative elements were taken from the repertoire of Flemish Mannerism. Their carving, inlay and colour combined to give them an exceptional richness and ritualistic significance. Originally richly painted (although only traces now remain), the Bed of Ware would also have been lavishly dressed with hangings. When closed, these created a room within the greater room, with the corners of the bed, half-concealed, half-revealed, forming the boundary between public and private worlds.
The foreposts of the Bed of Ware are virtuoso pieces of woodcarving from which decorated columns rise up to support the tester. At the other end, the corners of the headboard display satyrs: half-human, half-animal forms surmounting mask-like heads, indicating the potential for sexual pleasure and procreation. On the bedhead itself, one female and two male terminal figures frame panels of marquetry inlay with perspective scenes of fantastical architecture, derived from the prints of the Netherlandish printmaker, Hans Vredeman de Vries.
WALL AND CEILING DECORATION
The fitting out of a house began from practical concerns, but increasingly offered a choice of materials as the period progressed. Wall coverings were important for the exclusion of draughts. Panelling, in oak and usually painted throughout this period, developed from a piecemeal art of small panels attached to battens, the panels often being decorated with a pattern of folded cloth, later called 'linenfold'. From the later 16th century inlaid woods were more often employed and the arrangement of panelling became grander, devised architecturally with dado and cornice, perhaps also with pilasters in the main field, thus echoing the order of exterior architecture, especially for large rooms such as main drawing rooms (or saloons) and long galleries. In this new architectural scheme the fireplace became a focal point, with the generally lower fireplaces of early Tudor times giving way to larger, grander fire openings with overmantels, carrying heraldry or allegorical subjects, in carved wood or alabaster.
This embroidery is described as a carpet, but it was intended to lay on a table, a costly and highly decorative cover, rather than on the floor. Its pictorial border would hang down vertically from the table's edge. The carpet would be covered up or removed if the table was used. 'Foot carpets' occasionally appear in contemporary paintings, in which case they are intended to indicate the high social standing of the sitter who can afford to have such an object underfoot.
Bradford table carpet
This carpet was produced in a professional workshop, and the absence of heraldry suggests that it was made for sale on the open market rather than for a specific commission. The embroidery is exceptionally fine, with approximately 400 stitches to the square inch (62/sq.cm). The tension of the embroidery stitches has pulled the canvas from a rectangular into a parallelogram shape.
The design of the carpet has sometimes been described as depicting Man's progression from the wild state to civilisation. It can also be seen more simply as a celebration of country pursuits. There are scenes of hunting, fishing, and shooting, as well as the rural occupations of shepherd, milkmaid and miller, with watermill and windmill. Rural scenes were very popular in embroidered furnishings in the later 16th and early 17th century.