The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in a Museum

Great Bed of Ware

Bed of Ware

The Great Bed of Ware is an extremely large oak four poster bed, carved with marquetry, that was originally housed in the White Hart Inn in Ware, England. Built in 1580, it was probably made to attract customers for an inn in Ware, Hertfordshire, it is twice the size of a modern double bed. Ware was a day’s journey from London and a convenient place to stop for the night for travellers. The bed was publicised as having the capacity to sleep 12 people.

Many of those who have used the bed have carved their names into its posts or applied red wax seals. Twenty instances of graffiti are still visible on the bedposts and headboard today. The Great Bed has been referenced many times in literature from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (circa 1601) to Charles Dickens’ The Holly Tree.

The bed is carved with patterns derived from European Renaissance ornament. Originally it would have been brightly painted, and traces of these colours can still be seen. The design of the marquetry panels is derived from the work of a Dutch artist and the panels were made by English craftsmen in the late Elizabethan period. The bed-hangings are modern re-creations to match the period of the piece.

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                   Great Bed of Ware,
  • Artist:                  Carpenter- Jonas Fosbrooke; Marquetry – Hans Vredeman de Vries
  • Year:                   1590-1600
  • Place Created:   Ware, England.
  • Material:           Oak, carved and originally painted, with panels of marquetry
  • Dimensions       Height 267 cm, Width 326 cm, Depth 338 cm
  • Weight:               640 kg
  • Museum:           Victoria and Albert Museum

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“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Michelangelo

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Photo Credit: By The original uploader was VAwebteam at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons