Sleeping beauties

Carolyn Kelly Furniture & Decorative Arts

Bed by Herter Brothers, New York, c. 1870. Courtesy of Bonhams New York.

Beds recently offered at auction and antiques shows demonstrate a rich area of the decorative arts in which provenance and personal history is key. At the Bonhams New York sale of American furniture this past February, the top lot was a rare Herter Brothers bedstead that was made around 1872 for the master bedroom of Milton Slocum Latham’s Thurlow Lodge in Menlo Park, California. In 1942 the bed was sold to Warner Bros. Studios for use as a prop. A record-setting price of $326,000 was paid for the bed, which was purchased by Max and Judy Foote, well-known Louisiana collectors.

Bed attibuted to Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Paris, c. 1772. Courtesy of Pelham Galleries.

Just last week, an article on the Maastricht fine art fair (TEFAF) featured the bed of Marie-Madeleine Guimard, the renowned 18th-century ballet dancer, which was offered by the London and Paris based Pelham Galleries for $1.6 million. Designed in gilded neoclassical splendor by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, the bed was reportedly made for the house Guimard commissioned from Ledoux in 1770 in the form of a Roman temple. The bed’s elaborately carved frame not only depicts the muse of dance Terpsichore, but also Cupid, an allusion to Guimard’s reputation as a famous courtesan.

Bed attributed to Giles Grendey, London, c. 1740. Photograph of the bed in situ at Brympton d’Evercy, c. 1905. Images courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd., 2009.

New to the market is a rare 18th-century mahogany and damask silk four-poster bed with an estimate of $200,000-300,000 that will be sold at Christie’s New York on April 7 as part of the collection of Professor and Mrs. Clifford Ambrose Truesdell. Featuring the Fane family crest, plumed finials, and a foliate carved headboard with crimson damask upholstery, the bed was almost certainly made for Francis Fane, brother of the 8th Earl of Westmoreland, for Brympton d’Evercy in Somerset, England. Fane acquired the country estate in 1731 (it was originally built in 1220) and renovated the interiors.  This state bed, which has been attributed to the workshop of Giles Grendey, was part of the renovation and remained in the family at Brympton d’Evercy until 1956, when it was sold at auction along with other objects from the house. The Truesdells purchased it in 1964 from the dealers H.W. Keil Ltd. in Worcestershire.