You might think that a bed is just somewhere to go to sleep at night, but they can be so much more – symbols of extravagance, aids for conception, and the site of protests. Many beds throughout history have been made famous and even more stories have been created for fictional resting places. Whether it’s the magical bed from Bedknobs and Broomsticks or one of the sites of John and Yoko’s bed-ins in Amsterdam and Montreal, there can often be an interesting story behind the site of a good night’s sleep.
Through Van Gogh’s troubled life, he painted many things which had personal significance to him; just one of these was his bed in the Bedroom of Arles series. He painted this same room and bed three times, as a kind of ritualistic calming act; the neatness and tidiness of the bed encouraged him to “rest the brain, or rather the imagination”. Tracy Emin’s My Bed was a controversial piece, with some arguing that it is barely art; but the condom and cigarette-riddled mess of a bed is representative of her state of mind during a nervous breakdown. It is a private and dark part of her life which has been brought into art galleries, a kind of oxymoronic statement about the sanctity of the bedroom.
A famous bed which appears in literature is the Great Bed of Ware. Built in the 1590s, the bed is over three metres wide and up to twelve adults can sleep in it with complete comfort. In William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, sheets of the bed are referred to in relation to their enormous size. The bed has long represented extreme and unnecessary extravagance, although it is far too large for practicality; you are much better off finding something from the selection of beds on Bedstar if you want something large.
In the 18th century, sexologist James Graham built ‘The Celestial Bed’, which was designed to aid in conception. The occupants were aligned in the ‘best’ way to conceive, and the mattress was stuffed with flowers, oats and oddly enough, the tails of stallions. A mirrored canopy covered the bed and hidden organs within would make noise with movement – the more vigorous the movement, the louder and faster the music.
Elvis Presley’s bed was first referred to as The Hamburger by his daughter, but you can see where she’s coming from. It’s a circular velour masterpiece in mustard yellow and has a TV and stereo built in, clearly designed by someone who enjoys a lazy afternoon in bed. It may not be as unnecessarily large as the Bed of Ware, but it can rival any in terms of luxury.