Collections › MESDA Collection › Bedstead

Bedstead

Place Made:
Pamlico area North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
1710-1740
Medium:
mahogany
Dimensions:
HOA: 77; WOA: 55 7/8; DOA: 76 1/4
Accession Number:
2024.38
Description:
DESCRIPTION: Four-poster bedstead with octagonal pencil posts terminating with cabriole legs and hoof feet; with scroll-top headboard and pedimented footboard; the rails with molded edges and routed for ropes; three sides of the octagonal pencil posts end with lamb’s tongues above the cross rails.

FORM: Eighteenth-century tall-post bedsteads from the Chesapeake region are rare, and this particular bed is exceptional among American examples of the period. The relatively low height of the bed and the chamfered rather than turned posts are early details. (RAES)

STYLE: The finely sculpted cabriole legs of all four posts are finished with the pied de biche, or hoof foot, favored in both France and England in the early decades of the eighteenth century.

WOODS: The Santo Domingo mahogany from which the bed was made is of a very poor grade, clearly exhibiting sapwood at the knees and on the footboard and rails. These light-colored patches were most likely stained originally, though there is little evidence that the maker made any attempt to deal with the various knots and other flaws in the material. The bed represents one of the earliest known uses of mahogany in the South. Mahogany begins to appear with some regularity in the furniture of Williamsburg, Virginia, by 1730. (JB)

WOOD: West Indian mahogany (swietenia mahogono) tested (BLR)

History:
The bed has a provenance in North Carolina’s earliest town, the tiny port of Bath in Beaufourt County, where a significant contingent of Huguenots had settled by 1708. The French style suggests the bed might have been made by a Huguenot craftsman. According to a previous owner, the bedstead had come from “the home of one of the state’s oldest and most representative families.” This oral history indeed seems to suggest Michael Coutanche, though there is no proof of that. (RAES, JB)
Credit Line:
Gift of Frank L. Horton