Carolyn's Choice

"I’ve had my eye on this since I first came to West Horsley Place, I love the romantic style, mouldings and cane work, evoking a glamourous French era. I’ve always wanted a bed like this!"

More About Lady Crewe's Bed

Originally housed in the principal bedroom of West Horsley Place’s medieval west range, our favourite object for this week is the bed of Margaret Crewe-Milnes, Marchioness of Crewe. This object was chosen by Carolyn, our Events Coordinator. Estimated to date from 1910, the bed is in beautiful Louis XVI style, grey painted and caned, with floral carvings on the headboard.

Louis XVI style, which came into being in the period between 1774 and 1793, was a highly significant change of course in French design. King Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette, though unpopular with the French people, were instrumental in the shift from the late Rococo decorative art styles to the Neoclassical movement. As patrons of the arts, the king and his wife supported the work of painters, designers and cabinet makers of the day and their tastes were emulated by the wider elite population. Louis XVI style is characterised by an impression of informality and intimacy. This period saw a return to simpler, more restrained ornamentation with more sober elegance than Rococo decorative art. Such features include classical columns and finely carved friezes, supplemented by asymmetry and simple straight lines. Mahogany was used widely for its solid colour and delicate grain, appearing in abundance as inlay or vene
er. Palates were muted to pastel tones, with the prevalence of brightly coloured textiles greatly reduced and gleaming gilding substituted for a more matt finish.

Among the inspirations of Louis XVI style artists can be seen an affinity for both the natural and classical worlds. The two were combined throughout architecture and interior decorative art, and the observer can recognise floral features in wreaths of roses, bows and ribbons. Simple motifs such as sheaves of wheat, hats of shepherdesses or sickles also appear to contribute to the informality of the composition. These designs were placed alongside antique trophies, friezes and stylised acanthus leaves indicative of the Neoclassical.

The celebration of Antiquity coincided with the discovery of the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. An artistic frenzy began during the last years of Louis XV’s life, and whilst this has also been attributed to be reaction against the excesses of the Rococo, the discovery of these ancient monuments clearly entered the artistic consciousness. Numerous books were published on the subject of the ancient world, and images began to proliferate to further ingrain the obsession. Artists travelled to Naples to study archaeological objects and it was during this time that great antique statues preserved in the Vatican became known to a wider audience. The Apollo of the Belvedere and the Laocoon could be viewed in albums of such drawings and became important cultural touchstones.

Furniture of this period has been described as less comfortable than that which appeared under the previous monarch, however examples of Louis XVI boast a much finer design. Legs were formed in tapering columnar fashion, fluted or spiral. Chair backs were rectangular or oval, and sometimes partially opened to feature whimsical designs. Gilt bronze features in abundance. The public architecture of ancient Rome decorates fireplaces of this period, which sport carved obelisks or triumphal arches. Wallpapers also became fashionable, after their use by the French queen to brighten the insides of the royal court.

West Horsley Place is an agglomeration of decorative styles throughout its interiors and remaining historic objects. We are very fortunate to retain this bed in our collection as it provides our visitors with a window into the early 20th century world of wealth in which our last resident, Mary Duchess of Roxburghe, grew up.