Bed (Lit à la Turque)
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Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Tilliard
French, Paris, about 1750 - 1760
Two-toned gilded beechwood; modern silk upholstery
5 ft. 8 1/2 in. x 8 ft. 8 1/4 in. x 6 ft. 2 in.

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Jean-Baptiste Tilliard made this unusually large bed for a bedroom in a grand private residence. The bed would have been placed sideways against a wall, with a draped baldachin, now missing, above. The large wheels allowed servants to pull out the body of the bed easily, leaving the tall back attached to the wall while they made it up. It was probably set into an alcove or niche in the bedroom wall.

In eighteenth-century France, a bed of this shape was called a lit à la turque (Turkish bed) because of its two scrolling ends. This title does not refer to any specific Turkish design source but reflects the eighteenth-century preoccupation with anything exotic and unusual from foreign countries. Turkey, China, and Egypt were among the places that inspired craftsmen in their creation of romantic and luxurious interiors. The intention was not to accurately recreate foreign objects but to impart a feeling of exotic opulence, even if only through the name attached to an object. The fashion for things "Turkish" peaked in the middle of the 1700s, when Madame de Pompadour had a bedroom that was known as the chambre à la turque (Turkish bedroom) only because the paintings displayed in the room showed a slave girl presenting a cup of tea to a sultaness.