Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
201.93 x 93.98 x 193.04 cm (79 1/2 x 37 x 76 in.)
Medium or Technique
Walnut with polychrome and gilt decoration, oak
Not On View
Small joined bed with high, cantilevered headboard; frame-and-panel backboard decorated with a central angel; sides of headboard with diamond-piercing in lower section containing carved and gilt flower, and with carved and gilt decoration at skirt, and with engaged quarter-columns at rear with carved and gilt rosettes; upper portion of side panels contain freestanding gilt and polychrome carved angels, flanked by oval cut-outs, supporting projecting roof; roof of board and batten construction, with carved gilt inscription against blue ground on horizontal strips; low shaped sides tenoned and bolted to head- and footboards (replacing original higher sides with vertical slats); footboard with three panels and with inward facing angels and other decoration echoing headboard.
Although Arts and Crafts rhetoric espoused morality, honesty, and simplicity, the movement was not explicitly associated with religion. Its secular spirituality attracted many followers, and others blended their own religious beliefs into the Arts and Crafts lifestyle and their creations. Architect Ralph Adams Cram, a devout Catholic renowned for his church buildings, was one of the founding members of the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston. Like many Bostonians, Cram looked to the arts of the Middle Ages for inspiration and was particularly drawn to the ecclesiastical style of the era, the Gothic. In his reform Gothic Revival designs, Cram experimented with merging the old and the new; he sought to create works “in a medieval spirit vitalized by modern conditions.”
This combination is seen in domestic scale in the bed Cram designed for his daughter Elizabeth. The labor-intensive panel-and-frame construction and hand-carved ornament evoke the craftsmanship of the Middle Ages. Yet the Gothic lettering of the biblical inscription and the painted and gilt guardian angels at each corner of the bed frame introduce an abstract quality that suggests the modern. The carved elements of the bed were executed by Boston’s leading carver of the Arts and Crafts period, John (Johannes) Kirchmayer. A frequent collaborator of Cram’s, Kirchmayer emigrated from Germany in the 1890s and quickly became known for the quality and distinctive style of his religious carvings. The bed’s angels are a provocative mix of distinctive facial features and stylized, abstract bodies and clothing. Originally made as a crib with vertical slats on the sides, the piece was modified into a youth’s bed as Elizabeth grew.
This text was adapted from Ward, et al., MFA Highlights: American Decorative Arts & Sculpture (Boston, 2006) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.
"Quoniam angelis fuis man / davit de te [rosette] ut cuftodiant / te in omnibus viis fuis [rosette]". Inscription is gilt against blue ground on horizontal strips. Translation: "For He will entrust you to His angels to guard you in all your ways" (from Psalm 91)
Metal plaque attached to underside of foot board: " W F Ross & Co. / 201-5 Bridge st / East Cambridge Ma"
Descended in the family of the artist; 1997, given to the Museum by David W. Scudder and Judith S. Robinson in memory of their grandfather, Ralph A. Cram (Accession Date: November 19, 1997)
Gift of David W. Scudder and Judith S. Robinson in memory of their grandfather, Ralph Adams Cram