French Bed Warming Pan
Before the advent of electrical heating and the invention of hot water bottles, there were bed warming pans. Bed warmers gained popularity among the rich in the 16th century, as the newest way to ensure a comfortable bed temperature was reached before getting under the covers on a cold night. Prior to this, in medieval times, a servant or wife would have been tasked with heating a brick or stone at the fire, wrapping it in cloths, and carrying it to the household’s bed(s) to achieve a similar effect. This process was forever simplified once the bed warmer gained traction. A metal container (typically brass or copper) shaped like a frying pan, and fitted with a long handle, would be filled with embers and placed underneath the covers of the bed. Bed warming pans were quickly produced at all price points and became a common household object. This French bed warming pan dates from the 18th century and is made of brass. It likely would have been owned by an individual with some expendable income. This is evident from the perforated and highly decorative top of the object. A bed warmer with a pierced metal top allows oxygen to reach the embers, which makes the heat last longer for the user. Not only is this object perforated, but it is done so in a decorative manner, with holes punched in a variety of uniform shapes and symbols. These perforations weave between a decorative pattern that covers the entire top of the pan. This bed warmer is beautifully designed, and is in an excellent condition for its age. It is missing its original handle, yet still stands as a fantastic example of an 18th-century domestic object.
At this time in France, the country was in the throes of the French Revolution (1787–1799), a period of major social upheaval and cultural change. Causes for the Revolution included a loss of peasant support for the feudal system, broader acceptance of reformist philosophy, an expanding bourgeoisie excluded from political power, as well as both a fiscal crisis and crop shortage. The French monarchy was overthrown in 1792, culminating in the execution of both King Louis XVI (r. 1774–1792) and Queen Marie Antoinette (1755–1793). The Revolution, alongside the civil wars and disputes that accompanied it, ended in 1799, when Napoleon (1769–1821) overthrew the citizen’s government and established himself as leader of France.