Exhibition | 03.12.2020 - 24.05.2021

Bed stories

Exhibition

We spend a third of our lives in bed. It’s the item of furniture we use most often, and it has a past and a history of its own. A stroll through the bedrooms of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries not only shows how beds and nightwear have changed, but also gives an insight into how people lived together as a society.

Guided tours

The National museum Zurich offers a variety of events and guided tours.

See all the offers on the German website.

Bed stories

Guided tour for private groups

Guided tour of the exhibition "Bed stories".

Tour: 1 hour

Guided tours can be arranged outside opening hours: Mon between 9.30 am and 6 pm, Tue to Fri between 9.30 am and 7.45 pm. Sat and Sun between 10 am and 5 pm

Registration:  

 2 weeks in advance

Duration:

 

60 minutes; special packages can be offered on request

Group size:

 

max. 15 participants per tour

Languages:

 

English, German, Italian, French. Other offers upon request.

Cost:


 

 

CHF 180 for the guided tour + CHF 8 admission per person

Children up to 16 years free.

Reservations desk

+41 44 218 66 00 reservationen@nationalmuseum.ch

Schools

Bed stories – Introductory tour

Intermediate level | secondary levels I and II

Guided tour of the exhibition ”Bed stories”.

1 hour
Guided tours are free of charge for school classes from Switzerland.

Guided tours in English can be arranged, even outside opening hours. Guided tours are free of charge for school classes from Switzerland.

Booking:  

at least 2 weeks in advance

Duration:

 

1 hour guided tours, other services by prior arrangement

Group size:

 

max. 25 people

Cost:
 

 

Guided tours for school classes from Switzerland are free of charge.

Reservations desk

+41 44 218 66 00 reservationen@nationalmuseum.ch

Blog articles

Andrej Abplanalp

2. December 2020

Bed Stories

We spend around a third of our lives in bed. It’s the item of furniture we use most often, and it has a past and a history of its own.

Continue
All blog posts

Media

Bed stories

National Museum Zurich | 3.12.2020 - 24.5.2021
published on 30.11.2020

We spend more time with our bed than with any other piece of furniture. The Swiss National Museum in Zurich presents four centuries of bedtime stories.

We spend a third of our life in bed. No furniture item is dearer to us. In bed we are born, and there we die. It’s where we make love, or recover from illness. Most of the time we sleep on this piece of furniture, but sometimes we simply lie there lost in our thoughts, listening to music or reading. Nowadays, the beds in our bedrooms are considered deeply personal places. When we have guests, the bedroom is usually off-limits. This hasn’t always been the case. In the 17th century, the French King Louis XIV used the bedroom as a stage for his demonstrations of power. In the mornings the Sun King rose and shone before a selected audience, and when he settled down to sleep at night that too was a public act. Many European rulers copied the customs of the French court, and the bedroom soon became a status symbol. And the Swiss Confederation was no different.

As the 19th century progressed, the bedroom lost its public character and became more of a private space. A growing awareness of hygiene also began to change people’s relationship with sleep. Bugs and nasty smells – accepted for centuries as a necessary evil – were now investigated and steps taken to eliminate them. Single beds replaced joint sleeping places shared by several people, wood was superseded by metal as the base material, and grandeur gave way to functionality. At the same time, the boundaries of modesty were raised. Increasingly, people no longer slept in groups, but alone and specially robed.

The exhibition ‘Bedtime Stories’ at the National Museum Zurich takes visitors on a tour of the bedrooms of Swiss society’s upper echelons. From the 17th to the 20th centuries, a lot has changed.

Images

Four-poster bed from Bürglen Castle TG from 1691

In noble households, the bedroom also serves as a prestigious reception room. This richly carved state bed is that of the master of the house, the St. Gallen bailiff Lorenz Werder.

Copyright: Swiss National Museum

Four-poster bed from Zurich, 1700-1735

The sculptural carved furniture of the 17th century is superseded by pieces faced with precious polished veneers. At the beginning of the 18th century, furniture with undulating surfaces – so-called Wellenmöbel (‘wave furniture’) – is typical in Zurich.

Copyright: Swiss National Museum

Marriage bed from 1767

The bride brings to the marriage the double bed and the linen cupboard. This bed is lavishly painted in a local folk art style that incorporates verses of Scripture and other inscriptions.

Copyright: Swiss National Museum

Wedding cabinet from 1782

The inscription states that the cabinet was made for the marriage of Catharina Müller and Mathias Hörler in 1782. The painted Rocaille decoration is evocative of the Rococo period; the figurative representations depict the legend of William Tell.

Copyright: Swiss National Museum

Commode, 1775-1800

A chair-like construction conceals the chamber pot. For a long time, the mobile toilet is a night-time alternative to the hygienic water closet, which is connected to the sewer system.

Copyright: Swiss National Museum

Single bed from 1830

This narrow bed in the form of a ship is typical of the early 19th century. It is intended for one person. Two identical beds can be pushed together to create a double bed.

Copyright: Swiss National Museum

Description

A view of the exhibition.

Copyright: © Swiss National Museum

Description

A view of the exhibition.

Copyright: © Swiss National Museum

Description

A view of the exhibition.

Copyright: © Swiss National Museum

Description

A view of the exhibition.

Copyright: © Swiss National Museum

Swiss National Museum press contact

+41 44 218 66 63 medien@nationalmuseum.ch

Exhibition imprint

  • Overall management Andreas Spillmann
  • Curators of the exhibition Christina Sonderegger, Joya Indermühle
  • Project direction Christina Sonderegger
  • Scenography Alex Harb
  • Graphics Thomas Lehmann Graphic Design, Zürich
  • Key Visual ACHTUNG! GmbH, Marco Heer, Bern
  • Cultural services and museum education Stefanie Bittmann, Lisa Engi
  • Marketing and communication Andrej Abplanalp, Alexander Rechsteiner, Carole Neuenschwander, Sebastiano Mereu, Anna-Britta Maag
  • Technical management Mike Zaugg
  • Exhibition construction Janine Auf der Maur, Kim Badertscher, Bachir Ezzarari, Ladina Fait, Marc Hägeli, Mike Roder
  • Conservation management Gaby Petrak
  • Conservation and montage of objects Elisabeth Kleine, Pina Lauber, Iona Leroy, Jürg Mathys, Françoise Michel, Carolin Muschel, Gaby Petrak, Tino Zagermann, Atelier Nadine Kilchhofer, Bern
  • Schreiner- und Metallarbeiten Atelier Thomas Imfeld, Niederlenz, Alder Stahl und Schweiss AG, Wädenswil
  • Reconstitutions Wohngestaltung Schnetzler, Zürich, Ina von Woyski Niedermann, Trimbach
  • Logistics of objects and montage of objects Christian Affentranger, David Blazquez, Reto Hegetschweiler, Markus Scherer, Simon d’Hollosy
  • Loans Maya Jucker, Bernard A. Schüle, Angela Zeier
  • Advisory committee Heidi Amrein, Beat Högger, Markus Leuthard, Sabrina Médioni, Andreas Spillmann
  • Controlling of project Sabrina Médioni
  • Photography Jörg Brandt
  • Photo library Andrea Kunz, Fabian Müller
  • Editor Pasquale Pollastro
  • IT / Web Thomas Bucher, Danilo Rüttimann, René Vogel
  • Translations Bill Gilonis, Zürich, Marco Marcacci, Lumino, Aude Virey-Wallon, Meudon

Items generously loaned by

  • Hanro-Sammlung, Archäologie und Museum Baselland, Liestal
  • Schauspielhaus Zürich, Kostümabteilung
  • Privatbesitz