This pair of pelmets and the three shorter pelmets in the following lot, almost certainly formed part of an important -- or even ceremonial -- bed. They would have formed the outer valances and bases of the three exposed sides and there could have been corresponding inner valances as well that have since been lost. However, since these pelmets are now all cut, it is difficult to tell their original size and purpose. As noted, there is an additional fragment that has been in storage in the Fabric Room.
Doris Duke's extensive travels throughout Europe and Asia made a lasting imprint on her taste -- and the collections of decorative arts at Duke Farms constantly reflect her fascination with this interplay between East and West. An entirely fantastic and European rococo interpretation of "Chinese" design and motifs, these hangings perfectly encapsulate the 18th century European fascination with the Far East.
While grand 17th century beds often included embroidered silk imported from China, these hangings are entirely European in their design and manufacture. With glittering metallic thread, they contain cartouches depicting different scenes of "Chinamen" hunting, fishing, playing games and other intimate -- and imagined -- scenes of daily life. There do not appear to be any direct sources for these images of Chinese life, as these seem to be idealised images closer to caricatures. The lambrequin-draped brackets within triumphal vase-capped cartouches reflect the Louis XIV 'Roman' fashion popularised around 1700 by the engraved Oeuvres of Jean Berain. His engravings for decorative arts and architectural elements were widely copied through Europe well into the 1720s and 1730s. They also show how the chinoiserie-mania spread from the courts of France and England to the smaller principalities of the German states, and even beyond to the courts of St. Petersburg and Scandinavia.