This romantic Shirburn bed, with its richly-turned pillars and carvings, reflects the William IV 'Elizabethan' taste popularised by Henry Shaw's Specimens of Ancient Furniture, 1836. Shaw included a spiral-turned chair (ibid., pl. XIII), belonging to the Bond Street dealer and antiquarian John Webb, which they attributed to the Elizabethan period without being aware of its later Indian origins. It was common at this period in the second quarter of the 19th century to accept hardwood furniture of British, Dutch or Portuguese Colonial origin as European and 16th Century without realising its more recent date. The purchase of this bed for Shirburn would almost certainly have been in this 'antiquarian' spirit with its place of origin suppressed or unknown.
In the 1820s it was Webb, who acquired for the Duke of Hamilton a turned 'Elizabethan' ebony bed with footboard carved, like the present bed, with a cherub-guarded shell (A. Jaffer, Furniture from British India and Ceylon, London, 2001, p. 141, fig. 6).
While the footboard of the Hamilton bed is likely to have been carved in the 17th century on India's Coromandel Coast (Jaffer, loc. cit.), the present hardwood and bobbin-finialed bed ('cama de bilros') is of a Portuguese design. It has recently been suggested that the tradition of bobbin-turning and elaborate carving in Portuguese furniture may have originated in 17th century contacts in Sri Lanka, and vice versa with strong Portuguese influence in later Dutch or English colonial furniture. Although this bed is likely to have been made in Portugal itself, the design may therefore have more in common with Anglo-Indian beds than first appears (Murray da Silva Cosme, Singhala-Portuguese Art of the 16th and 17th Centuries, Colombo, 2002). The skills of the local craftsmen were recorded in An Account of the Island of Ceylon, published in London in 1803 by Robert Percival, who recorded that the 'Cinglese [sic] are ingenious and expert artificers and display particular dexterity in ... carpenter's work' (Jaffer, op. cit., p. 362).