Sleeping in Van Gogh’s bed

I am not sure I want to sleep in Vincent van Gogh’s bed, but it is a door now open to you, thanks to the Art Institute of Chicago, which has created a three-dimensional simulacrum of Van Gogh’s bedroom in Arles, as he painted it in some of his most moving works.

The room can be rented through Airbnb, allowing up to two people the opportunity to sleep in style in this recreated room in Vincent’s Yellow House.

It seems a bit like staying in a recreation of the Prague bedroom where Gregor Samsa awoke to find he had changed into a giant insect, or even the Bates Motel film set, because Van Gogh was not a happy bunny in that bed. His domestic interiors are self-portraits in loneliness. His bed is like a saint’s solitary berth, the humble decency of his room a dignified attempt to fight off night terrors.

And the attempt at homeliness failed, as we all know: one night, Van Gogh turned up at a local brothel and gave a prostitute the ear he had lopped off his head.

So, sleep there if you will, but perhaps there are cosier beds in art that would make for a more tempting destination. A weekend in Venice might be enhanced, for example, by staying in the bedroom of St Ursula as it was painted by Carpaccio in about 1495. This is surely one of the most beguiling bedrooms in art, a lovely picture of the kind of room wealthy Venetians slept in more than 500 years ago. Spacious and furnished with restrained luxury, it would make a fantastic hotel. A Venetian entrepreneur should go about recreating Ursula’s room – with carpaccio, the dish named after this magical artist, for supper when you arrive, obviously.


Another great bedroom to recreate would be Rembrandt’s. Actually, it has been recreated. It may not be quite accurate to call any room in Rembrandt’s surviving Amsterdam house a bedroom in the modern sense, but cosy nocturnal scenes often appear in his paintings and prints and a snug box-bed like those he portrayed has been reconstructed in his house. This charming museum should offer sleepovers.

In truth, though, beds in art are rarely places to rest easily. The huge four-poster in which the decadent artist Aubrey Beardsley portrayed himself as a “monster”, ensconced in his luxurious lair, might make a fine stop-off if you are planning a weekend of drugged ecstasy or Fifty Shades sex. Or perhaps Tate Britain can raise some extra funds by selling a night in confessional artist Tracey Emin’s bed. There would have to be a strict rule to leave it as you find it.

These are my ideal art bedrooms to stay a night or two. But perhaps you’d fancy a night with Édouard Manet’s Olympia or a monastic sojourn in one of the tiny rooms decorated by Fra Angelico in the convent of San Marco, Florence. – © Guardian News & Media 2016

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