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The 11th Century Tempur-Pedic

Forget expensive mattresses or soothing sounds: a nighttime solution for light sleepers may be something heavy. This elegant ceramic pillow—one of several such works in the museum’s collection—was a coveted item among the Chinese elite a millennium ago. Hairstyles of the time were elaborate, and it is speculated that a less-than-cushiony pillow such as this example may have allowed users to awake with their up-dos intact. The pillow’s deeply lobed sides allude to clouds, creating a dreamy surface for sleepers, while the peony blossoms—the “King of Flowers” in China and traditionally a symbol of wealth and honor—add an aspirational element to the piece. Whether you seek sweet dreams or an end to bed head, examine this blissful object in Gallery 134.

Image Credit: Cloud-Shaped Pillow with Peony Scrolls, Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Chinese. Lucy Maud Buckingham Collection.