Estrado, from the Museo Casa Cervantes
Estrado or Dais
Estrado. The place where the ladies sit on cushions and receive their visitors. Sebastián de Covarrubias, Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española, 1611
Estrado is the name given to the reception room which is characteristically taken up in part by the a dais ( the estrado itself) covered with rugs where normally the women sat in Moorish fashion on cushions following the Spanish custom of Islamic origin which foreign visitors found very surprising although it in Spain it survived practically until the Bourbon era.
There are numerous testimonies to the use of the estrado, both in literature and in painting in Spain and in the inventories which document household contents. It was normally the most richly decorated room in the house and the one used for receiving visitors .
The dais gave some protection against the cold of the floor and behind it hangings of cloth, matting or tapestry covered the wall and kept out the damp. On the estrado the women passed the time sewing or reading or talking to their visitors, who if they were men sat on chairs outside the area of the dais itself. Sometimes the bedchambers of the women also had an estrado where they would receive their most intimate friends. In Spain, just as in other countries, it was normal to use the same room for different purposes, such as eating, washing or sleeping. Cervantes mentions the estrado in his work as a particularly comfortable place for a siesta or for amorous assignations.
Among the items of furniture here there is an outstanding 17th century coffer or chest, covered in studded red velvet, with its original lock intact; a very rare example as it is not a ‘travelling chest’ as can be seen from the drawers it contains . There is also a very fine ebony escritoire or writing desk with the drawers inlaid with ivory depicting St Peter, the Virgin and St Paul, with a leather covered armchair drawn up to it..
The decoration of the room is completed with a side table with drawers. There is a small figure of the Child Jesus displayed on it, a very common type of pious object in the female world of the time ; it decorates the corner area where several comfortable chairs are grouped together to be used by the group engaged in conversation with the ladies, distracted momentarily from their labours of sewing and spinning. Here too are the essential spinning wheel, the spindle and the spool and the cushions the women of the house would have used to sit on in the Moorish manner.