Q: I am enamored with the stunning bear bench pictured on page 31 of the “Stairs with Flair” story in the Dec 2004/Jan 2005 issue of Cabin Life. Where can I find one like it?
– Judy Stringer, North Bend, Wash.
A: That bear bench is a reproduction of an antique Black Forest bench. This fanciful and charming style of wood carving originated in the 1800s in Brienz, Switzerland, and developed into a cottage industry.
Carved wooden bears, stags and other furniture from the Black Forest wood carvers were exhibited alongside works from Tiffany, Gallé and Linke at major international exhibitions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Recently there has been a great revival of interest in these carvings and the best pieces are highly sought after. You can find some good background information in books like “Swiss Carvings: The Art of the Black Forest 1820-1040,” by Jay Arenski, Simon Daniels and Michael Daniels and “Black Forest Bears: Swiss Woodcarvings 1870-1920,” by Andre Ammelounx.
An authentic Black Forest bear bench may run as high as $65,000 from an art or antique dealer.
More affordable are reproduction Black Forest-style bear benches.
Reproduction benches are individually hand carved using an original piece as a guide. Made largely in the Philippines and other Eastern rim countries, these furniture pieces range from around $2,000 to $4,000.
We found two styles of reproduction Black Forest bear benches at the Mad Moose, (866) 906-6673, www.madmoose.com.
As with any major purchase, knowledge is power and price will be an indicator as to whether you are looking at an antique or a reproduction.