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The brown bear is the emblem of the Canton of Bern, and Brienz is thought to have been a centre for production with local craftsmen making them for tourists as a means of supplementing their incomes. The Trauffer family of Brienz are credited by Bruce Newman, author of Fantasy Furniture, with being the main preserve of bear furniture, with four generations of the family engaged on its production from the 1880s to the 1950s.

As mentioned above, these pieces are now enjoying a fashionable status and selling much more strongly than a few years ago, so Christie’s South Kensington were hoping that the advantage of critical mass would kick in when they offered over 40 different examples in their furniture sale last month, much the largest number they have ever put up at one go. The 38-lot trade entered consignment ranged in date from the 1880s to the first half of the 20th century and in size from a small 6in (15cm) high model to a 6ft 11in (2.1m) high hall stand.

Hall stands are the most commonly found ‘Black Forest’ bear form and they were plentifully represented here, but there were also smokers’ compendia, chairs and benches.

Estimates were reasonably bullish “not giveaway”, according to Christie’s Nic McElhatton, and while not everything sold, the 27 lots that did find buyers produced seven of the day’s highest prices and generated just over £200,000, getting on for a third of the £622,790 realised by the entire objects section of the auction.

Christie’s promoted the sale across the Atlantic and it seems to have paid off. According to Mr McElhatton, around 75/80 per cent of the buying was American, with both US trade and privates in action. There was also private Swiss and Italian purchasing and some of the names were new to the auctioneers. Of the unsolds several were of the more often encountered hall stand variety, while Nic McElhatton felt aesthetic considerations might have held back some of the others like the 3ft 11in (1.2m) high jardinière stand whose bear had rather a ferocious expression.