Black Forest carvings were produced in the Bavarian Black Forest region of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
The carvings were first made in the early 1800s and production grew tremendously by the turn of the twentieth century. During the time when Brienz, Luzern, Interlaken, and other such European resorts were in vogue with wealthy Victorians, the Black Forest carving industry was also driven by the tourist industry. Bears were particularly popular, being the symbol for the city of Berne. But, musical boxes, musical chalets, and furniture large and small were all represented by this wonderful and creative artform.
Far from being "mere whimsy", however, Swiss "Black Forest" carvings were exhibited at the London Great Exhibition of 1851, Chicago 1893, Paris 1900, and at many of the other great exhibitions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Carved wooden bears, stags, furniture, and other works of art from the "Black Forest" carvers stood alongside such great exhibitors of the time as Tiffany and Linke.
"Black Forest" carvings were appreciated as truly great works of art at the time of their creation and indeed enjoyed royal patronage.
Today, there has been a tremendous revival in interest for "Black Forest" carvings. While they have never been out of fashion, the rare and best pieces are now highly sought after.