A monumental and striking ‘Black Forest’ walnut carving of an eagle perched on a toppled shield, E Binder, Shown with outstretched wings and the head turned to the right , the talons gripping a sheaf of arrows and a shield decorated in gilt with 12 stars partially obscured by a trailing laurel branch, the feathers realistically carved and scorched, the gaping mouth painted red, all raised on a turned socle.
The twelve five pointed stars and laurel leaves on the shield carried by the eagle may well be a reference to the coat of arms of the Swiss Canton of Valais/Wallis. Each star on the Valais coat of arms refers to one of the districts in the Canton. The modern coat of arms incorporates thirteen six pointed stars but for a brief period between 1802 and 1813 when the Canton was under French control but not considered a part of France, the coat of arms incorporated the 12 five pointed stars seen on our piece:
As can be seen from the image above, the escutcheon shape of the shield is also echoed in our piece and surely the laurels draped across it are an attempt to represent a configuration such as that shown in the image but with the shield at a very different angle.
If the arms are indeed for Valais, it is possible that the eagle was made for an institutional building dating back to the Napoleonic period-perhaps as a replacement for an earlier carving. This is an intriguing mystery but whatever the reason for the piece’s construction, its quality and decorative appeal are immediately apparent. It is a remarkably fine example of Black Forest carving.
Footnote: For a right-facing eagle in the Ed. Binder u Cie of Brienz Stock Catalogue c1920, see Arenski, Daniels and Daniels, Swiss Carvings, The Art of the ‘Black Forest’ 1820-1940 Woodbridge 2005; p 162 (top right hand plate).