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«  The Teddy Bear King » temporary exhibition in the castle of Amboise from the 1er december 2019 to 5th January 2020.

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This exhibition dedicated to the teddy bear is wonderful. The work done to put bears in situation is entirely remarkable. The Teddy King went up on the throne of the castle for the pleasure of both adults and children. I can assure you that, going from room to room, I found the time of a morning my child's soul.

I would especially like to thank Ms. Guinevere Charles, information manager, whom I first contacted by email and whom I then met on December 5, 2019 during my visit to the castle of Amboise, for allowing me to publish this article on my website and on my Facebook page: "In the footsteps of teddy bears here's the address :

This exhibition offers two levels of appreciation:

- A historical approach to the evolution of the bears in western societies, for which we have drawn on the work of Michel Pastoureau detailed in his book “the bear, story of a fallen-king”.

- A more fun approach of cuddly teddy bears, for which we have joined forces with the Chateauroux company “ Les petites Maries “ and the Museum of dolls and antique toy of Wambrechies in the North of France.

From its life in the wild, roaming dense forests, to its cuddy versions in our child bedroom, the bear has had a long journey. The exhibition staged at the Royal Château of Amboise during the end of year festivities retraces this progressive evolution in history.

This companion of the ancient gods was the origin of numerous cults that endures until the Middle Ages. The bear was thus considered to be “the king of the animals” in the forests, blessed with extraordinary strength and courage. However, from the 11th century, the bear’s close association with Pagan rites  aroused suspicion in the western church. Henceforth, bears were represented as incarnation of many sins, humiliated in fairs and pursued until the 19th century. Threatened with near extinction at the dawn of the 20th century, the bear was saved in an unexpected way by the creative imagination of cuddly toys manufacturers then by the powerful film industry, which promoted the good-natured characteristics of our sweet childhood companion.

A big family : The king’s court is a meeting place where everyone wishes to be seen, and for which people travel from far away. The clan of brown bears, from neighbouring parts, and the white bears, from a fareway land, fully intend to impress the gallery!





Who goes there?! Can you show your bears credentials? This room, which leads to the château’s distinguished rooms, is guarded by  formidable guards-bears, from the finest aristocratic bear families.



Guard, are you sleeping ? Watching over the entrance to the great council chamber, where the Teddy Bear King is waiting for you, the final line of defence seems to have succumbed to sleep. What beautiful dreams are animating his slumber ? May be the idea of one day being on the throne himself ?


Copyright Geneviève Hamelin


The bear, creature of the gods

The bear’s first representations dates from prehistoric times, in the form of cave paintings and even statues, like those in the Montespan grotto in the Haute Garonne. These traces lead us to think that the animal already played in the era’s fauna and that it was readily associated with rituals bringing together magic and religion. During the Antiquities, several gods and young heroes saw their powers combined with or confronted by the bear’s strength, opening the doors to even greater exploits. Here too, the animal’s characteristics particularly its incredible physical strength, endowed it with a special status.

This even earned it a place in the zodiac through the constellations of the great Bear and the little Bear. These two starry groups are none other than the silhouettes of the infortunate Callisto and Arcas, changed into bears by the ire of the goddess Artemis and places by Zeus under eternal celestial protection.

The first king of the animals

An animal with massive strength, a splendor of nature, reputed to be almost invincible, the bear is the natural candidate for the title of master of the animal kingdom and king of the forest among Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic peoples who encountered them very regularly in the vast forest area. Its warlike attributes ( claws, canines) where therefore considered to be a talisman for men on the warpath, and its effigy features in their standards, helmets or swords. Great honours and an eminent position were also conferred upon any man to vanquish a bear. Stories were thus full of glorious clashes, wether legendary like Tristant, Lancelot of the Lake or King Arthur, or like Godfrey de Bouillon. A prize trophy during royal hunts, the bear occupied a central place among noble species until the start of the 12th century. They were readly given as a gift between sovereigns.

His Majesty, teddy Bear 1st : At 2.20m high ! Even the imposing François 1er and his almost 2 m height would seem small next to him. King Teddy Bear is entirely at home on the throne of the great hall that once welcomed royal audiences.



The bear, a monster ?

From the 12th century, the reign of the bear was confronted with fierce opposition from the Church. Considered too closed from men because of its bipedalism, its diet and its anatomy, the animal’s behaviour caused consternation, especially its sexual appetite, deemed to be dangerous for women. In the hands of the clergy, the bear became the animal of the devil, and the worst failings replaced the virtues it had previously been accorded : lechery, anger, cruelty, gluttony, laziness. I switched from being a noble beast to an inhabitant of hell, regularly subdued by saints. This rejection of the bear unleashed a serie of bans, which were regularly repeated by religious authorities. In particular, the bear could no longer be celebrated, nor could its image be associated with in any way. It is no surprise that, with rare exceptions, the animal is absent from the western aristocracy’s coats or arms. Pagan objects and places with reference to bears were destroyed. Bear populations were decimated. The Emperor Charlemagne, from whom the Chrurch’s support was primordial, organized great hunts to exterminate them. Therefore, there was a vacancy for the king of the animals. The Church installed the lion in the top spot, judging it to be more suitable and worthy of honor. Just like the stag, which replaced the bear as the chosen target during royal hunts, other species were thus ennobled.

Honey on the menu : oh ! greedy bears and honey ! it is a great love story, widely relayed by our cartoons and favourite films. Around the head chef,  in this room with its sugary décor, two little teddy bears kitchen hands busy themselves with spoony honey.






From the court to the town

Fallen into disrepute, the bear disappeared from princely domains. Far from its former status of king of animals, iconography now represented it at a simple beast of burden with idiotic strength. On the recommendations of the Church, it was muzzled and ridiculed on the public arena. The famous bear tamers showed them in fairs, chained and powerless for everyone to see. Therefore, children and dogs approach them without fear. Non-religious stories also introduced the bear’s failings into the popular imagination. The animal was mocked for its corpulence, its vulgarity, its supposed foolishness, its gluttony and even – a cruel rewriting of its original qualities – for its cowardice. Many years later, the La Fontaine fables also fed this completely unjust treatment.

To bed !

In the king ‘s bedroom, some teddy bears from the close king’s entourage are treating themselves to a restorative sleep. Sleeping at the court was without any fuss; You even settled down on the floor !



Copyright Philippe Hamelin



A beloved cuddly toy

The bear had a vast wilderness to cross. Until the end of the 19th century, it was largely neglected by zoologists and naturalists, still tainted by prejudice. It was a realization at the start of the 20th century of the species extinction risk that finally changed things. The irony is that it was the bear’s vulnerability that enable its rehabilitation first with scientists, then with the general public. Perceived at that time as a fragile, solitary and melancholic animal, the bear reconquered hearts. The touching representation of the animal went as far of influencing toy makers. It was the birth of the cuddly teddy bear of our childhood. The origin of this mythical toy is associated with an anecdote about the American president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. In 1902, returning empty ended from a hunt, the politician was offered a young bear, captured for him, to shoot. He categorically refused, in the name of his children. Picked up by the press, the story inspired the first “ Teddy Bear”, a patented product that enjoyed rapid success on the other side of the Atlantic. At the same time, a young German called Margarete Steiff, working in her family firm, developed the first European-made articulated bears in wool and felt.

From the first teddy bears to the icons of the popular culture.

After the Second World War, the rapid extension of the toy industry combined with the development of television and cinema give the bear a new place. He is fully rehabilited. The zoomorphism of the first teddy bears at the beginning of the century gave way to the anthropomorphism of the new specimens. The human-like teddy bear played an integral part family life and made all generations happy. The selected cuddly toys on show in this room show the development of shapes and materials during the 20th century. Their success drew on the popularity of a few of their famous fellow bears. Almost every country would develop their own point of reference in this subject. In France, the hilarious bear in Sylvain and Sylvette ( 1957) , Colargol ( 1957) , the teddy bear from Bonne Nuit les Petits ( 1962) or the Petit Ours Brun (1975) became well known. They were joined on the five continents by the cult figures of Winnie the Pooh, Little John, Ballo, Yogi and Bouba.






Tea time in the studio of Orléans - Penthièvre

Here we are in the 19th century, under the imaginary reign of Louis Teddy Bear. This small studio is entirely created to evoke the last great journeys taken as a family, around a cup of tea.

A big family reunion

From the great grandfather to the newest arrival, all the generations are here for Christmas. Through their styles and their memories, more than a century of teddy bears family history is recounted for you.








Here are the bears gathered for a great concert.

The bear harp player is one of the 30 bears lent by the company” Les petites Maries “. The 170 old teddy bears accompanying it come from the Museum of doll and antique toy of Wambrechies. Thanks to them!












All the photos are not free of charge

Creation date : 07/12/2019 : 11:22
Category : TEDDY BEARS -
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You are here :   Welcome » The Teddy Bear King » temporary exhibition castle of amboise rom the 1er december 2019 to 5th January 2020.
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