Terra Admirari (Wonderland); 32 original Studio Anne Carlton chess pieces without board, natural stone vs. burgundy, poly-resin crushed stone, English, artistically restored/hand-painted, c.1985-1990
King Height: 3 1/2” or 87mm, weight 60g
Queen: 3 1/2” or 87mm, wt. 36g
Bishop: 3” or 76mm, wt. 32g
Knight: 3” or 76mm, wt. 60g
Rook: 2 1/4” or 58cm, wt. 38g
Pawns: 2” or 51mm, wt. 15g
W: gently antiqued flamingo pink felt pads; B: same
The SAC recommended board size for this set is 2 1/4” or 5.7cm squares, but I’ve always used a 5cm square size (pictured), which I think suits the set fine.
This Alice in Wonderland set has travelled with me for nigh on forty years and was part of my collection that emigrated from London to Toronto with me in 1997. One white rabbit (pawn) lost its ears on that journey, an incident that hurled me headfirst down the rabbit hole of chess set restoration – and what a journey that’s been!
The factory-line, hand-painted AiW sets I’ve seen over the years have always left me miffed and less than impressed. Why was the palette so bland? Where was the life – the fun and frivolity? Sadly, the restrictions of mass production unfortunately meant that the SAC artists had one hand tied behind their backs – which I’m happy to report wasn’t the case with this project!
I was familiar with the hand-painted, water-coloured prints taken from the original John Tenniel illustrations for the 1865 novel; the palette was light and airy, making much use of the pale blues and white creamy hues of Alice’s iconic dress. And this would be my inspiration for the light pieces, working hand-in-hand with the naturally coloured faux-stone finish of the moulded originals, subtly highlighted with glimpses of iridescent gold.
The dark pieces were partially inspired by Tim Burton’s equally dark version of the AiW novel (starring Johnny Depp as the orange-haired Mad Hatter). The original burgundy colour of the pieces is brought to life with purples, pinks and scarlet reds. The detail work is difficult to capture on camera, as I make use of many different sheens combined with aged, antiqued bronze highlights – and like Lewis Carroll’s novel, there is a surprise around every corner – which you can discover for yourself…
The pieces are naturally weighted and very comfortable in hand over the board. As mentioned, a few chipped ears have been restored by taking casts of the original (a process documented on my social posts – see The Chess Schach page on FB or IG). An ugly chip has also been restored on the rear base of one black bishop. All these minor fixes are solid and completely invisible.
If you are partial to themed, uniquely hand-painted chess sets I would look no further than Wonderland. I may well join Alice for another adventure in the years to come, but who knows? Only one thing is certain – the tea party won’t be the same as this one!
Terra Admirari is UV resistant and ideal for display as well as casual play and BOTH QUEENS (not the kings this year!) carry the hand-painted IRIDESCENT GOLD 2024 ‘Power’ signature on their bases. The set also comes with our unique Chess Schach ‘Certificate of Artistry’ which are posted out at the end each year, once we tally up how many sets were listed in 2024 – “all good things…” to use the old cliche.
Etsy Set Price: $1350.00
thechessschach.com Set Price: $1200.00 CAD with free shipping
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