Dante’s Militia (Alighieri’s Array); 32 hand-painted Italian Renaissance replica chess pieces without board, solid plastic, weighted, antiqued fine gold vs. bronze with faux ivory and deep brown marble bases, produced by Kingsway Inc, c.1950s
Height: King 105mm, weight 35g, base width 35mm; Queen 95mm wt. 32g, Bishop 85mm 17g, Knight 77mm 33g, Rook 82mm 36g, Pawns 63mm 9g.
W: Lush burgundy felt bases, B: same
Most definitely one of the more playable and aesthetically-pleasing moulded plastic sets on the market. The finely detailed figurines are said to be a replica of a Florentine set dating back to the Italian Renaissance, and whether true or not, I’ve taken this as my inspiration to recreate what a set from this era may well have looked like.
To have survived through the centuries, one would presume it was made of precious metals and designed for a wealthy Florentine patron by one of the leading artists of the day. A knowledge of chess history is apparent in the design of the rooks, depicting an Indian elephant carrying a ‘torre’ or tower on its back – a reference to the Hindustan origins of chess and perhaps to a very famous Italian poem, Scacchia Ludus (The Game of Chess, c.1525), in which, the first mention of ‘bellowing elephants carrying turrets on their backs’ are first mentioned. The author of the poem, the Bishop of Alba, Marco Vida (d.1566) bears a striking resemblance to the Bishop figurine and was a courtier of Pope Leo X (a documented chess enthusiast). Pope Leo was a member of the Florentine ‘royal family’ – the famous Medici Clan, and the uncrowned king figure wearing a bejewelled hat could well represent any member of the Medici who ruled over Florence for centuries.
The set was original cast in black vs. white solid plastic of very good quality. The casting was also well executed but nonetheless ‘nit-lines’ (the joint of each mould) were still visible. These have been meticulously sanded off (as has the crass ‘copyright’ sign on the bases) giving the set the feel of a ‘seamless’ moulded chess set – and in fact, if you find any hint of a seam you can keep the set and we’ll refund you your money! – that’s how good they look!!
Some minor alterations have been made along the creative process; the turret of the rooks have been accentuated slightly (the original number of merlons are still there, just exaggerated slightly), also one rook carrie’s a white indicator on the turret, the other black, differentiating between the King’s Rook and Queen’s Rook in the notation of the 1950s. Lastly, the queen’s bust has been reduced slightly – the Italian artist liked his boobies a bit too much! There are a few other very minor artistic changes to the original pattern, but I’ll let you find them for yourself.
Both Medici kings carry the hand-painted iridescent copper ‘power’ signature of the artist on their bases and all of our sets are UV protected and therefore ideal for display as well as casual play.
Alighieri’s Array is accompanied by our unique Chess Schach ‘Certificate of Artistry’ which are posted out separately once we tally up how many ‘Copper Signature’ sets passed through our galleries in 2022 … “All good things …” as the saying goes.
Ref Code: AA22