Militibus Metallum (Iron Warriors); 32 weighted plastiform chess pieces without board, artistically-recreated, pewter vs. bronze, Soviet, c.1980
Height: King 6.5cm, weight 12g, base width 3cm, Queen 5.7cm, wt 12g, Bishop 5.5cm 9g, Knight 5cm 15g, Rook 4.4cm 15g, Pawn 4.2cm 10g
W: crimson felt pads (2mm) B: same
A quite exceptional design for its time, which to my mind borrows heavily from two classic Soviet patterns of the past; the so-called Averbakh II chessmen of the 40s and the famed ‘Latvian’ sets supposedly favoured by the incomparable Mikhail Tal, “the magician” of Riga. The curve of the knight is particularly attractive reflecting a more sculptured, svelte form of the classic Latvian knight. Likewise, the bishops also sport the broad, flat bases of the Averbakh while the traditional ‘tear-drop’ dome is an unmistakable trademark of the ubiquitous Latvian designs. The rooks set the set apart as they part ways with the traditional solid, barrel designs of yesteryear and become slimmer and tapered in appearance complimenting the slender stems of the royals and clergy, again reminiscent of the Averbakh pattern, which all in all makes for a very well balanced and attractive analysis set.
As mentioned, these are not metal pieces (let me be perfectly clear about that) for in all appearances they do LOOK AND FEEL just like they are made of solid metal! In artistic circles, this is what we call trompe l’oeil (‘to fool the eye’), but in this case, we are also attempting to deceive the hand, or legerdemain, to use another English term borrowed from the Old French. The original moulded plastiform pieces were simply white v. black. I didn’t see this. I saw a pattern reminiscent of other metal/aluminium sets in my collection which I’ve used as a reference for the ‘pewter’ pieces. The dark pieces are based on bronze sculptures and artefacts I’ve seen and photographed over the years; here I’ve picked up on the deepest of the bronze colours which is a purple black, highlighted with several verdigris (I’m really hammering home the French today!) antique washes of slightly differing hues.
The idea for the metal theme emerged through the ‘Iron Warriors’ origins as they were manufactured in Chelyabinsk City (in west-central Russia, but nearer to Kazakhstan than to Moscow), famous for its iron and steelworks, zinc refineries, ferroalloy plants and a broad range of other engineering industries including, of course, ambroid and plastic products such as chess sets.
In parting, I have added one more element; wood. The original crude, plastic eye-sores that passed off for finials have been removed and replaced with more traditional forms harking back to the aforementioned historical wooden sets that these pieces were undoubtedly inspired by. This set is one of several sets that will be listing this year inspired by the alloy, bronze, the chosen colour of this year’s signature.
Both kings carry the hand-painted iridescent bronze ‘power’ signature of the artist and are UV resistant and therefore ideal for display as well as blitz/casual play.
All of our sets also come with a Certificate of Artistry which is posted separately to the set once we tally up how many Bronze Signature sets passed through our galleries in 2021.
“All good things …” as the saying goes.
Ref code: MM21
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