Parisi Noctibus (Parisian Knights); French Régence (Regency) Chessmen without board, wood, European, unweighted, white v. black, antiqued, c.1890-1910
Height: King 7.5cm, wt 16g, base width 2.8cm; Queen 7.5cm 16g, Bishop 5.5cm 9g, Knight 7.2cm 16g, Rook 5cm 9g, Pawn 4.3cm 4g
W: black felt bases, B: same
A splendid antique example of the French ‘Regency’ style of chessmen, named after the famous Café de la Régence of Paris that served as a hub for chess players from the late 17th century until its gradual demise in the mid-1800s. In these smoke-laden gaming rooms now-legendary names in the annals of chess history bumped elbows with the most influential and powerful figures of the day, names that included the great French champions, de la Bourdonnais, Andre Philidor and Saint-Amant, the infamous Englishman, Howard Staunton and the immortal American, Paul Morphy, not to mention the likes of Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Robespierre and Napoleon, to mention but a few.
By sheer coincidence, at the time of this writing, the foremost of German chess collectors, Holger Langer, posted a succinct description of the ‘Café’ on his informative facebook site, ‘Holger’s Antique Chess Collection’ and I quote:
“The Café de la Régence was the center of chess in ancient Paris. The café was founded in 1681 as one of the first coffee houses in Paris under the name Café de la Place du Palais-Royal. It was located between the Rue Saint-Honoré and the Place du Palais-Royal. It was renamed Café de la Régence in 1715 at the earliest, as the new name referred to the era of the regency (La Régence), which lasted from 1715 to 1723, when the Duke of Orléans ruled over the young king Louis XV, who was still a minor.”
These historical Regency pieces probably date to latter part of the 19th century and are in excellent condition considering their age, although, as you can see, there is a slight “lean” amongst the royals – not an unusual occurrence with these slim boxwood pieces which I believe adds character to the set as a whole. The knights are simply breathtaking and are the main reason I acquired the set in the first place as the craftsmanship of the anonymous carver is simply remarkable – the wild ‘glass-eyes’ and gnashing, bared teeth lend them quite a fierce appearance over the board! The remainder of the light pieces (which were originally a shade or two lighter than the two white knights) I have colour-matched and antiqued to perfectly match the finish of the knights, who have remained virtually untouched apart from a few very minor repairs. All in all, a wonderful addition to any serious chess enthusiast’s collection.
The pieces are UV resistant and ideal for display as well as casual play. Both kings carry the iridescent silver hand painted ‘power’ signature of the artist on their bases.
Ref code: PN20
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