The Dancing Army (Fandangi Militibus); 32 Escardibul Company Chessmen, ‘Stawton No.5’ pattern, Spanish, olive wood, artistically restored and weighted, natural vs. chestnut brown, c.1965.
Height: King 90mm, weight 24g, base width 34mm; Queen 88mm, wt. 24g; Bishop 76mm 20g, Knight 68mm 25g, Rook 56mm 20g, Pawns 52mm 15g.
W: Lush ‘matador red’ felt bases; B: same
“It doesn’t get more Spanish than this!” as the enthusiastic chess collector and author, Dr. Holger Langer exclaimed in regard to this iconic Spanish pattern. And I wholeheartedly agree! Clearly influenced by the more famous English Staunton pattern of the 1850s, this Spanish “Stawton” off-shoot gained popularity amongst collectors because of the crudely cut knights and the unique material they are carved from, Spanish olive wood, with its distinct, well-pronounced grain.
The pieces themselves are well-travelled. They came to me via a trade with an amiable collector from Hawaii who purchased the set some years ago through a vendor in Ukraine, of all places. How this Spanish set ended up in this part of the world remains a mystery, but at least it made it out safely before all the recent madness begun. But let’s not wander down that particular camino at the moment.
The set has been in my possession for a few years now and I’ve enjoyed many games with them (mainly running over various lines from the Ruy Lopez, or ‘Spanish Opening’ which felt quite apt), but as usual, over time, they started their whispers and I had to agree with what they were laying down.
The light side was gorgeous. I knew they were untouchable. The dark side, however, irked me. The more I played with them the more they bugged me. The liberally applied thick stained varnish was so different from the light pieces. I couldn’t help but think how good they could look with a little TLC. The original semi-transparent oil-based varnish had congealed somehow and darkened the pieces in an uncomplimentary way – and it was a horse’s arse to remove, to be quite honest. At the onset I wasn’t even sure what wood was beneath due to the thickness of the varnish coats applied. The same beautiful olive wood was the answer to that question.
In short, I already knew what I wanted the pieces to look like. The challenge here was to make them ‘feel’ like the opposing light pieces. Aged and well used, which I achieved with a combination of stains, waxes and numerous hands-on buff coats.
As in most cases, there is a slight twist with this set, too. As well as the added weight I gave the Queen her dignity back by adding a ball finial to her crown – the Spaniards are so uncouth! You may not have noticed as it seems quite natural. If you noticed, fair dinkums!
Both kings carry the hand-painted iridescent copper 2022 ‘power’ signature of the artist on their bases and are accompanied by one of our unique Certificates of Authenticity. See the Jan. 2022 chessay for more info on this.
Etsy Set Price: $750.00
thechessschach.com Set Price: $650.00 CN
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