Et Leones (The Lions); 32 weighted wooden chessmen with original board, light brown vs. deep brown, Soviet, c.1950s.
Height; King 9.5cm, weight 32g, base diameter 4cm, Queen 9.5cm wt 30g, Bishop 7.5cm 25g, Knight 7.5cm 25g, Rook 6.5cm 28g, Pawn 5.5cm 13g.
W: black felt pads, B: same
This is THE ideal chess player’s chess set – feel free to sweep these pieces off of the board and onto the floor as they are built tough for competitive play. The pattern is so typical of the Cold War period and oozes of the abstract and perfunctory Soviet designs that started to appear during the post-Stalin years of the 50s and 60s when the mass production of ‘chess sets for the masses’ was in full swing.
The rooks resemble mini cannons, tapering up gently towards the turret which itself mimics the shape of the barrel; the bishops are traditional and dignified. The angular knights – for me, always the star of the show – are an absolute delight and have an almost Picassoesque air about them due to the low setting of the eyes (in later sets the eyes are raised a few millimetres). I say ‘abstract’ because to me the strong, geometric form of the knight could also quite easily represent a lion, the ancient symbol of Kviv (Kiev) in western Ukraine (Latin: Leopolis; German: Lemberg) from where most of these sets originate. The city of Kviv was originally named after Leo I of Galicia, Grand Prince of Kyiv (1228-1301), eldest son of Danvlo, King of Rus and Anna of Novgorod. To this day the lion remains on the flag and coat of arms of Kiev and is strewn throughout the cities architecture. It may seem romantic, but I like to imagine that the anonymous designer of this set covertly incorporated a subtle slice of the region’s history into this iconic Ukrainian set and the more you examine the thick mane and low-set eyes the more entertaining this notion becomes…
The light pieces have been stained using a combination of paint techniques with oils, shellac and wax, finished with a subtle wash of verdigris, which is so subtle you’d hardly notice it unless it catches the light. The dark side has been given an antiqued/distressed finish to round off the old-time feel of this set…
The king’s finial replicates the original in form, but I have given them a more stocky, solid feel in keeping with the overall design. The queen’s ball-finial mirrors that of the pawns.
All pieces are UV resistant and ideal for display as well as blitz/casual play and both kings carry the hand-painted iridescent bronze ‘power’ signature of the artist on their bases.
The set also comes with a ‘Certificate of Artistry’ which will be posted separately once we tally up how many listings passed through our galleries in 2021. “All good things …” as the wise man said.
Ref code: EL21
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