Bonhams Takes Control of Chess Market

. April 15, 2008

chess-set.jpgChess is making a come-back. For its very first sale dedicated to the world of Chess and Board Games on 13 May 2008 in London, Bonhams is lining up some incredibly important pieces to be sold.

According to Luke Honey, Bonhams’ Chess and Games Consultant, the collectors’ market in Chess is currently very strong and he says: “The sale will feature lots of private collections from around the world with some very rare pieces that can rarely be acquired at auction.”

Looking like a “united nations” of the board games world, Chess sets from almost every continent will be offered for sale by Bonhams, including an extremely rare ivory inlaid Backgammon and Chess Board from Northern Italy and dated to circa 1500 – the time of the Italian Renaissance. It is believed that when it was new it would have been the treasured possession of either a wealthy merchant or an aristocratic nobleman. Such items are not seen at auction often and as a result it is estimated at £8,000-12,000.

Luke Honey says: “The Italians tended to specialise in high quality carving in ivory and wood and were particularly good at producing “bust” form pieces. Complete wooden sets of this period from Italy are particularly scarce and very attractive.”

Around the world in several moves…from China to Ecuador

Like football the game of chess is played throughout the world, transcending all language barriers and cultural differences. This is reflected in the different examples of chess sets featuring in Bonhams’ May sale.

An especially fine quality Chinese Export Gaming Table from Canton, circa 1830, mounted on a tripod base, delicately carved with dragons’ heads, is expected to fetch £4,000-6,000. The lacquered and gilt chess board is richly inlaid with mother of pearl and is in excellent condition.

A Belgian Congo Tribal Chess Set in ebony and ivory, dating from around 1900, is highly stylised with the King as a chieftan, Bishops as witchdoctors, and Pawns as tribal elders. This fine quality set was brought back to the UK from the Belgian Congo by a civil engineer after World War One. It is valued at £800-1,200.

A large Eskimo sperm whale ivory chess set, circa 1950, also features in the sale. Knights are represented by dolphins; rooks as arctic hares, and while the King appears in traditional dress, the Queen looks like ‘Pierrot’ the clown with a ruff around her neck. The estimate for this set is £1,200-1,600.

A circa 1920 Silver Chess set from Ecuador in South America depicts Inca folklore figures. The Queen is Pacha (Princess of the last Shiry to rule Quito). The Rooks are copies of the Ecuador Monument while the Knights appear in the form of llamas. Estimate: £700-900.

An 18th century Islamic ivory chess set, stained red and green and decorated with gilding, contains abstract pieces as the Koran forbids figures to be reproduced. The set is expected to fetch £4,000-6,000.

Game on….

Other than Chess sets, the sale will include a variety of other games, such as Mah-Jong and Backgammon, rare playing cards and books.

From the Emerald Isle, a boxwood playing set made in Galway, West Ireland, is estimated at £2,000-3,000. It comes with a games box for Backgammon and Chess and carries a plaque dating it to 1808. Irish chess sets are similar to English ones of the period, except for the long-snouted horses of the Knights.

A mid-18th century Southern German Games Board for Chess, Backgammon and Nine Men Morris, made out of pear wood will also be sold. Highly decorated with tulip motifs, it is expected to sell for £1,800-2,200.

The Chess and Board Games Sale will take place at Bonhams, Montpelier Street in Knightsbridge, London on 13 May.

Category: Auction News

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