Legendary Souvenir Chess Piece:
House of Commons V. House of Representatives, 1897
London – Christie’s is pleased to announce the sale of The Property of a Private Collector of Chess Sets and Game Boards, to be included in the Interiors sale at Christie’s South Kensington saleroom on 7 December 2010. The chess collection is to be sold by one of the founding members of Chess Collectors International, established in 1984, in Florida, USA. A leading highlight from the collection is a very rare souvenir chess piece. Thought to be one of only a few surviving examples, this gilt-bronze piece by Carlo and Arthur Giuliano was made to commemorate the historical chess match played between The House of Commons in London and The House of Representatives in Washington D.C, by cable in 1897 (estimate: £4,000-6,000) illustrated right. Lasting two days, the match resulted in a draw, with each winning 2 ½ games each, and a souvenir chess piece is believed to have been presented to each player as a memento for having taken part.
Arranged by John Henniker Heaton, a British Conservative MP, and U.S. Representative Richmond Pearson of North Carolina, this is believed to have been the only match played between the two governments of the UK and US. The matches were arranged as a fun pastime, but the players took them very seriously, with the Representatives documented as having received professional coaching beforehand. Cable matches were arranged soon after cable transmissions became available, the only drawback being the high cost for transmitting the messages.
The game of chess is documented to have been introduced to the ‘smoke-room’ at the House of Commons in the late 1880s, and was allegedly a very popular pastime for members. Several articles published at the time refer to a chess club, a petition for better chess boards and tables in the House, as well as lamenting the loss of the best chess players, due to members losing their seats during elections.
A number of the sets and boards on offer in the Collection featured in the famed exhibition catalogue “Schachpartie Durch Zeiten und Welten”, by Hans and Barbara Holländer. The catalogue documented the largest and most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to chess sets and related items ever staged, which was to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Hamburger Schachklub – the oldest and largest chess club in Germany, established in 1830. For chess collectors around the world, the chance to acquire items which appeared in this book is a very rare and special opportunity, and one not to be missed.
Further highlights from the Collection include:
A South East Asian carved ivory figural chess set, Burmese, early 19th century
A German turned and carved bone chess set, early 19th century
A North European painted carved fruitwood bust chess set, probably French, second half 18th century
A German silver and silver gilt chess set and silver board, the board with Mark of Ferdinand Wilm for H.J. Wilm, Hamburg, early 20th century
A Victorian turned ivory playing chess set, by William Lund, mid-19th century
A carved bone 'Pulpit' bust type chess set, early 19th century
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High resolution images and further information available upon request
Notes to Editors:
Saturday 4 December: 11.00am - 5.00pm
Sunday 5 December: 11.00am - 5.00pm
Monday 6 December: 9.00am - 7.30pm
Auction: Tuesday, 7 December at 10.30am
Ecatalogue: Available online from mid-November 2010 at www.christies.com/calendar (sale 5997)
Past single-owner chess sets sales at Christie’s:
The Dr. Jean-Claude Cholet Collection of Chess Sets – 2 May 2007
The Ettore Chiesa Collection of Chess Sets – 20 September 2006
The Kaspar Stock Collection of Chess Sets – 27 May 2004
The Allen Hofrichter Collection of Chess Sets – 20 September 2000
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