Antique Selenus Bone Chess Pieces

Lot #395. Antique Selenus Bone Chess Pieces

Antique Selenus Bone Chess Pieces.

Offered here is graceful set of Antique Selenus Bone Chess Pieces, natural and red-stained, circa 1750 – 1800.  The King stands 4-1/4″ tall with a 1″ diameter base. The chessmen are in excellent, condition. Over time, the worn red stain has matured to an attractive warm reddish-brown.  The chess pieces are housed in a replacement wooden box. A unique feature of this style is the opposite colored finials atop the Kings, Queens, Bishops and Rooks and the straight cut across the bottom of the Knight’s head. Contrary to what has appeared on several venues, the alternate colored finials was simply a stylistic feature. This style of chess pieces was made in Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Northern Europe. The standard for these designs included delicate, slender, lathe-turned bodies and bases, fitted with circular tiers resembling crowns. The Kings and Queens were distinguished by height and number of tiers.


The Selenus design was named after Gustavus Selenus, a pseudonym of Augustus the Younger, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Gustavus is a creative anagram of Agustus.  Selenus comes from Selene, Greek goddess of the moon, an obvious reference to Luneburg. In 1616, Augustus (Gustavus Selenus) published the first German chess book,  Das Schach- oder Königsspiel.  In addition to chess instruction, this book contained excellent illustrations of contemporary chess pieces. German chess pieces at the time tended to be slender with stacked floral crowns. The pieces became taller, thinner and more elaborate as time went on. Their floral motif has led to their being known as Garden or Tulip sets. The Selenus pattern sets were manufactured in Central Europe until around 1914. The Selenus design is one of the most elegant of the classical chessmen in use before the standardization of chess pieces ushered in with the advent of the Staunton chessmen. The revolutionary Staunton design was registered by Nathaniel Cooke and launched, in September of 1849 by John Jaques of London.

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