Calvert Type II English Playing Chess set

Lot 349. Calvert Type II English Playing Chess Set

Calvert Type II English Playing Chess Set.

This offering is a circa 1820s Calvert Type II English Playing Chess set, often incorrectly characterized as a Barleycorn-style chess set. True Barleycorn style chessmen have broad barrel-bodied Kings and Queens, and are normally fabricated from bone, rarely ivory. The chessmen here are natural and red-stained ivory. The red stain is showing some losses and the ivory has developed a darker patina over time. The King stands 4″ tall with a 1.5″ diameter base. The reeded headpiece is surmounted with a small ball finial. The lack of a King’s cross finial belies its true size. The Cross finial can add as much as 1/2″ to the advertised height of the King. The Queens have spherical headpieces without finials. The Rooks are stout, pedestal mounted, reticulated towers with tapered, flagless staffs. The Bishops, Knights and Pawns resemble styles seen on typical Barleycorn chess sets.

The chessmen were likely produced by the firm of John Calvert, 189 Fleet St, London. John Calvert was a Master of the Worshipful Company of Turners (1819) and a leading chess maker in England from 1791 until his death in 1822, after which his widow Dorothy ran Calvert business until her death in 1840. Although the chessmen are not stamped,  the unmistakable Calvert Knight clearly marks this as a product of the John Calvert workshop.

The term English Type II Playing set is used to describe a range of English Playing chess sets, primarily fabricated from ivory, and made mostly, but not uniquely, in England during the 19th centuryThis poplar chess set design is characterized by heavily adorned, narrow, tapered, ringed bodied Kings and Queens, mounted atop baluster pedestals. The Kings will normally have reeded crowns and will lack the traditional Maltese cross or other decorative finial. The Queens will have reeded spherical crowns, usually lacking finials.  Rooks are normally stout, pedestal  mounted towers, often sporting tapered staffs or secondary towers. Bishops, Knights and Pawns are baluster-mounted, often reeded.  Normally, the designs of the Bishops, Knights and Pawns are essentially identical to those found on Barleycorn and Type I English Playing sets. The English Type II Playing Chess Sets first appeared at the beginning of the 19th century and were in common use through the early 20th Century. Aside from Jaques, chessmen of this type were produced by John Calvert, William and Thomas Lund, George Merrifield, Fischer, Hezekiah Dixon and Charles Hastilow, among others.

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