Type II English Open Crown Barleycorn Chessmen

Lot #537. Type II English Open Crown Barleycorn Chessmen

Type II English Open Crown Barleycorn Chessmen.

Paul Morphy
Paul Morphy

Here a fine example of a set of bone Type II English Open Crown Barleycorn Chessmen. The chess pieces are natural and stained red. The royal pieces feature ornate open crown work on the King. The King sports a Maltese cross finial. There is a feather finial atop the Queen. The chessmen are all mounted atop smooth baluster stems with simple circular bases.The chessmen are fabricated from bone which is natural and red-stained. True Barleycorn style chessmen have  barrel-bodied Kings and Queens, and are normally fabricated from bone, rarely ivory. The King stands an impressive 4-1/2″ tall with a 1-3/8″ diameter base. The Rooks are pedestal-mounted reticulated towers surmounted by flag finials.  The Bishops, Knights and Pawns are baluster mounted headpieces with simple turned bases and collars. The Open Crown Barleycorn Chessmen are in excellent condition for their age. The pieces are housed in a period box, possibly original to the set, The set was probably produced between 1820 and 1830. The antique Chess board shown in the accompanying images is not included. Our extensive selection of fine antique and modern chessboards can be found elsewhere on this site. A photograph of Paul Morphy sitting aside a set of English Barleycorn chessmen is shown opposite.

Some Background.

The term Type II English Barleycorn chessmen is used to describe a range of Barleycorn designs which feature simple turned, ringed bodies and ornate finials.  These chessmen were primarily fabricated from bone and were made  in England throughout the 19th centuryThe chess pieces, with the exception of the Rooks, will be pedestal mounted. The Rooks are normally stout towers, but, as in this case, can be pedestal-mounted and often sporting tapered staffs or secondary towers and flags. The English Barleycorn chessmen first appeared at the beginning of the 19th century, which coincided with the advent of the ornamental lathe.

 Despite its early popularity, the Barleycorn design was quickly replaced by the now standard Staunton chessmen, first offered in September of 1849. The new Staunton  chessmen proved to be much more stable, durable and suitable for practical play. 

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