Lot #869. Antique English Barleycorn Chessmen, Type II

$695.00

A fine example of an English Barleycorn Chess set, Type II, with broad, heavily adorned, bodies and carved acanthus leaves on the Royal Pieces. The chessmen are all mounted atop smooth baluster stems with “cogged” circular bases. The King stands 3-5/8″ tall with a 1-1/4″ diameter base. Circa 1820

In stock

Description

Antique English Barleycorn Chessmen, Type II

This offering is a fine example of a set of very early English Barleycorn Chessmen, Type II, with broad, heavily adorned, bodies and carved acanthus leaves on the Royal Pieces. The chessmen are all mounted atop smooth baluster stems with “cogged” circular bases. The chessmen are fabricated from natural and red-stained bone. The King stands 3-5/8″ tall with a 1-1/4″ diameter base. The Rooks are massive, reticulated towers, extremely intricately carved, with a reticulated body and a staff finial.  The Bishops, Knights and Pawns are baluster mounted headpieces with cogged bases. The chessmen are in excellent condition with a few minor stable hairline cracks typical of 200-year-old bone chessmen. One Bishop is a closely matching replacement. True Barleycorn style chessmen have broad barrel-bodied Kings and Queens, and are normally fabricated from bone, rarely ivory. The set was probably produced between 1820 and 1840. The antique storage box shown appears to be original to the set. The antique chessboard shown is not part of this auction but may be purchased elsewhere on this site.

The term Type II English Barleycorn chessmen is used to describe a range of Barleycorn designs which feature highly decorated, fluted bodies and ornate finials often with carved acanthus leaves atop the Kings. The better sets will often have copious leaf and rope carvings on the bodies of the Royal pieces and cogged or lobed cases. These chessmen were primarily fabricated from bone and were made  in England during the 19th centuryThe Queens will have reeded spherical crowns, usually with small, simple finials. The Royal pieces will be pedestal mounted, often with reeded details. Rooks are normally stout towers, often sporting tapered staffs or secondary towers and flags. Bishops, Knights and Pawns are baluster mounted, often reeded.  The English Barleycorn Type II chess sets first appeared at the beginning of the 19th century, which coincided with the advent of the ornamental lathe.
This poplar design suffered from instability and fragile details which were easily broken. Other common complaints were that the “busy” design could disturb a player’s concentration and the size of the Royal pieces often obscured the view of the other chessmen during play. (Needless to say, these sets were not conducive to Blitz Chess!) Barleycorn chess sets were in common use through the early 20th Century. Despite its early popularity, the 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. 

Additional information

Weight6 lbs
Dimensions12 × 12 × 10 in

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