Lot #R139. Max Ernst Surrealist Chess Pieces


A reproduction of the famous Max Ernst Surrealist Chess Pieces in Boxwood and Ebony. The Queen stands 5-1/2″ by 2″. The chess pieces rest upon felt base pads. Like new condition.



Out of stock. Many of these items on this site are one-of-a-kind Antiques. Once they are gone, that’s it!


Max Ernst Surrealist Chessmen

Offered here is a recreation of the Max Ernst Surrealist Chessmen in Boxwood and Gabon Ebony.  Max. Ernst designed his enigmatic set of chess pieces for the 1944-1945 “Imagery of Chess” exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. The tallest piece stands 5-1/2″ tall with a 2″ diameter base. Interestingly, the Queen is the tallest piece in the set, surpassing the King, which has traditionally been the tallest piece in a chess set. This fact is not obvious on first glance since the symbolism is not obvious. The Max Ernst Chess Set has been featured in numerous exhibitions here and abroad. The unique design is an example of rethinking the design of conventional chess pieces using a surrealist philosophy. The set was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where it currently remains on display.

The pieces offered here are in excellent condition and display best on a frameless chessboard with 2-1/2” squares. No chessboard is included with this purchase, but a suitable board can be found here.


This surrealistic Chess Set was created by the artist and sculptor Max Ernst, one of the pioneers of the surrealist movement, in 1944. He was living in exile in the United States during World War II. He was forced to flee Germany in 1938 due to his opposition to the Nazi regime. His original design was fashioned by combining random geometric forms which were combined to create a one-of-a-kind set. The use of random shapes in the creation of the Max Ernst Chess Set is a hallmark of the surrealist movement, incorporating unrelated objects and combining them into a single cohesive creation.

Max ErnstThe following was excerpted from Wikipedia. Maximilian Maria Ernst (2 April 1891 – 1 April 1976) was a German painter, sculptor, printmaker, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was a primary pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism in Europe. He had no formal artistic training, but his experimental attitude toward the making of art resulted in his invention of frottage – a technique that uses pencil rubbings of textured objects and relief surfaces to create images; and grattage, an analogous technique in which paint is scraped across canvas to reveal the imprints of the objects placed beneath. Ernst is noted for his unconventional drawing methods as well as for creating novels and pamphlets using the method of collages. He served as a soldier for four years during World War I, and this experience left him shocked, traumatized, and critical of the modern world. During World War II he was designated an “undesirable foreigner” while living in France.

Ernst was born in Brühl. He began painting in 1909 while studying at the University of Bonn, and later joined the Die Rheinischen Expressionisten group of artists. Ernst’s work often featured ironic juxtapositions of grotesque elements with Cubist and Expressionist motifs. He had a fascination with birds, often including his alter ego, Loplop, a bird, in his work. He eventually settled in France and achieved financial success in the 1950s. He died in Paris on 1 April 1976. A complete biography of Max Ernst can be found here for the interested reader.

Additional information

Weight8 lbs
Dimensions14 × 12 × 10 in

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