Portuguese Porcelain Chess Set (Viana do Castelo)
Offered here is a rare, pristine example of the famous Viana Porcelain chess Set. The king stands 4-1/8″ tall with a 1-1/4″ base. The chessmen are cobalt blue and white and trimmed in ocher. Each of the pieces is hand-marked “Viana” under their base. The workmanship is particularly fine and delicate. The chess pieces are in as new condition. This Portuguese porcelain chess set made in Viana do Castelo in the North of Portugal by the local porcelain factory. These chess sets were cast between 1960 and 1980. Viana porcelain chess sets were only produced in small numbers and are rare. Most extant examples are damaged to some degree. This particular set in pristine.
The pieces display particularly well on the wood-framed blue and white porcelain chessboard shown here, which is included in the sale.
The style of the chessmen is typical for Portuguese ceramics and reminds of “azulejos”, the typical Portuguese blue and white ceramic tiles. The origin of the name “azulejos” is the arabic “az-zulaiǧ”, which means “small, polished stone” or “tile work”. All pieces are hand painted in the traditional three colors that were also used for the old faience pieces from the 19th century. The set is in pristine condition. The pieces are interesting as the design straddles line between abstract and concrete in form. A small, but interesting detail is the pawns, which are holding shields decorated with a blue flower, one of the three main motives in Viana porcelain (the others being religious motives and coats of arms of old-established local families).
The Viana do Castelo factory was founded in the Darque district and began producing pottery in 1747. It was closed in 1855 after a crisis triggered by the Napoleonic wars. It was not until ninety-two years later, in 1947, that the factory was rebuilt in the Meadela district with the aim of reviving the tradition of artistic ceramics in the style of Viano. Viano ceramics are made of hard porcelain and are characterized by the fact that they are entirely hand-painted and fired at a temperature of 1400º, which gives them a resistance that is unique. In 2010 production was suspended and the factory was soon afterwards completely closed. Today, there is only one shop and gallery next to the old factory grounds, selling off whatever remains from the old production, and a small museum where some of the most beautiful and valuable pieces are exhibited.