The Vista Alegre Chess Set.
Offered here is the famous Vista Alegre Chess set. These sets were produced between 1960 and 1962 at the Vista Alegre Porcelain Works in Portugal. The design was provided by Jeannine Hetreau, an accomplished painter of delicate and highly stylized designs. She was one of the artists who migrated to Portugal from Belgium. She was the artistic director of Vista Alegre between 1957 and 1966.
The theme of the set is “Christians versus Moors”, with the figures in medieval dress. The tallest piece, the Moorish King, is over 4 inches tall. The pieces are all hand-painted. The level of detail is nothing short of astonishing. The eyes of the Knights are painted, not just the pupils, but a white reflection at the edges of the pupils.
It is not known how many sets Vista Alegre produced during its two-year run, but very few remain, perhaps a testimonial to the delicate nature of these chess pieces. Porcelain chess sets are, by their nature, intended to be shown, preferably in a glass showcase. They are collectors pieces for porcelain appreciators, with a chess theme. Not many companies still produce chess sets in true porcelain. Among the classic porcelain manufacturers, the Vista Alegre set stands alone. Its historical theme, its coloring, its superbly crafted painting and its refined design remain nonpareil .
The Porcelain Vista Alegre set comes in its original case that doubles as a chessboard. It is constructed of black and transparent Lucite. The base is divided into separate compartments for each piece. The chess set is in like new condition.
On the Iberian Peninsula, where battles between Christian Crusaders and invading Moores occurred for centuries. The Moors were the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta during the Middle Ages. The Moors initially were the indigenous Maghrebine Berbers. The name was later also applied to Arabs. The long-standing wars became a frequent theme for chess sets. This modern set was made by Vista Alegre, a porcelain manufacture located in Ilhavo, Portugal. The company, founded around 1820, is now the largest manufacturer of porcelain and glass tableware in Portugal and the sixth largest in the world.
Stylistically, the long-necked pieces have a similarity to the Lladro porcelain set from Spain and are probably influenced by Mannerist (Late Renaissance) paintings. This bust-style Chess set features two warring armies, but the bright colors and design make it far more cheerful. The Crusaders are Europeans on white bases. The King and Queen sport unusually tall, stylized crowns. The bishops are dressed as European prelates. The Pawns represent soldiers wearing armor. The Moors, black skin Africans, sit on black bases. Their king also wears a crown perched atop a blue turban. The bishops wear blue turbans wrapped in white scarves. The Pawns are dressed in the artist interpretation of Moorish garb, with orange and black turbans and tightly wound white scarves.
Faces and costumes are delicately painted, with the brighter colors used for the costumes. The bases are conical frusta decorated with fine lines, black stripes on white for the Crusaders, white stripes on black for the Moors. Each base is marked with the letters VA to indicate that the pieces were made by Vista Alegre.
Vista Alegre porcelain is used in some of the most exclusive venues in the world. It is especially renowned for the fine artistic quality of its painted ware. Over the years, the company has collaborated with a long line of renowned painters and artists to design and decorate its figurines, plates and collections.