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Moors vs.. Christians Chess Set by Vista Alegre, 1960

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 .

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