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German Figural Chess Set, ca. 1914

A unique German figural folk art chess set with a king size of ca. 13.5 cm. The pieces are carved from a rather light wood, one side ebonized. Some pawns were replaced, the replacements made with some kind of compound matching in colour.

The kings resemble the Wilhelm II. (1859-1941, who was King of Prussia and German Emperor from 1888 to 1918). The faces show the particularly accentuated beard of Wilhelm II. and the crown resembles the Prussian crown, which was designed by Emil Doepler and made by the Prussian court jeweller Hugo Schaper upon order by the Prussian Parliament in 1889. The queens as female figures wearing a coronet. The rooks as tall turrets, the knights as carved horse heads. The bishops are shown as officers with steel helmets and long coats wearing a pistol holster on a belt. The pawns as soldiers wearing steel helmets, coats and backpacks with a gun over their right shoulder.

The military appearance of the bishops and pawns together with the kings depicting Emperor Wilhelm give a clear indication that this set was made during the First World War, i.e. between 1914 and 1918.

Description and photos by Holger Langer

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