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Soviet Propaganda Porcelain Chessmen, Reds versus Whites

This is a rare and historically important Soviet Propaganda Porcelain Chessmen, also known as the Russian Reds versus Whites. The chess pieces are painted and gilt. The first run of these chess pieces was made at the porcelain produced by the Lomonosov Factory in St. Petersburg. The King stands 3.7″ tall. This version was likely made in St. Petersburg in the 1990s.

The Soviet Propaganda Chess set is an example of the propaganda porcelain produced by the State Porcelain Factory soon after the establishment of communism in the years immediately following the 1917 Russian Revolution. The original Propaganda set was designed by two sisters who worked in the factory. Natalya Danko formed the figures and Yelena Danko painted them. Five versions of this set have since been identified as of this writing, including this set, sets marked 1921, 1923, 1925, and unidentified set, and the limited-edition Israeli version.

This set is a solid casting, like the 1925 and Israeli sets, not hollow, like the other versions. The pieces are marked on their undersides with the Soviet hammer and sickle mark, adjacent stylized crown.

The chess set has two very distinct armies. On the Communist side, the King is a blacksmith holding a sledgehammer; the Queen, a peasant woman carrying sheaves of wheat adorned with stars; Bishops are Russian soldiers, Knights are horses, Rooks are horse-headed boats, and the Pawns are female reapers holding sickles and sheaves of wheat.

On the Capitalist side: the King is represented as Death adorned with armor wearing an ermine-line cloak, the Queen, an allegory of Fortuna, holds a cornucopia brimming with gold coins; Bishops are officers of the Old Regime, Knights are horses, Rooks are boats with Pawns being suppressed workers or slaves bound in chains.

A Bit of History.
Previously the Imperial Factory until the Revolution in 1917, the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg produced propaganda sets like this from 1922 onward. As the Bolsheviks took power of the country, they wanted to make porcelain affordable for the masses. Only the upper-class were able to buy such luxuries before. The new designs also represented the communist agenda and were a form of propaganda. The Post Revolution factory produced porcelain with a propagandist slant and are often associated with Sergei Chekhonin, the factory Director of Artistic Production. Highly sought-after propagandist items like the busts of Engles and Marx and the figure of the ‘Red Army Soldier’ were soon followed by a series of small sculptures promoting the differences in ideologies. The offered set, designed by the sculptress Natalia Danko, circa 1922, reflect this popular propagandist sentiment which favored the Soviets. The Imperial Porcelain Factory has reissued several items designed by prominent Russian artists from the 1920s, inspired by the avant-garde. The largest and most expensive item in the new porcelain collection is the “Red and White” chess set.
Many thanks to Frank Camaratta for the description.

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