zondag 28 december 2014


Biedermeier Chess Men

The "Biedermeier" period is connotated with a period of political quiescence after the tumults of the French Revolution the 1830 revolution in France.  The typical figure fo these times in gErmany and Austria were "proper Mr. meier" (= der biedere Herr Meier), archetype of the politically passive, worksome and philistrian petit bourgeois. The chess pieces made during these early days of the 19th century in Germany and Austria - for better or worse - are called Biedermeier chess men. Biedermeier chessmen of the simpler type like the ones shown here were the standard playing material in Central European coffeehouses for a goodly 50 or more years, till the advent of the more robust  "Old Vienna" style. But some of them continued to be made way beyond the end of the so designated time, beyond the 1880ies...... on ebay, savvy sellers designate any kind of item - even 20th century or contemporary! - as "Biedermeier" in order to improve the cash result...


This style with the remarkable slope bishops with a baton jutting forth are the primeval model. The slope bishops have their origins in older forms of Selenus-type bishops, and basically are simplified forms of figural heads of messengers or couriers, with a feather on the hat! This set has damage, some of the pieces are age-twisted, one black knight does not match - but the rest is all there! Ca. 1800 - 1830.


Miniature bone set from the last half of the 19th century - with oversize side batons, which can be removed when playing. Sold by a Vienna shop, acc. to the sticker still well legible!

King size

Tall  slope-bishop set - in polished boxwood - kings stand 125 mm high. The slopes are a wee bit different than in the older preceding set - 1820 - 1850 from Austria. The bishop tops are not hollowed out as in the older set listed above....and the batons are striated.

Delicate chessmen

Slightly different set - bowltop bishops, "hangnose"  stylized knights, excellent condition. I suspect this set was made in the 20th century - or restored at some time....but these vibes may be all wrong, and the set actually might date to the mid-to- later Biedermeier 1840 - to 1880.

Peghead bishops

Intermediary bishop form between slopetops and disc-tops,  mainly for small sets. The bishop heads have become rounded, the baton has descended down the side. In some sets, these batons can be removed as they easily get broken or lost in practical play.....

Disk-bishops set

This form follows the slope/baton type - easier to make and more resistent. The cute disk hanging on the side of the bishop seems like a basque cap - and has far progressed from the original feather on  a hat!

Fancy disk bishops

Large and well finished disk bishop set - with cute finials on the rooks -  already an extra,  on the way to luxurious Biedermeier versions (fe like here).


Hangnose knights ( is that an expression of the times?) , rook finials, pins on queen and king - but still a playing set, for coffeehouses and the like.


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