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Chess Sets by Wedgwood

The popular Netflix drama miniseries The Queen’s Gambit, written and directed by Scott Frank, has undoubtedly helped to repopularize the game of chess for both novices and enthusiasts. Interest in collecting chess pieces has never waned, and the market has been competitive for many years.

Wedgwood chess set
Thirty-two-piece Wedgwood Jasper Chess Set modeled after an original design
by John Flaxman, based on characters from Shakespeare’s Macbeth

In the mid 1780’s John Flaxman, Jr., a young sculptor in his early 30’s designed a set of chess pieces for Josiah Wedgwood. Intricately modeled were the king based on the actor John Philip Kemble and queen based on the actress Sarah Siddons, each in the role of a Shakespearean character. The pawns were formed as soldiers in a variety of active poses. Production records show variations in the bases and the color combinations in jasper and other porcelain bodies. As early as circa 1785, Wedgwood offered the sets for sale in their London showroom.

The king model was based on the actor John Philip Kemble and the Queen model was based on the actress Sarah Siddons, each in the role of a Macbeth character.

Fast forward to today, and as you can imagine, these sets are scarce when complete. Many collectors will buy individual pieces with the hopes, over their lifetime, to assemble a complete set of 32 pieces, 16 per side.

Skinner is pleased to offer a complete 19th century Wedgwood jasper chess set with white figures and blue and lilac bases. The set, consigned to Skinner for auction by a private New York collector, comes with provenance from the prominent Wedgwood collector, Susan Weitzen, purchased from Rau Antiques in New Orleans in 1996.


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