Chess Set by Man Ray
Updated: Jan 29
Dada-Surrealist artist, Man Ray, created chess sets from 1920 till his death in 1976.
This design was inspired by Man Ray's lifelong friendship with avid chess player and fellow artist Marcel Duchamp. As a big chess fan, Man was interested in designing new, modern and geometric forms for chess pieces. He designed his first set in 1920, which he later cast in brass and plated with silver and gold for collectors such as the Maharajah of Indore. After almost 90 years, the original Man Ray Chess Set was finally released again through design purveyor nova68.
Very few of the original sets are still available for purchase and when they are, they command prices at auctions of tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Man Ray is hailed as one of 20th century's most innovative artists. His artwork was far ahead of its time. His vision was to design a simple straightforward, but modern and affordable chess set.
Each pieces has a special and meaningful representation behind its design, here are some example:
“The pyramid was the Egyptian symbol of kingship.
The cone, a medieval queen's headgear.
Dadaist that he was, he could not resist interjecting at least one discordant, though still elegant, element in the ensemble he based the form of the knight on a found object in his studio, the head scroll of a violin.
The flagon represented the bishops' tradition of creating exotic liqueurs and spirits.
The pawns are as tall as the rooks and almostas volumetrically robust as many of the other pieces that are higher ranked to show the increased importance of pawns in modern chess play.”