Chessman

Sicilo or Hispano-Arabic (Egypt?)
8th–9th century


Object Place: North Africa, Egypt

Dimensions

8.57 cm (3 3/8 in.)

Accession Number

1974.534

Medium or Technique

Ivory

Not On View

Collections

Europe

Classifications

Recreational

Cylindrical with rounded top. Handle-like protuberance characterising the piece as the Knight. (Knop is missing). Decorated with a geometrical pattern of points and circles. (Cracked).

Provenance

Before 1926, probably acquired from Raphael Stora (dealer), Paris, by Alphonse Kann (b. 1870 - d. 1948), Paris [see note 1]. Jakob Goldschmidt (b. 1882 - d. 1955), Berlin; June 23, 1936, Goldschmidt sale, Helbing, Frankfurt, lot 27, sold for RM 2100, probably to J. Rosenbaum, Frankfurt, for or with Georg Swarzenski (b. 1876 – d. 1957), Frankfurt and Boston [see note 2]; by inheritance to his son, Wolfgang Swarzenski, Winterthur, Switzerland; 1974, sold by Wolfgang Swarzenski to the MFA. (Accession Date: December 11, 1974)

NOTES:
[1] Published as being formerly in the Kann collection by Adolph Goldschmidt, Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus der Romanischen Zeit, XI-XIII. Jahrhundert, vol. 4 (Berlin: Cassirer, 1926), p. 6, fig. 12, with a companion piece. Ernest Kühnel, ed., Die islamischen Elfenbeinskulpturen, vii-xiii Jahrhundert (1971), p. 28, no. 10 states that Kann purchased the companion piece from Stora.

[2] Lots 27 and 28, both ivory chess pieces, were sold together for this amount. Lot 27 was lent to the MFA in 1939 by curator Georg Swarzenski, who had immigrated from Germany in 1938. His annotations can be found throughout the MFA library copy of the 1936 Goldschmidt sale catalogue. Next to lots 27-28 he recorded: “2100 / Rbm / I. Sw”. “Rbm” almost certainly refers to the Frankfurt art dealership Rosenbaum (by 1940, the companion piece was in the possession of the art gallery Rosenberg and Stiebel, New York, founded by Isaak Rosenbaum’s nephew). “Sw” may be a reference to his own name.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Jakob Goldschmidt was the principal creator of the Darmstädter und Nationalbank, or Danat Bank. As the result of the banking crisis of 1931, Goldschmidt incurred major financial liabilities. On December 22, 1931, the Danat Bank obtained full legal ownership of Goldschmidt's art collection as security against his debts. Goldschmidt retained physical possession of the collection and insured and cared for it. Once his debts were paid off, ownership was to be transferred back to him. On April 11, 1932, the collection was transferred to August Thyssen Iron and Steel Works, when Thyssen took over 3 million RM of Goldschmidt's debt at the Danat Bank (which itself was taken over that year by the Dresdner Bank). The collection however remained in Goldschmidt's home.

Jakob Goldschmidt left Germany in 1933, and immigrated to the United States in 1936. Until July 1934, Goldschmidt made interest payments to Thyssen; but thereafter Thyssen met his obligations by selling secured works of art. The auction held at Helbing in September 1936 generated RM 300,347 to meet his debts.

In 2006, the United Kingdom's Spoliation Advisory Panel issued a report regarding a painting included in the 1936 auction. The Advisory Panel found that the collection was sold “pursuant to Goldschmidt’s agreement with Thyssen in 1932 to liquidate his assets and reduce his Danatbank/Dresdner Bank liability; it was not a sale forced by the Nazi regime.”

A PDF of the panel's report can be downloaded at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/report-of-the-spoliation-advi...

Credit Line

Seth K. Sweetser Fund