Most gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess, and you don’t find out til too late that he’s been playing with two queens all along. — Terry Pratchett

Chess in Art

I received a copy of “Chess in Art” to review recently. This is a “coffee table book” published in Europe but available around the world. It depicts chess paintings and drawings from a variety of regions and centuries. Particularly with the popularity of Netflix’s the Queen’s Gambit, this could be a popular gift!

The basics

For a chess lover, this book offers 287 pages of chess paintings and drawings plus a significant number of pages with brief descriptions of the artists lives that follow as well as an index to where each of the artist’s works can be found in the book.

How the book is organized

The book is divided into the following eras, and most pieces (but not all) are European in origin:

  • 1100-1500
  • 1500-1600
  • 1600-1700
  • 1700-1800
  • 1800- 1900

Amusing Chess Images

As it says in its tagline, “the only book of its kind”, Chess in Art brings together an extensive collection of chess paintings and drawings that depict individuals playing this game of strategy. For some chess and art lovers, this may be an amusing publication. Evaluating the state of the games, or where a game is featured in a painting (sometimes the chessboard is quite hidden) may make for an enjoyable activity.

What's your next chess move? How about chess paintings and drawings? Chess In Art

Lacking scholarly rigor

The introduction features some interesting nuggets of information, such as “The lack of chess paintings in the beginning of the sixteenth century is attributed to the difficulty of establishing chess rules.” (p9)

Yet, the scholarly aspect of the prologue is undermined by the lack of references to bolster statements such as the one above. The prologue also fails to illustrate details or note page numbers for the pieces it mentions, making it harder to fully appreciate the works.

Paintings Origins not Provided

There are significant complexities in publishing, especially internationally, when dealing with rights relating to works of art and copyrights. This publication features hundreds of pieces of artwork, and yet no information on the origins of the paintings are given. This choice means that we readers are left to wonder as to the names of the pieces, the year(s) of creation, the materials used, size, and where one could see the original.

Fine for a chess lover, less so for art historian

This book is a unique contribution to the world of chess. It’s a good jumping off point for chess enthusiasts or future art history scholars who may want to analyze chess in art. However, it is tantalizingly short on the information needed to truly delve into the artwork.


The Details

Chess in Art 110 Euros, available on // Editor: Pavel Herel // Layout & typesetting: Jan Samec, David Rubek, // Book Cover: Peter Herel Raabenstein, Jan Samec // Expert consultation: Pavel Matocha // Proofreading: Rosana Murcott // Adviser: Sebastian Tijsma // // Editorial assistance: Tomas Pik // Gill PRogtrop// Copyright HereLove 2020

ISBN 9788090577677

“Chess holds its master in its own bonds, shackling the mind and brain so that the inner freedom of the very strongest must suffer.” – Albert Einstein