King's Pawn to Duke's Knight One
I have a weakness for Verdura. His work piques my imagination. So, acquiring this little chessman was, if I might be so bold, a masterful move! And his story is simply fascinating.
In 1939, a woman entered Duke Fulco di Verdura’s jewelry studio hoping to sell a collection of twenty-seven painted ivory chessmen from India. Entranced, Verdura bought the lot. He would transform them into a marvelous set of figurines and brooches, bedazzled with jeweled turbans, pendant pearl earrings, medallions, precious and semi-precious cabochon buttons, and trim.
Fulco, the last to bear the Sicilian title of Duke of Verdura, found inspiration for the chess pieces in an elaborate 18th-c. work called The Birthday of the Grand Mogul Aureng-Zeb, which still resides in the Green Vaults of Dresden. This masterwork, created by Johann Dinglinger, court jeweler of the Sun King of Saxony, Augustus, features 137 enameled and jewel-encrusted figures of men and animals in a lavish gold and bejeweled setting.
All this to say, that our brave knight has found his way through inspiration from the work of a King’s jeweler, through a collection of delightfully painted chessmen, to the exquisite piece you see before you. Checkmate!