Saturday, December 15, 2012

Auction Watch: Amber Gaming Board Sets Sale Record

What can I say?  It is an incredible folding board that features a chessboard (western style on an 8 x 8 board) upon which checkers (draughts) can also be played, a backgammon board, and a nine men's morris board, all finely wrought to perfection.  That the board is alleged to have belonged to a controversial English king is a plus.  Here is the story from the Daily Mail:

Cheque mate: Chess board taken by King Charles to his execution sells for £600,000 to private collector
  • Amber games board was believed to be one King Charles took to execution
  • Sold for more than £600,000 to a private collector at an auction in London
  • Monarch was an avid fan of the game, and was playing when told of betrayal
By James Rush

[Excerpted] An amber chess board taken by King Charles 1 to his execution has been sold for a record £600,000.

One of the photographs from the article.  Images of the backgammon
and merrels board are also included in the article.

The board was owned by the controversial King, who was such an enthusiast for chess he was engrossed in a game when a messenger told him he had been betrayed by the Scots to the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War.

The news sealed the royal's fate and he was executed on January 30, 1649.

It is known the King took with him two precious possessions to the scaffold where he was beheaded: a Bible and an amber games board, believed to be the one that has now sold for £601,250.

Erik Bijzet, an expert in European sculpture at auctioneers Sotherby's, said: 'This board was made by Georg Schreiber who was known as the "King of the Gamesboards".

'He was an amber worker in Koeningsberg, the capital of Prussia, where amber washed up on the shores of the East Sea in small amounts.
'The board is dated 1607 and was given to either James I or Henry Frederick as Charles was only seven-years-old then.

'When at the height of the Civil War a messenger arrived to inform Charles that he had been betrayed by the Scots he didn't rise from his game of chess, even though his fate had effectively been sealed.
'Charles took a Bible and a games board with him to the scaffold where he was beheaded.'
Following his death the items were passed on to his personal chaplain, Bishop William Juxon, who read Charles his last rites.  The board then remained in his family until the 18th century before it was acquired by British peer Sir Robert Hesketh.  It has now been sold by the Second Baron Hesketh's Will Trust.

The board was bought at auction in London by a private collector, following a dramatic bidding war, for £601,250, the highest amount ever paid for an amber games board.  Mr Bijzet said: 'It entered into the ownership of the Hesketh family and an inventory of their possessions is the earliest record that mentions that the board belonged to Charles.

'Besides the provenance, this board is a tour-de-force of amber working, is of superb quality and was made by the maker of Royal chess sets. We only know of four comparable boards, none of which have seemed to survive in good condition.'

The board, which measures 27ins by 13ins, opens into two halves, allowing it to be used for different games including chess, backgammon, draughts and Nine Men's Morris, a strategy board game which emerged from the Roman Empire. [Note: Nine men's morris or merrels was played long before the Romans existed as a culture. The ancient Egyptians played the game.]
The board would have been extremely sought after and expensive during the 17th century due to amber being found only in small quantities. 

Mr Bijzet said: 'Everyone in the saleroom seemed to hold their breath when the bidding went down to the collectors.  As these two reached the limits of their resources a third contender in the front row entered the bidding and won the object.'

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