30 August 2016

Chess Sells, Propaganda Sells

In the most recent post about 'Top eBay Chess Items', Soviet Propaganda Porcelain, I wondered,

It escapes me why this current item might also be considered propaganda. Maybe I should look into that another time.

Of the first 21 images returned by a relevant search phrase, all but two of them feature the same chess set. Even after removing the keyword 'porcelain', at least half of the images are of that set.

Google image search on 'chess soviet propaganda porcelain'

The first image (top row, left) points to a post on this blog: Soviet Propaganda Chess Set (September 2009).

Originally the set was created on Lomonosov Porcelain Factory in 1920’s by a very famous and important artist - Natalia Danko. [...] This copy was made from an original set which is located in Lomonosov Porcelain Factory Museum.

The image next to it points to A Russian propaganda porcelain chess set (liveauctioneers.com; 'Sold For £1,100').

The Communists versus the Capitalists, Capitalist King as death, Communist King as a worker, Capitalist Queen in flowing robes, Communist Bishops as effete feudal clergy, Communist Knights as black and white horses, Communist Rooks as ships, Capitalist Rooks as black and white ships, Communist Pawns as healthy workers, Capitalist workers bound in chains, the King 10 cm high, the Pawn 5 cm high.

A later copy of the famous Soviet Propaganda set, designed by Natalia and Yelena Danko in the early 1920's. Literature:
- Bloomsbury Auctions, "Fine Chess Sets and Games", Tuesday 26th October, 2004, Lot 95.
- Bloomsbury Auctions, "Fine Chess Sets and Traditional Games", Thursday, 14th April, 2005, Lot 182.
- Collen Schafroth: "The Art of Chess", Abrams, New York, page 10.

The other images link to similar explanations. But what about my question on 'Top eBay Chess Items: Soviet Propaganda Porcelain'? The best explanation I could find was a booklet titled News From a Radiant Future: Soviet Porcelain from the Collection of Craig H. and Kay A. Tuber (amazon.com).

In a 1925 article on the post-Revolutionary production of the State Porcelain Factory in Leningrad, the ceramic artist Elena Danko described the factory's wares as "news from a radiant future." This volume is a catalogue of the Art Institute of Chicago's 1992 exhibit of Soviet porcelain from the collection of Craig and Kay Tuber. The essays included in News from a Radiant Future discuss the relationship between Bolshevik propaganda and the state porcelain factory, as well as the larger tradition of Russian imperial ceramics. They also consider porcelain's connection to the Russian folk heritage and specifically to the October Revolution.

In short, any Soviet porcelain that shows Lenin, Stalin, or workers is propaganda. The eBay item featured two workers (and a dog); that makes it propaganda; and that helps it sell. Capitalism won.

No comments: