03 October 2021

'Not a Shadow Box'

Once in a while on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), I'm not sure what I'm looking at exactly. Consider the item pictured below. It was titled 'Chess (technically untitled) Assemblage, Sculpture Set Designer Art' and sold for US $1495, 'Best offer accepted'. That price is an upper limit, meaning that we don't really know what it sold for, although it most definitely was a top item.

Back to the question: 'What is it?' The item description started,

This is not a shadow box but a miniature set design by a prominent European/Dutch artist and set designer, Peter Gabrielse. This assemblage, or what we might have called a shadow box from our school days, was created by the artist, Peter Gabrielse from Holland (The Netherlands). In Dutch they are called Kijkkasten, or box sculptures. Sometimes they are referred to as peep boxes.

I know enough Dutch to understand that 'kijkkasten' is the plural of 'kijkkast', but that doesn't help much. The word 'kijkkast', literally 'watchbox' -- where watch is a verb, not a noun -- translates to many things of which the most banal is 'TV set'. That clearly is not the item in the photo, so we need to continue with its description:-

Gabrielse was born in 1937 and is still living doing his creations. He is a well known set designer of 30 years experience working for theater and TV in Europe. He decided to make these assemblages with themes. This is obviously of chess.

A quck look at the artist's site, Peter Gabrielse : Architecture / interiors in miniature, gives more examples of his work, although it doesn't help provide a term to describe them. Note that the table at the bottom center of the box holds a miniature chess set and the figures at the bottom right are chess pieces. Along with much speculation about the symbolism in the art, the item description tells us the piece is heavier than it looks and gives us an idea of its size:-

The rough hewn wooden frame is about 20" by 18" and the open part is almost a foot square. It was listed [sic; listed where?] as about five inches deep.

The wire to the left of the box is for a light at the back of the box. The best word to describe the piece might be 'diorama', but that doesn't seem completely correct either. 'Not this, not that.' Where have I heard that before?

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