Lot 54
  • 54

JOSEF HARTWIG | Chess Set, Model No. XVI

6,000 - 8,000 GBP
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  • Josef Hartwig
  • Chess Set, Model No. XVI
  • with metal plaque inside box impressed Hartwig Weimar/Bauhaus Ges. Gesch.
  • cherrywood, partly stained, together with ebonised oak, walnut and bird's eye maple veneered games box, with contemporary backgammon and chess boards, by another hand
  • 6.5 by 13.5 by 13.3cm., 2½ by 5¼ by 5¼in.
  • Designed and executed 1923-24.
together with -- Mills, John Augustus, Chess Gems: Some of the finest examples of Chess Strategy, by Ancient and Modern Masters, Fakenham, 1890


Estate of Dr Baender, U.S.A., who acquired the set directly from the Bauhaus in Weimar as a student
Sotheby's, New York, Pioneering 20th Century Design: The Torsten Bröhan Collection, 8 March, 2005, lot 110


Walter Gropius and László Moholy-Nagy, Eds., Bauhausbücher: Neue Arbeiten der BauhauswerkstättenVol. 7, Munich 1925, pp. 43-45
Herbert Bayer, Das Bauhaus in Dessau: Katalog der Muster, 1925, n.p.
Magdalena Droste, Bauhaus: 1919-1933, Cologne 1990, pp. 94-95
Magdalena Droste and Peter Hahn, et al., Eds., Bauhaus Archive Berlin The Collection, Berlin 1999, p. 90
Exh. Cat., Weil am Rhein, Vitra Design Museum and Bonn, Bundeskunsthalle, the Bauhaus: #itsalldesign, September 2015 - August 2016, p. 289, no. 277 for an advertisement, cat. 278
Jeannine Fiedler and Peter Feierabend, Eds., BAUHAUS, Potsdam 2016, p. 406
Exh. Cat., Paris, Musée des Arts décoratifs, L'esprit du Bauhaus, October 2016 - February 2017, p. 196, fig. 2 for an advertisement


Overall in very good original condition. The game pieces with minor scattered rubbing and scuffs, concentrated to the ebonised piecees. The box with scattered minor scuffing, rubbing and surface sratches, concentrated to the outer edges, visible in the catalogue illustration.. The front left and right proper side of the lid with a hairline crack radiating horizontally across the top, measuring approximately 3.5 cm and appear stable, visible in the catalogue illustration. The games board with minor scattered rubbing, surface scratches, with some ligtening to the frame, partially visible in the catalogue illustration. The chess book without its cover, some losses and wear to the spine and cover, partially visible in the online catalogue illustration. The pages all appear to be intact but have not been counted. A rare set with excellent provevnance.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The present lot was designed by Josef Hartwig who collaborated with Joost Schmidt, the designer of the graphics and additional promotional materials for the set. At the time of its execution, Hartwig was leader of the wood carving and sculpture workshop at the Bauhaus, having accepted the position in 1921. The design of the set was based on an idea conceived by De Stijl artist Vilmos Huszar. Where Huszar modified the existing design of the traditional chess piece, Hartwig pushed the design of the pieces further into abstraction whilst retaining the intuitiveness of the game. Hartwig designed each game piece to reflect the directional moves in which it could be executed: "singly or combined, their shape specifies their movement; the volume, their worth" (Josef Hartwig, cited in: Herbert Bayer, Das Bauhaus in Dessau: Katalog der Muster, 1925, p. 11) An article in the Leipziger Tageblatt newspaper reviewing the set proclaimed, "Fans of the regal game [of chess] are in for a huge surprise: the demilitarisation of the chess pieces... Purely mimicking a ‘style’ will never lead to a satisfying result... there are few forces at work that are capable of creating a genuine new style from the inside out, and which can now quietly put new in place of old. A serious, modern artist who wants to redesign an object is aware that in the choice of form, he has to consider the peculiarity of his material, the method of manipulation and its purpose of use."