Saturday, August 09, 2008

Chess in Art IX

The Chess Players

Cornelis de Man (1670)

[Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest]

[Chess in Art index]
[Chess in Art collected]


Jonathan B said...

Come on then Martin ...

Anonymous said...

There is nothing artful in the checkerboard floor under these chess players. They were standard issue in Dutch interiors circa 1670. Every home had one, and Cornelis de Man of Delft, artist and gentleman, would have known that as he was, according to all accounts, a model citizen and stalwart of the town.

But he’s done a bit of genre bending here. This is not typical Dutch domestic interior painting, all modesty and decorum. It is high drama at the living room table. Husband’s hands fly in shock horror and wife turns conspiratorially to you, the viewer, to put her side of the story. The kerfuffle has even woken the cat.

And the cause of the turmoil? He’s going to lose! The Dutchman obviously played 1….f5 (an “unhealthy opening” according to Victor Korchnoi) and is now getting his comeuppance.

Cornelis de Man has let his hair down. He has had it up to here painting the stuffed shirts of Delft and so flouts not only a few of the current artistic conventions, but a social one too: the wife bests her husband!

But that backward look over the left shoulder. We’ve seen something like it before haven’t we? And so had de Man. His contemporary in Delft was Johannes Vermeer who had painted the Girl with the Pearl Earring a few years before. She was the first to catch your eye in this manner. So what we have here is the de Man variation of the Vermeer opening.

Martin S.

Morgan Daniels said...

Perhaps it would be nice one weekend to highlight some of Martin's excellent comments in a sort of 'Chess in Art' anthology post.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the compliment, which should be shared with ejh for his judicious selection of pics.

As for the Collected Works; watch this space....

Martin S.