|A Hopeless Case
George Goodwin Kilburne (1839-1924)
Otherwise the most alarming correspondence, and one that suggests we have stumbled on some underlying law of human behaviour, is that in both compositions we are treated to a pretty much full-on crotch-shot (if you'll pardon the rather tasteless expression). However, this phenomenon is not, in these examples, exhibited indelicately by the lady, but by her opponent, and moreover without the least inhibition - as if this disportment is hard-wired into the male of the species. The fellow of the "European School" presents in this way as he annexes the adjacent furniture (here a real item; one is only implied in the Kilburne). Thus our fellow adorns his display in what is an especially extreme case, one that would delight any ethologist making field observations of instinct-driven mating rituals. That gape, and the extension of the left leg, make a most impressive foreplay. The lady however, just like a cany female bird of paradise, affects not to notice - which of course will only goad him into yet more flamboyant ornamentation. Next up: the park bench?
In Kilburne's picture it is the lady who sports the red accoutrement, and her discretion in the deployment of her token of passion is a model of decorum. By contrast, it must be his propensity to exhibitionism that has encouraged the chap of the "European School" to flaunt so much scarlet and to draw attention to himself thus. Some Pantaloon. If he's not careful he will frighten the horses.
The chess game, though, is where the socially-constructed action is focussed. In the two pictures the fellow is clearly discomforted both socially and chessically, and the head-in-hand signals despair as his game goes down the tubes. In each case we can see the artist making a decent fist of showing this on the board. The exponent of the European School first, and apologies for the small size...
...but as you can just see, it has come down to a straight forward ending, for which there is no need to consult the computer. The lady must be playing white and has also what is likely to be a rook. Thus her winning position fits the inter-personal narrative, though you might have expected her to collect his black pieces, rather than her white, in that convenient tray.
This is the position from A Hopeless Case...
...and small and fuzzy though it is (apologies again), you can just make out what might be a rational position in which she has a mating attack with the black pieces - indeed it may even be game over, and they could now adjourn to repair his amour-propre.
Finally a modern example of the genre (with the lady on the right again), but where the artist has contrived a ingenious way of disguising his ignorance the game.
|The Greatest Game in the World – His Move (1903)
Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944)
There are many other examples of flirty glancing to be discovered. They have a particular charm as we enjoy the inter-play between the games on and off the board. Even if we may lack the criteria for assessing their artistic merit, we can feel confident when awarding marks for chessic plausibility.
But finally, and to repair an omission: as this is a Chess in Art Postscript we should establish our precedent - perhaps we should have done so at the beginning - and refer back to the relevant Chess in Artwork posted by ejh in his Chess in Art series all those years ago. This is the one, not that you'd call it érotique à la Marek, whatever the language.
|The Game of Chess (1670)
Cornelis de Man (1621-1701)
[Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest]
There are, however, some more obvious contrasts between the loveless de Man and the other examples discussed in these two posts wherein amour may be seen to be burgeoning. Firstly, here, there appears to be no love lost between anyone bar the enraptured cat. Secondly, and maybe consequentially, notice that although the lady is flirty glancing, she is catching no one's eye but yours.
With particular thanks to this excellent chess in art site
Chess in Art Index