Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier. “The Chess Players.”  From Appletons’ Journal.
New York: September 11, 1869. 6 1/8 x 6 1/8. Cover illustration. Wood engraving. Very good condition.
Meissonier’s (1815-1891) work is vastly weighted toward depictions of Napoleonic military glory. Born in the same year as the battle of Waterloo, he lived in a century in a country which continuously balanced itself between ideals of a French Empire and republican virtues glorifying the common man.
This scene, painted in 1856, is so fine as to emanate the tension between the two players, and the intense concentration of the player at left. Both appear to be wearing the styles of the late 18th century; of particular interest is the fact that only the player at right appears to have a sword at his hip. Perhaps it would be best for all concerned if he were to win the match …
Appleton’s Journal (1869-1881) was a popular illustrated weekly of the post-Civil War era. “Few periodicals...furnished a better picture of the varied life of the times...It had great variety; its articles were...short and readable;...it was very close to current ideas and interests...The original system of illustration...called for either a large folding “cartoon” on wood...or a steel plate or a fully illustrated ‘art supplement’ with each number, besides a number of woodcuts in connection with the letterpress.