Gorgeous amber chess set returns to Gdańsk after 300 years
A magnificent amber chess set – one of just four similar ones that have survived to this day – has returned to Gdańsk after over 300 years.
Located on Poland’s Baltic coast, Gdańsk has long been associated with amber, fossilized tree resin valued for its golden colour and natural beauty.
This peaked around the 1600s, when local craftsmen made sophisticated amber goods that were valued not only in Gdańsk, but around Europe.
These include an amber chess set made around 1690, which has returned to the city after being bought by the Gdańsk Museum.
Museum director Waldemar Ossowski said: “Amber items are delicate and sensitive, and the susceptibility to damage increases with the age of the item, which is why many amber masterpieces have survived in fragments and are missing many figurines.”
This makes the chess set extremely rare: the only comparable ones are in the collection of the Danish royal family, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Grünes Gewölbe museum in Dresden.
“The chess set that will go to Gdańsk is one of four that have been preserved. It has all the figurines. Each one was made at the master level with great attention to detail. Only a skilled master could have made them,” Ossowski added.
The set may have been created in the workshop of Michael Redlin, one of the finest amber craftsmen of his time, who was active in Gdańsk in the second half of the 17th century. It made its way to Amsterdam and later to Blair Castle in Scotland.
The rare set came with a hefty price tag: the museum bought it for around 2.4 million złoty (over 0.5 million euros).
The money came from ticket sales and from EU funds; specifically, from the Poland-Russia Cross-border Cooperation Programme 2014–2020.
The amber chess set is already in the Gdańsk Museum’s collection and will be on display at the new Amber Museum located inside the city’s historical Great Mill from June 2021.