Sir William Reynolds-Stephens

A Royal Game


Not on display

Sir William Reynolds-Stephens 1862–1943
Bronze, wood and stone
Object: 2407 × 2330 × 978 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1911

Display caption

Reynolds-Stephens was one of the most inventive exponents of the New Sculpture. Here he visualises the political and religious struggle between Queen Elizabeth I and Philip of Spain as a chess game. Philip’s pieces are the ships of the Armada, the naval force sent to invade England, while Elizabeth’s are the fleet commanded by Francis Drake that destroyed them. At the time the sculpture was made Britain was engaged in a race with Germany for naval superiority. Therefore, it has links to the edgy nationalist fervour of the run up to the First World War.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

N02788 A ROYAL GAME 1906–11

Inscr. ‘Elizabeth of England’ b.l. and ‘Philip 11 of Spain’ b.r. on pedestal.
Bronze group with various metals and inlays, 94 3/4×91 3/4×38 1/2 (240·5×233×98).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1911.
Exh: R.A., 1911 (1751), as ‘A Royal Game - an allegory of the contest between England and Spain for the rule of the seas.’
Repr: Royal Academy Pictures, 1911, p.54; Studio, CXXXII, 1946, p.78.

Queen Elizabeth I of England and Philip II of Spain playing chess with ships. A plaster version, with a simpler base, was exhibited at the R.A. in 1906 (1797) and is reproduced in Royal Academy Pictures, 1906, p.139, and Studio, XXXVIII, 1906, p.14.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

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