In this sculpture, a horned king towers over a conical queen and a sextet of infantry. Ernst first displayed the plaster version of this sculpture in The Imagery of Chess, a 1944 exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. The conflict and hierarchy inherent to chess may have served as an allegory for World War II, which had driven Ernst into exile in the United States. Or, as Ernst’s wife, the artist Dorothea Tanning, later wrote, “A hypothetical king and queen playing a game involving kings and queens—there is no end to the interpretations that could be put upon such a situation.”
Gallery label from Max Ernst: Beyond Painting, September 23, 2017-January 1, 2018.