Chess Portraits: Breathtaking Art

by ChessBase
10/31/2013 – The talented Italian portrait photographer Francesco Ridolfi has embarked in a new adventure. His new series, called Chess Portraits, attempts to humanize the different pieces of the chess board and the result is an absolutely spectacle photo-shoot. The artist himself brings us his impressions and we bring you the images he worked so hard for and a video of the entire process.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Chess Portraits

A fine art series by Francesco Ridolfi

"Often, inside each one of us, opposing drives make themselves felt and alternate within as light illuminates and shadow darkens our minds. Black and White. Good plays Evil. Chess figures offer an opportunity to explore this dualism. They provide a set of archetypes that convey different aspects of human nature. They throw us into relief; they highlight us in shadow and light. Blacks and Whites."

I have always been fascinated with chess. When I was a child, my father taught me the rules of the game and we were used to play together. That said, I’m not certainly an expert on it, but still today I love to play chess with friends, especially during summer days. So, probably this is the original roots of the whole idea.

Talking on the photographic side of the project, the idea to humanize the different pieces of the chess board came to me probably a couple of years ago, and it took a while to grow up and shape in my mind.

To me, the most interesting part of the whole project was the possibility to portray the same character both in black and white – to highlight different and sometimes opposite parts of the human nature that often coexist in each of us. As a portrait photographer I’ve always been interested in these different feelings that could emerge in the subjects in front of my lens.

The fact that the chess game has a set of six different archetypes (the king, queen, bishop, rook, knight and pawn) to work with, gives me the possibility to explore different part of human nature. And, actually, it was a great source of inspiration to play with period dresses and costumes. I did a long research to find the right costume style for each character, than an extensive search for the perfect fabrics, travelling along the entire region. The fact that each costume was made both in black and white complicated the whole process a bit, but in the end the result repaid me for all the efforts I had undertaken!

Chess Portraits - The making of from Francesco Ridolfi on Vimeo.

I had the luck to work with a really great crew of people, from my assistant Gemma Benassi, who helped me along the entire project, to the clothes designer Elena Rapa, who has done a wonderful job with sketches, putting on paper my ideas, to the Scissor Lab guys and Anna Rizzoli who has been in charge for the production of the twelve different dresses. A special thanks also goes to Andrea Aiudi, a great artist who creates the personalized objects for each character (crowns, sceptres, bishop’s crooks, medallions..).

Probably the longest part of the entire project was the talent casting. It was done mostly online, but I also met some people to better understand if they really fit for the role. It took me about three months in total, but I feel I really got what I was looking for. The models came from all over Italy, with the special participation of the “knight”, who is based in New York City, but often comes in Milan for modelling.

From the beginning to the end, the entire project requires nine months of work but, again, I’m really happy with the final result:

Francesco Ridolfi

Francesco Ridolfi is an Italian portrait photographer who normally shoots for advertising and editorial projects. Born and raised in Bologna, Italy, he now splits his time between Brussels, Milan and Bologna working for different clients and assignments in the editorial and commercial field. His current work can be seen at his website, and is called chess portraits.

The artist: Francesco Ridolfi

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register