A Chess Painting


Luigi Mussini was an Italian painter. He painted a relatively well known picture, one that I've used in several of my pages. Called Una sfida scacchistica alla Corte del Re di Spagna,  the painting depicts Leonardo di Cutri's demolition of Ruy Lopez at the court of Philip II. In researching this little tidbit, I came across two common, almost universal errors. First was the date of the painting, usually given as 1886, was actually 1882 and second, which is especially odd given the first error, is that Mussini's death is given as 1881 (5 years before the supposed creation of the painting). Mussini died in 1888.

Una sfida scacchistica alla Corte del Re di Spagna


from The British Chess Magazine, October, 1882.  p. 334

     The renowned professor Luigi Mussini, director of the Academy of Fine Arts as Sienna, and painter of the very fine picture, "The last day of Nero," which in 1881 adorned the Art Exhibition at the Royal Institution of Manchester and was bought by an English gentleman, is now engaged in painting another picture alike destined to be exhibited in England.  We make this brief mention of the new work of the illustrious artist, because the subject has been suggested to him by the history of Chess.
     Leonardo da Cutri, better known under the cognomen of "Il Puttino,"  went purposely to Madrid to play at Chess with the famous bishop Ruy Lopez, who in his time was considered as the chief of Chess-players.  The contest took place at the royal palace in the presence of Philip the Second, and the Italian player triumphed over his formidable adversary, for which he received from that monarch valuable gifts.
     Professor Mussini has represented Il Puttino in the act of rising and announcing the decisive checkmate.  The work is executed with that wonderful mastery of design which distinguishes the productions of this excellent painter, and with much richness of accesories.  The personages of the court of MAdrid are formed into well devised groups.  In short, we believe that this work will have a still greater success than that which his "Nero" attained.  The painter of this picture is besides an able Chess-player and has composed many fine problems, which increases the interest we ought to feel in the expected sending of his painting.  We know that Sig. Mussini has sent two to other valuable pictures to this year's exhibition of the Royal Institution.                                                                       E.O.


Luigi Mussini was born on December 19, 1813 and died on June 18, 1888. His father, the chapel-master of the court of Berlin, sent him to Florence, Italy where he studied art (under his older brother Caesar), music and literature. His further art studies were conducted at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Florence. He blended his neo-classic style with the luxurious colors of the 16th century masters. Mussini opened his own school for a while but in 1851 was offered the position of Director at the Istituto d'Arte in Siena.
Both his wife, Luigia Mussini-Piaggio, and his daughter, Luisa Mussini-Franchi, were respected painters.