Geislingen an der Steige, first documented in 1108, is situated deep in the valley of the river Fils between the mountains of the Swabian Alb, a region formed in Jurassic times with a sea level of about 400 meters. In the thirteenth century, the noble family of Helffenstein founded the town of Geislingen in order to better control the old trading route between the Rhine and the Mediterranean regions which had to surmount a sept accent before reaching the heights of the Alb area. The fame of Geislingen as a town of bone and ivory turners and sculptures who sold their products either in Geislingen or in Nuremberg by their correspondents. In 1781, the trade – which goes back to the Middle Ages – counted 36 masters working on ivory, bone and wood.
Many Geislingen sets show the same characteristics : the main pieces, and very often the pawns, are half-figures on turned bases. The bases end in a sort of hanging rosette. Kings and queens bear hoop crowns (“Spangenkronen” in German), crowns, that are not used in similar Dieppe pieces. The bishop is an officer slightly turned in his hips. The knight very often is a half horse with a tail enrolled as a sea horse. The sets are either white and coloured black or brown, or slightly painted in red and blue, while the bases are left white on one side and coloured on the other.
The number of turners’ workshops in Geislingen diminished in the course of the 19th century. In 1842, only 22 master turners were recorded. The very last one deceased in 1981. This workshop and that of a fellow tuner are preserved int he Museum in Alten Bau, a former half-timbered granary from 1445.
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