Once upon a time, not very long ago, Educa used to publish excellent fine art puzzles in different sizes. An example is this beautiful The Battle of Austerlitz, by François Gerard. Just 20 years ago, this Spanish manufacturer was producing art puzzles regularly, giving priority to classical masterpieces. Just between 1995 and 2005, the catalog is impressive. Most collectors are familiar with those puzzles in the elegant white box.
Has the average puzzle fan changed?
What has happened in the last 20 years? Is the puzzle enthusiast different now? Has the taste of the public changed? Why Educa and some other major brands are not including fine art in their catalogs anymore, or very rarely? I know there is a demand for them, which is the reason why Rare Puzzles has visitors. However, it is sad to think that we are a minority now. I’m sure puzzle brands have made their research. They probably know that puzzles by modern artists sell better than classical pieces like this extraordinary The Battle of Austerlitz. Still, a lot people are looking for those puzzles, so there must be some other reason. Licensing costs perhaps? Copyright?
My experience with The Battle of Austerlitz
If I recall well, this was the 4th large puzzle that I assembled. According to my records, I completed this puzzle between August 22 and September 12, 2009. In those times, I was relatively new to puzzles. I was discovering new puzzles every week, and I wanted to assembled them all. My passion seemed fresh. In any case, I had a lot of fun with this one and it was one of my most enjoyable puzzles.
I was still living in Los Angeles and I completed the puzzle on the floor. I assembled the puzzles on the floor back in LA, using one of those green mats on the carpet. However, I never used the mat to “store” the puzzle rolling it, since I never spent too long with them. Like many of us, my OCD led me to work on the puzzle many hours a day until I finished.
In those times, I brought to Spain in my summer trips the puzzles assembled in layers. The purpose was to frame them eventually. I didn’t keep the boxes then, which seems like a sacrilege now. So, I stored the puzzle until someone told me recently he wanted it assembled without the box.
A wonderful puzzle. I wish Educa produced more of these again.
Not so long ago, assembling jigsaw puzzles was kind of a solitary passion for most of us. It was something that we enjoyed, but we couldn’t share with the people around us. Our friends and relatives had heard about it, of course. However, they probably considered it part of our geeky nature, but nothing more. Meeting someone on any public venue, striking up a conversation and discovering that both shared a common interest for puzzles? Never happened. It was a hobby that we couldn’t normally share with anyone. In those times, a puzzle competition was inconceivable.
Internet and puzzle forums
Then, the Internet came to our lives. The Big Jigsaw Puzzle Collection forum at Flickr made the single most decisive contribution to putting together serious puzzle collectors and enthusiasts. For the first time, it was possible to meet online like-minded people. Now it was possible to talk about designs, pieces quality, editions, brands…, and share the passion for puzzles. The fact that most of those people were thousands of miles away from each other was just secondary. At the same time, similar local forums started to flourish in different countries. For example, Puzzleando in Spain, or Puzzle Forum in Italy.
Those connections helped us learn much more than what we knew. We found puzzles that we didn’t even know they existed, and we strengthened our collector’s mind. We could get feedback for the first time about a puzzle we had found or we had completed. In the past, when we finished a puzzle, there was nobody around to say High Five.
Association and puzzle competition
Inevitably, when people that share common interests get together, sooner or later they form an association. In Spain we have AEPUZZ (Asociación Española de Puzzles). They promote this passion and organize jigsaw puzzle competitions during the year in many different towns around Spain. And once a year, they organize the national puzzle competition, usually in Madrid. It took place this year on Saturday, June 15, 2019 in Aranjuez, very close to Madrid. It was their 10th anniversary, with almost 1000 participants.
I attended last year for the first time out of curiosity, and just as an observer. I wanted to see what was all about. For me, assembling a jigsaw puzzle was an activity related to leisure and calmness. When I think of a puzzle, the ideas that come to my mind are a cup of coffee, background music or a podcast, and perhaps rain outside. I didn’t see the point of rushing to finish, much less competing to find out who completes the puzzle first. It was like subverting the hobby into something very different to what it was to me.
I remember my surprise when I entered the place of the competition and there were several hundred people sitting on tables working on 500 pieces puzzles. I couldn’t believe there were so many people so interested in puzzles as to spend their weekend on a contest. Besides, many participants came from remote places and they also had to pay for their trip and hotel. What was the point? One of the women that won the Couples contest started to cry as soon as they finished, when she found out they had won. I’m sure she was just relieving all the tension accumulated, but it struck me as absurd. I said to myself: This is not it.
Puzzle competition to have fun
Last Saturday I attended again, but this time I saw some things that I missed last year. I learned that, except for a handful of participants who aspired to win the competition, the majority of people went there just to have fun, particularly in the Couples contest. There were a lot of couples formed by a parent and a child, or older spouses, or friends. I learned that for most of them the contest was just an excuse to spend the afternoon doing something together with a lot of like-minded people that like jigsaw puzzles as much as they do.
It was also a great opportunity to meet in person people that you just know by their nickname on a forum, or vendors that have created an account at Rare Puzzles and are planning on listing some of their copies. The interesting thing is that the normal conversation was always about puzzles. The type of conversation that would have been impossible not long ago, was the norm here.
The winners of the Couples competition were Lina Ivanova and Marina Kolegova, from Novosibirsk, Russia. They finished the puzzle in 00:31:01, which is an excellent time. They also competed in the Individual contest and they finished first and second respectively. Lina Ivanova also won last year, so we have here some serious puzzlers.
GijonForEver and @Pradilla participated this year and they encouraged me to join them in the next edition. Never say never.
Two years ago I decided to a start a Missing Piece Replacement service at Rare Puzzles. I knew it was not easy to find a perfect replacement from a compatible puzzle. However, I thought a bad replacement was always better than an incomplete puzzle. Little by little, the Missing Pieces section increased. However, I never expected to add the wonderful 5000, MB, The Tiger Hunt, by Rubens, to the list. There are around 20 puzzles only listed now, but I’m sure many more will come in the future.
One year ago, I was able to provide a compatible piece for the 5000, Ravensburger, The Night Watch, by Rembrandt. I had sold a used copy with a damaged piece that I had not detected. For that reason, I felt compelled to assemble a compatible copy and find the replacement, which was perfectly good.
Very recently, GijonForEver, who is a a very active puzzle enthusiast and has the best collection of large fine art puzzles in Spain (IMHO), completed the magnificent 5000, MB, The Tiger Hunt. When he started, he was sure that the puzzle was complete. However, he got a missing piece when he finished. Bummer!
At around the same time, I had found with his help a “sealed bag” copy of this puzzle. As it happens many times, the puzzle didn’t come with a sealed bag, as the seller assured. It was, in fact, incomplete. At least the pieces were in excellent condition and I figured I would keep the puzzle for future replacements.
A perfect piece replacement for The Tiger Hunt
The silver lining is that both puzzles were compatible. That meant there was a good chance that we could fix his copy with mine. Since I had not assembled my puzzle, I gave him my copy and GijonForEver looked for the missing piece himself. Since it was a piece with three heads, it didn’t take him too long to locate it.
The piece was perfect. There is no way to know it was not the original one. The fit, the pattern within, and the shade of green were exactly the same. GijonForEver was really happy because he had now his puzzle complete. And I was very happy too because there was no better use of the Missing Piece Replacement service of Rare Puzzles than fixing such a gem by MB. Besides, GijonForEver happens to be a really great cook. I know he will prove it to me again in the future and for a very good reason now.
This is just a small success story. It simply shows that the project of getting replacements for most of the major classic fine art puzzles is viable. It will take time, for sure, but it can be done. I’m sure in the future there will be many more puzzles available for replacements. And we will be able to fix many other puzzles, like this one. Puzzles like The Tiger Hunt are truly worth it.
When I verified this old and beautiful Ravensburger puzzle on February 10, 2016, the final count was 2003 pieces. However, I was able to detect 3 clearly foreign pieces. For that reason, I was hoping that this Liberation Celebration, by French artist André Bauchant, would be complete. It is not easy to find a puzzle from 1976 in excellent condition, so I was optimistic when I could spot the foreign pieces.
Foreign and extra pieces
However, when I detect a foreign piece in a puzzle during the verification process, I never list it for sale right away. Why? Because if there is a foreign piece that I have detected, it is possible that there is another one that I have not detected. After all, a foreign piece in a puzzle indicates a careless owner. For that reason, I simply put it aside with the intention of completing it some time in the future.
The same applies when I get extra pieces but I am unable to detect foreign ones. If a puzzle must have 1530 pieces, for example, and I get 1531, then the puzzle is not listed for sale. Only when I get the right number, I assume that the puzzle is complete, and in most cases it is. There have been, however, one or two cases when the puzzle seemed to be complete, but there was a foreign piece that I had not detected. When the buyer assembled the puzzle, he ended up with a missing piece and a piece that didn’t belong. In both cases, I got another copy of the puzzle, put it together myself, and sent it to the buyer already assembled. Even Homer nods.
4 foreign pieces in Liberation Celebration
Unfortunately, soon after I started working on this puzzle, I found another foreign piece. I had not detected it during the initial verification. Ops! That meant that the puzzle was going to be incomplete, as it finally was. Now, I wonder how those pieces ended up in a different puzzle box. The size and form of those foreign pieces made me think that they belonged to some of the old puzzles by Waddington. They are very similar to the pieces of Diana Hunting, for example.
In any case, this Liberation Celebration was absolutely delightful. It is amazing how Ravensburger cardboard pieces remain in excellent condition after more than 40 years. The vibrant colors and the great amount of detail made me enjoy the experience as much as when I started with the hobby. It was refreshing.
It is a shame that the puzzle was finally incomplete, but it was a great excuse to put it together. The puzzle will now be available for replacements.
This Liberty Puzzle is one of the most interesting jigsaw puzzles that I have assembled, and the reason is not the fact that I like Alphonse Mucha very much. I must say liked this painting from the very first moment I saw it. However, when I found it, I was not sure whether I should buy it or not. The image in the box had golden tones that I somehow disliked. There was a label with the form of a puzzle piece that read ORO-OR-GOLD, so I figured it was some particular style of this brand. Eventually, in order to provide some diversity to my collection, I decided to buy it.
Doing some research about the puzzle, I found out the manufacturer was International Team. They were an Italian company that disappeared in the 80’s that produced some very nice and unusual puzzles. Among them, they published 12 puzzles for a Zodiac series. Several illustrators designed all the different pictures for the series, getting their inspiration from Mucha. Then, to close the series, there was a 13th puzzle, which is this one. The puzzle depicts the painting titled represents a painting titled Flower, which Mucha completed in 1897.
Liberty Puzzle means Art Nouveau Puzzle in Italy
Interestingly, the title in the box is Liberty Puzzle. This title doesn’t seem to be related to the picture, and the original title by Mucha doesn’t even appear. However, we need to know that in Italy the Art Nouveau style was known as Liberty Style. That was due to the popularity of Art Nouveau designs from London’s Liberty & Co Department Store. In other words, the title is something like Art Nouveau Puzzle.
I ended up loving the puzzle. It was not golden, as I was thinking it would be based on the box. Once assembled, the final result was some kind of soft and silky texture that made a wonderfully crafted jigsaw puzzle. Simply beautiful. The original painting is a little bigger, and Mucha’s signature cannot be seen in the puzzle.
Although it is not exactly the same version of the puzzle, there is a 1000 pieces edition by D-Toys titled Fruit and Flower, where this painting appears, together with another one by Mucha.
1500, International Team, Liberty Puzzle, Alphonse Mucha, 58 x 78 cm, Reference number 9055.
It is difficult to be original when it comes to jigsaw puzzles. Some companies have innovated with unusual die cuts, while others have produced silhouette puzzles or even 3D puzzles. Dividing an image in three contiguous sections is another way to be original. The company Spiel Spass produced some puzzles in this format, as part of their Triptychon series. The title of this one is Lawn with Poppies, although the only title in the box was in German: Mohnwiese. There is no reference to the artist.
The result is interesting, with a panorama effect. I am sure that the framed puzzles would look nice hanging on a wall. However, the selection of the images are questionable, at least in the puzzles that I have seen belonging to the same Triptychon series. They look like the stock images that we can find at hotel rooms or at the dentist’s office. In any case, de gustibus non est disputandum, and fortunately we all have different taste and preferences.
Why did I complete Lawn with Poppies?
Whenever I buy a used puzzle, the seller can guarantee that the puzzle is complete. However, that doesn’t mean that the puzzle will be complete. This puzzle had two sealed bags and the bag of one of the 500 pieces section was opened. When I verified it, there were 4 missing pieces and 2 huge foreign pink pieces that surely belonged to some puzzle for children.
My first impulse was to throw it away. I felt the effort of putting it together was not worth it, since it was very unlikely that anyone in the future would need a replacement for this particular puzzle. However, the reflex of the puzzle enthusiast prevented me from getting rid of it. It was, after all, a puzzle. How could I throw it away? I simply couldn’t put it on the trash, so I put it together.
The result was OK, but nothing to brag about. Since I completed the puzzle in sections, the process was simple and straightforward. It’s an easy puzzle and, after I finished, I must admit I enjoyed the process. Needless to say, the puzzle was added to the Missing Pieces section
2×500, 1000, Spiel Spass, Lawn with Poppies, Unknown Artist, 32 x 47.5 cm, 65 x 47.5 cm, 32 x 47.5 cm, Reference number 77683.8.
Spanish brand Educa has a very nice collection of 1500 pieces jigsaw puzzles under the label of Museum Series. This version of Leda Atomica by the Spanish artist Salvador Dalí is just one of the many puzzles in the series. In order to get the attention of the prospective buyer, they call it A Collector’s Item, and produce it in an elegant black box. Inside the box, you can find a golden tag with the title and the author. Later you can place that label on your puzzle and it will look like a painting in a museum.
I am not particularly fond of Dalí, so I don’t recall the reason why I bought this puzzle. Perhaps I thought I should expand my collection to puzzles out of my comfort zone. Or perhaps the price was very good and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. The colors of the box had faded out slightly due to the sunlight. When that happens, or there is any other damage to the box, very often store owners lower the price.
Leda and the Swan
The title of this painting is Leda Atomica. It is Dalí’s version of the mythological topic of Leda and the Swan. Such topic has been revisited by many artists, including painters, sculptors, and poets. In the story, the god Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces the mortal woman Leda.
Dalí completed Leda Atomica in 1949 and you can admire the original painting at the Dalí Theatre and Museum, in Figueras, Spain, Dalí’s birthplace. In his painting, Leda is a portrait of Gala, Dalí’s wife, who was his muse and appeared in many of his works.
When I assembled the puzzle, I never considered selling it. However, I later listed it in our online store. Although Educa published this puzzle in 1996, they produced another 1000 pieces version in 2003. In fact, Educa has produced many puzzles with paintings by Salvador Dalí
1500, Educa, Leda Atomica, Salvador Dalí, 85 x 60 cm, Reference number 7.713.
It’s been around two years since our last change of appearance. Back then I bought some software that would allow people to sell their own puzzles on the site. Since then, some new sellers have joined Rare Puzzles and some others will come soon. During this time I have learned about some of the challenges of a marketplace website. The most important one is having buyers and sellers in different countries.
Change to improve
In an attempt to make things easier for buyers and sellers (and for me as well), I will be installing some new software in the next days. It is a WordPressplugin that hopefully will improve the one we have right now. As a consequence, the appearance of the website is also going to change significantly. For that reason, t is likely that at the beginning Rare Puzzles will look like a new website. However, the content is going to remain the same.
The change of appearance will probably take place in two phases. First, I will install the Dokan marketplace plugin and verify that everything is working. After some days, if there are no major hiccups, I might need to install a new WordPress theme so that Rare Puzzles keeps having a decent look.
Like in the past, it is possible that the site will be unavailable at certain times. Perhaps you will see a page that says Under Maintenance and you will not be able to log in or browse through the online store. However, I hope the transition will be smooth. As always, you can contact me directly at email@example.com and share your ideas and suggestions. I always listen to them and I appreciate them very much, since they are a great help to improve.
Joaquín Sorolla was a Spanish artist that knew how to capture the bright sunlight of Valencia, his native land, as we can see in this Walk on the Beach, or Paseo a Orillas del Mar, which you can admire at the Sorolla Museum, in Madrid. This is one of his most famous paintings.
Two copies of 1500, Educa, Walk on the Beach
I had two copies of this puzzle and both were incomplete. However, I was hoping that perhaps both versions were compatible, so that I could get a complete copy and leave the other one for replacements. Unfortunately, they were not compatible, but I decided to assemble both copies anyway. I have completed two copies of the same puzzle more than once before, and the second time is usually very easy because you can put it together over a puzzle already finished, so it was not such a big deal. Besides, except for all the pieces of the sand, the rest was quite feasible.
Very different copies
When I wrote about the possibility of replacing pieces from an incomplete copy, I mentioned some of the challenges. In these two copies, I found them all. In fact, except for the image itself, the puzzles were so different that they could have been from different brands. The cut was not the same, so the pieces were not compatible, and the shades of color were also slightly different.
However, the most significant difference was the fit of the pieces in both copies.In the first copy, the fit was so tight that I had to press them to put them in the right place. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember any Educa puzzle with such a tight fit. In the second copy, however, the fit was quite loose, if we compare with other Educa puzzles. I could pick up in the air the first copy as if it was glued, but not the second. The picture in this post corresponds to the second copy.
Other puzzles by Joaquín Sorolla
There are not many puzzles with paintings by Joaquín Sorolla and for that reason they are now difficult to find. Educa published this version of Walk on the Beach in 1991, but it was not the first puzzle available with a painting by Sorolla, since the company Diset produced a 2000 pieces version of Women at the Beach in 1990. I completed this Diset version some years ago and it was an excellent puzzle with very good quality. Years later Diset produced the same puzzle again, although in a different box. In 1996 Educa published the 1500 pieces version of Beach of Valencia by Morning Light in their elegant white box. They reedited it in 2005 in a black box.
More than a year ago I wrote a blog post about shipping insurance where I gave details about the first and only shipment damaged during transit at Rare Puzzles. Since our puzzles always travel in First Class because I pack them very carefully, the chances that they get any damage are very slim, except, of course, when a major catastrophe takes place. So far, we have only had one package that received damage during transit. Fortunately, the buyer bought insurance and we recovered (after some work) all the costs.
There is a lot of backstage work when shipping puzzles that usually buyers are not aware of. Packages normally arrive to their destination within the estimated delivery time. However, there is always something happening that requires attention.
Problems with shipping companies and Customs
One package needed 4 months to reach to its destination in the USA. We were able to track it and watched it cross the Atlantic Ocean three times until it finally arrived. Another box went to Italy, but they sent it to a storehouse of the shipping company… 300 km away from its destination. No wonder that they kept saying they couldn’t find the street. In another occasion, they returned a box to me for no reason, the company refused to issue a refund, and tried to charge the return costs. There are many stories like these, which require attention, phone calls, complaints, disputes, emails, and a lot of time.
There is also a whole set of horror stories related to Customs, which belong in their own category, and I have a blog entry pending about this topic. Indian Customs held a package for several months and we almost lost hope of retrieving the box until they finally released it and delivered it to the buyer. Turkish Customs charged several times confiscatory fees and we ended up abandoning the puzzles. Swiss Customs requested fees three months after they had released a package. In most cases, I have been able to solve all the problems in the most favorable way for the buyer, but in other cases it was a lose-lose situation.
One package lost in three years
I have shipped puzzles to a lot of the corners of the globe. In three years, not one single package was lost.. until now. They all arrived in perfect condition, except for the box that I mentioned before. However, very recently the company SEUR lost a package that was going to the United Kingdom. My experience with most shipping companies has been generally positive because they have (almost) never failed. It was SEUR in this case, but I am sure it could have been any other company.
Shipping companies fail sometimes. The most common incident is that they don’t collect a package on the date I schedule. When that happens, sometimes they make up an excuse to avoid responsibility and log in their tracking information that nobody was at home, or I didn’t have the package ready, or they couldn’t find my address. Then I have to write complaints and clarify the situation, an eventually sort things out. However, as long as the package arrives to its destination, I tend to understand human fallibility.
Old puzzles are irreplaceable
But the worst thing about losing a puzzle from Rare Puzzles is the fact that nobody can replace it easily. To a certain point they are all irreplaceable. Most sellers have only one copy of the puzzles in the store, and very rarely more than one. You cannot simply make a phone call to a magic warehouse and request a copy of certain 25-year-old jigsaw puzzle. For that reason, if a buyer loses a puzzle because it gets lost in the mail, it is not enough to issue a refund, so that she doesn’t lose any money. That doesn’t replace the puzzle she was looking for.
In this case, our buyer wanted a very particular puzzle. It was the 1500, Nathan, A Cat With Oranges. He had been looking for that specific puzzle for more than 20 years, after he left the original one framed in a friend’s house in France. So, it was not just any puzzle. He wanted that particular puzzle and not any other one that he might find anywhere else. I must say these personal or emotional reasons are not uncommon among customers at Rare Puzzles.
A little bit of bad luck
So, among the many puzzles that I have shipped, this one was precisely the puzzle that we lost. Precisely a puzzle that the customer had been looking for 20 years. Call it bad luck.
Several weeks after collection, I receive an email from my buyer: “There is no tracking information. When did you exactly send the box?”. The puzzle has not arrived yet, but there is no reason to get into panic mode, since I have seen longer delays and similar problems with the tracking before. I tell him that there is no reason to be worried. Then I contact the shipping company and request information and they tell me they don’t know where the package is. They ask for details and a description of the box and the contents, since they are going to try to find it at the last location in the tracking. Some reason to be worried now, but not too much, since it has happened before and the package eventually followed its route.
After waiting the necessary time according to the company’s protocols and after many communications with them, they confirmed that they couldn’t locate the box, apologized, and facilitated the information necessary to file an insurance claim. Now there was a reason to be worried… or not. As Forrest Gump would have said: “(Sh)It happens”.
A little bit of good luck
Barely one month before selling this puzzle I had found another copy in similar condition. Call it good luck. I communicated with my customer at all times and I kept him informed about every single step of the process. He knew that I had a second copy, so there was no reason to worry after all. When the shipping company confirmed that I could file the insurance claim because they couldn’t locate the package, I gave my customer two options: a full refund or getting the second copy.
He preferred the second copy and I sent it using the same shipping company: SEUR. I thought that it was unlikely that the lightning would strike twice the same place, and the puzzle finally arrived to the United Kingdom, to the satisfaction of everyone. Later, the shipping company resolved the insurance claim in my favor, since I was able to provide the invoice, the bank receipt with the payment and all the required documentation. I recovered every single cent.
But from now on, I won’t be able to say “No package has been lost so far”.
Diana Hunting is a painting that belongs to the studio of Peter Paul Rubens that you can admire at the Prado Museum in Madrid. Thanks to the company Waddington (which years later would become Waddingtons) we have this small and delightful puzzle version. It is unfortunate that jigsaw puzzle brands are not publishing puzzles with classic art anymore. Perhaps that’s why puzzle enthusiasts are still looking for these puzzles 50 years after Waddinton produced them.
The pieces have a lot of very different forms. In fact, there are not any rows or columns, like most contemporary puzzles. For that reason, I wouldn’t know whether the puzzle was complete or not just by verifying the pieces. It was a good excuse to put together this quality puzzle. The pieces are thick and solid. Due to the great variety of the cut, it was a very enjoyable experience (albeit short).
Diana the Huntress
In the center of the image we can see Diana, who was the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and nature, associated with wild animals and woodland, and having the power to talk to and control animals. She has the identifying crescent on her head. Several nymphs are surrounding her, and one of them is playing a horn, which was typical of these type of hunts.
Interestingly, although the title of the painting is Diana Hunting (in Spanish Diana Cazadora), the artist captures the moment just before the actual hunting. We don’t see the dogs attacking the prey and Diana and her nymphs using their spears and arrows. There is another painting by Rubens, also in the Prado Museum, where we see the actual hunting, but here we have a completely different scene. For that reason, the English title is not accurate. It should be Diana the Huntress.
The actual number of pieces of this copy is 455. However, there is at least another edition with a different cut and with 451 pieces. The puzzle will be listed in our online store and it will probably find a new home very soon.
450, Waddington, Diana Hunting, Peter Paul Rubens, 50 x 50 cm, Reference number 508.
The Japanese brand Beverly started producing not long ago some puzzles with no pattern at all. Just a solid black or a solid white puzzle. They first commercialized small 100 pieces puzzles of this type. Then they got bolder and published 150, 300, and 1000 pieces versions.
Finally, they came up with a 2000 pieces version. If the level of difficulty can be measured as difficult, very difficult, and extremely difficult, this puzzle defies classification and it is defined as Torture. In fact, there is a warning in the box: For masochists only. Users refer to it as white torture, white hell, pure hell, or pure white hell. There are some people that have completed the 1000 pieces version, but not many brave enough to attempt the 2000 pieces version. I wonder whether it is more difficult than the 5000 version by Ravensburger of The Night Watch.
One day, talking about puzzles and movies, @aschenbach13 pointed out that there was an old movie where such puzzle appeared: Sleuth, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1972. That means that they came up with the idea of a white puzzle 40 years before the Japanese manufacturer.
A white puzzle and other games
Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier) is a successful writer of crime fiction and an enthusiast of elaborate games and automata. He invites his wife’s lover Milo Tindle (Michael Caine), a hairdresser of Italian heritage, to his home to discuss the situation. From the maze that appears at the beginning to the tragic ending, the plot advances through games, deceit, appearances and, finally, crime. As the last words of the script state: “it was just a bloody game”.
I recommend watching the movie, of course. However, the interesting thing for us is the presence of a solid white jigsaw puzzle in the set. Since the protagonist is an enthusiast of games, it made sense to include a jigsaw puzzle. The director points it out with a close up in the initial stages of the film and several times later. It is very likely that they manufactured the puzzle specifically for the movie, since such puzzle was not probably available back in 1972. The puzzle seems to have 620 pieces (31 x 20), which is a very unusual count for a commercial puzzle.
I have created a short video with several clips where the puzzle appears. In one of them, Milo destroys violently the puzzle, and all the work that Andrew had put on it. It is a scene particularly painful for puzzle fans. However, after several days, a detective visits the house and the puzzle is fully assembled now lying on a table. That is quite unrealistic, though, since it would be really impressive (and almost impossible) to complete such puzzle in just a few days, even for the protagonist.
More movies with puzzles?
In 2007 Kenneth Branagh directed a remake of Sleuth. Michael Caine played the role of Andrew Wyke this time, while Jude Law played Milo Tindle. However, no games or jigsaw puzzles appeared in the remake, when they were very significant in the original movie. The result is much less interesting.
In the movie Mile 22, currently in theaters, the protagonist is also working on a solid white jigsaw puzzle. The intention is to portray him as a highly intelligent individual, but the puzzle itself doesn’t have any connection with the plot. Whether assembling jigsaw puzzles and intelligence are correlated or not, I will leave it perhaps for a future post.
This puzzle is very unusual, and it is not just because it only has two corners. It is an illustration of the Grand Canal in Venice with a lot of really minute details. Although the title in the box is simply Venice, the complete title of the illustration is It’s a Doge’s Life on the Grand Canal, by Graham Clarke. MB produced it in 1992.
When I verified the puzzle, I got 1504 pieces. However, due to the very particular shape, there was no way to know whether the puzzle was complete or incomplete. For that reason, I put it together eventually, and I’m glad I did. The pieces have a very snug fit that I liked, although they seemed slightly different to other MB puzzles.
I found the puzzle more challenging than I had expected. Buildings, boats, ships, inscriptions, text… There are a lot of details that are difficult to distinguish unless you have very good eyesight or you look very, very close. This puzzle would probably have been more enjoyable in 3000 pieces. In any case, it was very fun and it was luckily complete. I listed it later in the online store and the puzzle went to new hands very quickly.
The Grand Canal forms the major water-traffic corridor in the city of Venice. In the banks of the Grand Canal there are more than 170 buildings, most of which date from the 13th to the 18th century, and demonstrate the welfare and art of Venice. Because most of the city’s traffic goes along the Canal rather than across it, only the Rialto Bridge crossed the canal until the 19th century. The bridge also appears in the illustration, which seems to include every detail. We can see the bridge with more detail in the puzzle 5000, Jumbo, A Busy Day Near the Rialto Bridge, by Antonio Pascutti.
There are a lot of puzzles with paintings and photographs of Venice and they are too many to list.
1500, MB, It’s a Doge’s Life on the Grand Canal, by Graham Clarke, 79 x 60 cm, Reference number 3890.21.
The Gypsy Girl is a beautiful small puzzle that the company Fernand Nathan published in 1973. The name of Fernand Nathan still appeared in the boxes of Nathan puzzles manufactured in the 70’s. It was a publishing company that Fernand Nathan started in 1881 and continued to be a family business until 1979. After that, the name Nathan remained, but the company passed to other hands.
We tend to repeat too often that past times were better. However, this is quite true with regards to the choices that jigsaw puzzle companies are making these days when they select their images for their catalogs. For that reason, it is so refreshing to find these old little gems. It seems that Nathan had much better taste 40 years ago than today.
A refreshing Gypsy Girl
Frans Hals was a master of portrait. For that reason, it is no surprise that this portrait is a masterpiece. Hals was a master of the technique of painting with a visible brushstroke (something previously seen as a flaw). Vincent van Gogh admired his technique, and in the 19th century, many artists would follow it, particularly among the Impressionists. So, we can say that Hals introduced in the 17th century a refreshing innovation. His style was bold and very unconventional for the public of his time. Although he didn’t leave any followers, he was very influential two centuries later.
Although Hals painted many portraits of grave personages, and meetings of brotherhoods or societies, he was also fond of painting the rubicund faces of drinkers and the open faces of hostel servants. This painting is refreshing because Hals captures a joyful, healthy and alive woman.
A refreshing puzzle
However, there is another reason to find this puzzle refreshing: the cut of the pieces. I have never seen such a variety in the piece cut in a jigsaw puzzle. Most contemporary jigsaw puzzles have a quite standard cut. The pieces are mostly uniform and there is little room for variety. But in this puzzle from 1973 not two pieces are alike, as you can see in the photograph with the close-up. When I verified the puzzle I counted 499 pieces and I realized I would have to put it together to be sure whether it was complete or not. With such piece cut, any number might have been possible.
So, putting together a 40 year old puzzle with the pieces in excellent condition due to the good quality, with such variety in the forms of the pieces, and with such beautiful portrait is an absolute and refreshing delight.
The puzzle appears now for sale in our online store, but it is worth keeping. However, you can always enjoy the original painting at the Louvre Museum.
500, Nathan, The Gypsy Girl, by Frans Hals, 49.5 x 36 cm, Reference number 551 111.
The Dinner at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, by Pierre-Georges Jeanniot, is not one of my favorite puzzles. That doesn’t mean it is not a nice and entertaining puzzle, which it is. Besides, it is always a pleasure to complete a Ravensburger puzzle due to the good quality of their pieces. However, I don’t think I would have chosen it in the first place if I had had a choice.
We are all human and we all make mistakes. I sold this puzzle to a customer in Poland, complete and with the pieces in excellent condition. However, when my customer finished the puzzle, he discovered that there was a foreign piece. That meant that the puzzle was actually incomplete. Ops! I think I can always detect foreign pieces, but I couldn’t detect this one.
I found and bought another copy of the puzzle, hoping that it would be compatible with my customer’s copy. That way, I could get a replacement piece for him. However, the copy was not compatible. Then, I assembled the puzzle and sent it to my customer in layers. Eventually he had the whole puzzle replaced and his work putting it together was not lost.
At home at the Hotel Ritz
Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset wrote about the Hotel Ritz in one of his articles. He basically stated that no matter where you travelled around the world, if you stayed at a Ritz Hotel, you always had the feeling that you were staying at the same place, like at home. All these hotels have a tradition of refinement and elegance, particularly the one in Paris. For that reason, if you were at the Ritz, you were always at the same hotel.
Marcel Proust said something similar. In the 2nd volume of his masterpiece In Search of Lost Time, the protagonist and his grandmother travel to a similar luxury hotel in the fictional city of Balbec, where the aristocratic patrons felt “at home” the moment they climbed the marble-imitating stairs of the hotel.
Precisely the Hotel Ritz in Paris had a guest that felt at home: Coco Chanel, who lived in the hotel for 34 years, routinely using the staff entrance on Rue Cambon. She was intimately linked to the Ritz Paris and she decorated her Suite herself. Although she started to live in the hotel at the beginning of World War II, she was 21 years old when Pierre-Georges Jeanniot completed this painting, so she could have been one of the ladies in white having dinner.
You can stay at the Coco Chanel Suite in the Hotel Ritz in Paris for just 18000 euros per night.
When I verify an incomplete puzzle, I always hope that I made a mistake, but that never happens. The Hunting near Fontainebleau had two missing pieces when I verified it, and it had two missing pieces when I completed it. It’s a shame, because it is a small beautiful puzzle that now will be added to the Missing Pieces repository.
Hunting at Fontainebleau Today
Carle Vernet lived and worked between the 18th and the 19th century. The hunting scene that he captured might look like something from the past. It is difficult to imagine that the artist could have painted it just last Winter.
The Forest of Fontainebleau, which is only 60 km. away from Paris, is a very popular location for tourists. However, it has also been a hunting place for around 1000 years. They still hunt deer with horses and hounds, although following certain restrictions (only Tuesdays and Saturdays, from October to February). Apart from that, there is no major difference between the scene that Vernet painted two hundred years ago. We could see that same scene at the Forest of Fontainebleau in the present.
These smaller puzzles are a good relief when you have been working for some time on a large or challenging puzzle. It is possible to finish in a couple of days and you have the feeling that you are making consistent progress. That compensates the frustration of hours without finding any piece when you are facing a bigger challenge.
Hunting near Fontainebleau was a small and delightful puzzle. Although Nathan produced it in 1976, I was surprised to see how well the pieces have endured the passing of time. After 40 years, the pieces are in excellent condition, which is something that collectors appreciate very much.
Ravensburger produced in 1978 a 1000 pieces version of this puzzle, which surely will also have great quality. If I am correct, there is a 1000 pieces version by Educa as well, but I have never found one yet.
The puzzle will be part of the replacements section from now on.
750, Nathan, Hunting Near Fontainebleau, Carle Vernet, 58.5 x 42.5 cm, Reference number 551 174.
There is a reason why The Night Watch, which Ravensburger produced in 1977, still appears quite often (usually in used condition), despite the fact that it is more than 40 years old. Other large puzzles of the late 70’s and 80’s are very rare, like Country Fair, for example, which Ravensburger published just two years later.
Now that I have completed it, I know the reason. It is one of the most difficult jigsaw puzzles out there. I remember when I completed years ago the 6000 pieces Schmidt version of The Allegory of Spring. Back then, I felt it was a real challenge to complete those last thousand pieces, which were mostly dark.
In this case, it was the other way around. After placing one thousand pieces, I had around four thousand pieces left that were mostly dark. This puzzle doesn’t compare to any puzzle that I have assembled before. In fact, I have now the feeling that I got my Master’s Degree in puzzles. Before The Night Watch, I was just an undergraduate student. Now I truly feel that I can put together ANY jigsaw puzzle.
The Night Watch becomes the “Nightmare”.
Soon after you place all the pieces that have distinct fields of color, you hit a wall. In the photograph of the puzzle assembled, it is possible to distinguish the different tones. However, when the pieces are separate on the working table, they all look the same: dark.
I had never hit such wall before, with any puzzle. For the first time, I was able to put myself in the shoes of the people that have ever quit working on a puzzle. I couldn’t understand before, but now I did. I guessed The Night Watch is probably the puzzle that most people have abandoned. And that is probably the reason why it appears often in used condition. Since the assembly process is also longer, I have the feeling that the odds of used versions of this puzzle being incomplete are high.
The middle stages of the assembly process are very hard. There were days when I could only place eight or ten pieces, so I had to intersect smaller puzzles just to take a break; just to have the feeling that I was making some progress and keep my motivation alive. Even at the end, when I was making progress consistently, placing single pieces required looking closely to the image. It was not uncommon that four pieces could fit almost perfectly in the same place, so it was difficult to decide which one was the right one.
For all these reasons, the people that have completed this puzzle have my deep and sincere respect.
My motivation to complete The Night Watch.
Fortunately for me, I had a strong motivation to complete this puzzle, which was in fact the first reason to start it in the first place. Otherwise, who knows? Perhaps I would not have quit, but it would have surely taken me much, much longer.
I had sold a used and complete version of this puzzle. However, my customer discovered that one piece was slightly damaged. One of the knobs of a piece was missing, and I didn’t detect it during the verification process because with the missing knob it looked like a border piece. Bummer!
So, I decided to find a replacement or send a full refund. First I bought a used copy that was not compatible, but luckily the second copy that I bought was compatible. When I verified it, it was incomplete, but it didn’t make much difference anyway, since I bought it in order to find a replacement piece for my customer and later leave it for replacements. It was actually better if it was incomplete. As you can see in the photograph of the puzzle assembled, there are some missing pieces, but I knew it from the very beginning.
In any case, after verifying with photographs that the replacement piece would match, I sent it to my customer and the replacement was perfect. That defective piece had been bothering me for a whole year, but I was finally able to solve the problem. That was my way of making myself accountable.
When I started this puzzle, I knew that there was a missing piece. It should have 999 pieces, but there were only 998 pieces. Some time ago, when this happened, I used to verify the puzzle a second time. My hope was that I had made a mistake, but the second verification gave always the same result. It was a shame, because this puzzle by Clementoni with a poster of the Moulin Rouge by Toulouse-Lautrec was very unusual. However, after buying more than 200 incomplete puzzles, it is not disappointing anymore. It’s part of what we do at Rare Puzzles: being sure that we only list the complete ones.
Initially, I was listing the incomplete puzzles in the online store at very low prices. However, when I decided to start the Missing Pieces replacement service, I thought it was better to keep them, put them together, and offer them for replacements. So, I have accepted the idea that I am now a puzzle enthusiast that will only assemble incomplete puzzles.
Moulin Rouge: La Goulue
That is the complete title of this poster by Toulouse-Lautrec. It was a color lithograph from 1891. Although they printed around 3000 copies, most of them were pasted as advertising posters and are now lost. However, surviving examples remain in the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The poster depicts the famous can-can dancer La Goulue and her flexible partner Valentin le Désossé (Boneless Valentin). The artist made it to advertise the popular French club, Moulin Rouge. Their audience appears as silhouettes in order to focus attention on the performers and evoke the Japanese art then in vogue.
The puzzle was very easy. I was fighting hard with the Ravensburger 5000 pieces version of The Night Watch, by Rembrandt. The puzzle was so challenging, that I had to take several breaks and complete smaller puzzles just to feel that I was making some progress. This Moulin Rouge was one of the smaller puzzles that helped me keep going with the large one. It served its purpose and it is now offered for replacements, in case anyone needs a piece from this puzzle.
1000, Clementoni, Moulin Rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 67.7 x 47.7 cm, Reference number 56000.
Since 2015, I have been able to help a lot of puzzle fans and enthusiasts to increase their collections. I purposely avoided the expression “complete their collections” because we all know it is impossible. Hardcore puzzle fans always find new projects. In any case, I didn’t leave any stone unturned in order to locate puzzles everywhere. Later, I put them all together in a single place where anyone could get them. Many people found it much easier to buy them at Rare Puzzles instead of spending their time and effort looking for them.
After a long learning experience (and around 200 incomplete puzzles that their owners sold me as complete), Rare Puzzles has started to take form and consolidate, although there are still a lot of features that we need to include. If fact, it is a never ending process, but the site is improving one step at a time. It is interesting to consider how things happen sometimes, even when we had different plans.
Since Rare Puzzles specializes in out of catalog puzzles, I couldn’t include in the store current puzzles from different brands that are widely available in stores. If I had done that, the site would be just one more puzzle store. And yet, most users also like current puzzles and buy them, since they are much more affordable. In order to complete the service offered at Rare Puzzles, some time ago I created a subdomain, also in English, listing current puzzles. However, it was not a good solution, and I knew that sooner or later I would need to create a separate site.
A New Project in Spanish with Current Puzzles
For that reason, I have launched www.tupuzzle.com today, with a different design, but also with some common elements that everyone will be able to identify. I wanted to create something more than just an online store. There are many online stores that sell puzzles, but I wanted to create a different portal. A website specialized in puzzles where people could also buy puzzles, which is a completely different concept. Besides, I wanted it to be in Spanish, so that Spanish speaking users could find it easily.
However, everyone can take advantage as well and add any current puzzles to their orders. The process is as simple as sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contacting through the website at @siliconbook. It is important to note that customers from outside of the European Union don’t pay VAT. And the fact that they are brand new puzzles doesn’t mean the packing standards will vary.
Rare Puzzles has given me the opportunity to get in touch with really extraordinary people all around the world. After a lot of communication, where sometimes you share other things that are not related to puzzles, one day you realize that the word customer doesn’t fit the person anymore. Instead, you realize that the word friend is more accurate, even when you have never met them.
One of these people is Lars Teglbjaerg, who is one of the most active puzzle fans in the world and amazingly prolific. He happens to be a great photographer as well, and documents carefully his progress on his puzzles. Besides, his choice of puzzles is aligned with my preferences as well. As a result, he has a great repository of puzzle images of great quality that are a wonderful resource. He has allowed me to use all his images for free at the new site www.tupuzzle.com.
For that reason, all the credit is for Lars. The website has been live for barely 12 hours and I have already received compliments for the photographs of the puzzles assembled. Thank you, Lars.
So, we start a new venture now. There are currently very few puzzles available at www.tupuzzle.com, and the catalog is very short, but we will add more eventually. One step at a time.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
The website has been under maintenance for a whole week. I apologize for it. I have been writing all the legal information and i took longer than expected.
There was some mandatory information that Rare Puzzles didn’t include, so we were out of compliance. For that reason, I couldn’t open it again until all the documentation was ready. Some parts of it were very technical and some other parts were not easy to develop. But the work is done now.
These documents are legal information requirements and will appear from now on at the footer of the site. All users must know and accept them: