Archive for category Art

There are two main reasons why I like Ravensburger puzzles, apart from the image of the puzzle itself. One of them is the matte finish of their pieces. They show a distinctive texture that I prefer over other brands that tend to have glossy surfaces. That matte finish is also common in Clementoni puzzles. The other reason is the excellent quality of the pieces and the way the poster is glued to the cardboard. It is not uncommon to find a 50 year old used copy, like the Wedding Tour, and enjoy a jigsaw puzzle that looks like new.

Image of the puzzle 750, Ravensburger, The Wedding Tour, by Moritz von Schwind, Picture of the box

The preference for matte finish is quite a personal choice. They say that in matters of taste there can be no disputes (de gustibus non est disputandum). However, I think most puzzle fans would agree on the excellent quality of old Ravensburger puzzles. In fact, they even tend to weigh more than most other brands. That means that the cardboard used is more dense or thicker. A puzzle by Ravensburger will normally be heavier than most other brands, with perhaps the exception of Jumbo and some old MB puzzles that were unusually thick.

An incomplete Wedding Tour

That’s why sometimes it is not a big deal to get an incomplete puzzle, like this 750 pieces version of The Wedding Tour, by Moritz von Schwind. It is a great excuse to complete it and recall all the reasons why I started assembling jigsaw puzzles: a beautiful piece of art and a high quality puzzle. Besides, old puzzles by Ravensburger have many flat pieces, which make them more challenging. Those flat pieces are uncommon in modern puzzles by the German brand.

The painting is also known as The Wedding Journey, or The Honeymoon. When I verified the puzzle, I got 757 pieces, which was quite unusual. Then I learned that many old 750 pieces puzzles by Ravensburger and MB brought exactly 759 pieces (33 x 23). Whenever I assemble an incomplete puzzle, I always wish that the puzzle might be magically complete when I finish it. It didn’t happen: the puzzle had 2 missing pieces.

In any case, it was a pleasure to complete. I don’t remember how long it took me, since I never time my puzzles. In the past I used to jot down the day I began and the day I finished, but I don’t do it anymore. I probably started one day and finished the next day, since I probably had some other things to do. What I do remember is that I had a great time, and that’s what putting together a puzzle is all about, I guess.

The puzzle is now part of the Missing Pieces section, in case someone has a compatible copy and needs a replacement.

750, Ravensburger, The Wedding Tour, Moritz von Schwind, 39.5 x 59 cm, Reference number 15.473.

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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.

4000, Educa, The Battle of Austerlitz, François Gérard, 136 x 96 cm, Reference number 7.474.

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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.

Image of the complete 5000, MB, The Tiger Hunt

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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.

Image of the puzzle 2000, Ravensburger, Liberation Celebration, by André Bauchant, Picture of the puzzle assembled

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

Image of the puzzle 2000, Ravensburger, Liberation Celebration, by André Bauchant, Picture of the foreign pieces

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.

2000, Ravensburger, Liberation Celebration, André Bauchant, 98 x 75 cm, Reference number 625 5 816 4.

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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.

Image of the puzzle 1500, Educa, Leda Atomica, by Salvador Dalí, Blog Post

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.

Image of the puzzle 1500, Educa, Leda Atomica, by Salvador Dalí, Picture of the box, Blog Post

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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.

Image of the puzzle 1500, Educa, Walk on the Beach, by Joaquín Sorolla, Picture of the puzzle assembled

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.

Both copies of Walk on the Beach will be added now to the Missing Pieces section.

1500, Educa, Walk on the Beach, Joaquín Sorolla, 85 x 60 cm, Reference number 7.719.

Image of the puzzle 1500, Educa, Walk on the Beach, Picture of the box

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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.

Image of the puzzle 450, Waddington, Diana Hunting, by Peter Paul Rubens, Picture of the puzzle assembled

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.

Image of the puzzle 450, Waddington, Diana Hunting, by Peter Paul Rubens, Picture of the box

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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.

1500, MB, Its a Doges Life on the Grand Canal, Blog Post, Picture of the puzzle assembled

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.

Venice and the Grand Canal

The Doge of Venice was the chief magistrate and leader of the Republic of Venice. He lived in the Doge’s Palace, which is one of the most characteristic buildings in the city. This building appears in many puzzles with paintings by Canaletto, like the 5000 pieces version by F.X. Schmid of Return of the Bucentaur to the Molo on Ascension Day. An even better image of the Doge’s Palace is the 3000 pieces puzzle by F.X. Schmid of Panorama of Venice. In our puzzle, we can distinguish the building just in the middle of the image, in a light pink color.

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.

1500, MB, It's a Doge's Life on the Grand Canal, Blog Post, Picture of the box

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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.

Image of the puzzle 500, Nathan, The Gipsy Girl, by Frans Hals, Puzzle Assembled

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

Image of the puzzle 500, Nathan, The Gypsy Girl, by Frans Hals, Puzzle Assembled, Close-up of the piecesHowever, 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.

Image of the puzzle 500, Nathan, The Gipsy Girl, by Frans Hals, Puzzle Assembled, Picture of the box

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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.

Image of the puzzle assembled 1500, Ravensburger, The Dinner at the Hotel Ritz in Paris

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.

1500, Ravensburger, The Dinner at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, Pierre-Georges Jeanniot, 84 x 60 cm, Reference number 16 258 1.

Image of the puzzle 1500, Ravensburger, The Dinner at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, Picture of the box

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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.

Image of the puzzle 750, Nathan, Hunting Near Fontainebleau, Carle Vernet, Assembled Puzzle, Blog Post

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.

Image of the puzzle 750, Nathan, Hunting Near Fontainebleau, Carle Vernet, Box, Blog Post

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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.

Image of the puzze 5000, Ravensburger, The Night Watch, by Rembrandt, Puzzle Assembled

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.

The Night Watch will now be added to the Missing Pieces section.

5000, Ravensburger, The Night Watch, Rembrandt, 152.9 x 101.4 cm, Reference number 625 5 902 0.

Image of the puzzel 5000, Ravensburger, The Night Watch, by Rembrandt, Picture of the box

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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.

Image of the puzzle 1000, Clementoni, Moulin Rouge, by Toulouse-Lautrec, Puzzle Assembled

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.

Image of the puzzle 1000, Clementoni, Moulin Rouge, by Toulouse-Lautrec, Picture of the Box

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Naval battle images like The Four Days’ Battle make beautiful puzzles. That’s why most jigsaw puzzle manufacturers have used these images in their catalogs for decades. Several classic puzzles come to mind, like the extraordinary 6000 pieces version of The Battle of Lepanto, by Andrea Vicentino. However, for some reason naval battles are not popular anymore. As a consequence, all those puzzles are now out of catalog and very difficult to find. In fact, the last time a classic naval battle puzzle puzzle appeared was 1998, when Educa manufactured, again, The Battle of Lepanto, by H. Letter.

Some puzzle fans say that the name naval battle is not the best for this type of puzzles. Instead, the name should be sky and sea puzzles. After all, most of the pieces belong to huge areas of sea and sky, while the ships are often just a small part of the image. While that is true, and sometimes there are large areas of solid tones that are very challenging, the truth is that most of these puzzles are magnificent. The Four Days’ Battle, which Ravensburger manufactured in 1974, is a good example. It is, however, unfortunate that we need to go back more than 40 years in order to find a classic naval battle puzzle.

Image of the puzzle 1500, Ravensburger, Four Days Battle, by Abraham Storck, Picture of the puzzle assembled

Four Days: June 11 to June 14.

This battle took place from June 11 to June 14 1666 during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, and it is considered the greatest sea fight of the Age of Sail. In fact, it remains one of the longest naval engagements in history. The conflict was between England and the Dutch Republic for control over the seas and trade routes. England tried to end the Dutch domination of world trade during a period of intense European commercial rivalry. However, after initial English successes, the war ended in a Dutch victory.

It is likely that Abraham Storck enjoyed painting The Four Day’s Battle, since he was Dutch. Had he been English, perhaps he woudn’t have painted the scene at all. He had a great reputation for his marine paintings and different brands have published puzzles with his works. Jumbo published a 3000 pieces version of Sham Fight on the River Y, and Nathan published a 2000 version of Frigate in Amsterdam.

I assembled the puzzle during a weekend and I had a great time. Although I couldn’t work with natural light, the puzzle was not too difficult. It is amazing how Ravensburger puzzles remain in great shape after several decades have passed.

1500, Ravensburger, The Four Days Battle, Abraham Storck, 84.1 x 59.4 cm, Reference number 625 5 636 6.

Image of the puzzle 1500, Ravensburger, Four Days Battle, by Abraham Storck, Picture of the box

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The name Brueghel is very popular among puzzle enthusiasts. There are four main painters with this name and they all belong to the same family line: Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Jan Brueghel the Elder, and Jan Brueghel the Younger. Very often, the jigsaw manufacturer just includes the name Brueghel as the artist and nothing else. Then, there is no way to know who the real author of the painting is. In the case of this puzzle, the only information in the box is Brueghel, but we have to complete the research and find out that the real title of the painting is Landing Place, and the artist is Jan Brueghel the Elder.

Image of the Puzzle 1000, Flamenco, Landing Place, Complete, Picture of the Puzzle Assembled

Other versions of Landing Place

There are two larger versions of this puzzle. MB manufactured a 3000 pieces version in 1981. However, the title in the box is The Cove, which is, in fact, a small sheltered bay, like the one that appears in the painting. I don’t know what source did MB use to come up with that title. The fact is that there are virtually no references online to The Cove. Two years after the version by MB, Ravensburger published another 3000 pieces version, in 1983. This time, the title was Landing Place, which is the one I have used for this puzzle.

The interesting thing about this 1000 pieces version by Flamenco is the fact that the image appears flipped horizontally. The original has the landing water to the left. It seems that Jan Brueghel the Elder was particularly interested in this subject. There are different works with the title River Landscape with Landing Stage, or similar titles, and they are almost indistinguishable. There is even a 1500 pieces jigsaw puzzle by Falcon with the title River Landscape with a Village and a Landing.

Although this puzzle is probably more than 40 years old, the pieces have some really good quality and they have resisted the passing of time very well, despite the fact that they are thinner than most current puzzles. However, the experience was very positive with this my very first Flamenco puzzle. I hope the new owner will share my experience.

1000, Flamenco, Landing Place, by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 49 x 69 cm, Reference number 1000/1142.

Image of the Puzzle 1000, Flamenco, Landing Place, Complete, Picture of the Box

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Maurits Cornelis Escher is the creator of Concave and Convex, and he is one of the most interesting artists in the 20th century. One may like his paintings or not, but we must all agree that he is unique. In fact, most people are able to identify his work as soon as they see it, even if they don’t know the name of the painter. Perhaps they just know he was the Dutch graphic artist that painted impossible stairs, upside down rooms, strange reflections… However, when they see one work, they know it belongs to him.

For that reason, we can say that he is a quite popular artist. The M.C. Escher Foundation organizes exhibitions with his works regularly, and they always attract thousands of visitors. In fact, there was an exhibition in Madrid in 2017 for 8 months that showed around 200 works by Escher. It was one of the most visited in 2017.

Image of the Assembled Puzzle 1000, Selegiochi, Concave and Convex

Concave and Convex and other dichotomies

Escher got his inspiration partly on Mathematics and Geometry. Symmetry is a constant in the images he invents. For that reason, many of his paintings have a dichotomy in the title, like Concave and Convex in this case. However, we also have Ascending and Descending, High and Low, or Day and Night. His most important works have already a jigsaw puzzle version, which is another symptom of his popularity. Although different brands have manufactured puzzles by M.C. Escher, the Italian company Selegiochi is probably the most important publisher of his puzzles.

This is the first puzzle by M.C. Escher and the first puzzle by Selegiochi that I have put together. The fact that all the pieces have only different shades of black, white, and gray, adds to the challenge of the puzzle. However, since it is only 1000 pieces, the puzzle is quite manageable. The pieces are just slightly thinner than most other brands, but they have good quality, a nice feel to the touch, and fit very well. The design of the die was defective, though.

This was a used puzzle that I had to verify before listing it on Rare Puzzles. When I verified the puzzle, I found many small fragments. Sometimes, when a puzzle piece has very thin links, a part of the piece can break just by the movement of the pieces inside the bag. In the case of this puzzle, there were too many of them, and it was actually a defect from the factory.

That was the reason why I assembled the puzzle in the first place, in order to verify whether it was actually complete or not. The puzzle was complete, because all the pieces were there. Unfortunately, three of those tiny fragments were missing, so the puzzle will be used for replacements, and not listed for sale.

Image of the Puzzle 1000, Selegiochi, Concave and Convex, Missing Fragment

Notice in this photograph how the shapes of two different pieces actually intersect. This is a defect in the design of the die which I had not seen before. Surprisingly, the little tiny fragment was found during the verification process.

Image of the Puzzle 1000, Selegiochi, Concave and Convex, Defective Die

1000, Selegiochi, Concave and Convex, Maurits Cornelis Escher, 52 x 62 cm, No Reference Number.

Image of the Box of the Puzzle 1000, Selegiochi, Concave and Convex




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Paul Gustav Fischer is the author of The Fire Brigade Turn Out in Kultorvet, Copenhagen. It is a very interesting painting depicting a fire brigade at work in the public square of Kultorvet, in the city of Copenhagen.

Image of the Assembled Puzzle 1500, Falcon, The Fire Brigade Turn Out in Kultorvet, Copenhagen

Kultorvet in the Past

Image of the Kultorvet Square in CopenhagenKultorvet was created after the large Copenhagen fire of 1728, which destroyed a large part of the city. For a very long time, even before the fire, that area of the town was a site for market trade. After that, it continued to be so until the 20th century. Today, it is a beautiful pedestrian area in Copenhagen. In the photograph you can see the square of Kultorvet around the year 1890, which was during the lifetime of Paul Gustav Fischer. In fact, he completed this painting in 1900, so we can say that it looked exactly like that. The main two buildings in the background behind the smoke appear clearly in the photograph.

This was a very nice puzzle, although it was very difficult to assemble. It was not due to the image itself, which includes a lot of variety in details and colors, but for a problem with the jigsaw pieces. For some reason (aging perhaps, since it was an old puzzle), the paper layer with the puzzle image became detached off the cardboard, and I had to be carefully fixing a lot of pieces using glue stick and patience.. It is not uncommon to find pieces that have suffered during the assembling process, mainly with secondhand puzzles. However, this looked more like a factory defect which is not very common. Repairing one or two pieces in a used puzzle is not usually a big deal. However, repairing one hundred is a different story.

1500, Falcon, The Fire Brigade Turn Out in Kultorvet, Copenhagen, Paul Gustav Fischer, 86 x 60 cm, Reference Number 4774.

Image of the Puzzle 1500, Falcon, The Fire Brigade Turn Out in Kultorvet, Copenhagen, Picture of the Box

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The title of the this painting is The Game of Cards, and the author is the Italian artist Raffaello Sorbi. This is the first puzzle that I completed by the brand Fame. This jigsaw brand is not one of the most popular ones, but they have beautiful puzzles. Although they don’t have a very large catalog available, they have been very careful in their choices. For that reason, most of their puzzles are very nice. They even have two large 5000 pieces puzzles that are extremely difficult to find: A Meeting by the Stile, by Heywood Hardy, and An Old Surrey Farm, by Robert Gallon.

Image of the Assembled Puzzle 2000, Fame, The Game of Cards, by Raffaello Sorbi

Cards and other Games

The Game of Cards is a delightful scene where the painter has been able to capture the fun of the game. The way the four characters in the front are depicted is especially interesting. The man sitting at the table seems to be trying to understand, scratching his forehead. In the meantime, the woman sitting in front of him is explaining the reason why he probably lost. Everybody seems to be having a fun time. It is, in summary, a beautiful genre scene. Raffaello Sorbi completed, in fact, a whole series of paintings representing different types of games. The Game of Cards is just one them.

I put this one together in the summer of 2013. It was quite a productive week, since I assembled three puzzles in five days. Plenty of time, background music, and a jigsaw puzzle, which sounds like a good plan to me. I liked this puzzle particularly, although the pieces were thinner than the pieces of most puzzles by other brands. It was not very difficult, though. I eventually listed it at Rare Puzzles and sold it very soon, although I never planned on selling the puzzle when I initially assembled it. However, I know for sure that it went to a very good home.

2000, Fame, The Game of Cards, Raffaello Sorbi, 68.5 x 97.8 cm.

Image of the Puzzle 2000, Fame, The Game of Cards, by Raffaello Sorbi, Picture of the Box

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Educa has a very long tradition of great choices for their jigsaw puzzles, particularly in terms of fine arts puzzles. This 1000 pieces version of The Prophet Daniel, by Michelangelo, is a good example. They manufactured it in the early 80’s. The box corresponds to the design of their earlier puzzles, long before they started to publish them in the beautiful boxes with stripes, or the elegant white box design of the 90’s.

Image of the Assembled Puzzle 1000, Educa, The Prophet Daniel

The Prophet Daniel without the Lions

This fresco painting is part of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo painted a total of 7 prophets from the Old Testament. It was common to represent the figures of the Bible with the attributes that might help people identify them. In the case of the Prophet Daniel, the most important event in the tradition was the fact that they threw him into the den of the lions as a punishment, but an angel saved him. However, in Michelangelo’s portrayal, there is no reference to the lions, which is very interesting. Instead, Michelangelo shows Daniel reading a great book, which is held up by a muscular figure from beneath it.

It is interesting to note that the image of this puzzle corresponds to the painting in the Sistine Chapel before the most recent mayor restoration. Today, the image looks brighter, cleaner, and with much vibrant colors, as Michelangelo painted it.

A Small Puzzle Every Now and Then

When I verified this puzzle, I counted one extra piece that I wasn’t able to detect. For that reason, I decided to assemble it myself, since I loved the image. The previous owner wrote numbers on the back of the pieces, perhaps thinking that he might put it together again. However,  I made the commitment not to cheat, and I completed the puzzle without the hints of the numbers. The pieces were in excellent condition, so I had a great time assembling it. It is unfortunate that the box was not in very good condition.

It took me a couple of days in December of 2017, out of desperation fighting with the 5000 Ravensburger version of The Night Watch. When you are confronted with 4000 dark pieces, you need to complete a small puzzle just to feel that you are making some progress. It was later listed for sale at Rare Puzzles.

1000, Educa, The Prophet Daniel, Michelangelo, 68 x 48 cm, Reference Number 7752.

Image of the Puzzle 1000, Educa, The Prophet Daniel, Picture of the Box

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Johann Hamza was a painter of genre who was born in Teltsch on 21 June 1850. He studied under Eduard Von Engerth at the Vienna Academy, and exhibited in Vienna, Dresden and Munich between 1879 and 1890. He died in 1927.

Image of the Assembled Puzzle 2000, Jumbo, In the Library, Johann Hamza

We don’t have a lot of information about him, except that he specialized in genre painting. He liked to depict everyday life by portraying ordinary people in common activities. At a very early age he was already a consummate craftsman who conceived his pictures with a lot of detail. He was very precise depicting the surfaces of all the materials, objects, and figures. This painting is a good example.

Johann Hamza in his Library

Jorge Luis Borges always imagined Paradise as some kind of library. It seems that perhaps Johann Hamza could agree with him, since libraries and books are common topics in his paintings. There are at least five works with the title In the Library, where different gentlemen are sitting reading in a library or a room full of books. Furthermore, some other works represent people reading, like An Old Man Reading, Reading for Pleasure, or Reading on the Terrace. When someone loves books as much as jigsaw puzzles, this Jumbo puzzle is the perfect combination of two great hobbies.

This puzzle was very nice and more challenging than I initially imagined, since there were too many similar pieces with book spines. However, it was not too difficult. Although the puzzle was not new, the quality of Jumbo pieces is very good, and it looked like new. I had two incomplete copies of this puzzle, but they were perfectly compatible, so I was able to put together a complete copy that I listed later at Rare Puzzles. There is an additional copy that will be used for replacements in the future.

2000, Jumbo, In the Library, Johann Hamza, 98 x 68 cm, Reference Number 1746.

Image of the Puzzle 1500, Jumbo, In the Library, Johann Hamza, Picture of the Box

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