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Medieval Treasures from Hildesheim

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Chess Piece in the Form of a Bishop with Two Attendants

Date:
1150–1200
Geography:
Made in probably Trondheim, Norway
Culture:
Scandinavian
Medium:
Walrus ivory
Dimensions:
Overall: 3 3/4 x 2 1/2 x 1 7/16 in. (9.6 x 6.3 x 3.6 cm)
Classification:
Ivories-Walrus
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.229
  • Description

    This twelfth-century ivory chess piece is carved in the form of an enthroned bishop who wears a miter, holds a crosier, and makes a gesture of blessing with two raised fingers. Two attendants crouch beside him, rendered on a much smaller scale to suggest lower status. The kneeling figure on his right, wearing a monastic haircut called a tonsure, gestures to an open book. The figure on the opposite side rests on his staff, head in hand.

    The Museum’s chess piece is similar to figures from a chess set found on Lewis, an island off the west coast of Scotland, in 1831. That set is divided between the British Museum, London, and the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Also made from walrus ivory, the Lewis chessmen date to the mid-twelfth century but are carved in a more abstract style.

  • Provenance

    [ Hamburger Frères, Paris (sold 1911)]; J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York (from 1911)

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
464231

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