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Posts Tagged "Chess"

The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

Carving Out a Collection

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Monday, January 30, 2012

With the purchase of the Lewis Chessmen in 1831, the British Museum created, overnight, the single-most important collection of medieval chess pieces in the world, its holdings rivaled only by the Cabinet des médailles of the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, which houses the famed "Charlemagne" chessmen. So rich is the treasure from the Isle of Lewis that the British Museum was able to lend enough pieces to re-create a famous chess game for our current exhibition while retaining a substantial number of pieces on display in London.

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

All Set

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2012

For centuries, chess sets have been crafted from a wide range of materials. The Metropolitan's collection of chess pieces, numbering in the hundreds, ranges geographically from Persia to the United States, and chronologically from as early as the eighth to the twentieth century.

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

Let the Games Begin

Emma Wegner, Assistant Museum Educator, The Cloisters

Posted: Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Last Wednesday, The Cloisters hosted a chess tournament for fifty New York City elementary and junior high school students, organized by Chess-in-the-Schools. The students came from four public schools: East Side Community School, PS 226X, PS 279X, and PS 145M, all of which have active chess teams. We chose the date of the event to coincide with the first day of our two-day December Family Festival, which offered chess-themed gallery workshops for visitors ages four through twelve. Between games, several of the chess players participated in the self-guided Art Hunt that was offered as part of the Family Festival.

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

Horsing Around

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2011

Long forelocks falling over the eyes, groomed manes, tails that reach to the ground, and a short, stocky frame distinguish the horses ridden by the Knights of the Lewis Chessmen. They seem to resemble today's Icelandic horses. I spoke to Heleen Heyning, a breeder of Icelandic horses at West Winds Farm in upstate New York. She immediately saw the resemblance between the Lewis horses and her own. She noted that Icelandic horses were known across Scandinavia in the Viking area and are thought to have been introduced to Iceland about the year 800. For the last thousand years—that is, since before the Lewis Chessmen were carved—there has been no crossbreeding of Icelandic horses. Therefore, the resemblance we see is not accidental.

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

Armed to the Teeth

Dirk H. Breiding, Assistant Curator, Department of Arms and Armor; and Michelle Jubin, Intern, Department of Arms and Armor

Posted: Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Knights from the Lewis group embody the visual ideal of a knight on horseback: a mounted warrior, protected by armor and shield, and armed with a sword and a spear, or lance. The Rooks (also known as Warders), rendered as battle-ready infantry, show very similar equipment (excluding the lance).

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

From Tusk to Treasure: Part II

Pete Dandridge, Conservator and Administrator, The Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation

Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2011

As I discussed in last week's post, the first step in the creation of these ivory sculptures was for the artist to establish the conceptual placement of each chess piece within the tusk, allowing for each distinct section of ivory to be cut out. The bottom sides of several chessmen retain the parallel marks of successive saw cuts often interspersed with the less regular cuts of chisels and files used to flatten and refine the base. The underside of the Knight from the Metropolitan, for example, shows the gently arching cut of the saw on the bottom right, chisel marks across the top center, and numerous, parallel cuts that resulted from filing.

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

From Tusk to Treasure: Part I

Pete Dandridge, Conservator and Administrator, The Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation

Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All works of art strive to alter the perception of the viewer. The most successful meld a unique artistic vision with a thorough understanding of materials and a command of techniques. To discern how artists do what they do so well, conservators draw on a range of resources—including contemporary records of artistic practices, archaeological evidence, previous research, direct observation, and visual and material analyses.

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

All Aboard!

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Tuesday, November 29, 2011

If a chess player today were lucky enough to set up a board with pieces from the Lewis hoard, he or she would easily recognize the cast of characters, which became standardized in the Middle Ages. From conversations with visitors to the exhibition, I have learned that some players get tripped up trying to identify the Rooks or trying to distinguish the Kings from the Queens. If asked to play according to medieval rules, however, almost all players today would undoubtedly misstep, as these rules have changed over time and have varied by region. Read on to learn more!

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

An Epic Battle

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In a chess match, opponents simulate a battle between warring kingdoms. But, if one is to believe medieval legend, even such mock battles could provoke intense competition. According to the Icelandic St. Olaf's Saga (written about 1230), King Knut murdered a chess opponent, Jarl Ulf, in 1027 following a dispute during a match.

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

The Walrus and Its Tusks

Ross D. E. MacPhee, Curator of Mammals, American Museum of Natural History

Posted: Monday, November 14, 2011

Although the walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) is one of the iconic mammals of the Arctic, its evolutionary story actually began in the tropics. By adapting to cold conditions, the distant ancestors of walruses were able to prosper in the harsh conditions of the northern polar regions. This took time; walruses are distantly related to fur seals and sea lions, but they have been on their own as a separate lineage for more than twenty million years. Although moderately diverse in the past, the walrus family declined over time and is now represented by just one species.

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About this Blog

This blog accompanied the special exhibition The Game of Kings: Medieval Ivory Chessmen from the Isle of Lewis, on view at The Cloisters November 15, 2011–April 22, 2012.