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).
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.
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.
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.
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.