Chess Piece, Pawn

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 457

Caliphal decrees prohibited the playing of chess (the pieces of which are customarily figural) for iconoclastic reasons as early as the eighth century. It is likely that chess pieces of the abstract type, such as those exhibited here, replaced the figural ones in order to circumvent those decrees. 

The dot-in-circle motif recalls designs presumed to be of magical significance, most likely an abstract eye to ward off the evil-eye, which serves an apotropaic function. Easily reproduced with a tool and visible in many cultures and times, this symbol may have lost its meaning, and become simply a decorative pattern, or may have one that we have not yet discovered.

Chess Piece, Pawn, Jet

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