Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Chessmen (32)

Date:
late 18th century
Culture:
Indian, Bengal
Medium:
Ivory
Dimensions:
Height (each king): 5 in. (12.7 cm); Height (each pawn): 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm)
Classification:
Chess Sets
Credit Line:
Gift of Gustavus A. Pfeiffer, 1948
Accession Number:
48.174.116a–p, aa–pp
Not on view
The kings, rajahs, are in elaborate howdahs with double domes and projecting awnings held by two inclined poles, a form of howdah that was still used in the early nineteenth century. The minister (queen) is in an open howdah, but shaded by an umbrella. The original symbolism has been lost in this set, as is evident by the introduction of a lion on the British side in lieu of the elephant (bishop) and a rhinoceros on the Indian side - a peculiar innovation though the animal does exist in India. A cavalryman correctly acts as knight on the British side, and a cameleer with drawn sword, incorrectly, on the Indian side. The camel often appears in Indian chess sets in the position of the bishop, but not as the knight. The rooks are crenellated towers, with a soldier holding a flag on top. The pawns are standing soldiers, the British with muskets, the Hindus with long spears and round shields. The set, obviously, was not made for playing purposes.
Alexander Hammond , Slough, England ; Gustavus A. Pfeiffer , New York (until 1948; to MMA)
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