Painted and Inlaid Game Board
- Object Name:
- Game board
- late 17th century
- Made in India
- Wood; painted, varnished and gilded; with metal hinges
- H. 17 1/4 in. (43.8 cm)
W. 14 3/8 in. (36.5 cm)
D. 1/4 in. (0.6 cm)
- Credit Line:
- Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art and Rogers Fund, 1983
- Accession Number:
This gameboard is painted on both sides with an eight by eight grid on one side for chess (the side on display) or draughts and a backgammon table on the other side. Both chess and backgammon were highly popular board games in the Islamic world and were even the subject of a Persian text composed in the ninth century, Wizarishn i catrang ud nihishn i new-ardashir (Explanation of Chess and the Invention of Backgammon). This late seventeenth-century board is finely executed with a symmetrical arabesque design on one set of squares and a flowering plant on the alternate squares. The flowering plants are carefully painted, and eight different flower varieties can be identified. The board was probably painted, varnished, and gilded over a wooden framework by a craftsman who had been trained to adorn bindings for manuscripts.
This board, which features chess on the outside and backgammon on the inside, is a beautiful example of luxury game 'furniture'. The craftsman decorated this piece differently on each side; the chess board has alternating flowers and arabesques instead of the usual black and white squares, while the backgammon board feautures a central cruciform area patterned with grapevines and floral motifs for the two sides. It seems likely that the artist was also trained in adorning manuscript bindings.
William Greenwood in [Greenwood 2014]
116. Carey Welch, S., M. Jenkins and C. Kane (1983). Islamic Art. Notable Acquisitions (Metropolitan Museum of Art), no. 1983/1984, p. 8.
[ Greater India Company, Inc., Cambridge, MA, until 1983; sold to MMA]
New York. Asia Society. "Asian Games: The Art of Contest," October 14, 2004–January 18, 2005, no. 7:5, 12:15.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. "Asian Games: The Art of Contest," February 26, 2005–May 15, 2005, no. 7:5, 12:15.
Middlebury College Museum of Art. "Asian Games: The Art of Contest," September 8, 2005–December 11, 2005, no. 7:5, 12:15.
Doha. Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. "Kings & Pawns," March 18, 2014–June 21, 2014.
Welch, Stuart Cary, Marilyn Jenkins, and Carolyn Kane. "Islamic Art." M.M.A. Notable Acquisitions 1983–84 vol. 41 (1983–1984). p. 8, ill. (b/w).
Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. pp. 156-157, ill. fig. 120 (color).
Greenwood, WIlliam. "Board Games from India to Spain." In Kings & Pawns. Doha, Qatar: Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, 2014. pp. 120–21, ill. p. 121.
Mackenzie, Colin, and Irving Finkel, ed. Asian Games The Art of Contest. New York: Asia Society, 2004. no. nos. 7:5, 12:15, pp. 8, 88, 149, ill. figs. 7:5, 12:15, (color).