Painted and Inlaid Game Board, Wood; painted, varnished and gilded; with metal hinges

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:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 463
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.[116]

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).