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Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Bishop Chess Piece

Date:
1150–1200
Geography:
Made in probably Trondheim, Norway
Culture:
Scandinavian
Medium:
Walrus ivory
Dimensions:
Overall: 3 3/4 x 2 1/2 x 1 7/16 in. (9.6 x 6.3 x 3.6 cm)
Classification:
Ivories-Walrus
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.229
On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 10
The Bishop was introduced to the European chessboard in the 12th century, replacing the elephant of Islamic tradition. The substitution of a man of the church for an animal used in battle may seem curious, but medieval bishops frequently served with armies. That role is not on display here: the smaller figures probably represent men who served the Bishop in ceremony. An official known as a Reader holds the Bishop’s book. He has been tonsured—his hair shaven in a circle at the crown of his head. The man holding a staff and cradling his ear may be the Precentor, who was in charge of the choir.
[ Hamburger Frères, Paris (sold 1911)]; J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York (from 1911)
Brooklyn Museum. "Chess: East and West, Past and Present," April–October 1968.

New York. The Cloisters Museum & Gardens. "The Game of Kings: Medieval Ivory Chessmen from the Isle of Lewis," November 15, 2011–April 22, 2012.

Breck, Joseph. "Pre-Gothic Ivories in the Pierpont Morgan Collection." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, o.s., 15, no. 1 (January 1920). p. 16, ill. p. 17.

Breck, Joseph, and Meyric R. Rogers. The Pierpont Morgan Wing: A Handbook. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1925. p. 50.

Breck, Joseph, and Meyric R. Rogers. The Pierpont Morgan Wing: A Handbook. 2nd ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1929. p. 50.

Griffith, Beatrice Fox. Treasure Under Glass. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1963. p. 43, pl. XXXVII.

McNab Dennis, Jessie, and Charles K. Wilkinson. Chess: East and West, Past and Present. A Selection from the Gustavus A. Pfeiffer Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1968. no. 6.

Galan y Galindo, Angel. Marfiles Medievales del Islam: Volume 2, Catálogo de Piezas. Cordoba: Publicaciones Obra Social Y Cultural Cajasur, 2005. no. 40029, pp. 437, 520.

Little, Charles T. "A Romanesque Walrus Ivory Bishop in New York." In The Lewis Chessmen: New Perspectives, edited by David H. Caldwell, and Mark A. Hall. Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 2014. pp. 321-327.

Shalem, Avinoam. Die mittelalterlichen Olifante: Volume 1, Text. Die Elfenbeinskulpturen. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft, 2014. p. 112, fig. 134.



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