Exhibitions/ Art Object

Game Piece with Menelaus and Companions Battling Proteus

ca. 1125–50
North French
Walrus ivory
Overall: 2 3/8 x 11/16 in. (6 x 1.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of The Salgo Trust for Education, New York, in memory of Nicolas M. Salgo, 2010
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 304
Objects related to the games of tables and chess were among Salgo’s favorite items. Such games were predecessors of modern backgammon and widespread in Medieval Europe. Surviving ivory game pieces are rare, and this is the only known piece from a thirty-piece set. These unusual objects often depict sophisticated narrative and allegorical subjects. This carving may show a scene from the Odyssey, when King Menelaus drives a spear into the open jaws of the sea-god Proteus, transformed into a lioness or bearlike creature. Nearly 500 game pieces, along with game boards and boxes from various periods were donated by Ambassador Salgo to the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich.
Mrs. Gertrude Crisp, Little Wenham Hall, Suffolk (from 1925); Ms. Margaret Crisp(from 1936); [ Blumka Gallery, New York]; Nicolas M. Salgo (Budapest 1914–2005 Bal Harbour)(until 2005); Salgo Trust for Education(2005–2010)
Goldschmidt, Adolph. Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus der romanischen Zeit, XI.-XIII. Jahrhundert. Vol. 4. Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1926. no. 296, p. 57, pl. LXXIV.

Mann, Vivian B. "Romanesque Ivory Tablemen." PhD diss., New York University, 1977. no. 50, p. 228.

Mann, Vivian B. "Mythological Subjects on Northern French Tablemen." Gesta 20, no. 1 (1981). p. 162.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 2008-2010." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 67, no. 2 (Fall 2010). p. 13.

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