English / Bishop Chess Piece / 12th centuryEnglish
Bishop Chess Piece
12th century

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Creator Nationality: European; British; English
Creator Dates/Places: English
Creator Name-CRT: English
Title: Bishop Chess Piece
View: Principal view
Creation Start Date: 1100
Creation End Date: 1199
Creation Date: 12th century
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Materials and Techniques: walrus ivory
Dimensions: 3 7/8 x 2 3/8 in. (9.8 x 6 cm)

This twelfth-century ivory chess piece is carved in the form of an enthroned bishop who wears a miter, holds a crosier, and makes a gesture of blessing with two raised fingers. Two attendants crouch beside him, rendered on a much smaller scale to suggest lower status. The kneeling figure on his right, wearing a monastic haircut called a tonsure, gestures to an open book. The figure on the opposite side rests on his staff, head in hand.

The game of chess was probably brought to England by the Vikings, although it first appeared in India in the sixth century and was known in Europe as early as the tenth century. Chess was quite popular in medieval England, particularly among royalty, such as kings Henry I (r. 1100?1135), Henry II (r. 1154?89), and John (r. 1199?1216). The Museum's chess piece is similar to another set of medieval figurines known as the Lewis Chessmen, now in the British Museum. These are also made from walrus ivory, and they date to the mid-twelfth century, but they are carved in a more abstract style.

AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York
ID Number: 17.190.229
Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Copyright: Copyright ? 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
Rights: http://www.metmuseum.org/education/er_photo_lib.asp
AMICA ID: MMA_.17.190.229
AMICA Library Year: 2002
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright (c) 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All Rights Reserved

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