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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The humour in the Lewis Chessmen

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2012

Hi everyone,

There is an interesting exhibition on at the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art of the Middle Ages in New York. On show is the amazing 12th Century Lewis Chessmen set! The exhibit, The Game of Kings: Medieval Ivory Chessmen From the Isle of Lewis, brings 34 of the world’s most famous chess pieces from the British Museum to New York City.

Here is a nice review of the exhibition from The Epoch Times.

The Lewis Chessmen: Humor Is Cultural

NEW YORK—The diminutive, delicately carved, 12th century Lewis chessmen face off in an endgame at the Cloisters, the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art of the Middle Ages.

Their expressive faces, with bulging eyes, down-turned mouths, and gestures with their tiny hands prove a counterintuitive notion. Comical, even adorable, toy-like artwork can achieve historical and international significance.

More than 70 chess pieces were unearthed in 1831, buried in a stone chest on the Isle of Lewis, off the coast of Scotland. Based on the style of the carvings and costumes, historians believe artisans created the chessmen between 1150 and 1200, most likely in Trondheim, Norway.

From this original trove, the British Museum owns 67 pieces, and the National Museums Scotland owns 11. Made of walrus tusk, with a few made of whale tooth, the figures have maintained their pristine condition for more than 800 years.

In 2010, BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum produced an educational series, A History of the World in 100 Objects, which included the Lewis chessmen. Even more remarkable than their mere survival, these tiny, 1 5/8- to 4-inch characters continue to engender a universal and playful affection.

Read the full review here.
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