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Chess piece (Side)

Chess piece (Side)
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Oxford, Ashmolean Museum

Inv. AN1685 A.587

Walrus ivory

Height: 77 mm
Width: 61 mm
Depth: 38 mm

Side 1: Knight in armour on horseback brandishing a sword; scrolls (rinceaux); shield.
Side 2: Knight in armour on horseback holding a spear; shield.
Foliated decoration.

Koechlin Number: 1256

Westwood 1876: England, 13th-14th century.
London 1923: French, 13th century.
Koechlin 1924: France, 13th century.
Nickel 1969: probably France, c. 1250.
London 1987: English, c. 1240-1250.
Warren 2014: England, c. 1230-50.


Polychromy - Gilding
Traces of gilding (harness, shield, belt) and polychromy, possibly silver (chain mail).

Carved in the round.

Object Condition
The base seems to have been shaved.
Missing: part of the sword; part of the foliated scrolls; part of the horse's right foreleg and hind.
Hollow down the centre.

Handwritten ink inscription on the base, only partially legible as the base has been shaved: 'Dr. Plot [...] number [...] Lib [...] sti'. Remains of a blue and white label.

Collection of John Tradescant until 1662; given to the University of Oxford by Elias Ashmole in 1683.

Liber Domini Vice-Chancellari, fols. 1-137, 'Catalogus Numismatum tum Antiquorum tum modern. A.A.A. quae Cl: Vir. Dns Elias Ashmole Musaeo suo Oxonij prima vice donavit. Anno 1683', The Book of the Vice-Chancellor, 1695 (Ashmolean Manuscript 11, fol. 232, no. 587).
'Liber Domini Decani Aedis Christi', The Book of the Dean of Christ Church, c. 1684-90 (Ashmolean Manuscript 8, fol. 33r, no. 587).
'Liber Domini Aedis Christi Decani', The Book of the Dean of Christ Church, compiled by William Huddesford in 1756 (Ashmolean Manuscript 12, fol. 38r, no. 540).
P. B. Duncan, A Catalogue of the Ashmolean Museum, descriptive of the Zoological Specimens, Antiquities, Coins, and Miscellaneous Curiosities (Oxford, 1836), no. 320.
A. Way, 'Ancient Chessmen with Some Remark on Their Value as Illustrations of Medieval Costume', in Archaeological Journal III (1846), p. 243.
Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Works of Art of the Mediaeval, Renaissance, and more recent periods on loan at the South Kensington Museum, June 1862..., revised edition, exhibition catalogue (London, 1863), no. 238.
National Exhibition of Works of Art, at Leeds, 1868: Official Catalogue, no. 721.
W. Maskell, Ivories Ancient and Mediaeval in the South Kensington Museum (London, 1872), p.164
J. O. Westwood, Fictile Ivories in the South Kensington Museum (London, 1876), no. 825 ('73.312).
H. Graeven, Elfenbeinwerke in Italien 2, Frühchristliche und mittelalterliche Elfenbeinwerke in Photographischer Nachbildung (Rome, 1898), pp. 24-5, figs. 69 and 70.
R. Koechlin, 'Quelques ivoires gothiques français connus antérieurement au XIXe siècle', in Revue de l'Art Chrétien 41 (1911), pp. 281-292, fig. 10.
H. J. R. Murray, A History of Chess (Oxford, 1913), p. 762.
Catalogue of an Exhibition of Carvings in Ivory, exhibition catalogue, London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1923, no. 88, pl. XXVIII.
R. Koechlin, Les Ivoires gothiques français (Paris, 1924), I, p. 469; II, no. 1256; III, pl. CCXII.
A. Goldschmidt, Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus der romanischen Zeit (Berlin, 1926), IV, no. 261.
M. Longhurst, English Ivories (London, 1926), pp. 39, pp. 99-100, no. 47, pl. 41.
Exhibition of English Mediaeval Art, exhibition catalogue, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1930, no. 191.
Exhibition of British Art, 1000-1860, exhibition catalogue, London, Royal Academy of Arts, 1934, no. 1397.
O. Beigbeder, 'Les héros romanesques des ivoires médiévaux français', in Connaissance des Arts 84 (February 1959), pp. 26-27.
H. and S. Wichmann, Schach. Ursprung and Wandlung der Spielfigur in zwolf Jahrhunderten (Munich, 1960), p. 263, fig. 55.
O. Beigbeder, Ivory (New York, 1965), p. 95, fig. 84.
H. Nickel, 'Sir Gawayne and the Three White Knights', in Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 28 (December 1969), pp. 174-182 (pp. 174-175, fig. 2).
Art and the Courts: France and England from 1259 to 1328, exhibition catalogue, Ottawa, The National Gallery of Canada, 28 April-2 July 1972, no. 68A, pl. 91.
D. A. Porter, Ivory Carvings in Later Medieval England 1200-1400 (unpublished PhD thesis, State University of New York at Binghamton, 1974), pp. 64-73, no.16.
F. Greygoose, Chessmen (Newton Abbot, 1979), p. 44, pls. 16-17; p. 59, fig. 61.
A. MacGregor, Tradescant Rarities: Essays on the foundation of the Ashmolean Museum 1683, with a catalogue of the surviving early collections (Oxford, 1983), pp. 284-5, no. 236, fig. 73.
Age of Chivalry: Art in Plantagenet England 1200-1400, ed. by J. J. G. Alexander and Paul Binski, exhibition catalogue, London, Royal Academy of Arts, 1987, no. 146.
M. Hook and A. MacGregor, Medieval England: Archaeological and Decorative Art Collections in the Ashmolean Museum from Alfred the Great to Richard III (Oxford, 1997), p. 59, fig. 80.
A. MacGregor, Ashmolean Museum Oxford: Manuscript catalogues of the early museum collections 1683-1886, pt 1 (Oxford, 2000), p. 55, no. 587; p.193, no. 540.
C. Schafroth, The Art of Chess (New York, 2002), pp. 66-7.
A. MacGregor and M. Hook, Ashmolean Museum Oxford: Manuscript Catalogues of the early Museum Collections, pt II: The Vice-Chancellor's consolidated catalogue 1695 (Oxford, 2006), p. 84, no. 587.
J. Warren, Medieval and Renaissance Sculpture in the Ashmolean Museum, 3 vols (Oxford, 2014), Vol. 2: Sculptures in Stone, Clay, Ivory, Bone and Wood, no. 156.


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