Friday, 4 November 2016

Medieval games from Paris and Nüremberg

Painted glass showing a chess scene. second quarter of the 15th century originating from Hôtel de la Bessée in Villefranche-sur-Saône. Musee de Cluny CL23422. Height 54.2 cm, width 54 cm. 

This post concerns the medieval board games and their game pieces present in the Louvre and the Musee de Cluny in Paris, France and the Germanisches National Museum in Nüremberg, Germany. This year I have visited both places and took much photos at these places. What I did not realise before was that some chess pieces are very large. They are made from elephant or walrus tusks and have a diameter of 5 cm or more (a modern chess piece has a diameter of around 1.5 cm). Consequently, the chess board must have been very large as well. 

Games of chess


Chess piece (queen) or reliquary made in France from ivory. Height 8.7 cm, diameter 5.2 cm. 11th century. Musee de Cluny CL396. The chess piece originates from the treasury of Reims cathedral. The chess piece contains scenes from the youth of Christ and his baptism (lower part), as well as the baptism of King Clovis (upper part).

 A composition of the Queen chess piece made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.

Chess piece (bishop, elephant) dating from the 12th century. Interestingly, the chess piece resembles on the outside the Arab style elephant with its two tusks, while inside a bishop is carved out. Musee de Cluny CL23885. Origin Northern Europe.

 A composition of the Bishop/Elephant chess piece made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.


Four different chess pieces in the Musee de Cluny were on display together. Anti-clockwise: 
(1) Chess piece (horse/knight) made from antler in the Arab style. 9th-10th century. Made in Northern Europe. Cluny CL14422. Height 6 cm, width 3.5 cm.
(2) Chess piece (queen) made from antler dating from the 11th century. Cluny CL14423. The chess piece originates from the Château de Châtenois. Height 6 cm, width 5 cm. 
(3) Chess piece (tower, chariot) made from antler dating from the 11th century. Cluny CL14425.The chess piece originates from the Château de Châtenois. Height 6 cm, width 5.5 cm. 
(4) Chess piece (king?) made from antler dating from the 11th century. Cluny CL14424.The chess piece originates from the Château de Châtenois. Height 4.7 cm, width 4.2 cm. 

A closer look at the Horse/Knight. Cluny CL14422.

A composition of the Knight chess piece made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.

  A composition of the Queen chess piece made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.

  A composition of the King chess piece made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.

 A composition of the Tower/Chariot chess piece made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.

31 chess or other game pieces made from walrus ivory of German origin, late 15th century. 
Musee de Cluny CL9223. The game pieces appear to belong to 2 to 4 different games.

The larger tower like pieces all look very similar, but there are some differences in the number of rings.

 
The larger pion-like pieces.

In front are the small tower-like pieces.

 Two images of the game pieces made by the photo agency of the French museums.

Left: Chess piece (King) made from bone and dating from the first quart of the 14th century. Scandinavian. Height 8 cm, width 6.5 cm. Musee de Cluny CL11285. Right: Chess piece hunter (bishop) made from ivory/bone. First quarter of the 14th century. Scandinavian. height 7.5 cm, width 6.5 cm. Cluny CL11286.

 Two images of the game same pieces made by the photo agency of the French museums.

Ivory casket plaque showing a game of chess, the Triumph of the God of Love and Leaving for the Hunt. Made in Paris, second quarter of the 14th century. Louvre OA 7277.


 Ivory casket plaque showing episodes from the 'Hommes sauvages' with the God of Love, a couple riding on a horse, Tristan and Isolde at a fountain being spied by King Mark, a game of chess. 14th century.

Mirror case from ivory decorated with a chess scene, likely inspired by a passage from the romance of Tristan and Yseult, when, before drinking the potion that will make them fall in love, the protagonists play chess on the boat that is taking them to King Mark. The modelling of the relief and the cheerful characters are characteristic of the art of the court of Philip IV (the Fair). Made in Paris around 1300.  Diameter 11.50 cm; depth 0.90 cm. Louvre OA 117.

Chess piece (king) made from gilded bronze. Louvre OA5916. Origin Italy, 14th century.

A composition of the bronze King chess piece made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.

Chess piece (tower, chariot) from ivory with gilding dating from the 10th-12th century. one side of the chess piece shows Adam and Eve, while the other side shows two jousting knights. Originates from Middle east (10th-11th century) or Saint-Albans /Ile-de-France (1120-1240). Louvre OA3297. Height 6.1 cm, width 6.8 cm, depth 2.4 cm.

A composition of the Chariot chess piece made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.

Chess piece (king) made from elephant ivory and dating from the 12th century. The chess piece depict a king together with his chancellors. The form of the chess piece is in the Arab style. Made in Italy. Louvre OA6262. 
Height 7 cm, diameter 7.7 cm.

A composition of the King chess piece made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.

These photos really show the difference between a large chess piece (the elephant) and a gargantuan chess piece (the king).

Chess piece: elephant and its keeper made from ivory. Southern Italy around 1100. Louvre OA 3448.

A composition of the Elephant chess piece made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.

Chess piece (King) from the end of the 12th century made from walrus ivory. Made in Trondheim, Norway. Louvre OA5541. Height 8.7 cm, width 4.5 cm, thickness 3.5 cm.

A bishop on horseback accompanied by three servants (soldiers). Walrus ivory. germany around 1300. Nuremberg Pl.O.364. 

A chess set of 13 pieces containing 2 kings, one queen, 2 elephants, 4 knights and 4 towers. Found at Adelsdorf, Germany. dated 10-12th century. Made from antler. Nuremberg HG 2173-2185. The game contains pieces from the opposing sides, yet they look identical. So they must either have been painted, or the original colour of the antler has been vanished during the years in the soil.

Saint Louis chess board from the Louvre. The board was created at the end of the 15th century but greatly altered in the 17th and 19th century. The board and pieces were made in France and Germany from (gilded) metal, wood, crystal and fumed quartz. The board is 6.5 cm high and 43 cm square.

Games of backgammon


 Backgammon game pieces made from bone and antler, decorated with geometric design and dating from the 11th and 12th century. Cluny CL17712, CL17713, CL17714, CL17715 and CL17716. Origin northern Europe. A composition of the front and back of backgammon pieces in Musee the Cluny made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.

Backgammon game piece decorated with a bird made from bone and antler, and dating from the 11th and 12th century. Cluny CL23305. Origin northern Europe. 4.2 cm diameter. A composition of the front and back of backgammon pieces in Musee the Cluny made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.
 
Backgammon game piece decorated with a knight and a cock made from ivory, and dating from the 12th century. Cluny CL13309. Origin France. Left: A composition of the front and back of backgammon pieces in Musee the Cluny made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.

Backgammon game piece decorated with two man and 2 basilisks made from ivory, and dating from the 12th century. Cluny CL22591. Origin France. Left: A composition of the front and back of backgammon pieces in Musee the Cluny made from photos by the photo agency of the French museums.


I did not notice this diptych with two apostles made from elephant ivory in the Louvre, but found itin the photo collection. Likely only the carved front side is visible in the museum, while the backside is more remarkable. The other side contains a backgammon game. The diptych dates from the 5th century, the game on the back from the 11th century. Contrary to the enormous chess boards, this game board is tiny, so should the game pieces have been small as well. Louvre OA3223 and OA3850bis. Origin Gaul, France or Italy. Height 15.3 cm, width 9.8 cm.

Backgammon game piece decorated with a centaur from antler, and dating from the 11th or 12th century. Louvre OA7376. Origin France. thickness 0.9 cm, diameter 4.1 cm. 
My photos were rubbish, luckily the one from the photo collection is better.

Backgammon game piece decorated with Samson and foxes from walrus ivory, painted red and dating from the end of the 12th century. Louvre OA10003. Origin Cologne, Germany. Left: Photo by the photo agency of the French museums.

Backgammon game piece decorated with Judith killing Holofernes in his bed from ivory, and dating from the 12th century. Louvre OA166. Origin Bayeux, France. 5.5 cm diameter.Also the side of the game piece is decorated.

 
Backgammon game piece decorated with fantasy animals fighting each other from walrus ivory, and dating from the end of the 12th century. Louvre MRR427. Origin cologne, Germany. Diameter 4.7 cm.

 
Backgammon game piece decorated with a mitred human riding a sea-monster from walrus ivory, and dating from the end of the 12th century. Louvre MRR427. Origin Cologne, Germany. 

 (1) Game piece from bone dating from the 11th-12th century. (2) Bone game piece dating from the 11th century. (3) Antler game piece found at Burg bei Oening, 11-12th century, (4) Bone game piece from the 11th century. (5) Bone game piece found at Burg bei Oening, 11-12th century.
 
 This photo shows the thickness of the game pieces.

Dice games


 
A 12-sided dice made from walrus ivory. So far, no games with 12-sided dice are know from medieval times. Even Alphonso the wise did not invent this dice (as he did with the 7- and 8-sided dice). The die uses Roman numerals. Cluny CL22739.

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