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Tableman - A man riding of a griffin

A man riding of a griffin

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Cologne (made)

  • Date:

    1150-1200 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Walrus ivory

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case 10

This is a walrus ivory tableman or backgammon piece, made in Germany (Cologne), in about 1150-1175. The game of tables, or backgammon, was popular in the 11th and 12th centuries. There were 15 counters to each side, and 12th century boards inlaid with bone sections have been excavated at Gloucester and Saint-Denis. About 250 Romanesque tablemen with figurative designs survive. The game was popular throughout Northern Europe and the pieces were made in a number of different centres, with the most productive workshops based in Northern France and Cologne
They are to be found in most museums with archaeological collections and difficult to date because of their simple ornament and the unchanging nature of their design.

Physical description

Tableman or backgammon piece. Disc-shaped with a high relief carving of a bearded man riding a griffin in the centre, carrying a hawk on his left wrist and holding a cloth in his right hand. There is a carved decorated border of folaite ornament around the outside edge.

Place of Origin

Cologne (made)


1150-1200 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Walrus ivory


Thickness: 1.3 cm, Diameter: 5.6 cm, Weight: 0.06 kg

Object history note

The ivory was formerly in the collection of John Webb and was acquired by the museum in 1871, for £5.

Historical significance: It is stylistically related and should be grouped with four other pieces, in Paris (Louvre and Cluny), the Bargello in Florence and the Forsyth collection in Ann Arbour, Michigan. These are all of similar dimensions and subject matter and they may have belonged to the same set.

Historical context note

This 'tableman' is a backgammon piece. Backgammon appears to have been a favourite game amongst the nobility. Carved in deep sunk relief, the subjects depicted on such games pieces include scenes from the Old Testament, scenes from classical antiquity and fantastic creatures.

Descriptive line

Tableman or backgammon piece, walrus ivory, high relief carving of a man riding a griffin, Germany, Cologne, second half of 12th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

V. Mann. [ Ph.D, dissertation]Romanesque Ivory Tableman. New York University, 1977. cat. no. 147
List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington, Acquired During the Year 1871, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O. p. 31.
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929. Part I. p. 82.
Goldschmidt, A. Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus romanischen Zeit. XI. Bis XIII. Jahrhundert (Elfenbeinskulpturen III), Berlin, 1923 (reprinted, Berlin, 1972), p. 10, cat.no. 234, pl. LVI
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 428, 9 , cat.no. 114


Walrus ivory

Subjects depicted

Man; Hawk; Griffin


Ph_survey; Sculpture; Games


Sculpture Collection

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