Gaming Piece thumbnail 1
Gaming Piece thumbnail 2
+1
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
Not currently on display at the V&A
On short term loan out for exhibition

Gaming Piece

1150-1200 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This gaming piece shows a bearded man riding a griffin, carrying a hawk on his left wrist and holding a cloth in his right hand. The border is decorated with stylized foliate ornament. Round gaming pieces such as this one almost certainly belonged to sets of 'tablemen'. The game of tables, or backgammon was popular in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, draughts only becoming established in the later Middle Ages. There were fifteen counters to each side, and twelfth-century boards inlaid with bone settings have been excavated at Gloucester and Saint- Denis. Only one full set with two sides of fifteen counters and a board, that at Gloucester, still exists, but it is clear that a great variety of subjects was carved on the discs, ranging from single animals to scenes from classical mythology.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
carved walrus ivory
Brief description
Gaming piece with a bearded man riding a griffin and carrying a hawk, carved walrus ivory, Cologne, 1150 - 1200
Physical description
This gaming piece shows a bearded man riding a griffin, carrying a hawk on his left wrist and holding a cloth in his right hand. The border is decorated with stylized foliate ornament. The man's left foot is missing and the area above is severely rubbed.
Dimensions
  • Thickness: 1.3cm
  • Diameter: 5.6cm
  • Weight: 0.06kg
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Object history
Purchased from John Webb, London, in 1871 (£5); on loan to the museum from 1867.



This gaming piece should be grouped with four other pieces now in Paris (Musée du Louvre, Musée de Cluny), Florence (Museo del Bargello) and formerly Ann Arbor, Michigan (Forsyth Collection; sold at Sotheby's, London, 16 December 1998). All five pieces are of similar dimensions and subject matter, four of them depicting men riding fantastic beasts, and they may have belonged to the same set.
Historical context
Round gaming pieces such as this one almost certainly belonged to sets of 'tablemen'. The game of tables, or backgammon, was popular in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, draughts only becoming established in the later Middle Ages. There were fifteen counters to each side, and twelfth-century boards inlaid with bone settings have been excavated at Gloucester and Saint-Denis. Only one full set with two sides of fifteen counters and a board, that at Gloucester, still exists, but it is clear that a great variety of subjects was carved on the discs, ranging from single animals to scenes from classical mythology.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This gaming piece shows a bearded man riding a griffin, carrying a hawk on his left wrist and holding a cloth in his right hand. The border is decorated with stylized foliate ornament. Round gaming pieces such as this one almost certainly belonged to sets of 'tablemen'. The game of tables, or backgammon was popular in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, draughts only becoming established in the later Middle Ages. There were fifteen counters to each side, and twelfth-century boards inlaid with bone settings have been excavated at Gloucester and Saint- Denis. Only one full set with two sides of fifteen counters and a board, that at Gloucester, still exists, but it is clear that a great variety of subjects was carved on the discs, ranging from single animals to scenes from classical mythology.
Bibliographic references
  • 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.
  • Maskell, William. A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum. London, 1872, p. 136
  • Dalton, Ormonde Maddock. Catalogue of the Ivory Carvings of the Christian Era with Examples of Mohammedan Art and Carvings in Bone in the Department of British and Mediaeval Antiquities and Ethnography of The British Museum. London, 1909, p. 78
  • Goldschmidt, Adolph. Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus der romanischen Zeit; XI. bis XIII. Jahrhundert (Elfenbeinskulpturen III), Berlin, 1923 (reprinted, Berlin, 1972), p. 10, cat. no. 234, pl. LVI
  • Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, part 1, p. 82, pl. LXIII
  • Beckwith, John. Ivory Carvings in Early Medieval England. London, 1972, p. cat. no 132, fig. 234
  • Mann, Vivian B. Romanesque Ivory Tableman. PhD diss., New York University, 1977, pp. 90-93, cat. no. 147, pl. LXXIV
  • Kluge-Pinsker, Antje. Schach und Trictrac. Zeugnisse mittelalterlicher Spielfreude in salischer Zeit. Sigmaringen, 1991, p. 209, no. 147
  • Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 428-29, cat. no. 114
Collection
Accession number
376-1871

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

Record createdJune 19, 2000
Record URL
Download as: JSONIIIF Manifest