A CHINESE LACQUER GAME-CHEST WITH IVORY CHESS SET

Canton, mid 19th century

The black lacquered box with gilt, red and white decoration, the outside of the box has a chessboard and the inside a field for backgammon, each of the black chess fields is decorated with different figures, the figures, all standing on Chinese puzzle balls, of balls within balls, are carved in extremely fine detail. The white king in his right hand is holding a ruyi sceptre, symbolizing power and good fortune, the red king with staff and a sword, the queens are each holding flowers, flower baskets and the red queen also a fan, the white bishops are holding documents and the red bishops flags, the knights are on horseback with bow and arrows and the castles take the form of elephants with small castles on their backs, the pawns are warriors with swords on horseback.

 

Box:

L. 56.4 x W. 56 x H. 10 cm


Pieces:

Highest 15.5 cm

Smallest 7.8 cm

Note:
These elaborately carved ivory chess pieces in a lacquer box with chess and backgammon boards, are typical of the hundreds of sets exported from China to the Western markets during the 19th century. Such sets were popular, if very expensive, souvenirs from the “China Trade” throughout the 19th century. Given the amount of carving required and the rarety of the materials, ivory chess sets like the present one at that time were a great luxury.

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