30 October 2011

Strikingly "modern" chessmen

These pieces from Iran surprisingly date from the 12th century.  They are crafted of molded and glazed "stonepaste."
Islamic stone-paste, also called fritware and quartz frit, is a ceramic material which seems to have been first manufactured in Iraq in the 9th century... made by combining clay with quartz or other siliceous material, as well as glass frit, to which is adjoined an organic compound such as gum or glue for binding...

Islamic stone-paste was invented to give a stronger body to its pottery material, which, combined with tin-glazing of the surface, allowed it to approximate the result of Chinese porcelain.
From the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, via A London Salmagundi.


  1. Same age as the Lewis chessmen funny enough... couldn't be more different.


  2. Cor - they're gorgeous. Almost enough to tempt me into playing chess - though I'd probably keep spoiling it by wanting to fondle the pieces - they look so tactile-tempting.

  3. looks like it shares something in common with my chess set-- missing a pawn. I'll bet somebody's kid misplaced it ;)

  4. Mike, I hadn't even noticed. It's curious that at the Met's website there are 10 photos of the set, some showing 16 pawns, others showing 15. ??


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