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Chess Pieces

Artist/maker unknown, Chinese

Made in China, Asia

c. 1850

Ivory, pigment

Height (King): 8 1/2 inches (21.6 cm) Height (Queen): 8 1/2 inches (21.6 cm) Height (Bishop): 6 7/8 inches (17.5 cm) Height (Knight): 6 1/4 inches (15.9 cm) Height (Rook): 8 inches (20.3 cm) Height (Pawn): 5 1/4 inches (13.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
East Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of John F. Harbeson, 1964

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Chinese craftsmen were particularly skilled at carving concentric balls—a small ball contained within a larger one—like those fashioned for these chess pieces. While European craftsmen had been carving concentric balls since around 1500, by the nineteenth century the practice had become associated with China in the minds of many Westerners who, enchanted by the complex and delicate carving of Chinese artists, imported such works from Canton (now Guangzhou), where they were specially produced for the Western market.