• Art of the Islamic and Indian  auction at Christies

    Sale 7843

    Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds

    13 April 2010, London, King Street

  • Lot 56



    Price Realised  


    Formed as a rectangular box hinged in the centre, the exterior worked as a chessboard with alternating ivory and ebony squares, triangles of geometric stars around the sides, opening to reveal a backgammon board with alternating light and brown wood triangles along each side, the centre of each face with a square of finer mosaic work inlaid with silver wire, with clusters of four eight-pointed stars around, two splits across the main panels, the ivory panels with haircracks, areas of restoration
    20 3/8 x 34¼in. (51.8 x 61.5cm.)

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    Both backgammon and chess were popular in the Islamic world and were introduced into the Iberian peninsula in the 10th century. The Libro de los Juegos (Book of Games), a manuscript commissioned by Alfonso X in the 1283 and now in the library of the Escorial, includes many colour illustrations of chess including the versions imported from the Arab kingdoms. Many of the illustrations depict parties engaged in chess on boards of similarly rectangular form to the present example (Jaime I, Rey y Caballero, Valencia, 2008, ms. T.1.6, pno. 94, pp. 202-03).

    The taracea technique of inlaying was used in decoration throughout Spain and North Africa and appeared in the minbar of the Great Mosque of Cordoba on its enlargement under al-Hakim II in the tenth century. Caliphal marquetry workshops continued to execute court commissions under the Almoravids and the Almohads and contributed to the splendor of the minbars in the Qarawiyyin mosque in Fez and those of the Kutubiyya and the Qasba mosques in Marrakech (Dodds, op. cit., p. 373). The stellar motifs with the eight-pointed stars formed of two interlocking squares, are echoed not only on other similar gaming boards, but also on contemporaneous scribes' boxes and chests (see for example one that sold in these Rooms, 17 April 2007, lot 62).

    Combined boards of the form found here are known at least from the 14th century onwards. An all-wood non folding example is in Granada (Arte Islmico en Granada, Exhibition Catalogue, Granada, 1995, no.181, p.427). Another example is in the Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Vienna. A comb decorated with identical technique and equally inlaid with silver thread which has been attributed to Italy but dating from circa 1500 and showing very considerable Islamic influence is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Trkische Kunst und Kultur aus osmanischer Zeit, exhibition catalogue, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1985, vol.2, no, p.331).

    Special Notice

    Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.
    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.