Antique Burmese Type IV Macao Chessmen.
Offered here is a set of elaborately carved Macao Chessmen, natural and red-stained. The King stands a full 3-1/2” tall with a 1-1/2″ diameter base. These sets were produced in Canton, China, around 1820 and were most likely sold in Macao. The Type IV Burmese Chessmen are often referred to as Macao Chessmen. They are characterized by a fully carved head mounted atop elaborately carved pedestals with splayed leaf bases. The Macao Chessmen are housed in a newer, elaborately carved sandalwood replacement box. The chess pieces and box are in excellent condition with no known replacements. The red stain is still strong and vibrant.
The Type III Burmese Chessmen will have a face carved on the Royal pieces (Kings, Queens, Bishops) and are normally found on sets with King heights over 4-1/2″. The Type II Burmese Chessmen will have a face carved on the Bishops only and are normally found on Burmese sets with King heights around 4″. Type I Burmese chessmen tend to be the smallest, and the chessmen will have faceless headpieces. The Type IV Burmese chessmen, like the set offered here, are often referred to as Macao Chessmen, with fully carved heads atop all the chessmen except the Rooks. Burmese chess sets were made for the European Market and probably sold in Macao which was the only place in China where Europeans were allowed to visit prior to the Opium Wars of the 1840s. Circa 1840.
Comparable sets of chessmen were made in the Vizagapatam region of India, apparently to compete with the Chinese for the lucrative European market. The Indian ivory craft industry also produced Sets of the Type I through Type IV design in various sizes. Below are examples of competitive Type I and Type IV ivory Macao Chessmen produced in India.
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