Large Ivory Burmese Antique Chessmen, Type III.
A set of elaborately carved Large Ivory Burmese Antique Chessmen, Type III, natural and red-stained. The King stands an impressive 4-1/2” tall. The set was produced in Canton around 1820 and most likely sold in Macao. The Type III Burmese Chessmen are characterized by a carved face on the headpieces of all the Royal chessmen – the Kings, Queens and Bishops. This feature is found on the largest Burmese sets with King heights 4-1/2″ and larger. The set is housed in what appears to be it original fitted box with a removable upper tray which houses the Pawns. If so, this is the first instance I have seen where these Burmese sets were still accompanied by their original box. The chessmen and
box are in excellent condition with no repairs or replacements. The red stain is still strong and vibrant. The chessmen are accompanied by the original, hand-typed and signed letter from famed British dealer and author, Mackett Beeson, dated 7th September, 1961, transferring ownership of the chessmen to the previous owner.
The Type II 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 are often referred to as Macao, with fully carved heads atop all the chessmen except the Rooks. These 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 chessmen produced in India.