Majestic Antique Burmese Chessmen, Type I.
A set of Majestic Antique Burmese Chessmen, Type I, natural and red-stained. Each of the pieces is elaborately carved. The King stands a massive 7-1/2” tall with a 2-5/8″ diameter base. This is the largest set of Burmese chessmen we have ever encountered. A size comparison with a full Club-Size Jaques Staunton King is shown in the images gallery. An unusual feature of these magnificent pieces is the carving of what appears to be the Bird of Paradise on every chessman.
The chessmen are in excellent condition. The red stain is still strong and vibrant. The set was produced in Canton around 1820 and most likely sold in Macao. These Leviathan chess pieces require a chessboard with 3″ or larger squares. An impressive chessboard to display these Majestic Antique Burmese Chessmen can be found here.
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 III Burmese chessmen will have faceless carved on the headpieces of the Kings, Queens and Bishops. 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.