Antique Burmese Chessmen Type 1A.
A set of intricately carved Antique Burmese Chessmen Type 1A, natural and red-stained. The King stands 3-1/2” tall. The set was produced in Canton around 1820 and most likely sold in Macao. The Type IA Burmese Chessmen are characterized by the lack of a face carved on the headpieces of – the Kings, Queens or Bishops. This feature is found on the largest Burmese sets with King heights 4-1/2″ and larger. The set is housed in an elaborately carved replacement sandalwood box with horn and ebony inlays, probably Indian. The chessmen and box are in excellent condition. The flag on one red rook is a period replacement.
Type I Burmese chessmen tend to be the smallest, and the chessmen will have faceless headpieces. 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″. The Type III Chessmen will have a face carved on the Royal pieces (Kings, Queens and Bishops) and are normally found on Burmese sets with King heights over 4″. 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.