Lot #338. Burmese Antique Chessmen, Type I


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Burmese Antique Chessmen, Type I.

A set of elaborately carved Burmese Antique Chessmen, Type I, natural and red-stained ivory. The King stands 3-1/2” tall. The set was produced in Canton around 1820 and most likely sold in Macao. The Type I Burmese Chessmen are characterized by the lack of a carved face on the headpieces of all the Royal chessmen – the Kings, Queens and Bishops. This feature is found on the smaller Burmese sets with King heights under4-0″. The chessmen and are in excellent condition. The red stain is still strong and vibrant.

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 are the largest, and the chessmen will have faces on 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 Burmese-style 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 chessmen produced in India.