Antique Indo Burmese Chessmen, Type I.
Here is a small, very finely turned and carved set of Type I Indo Burmese chessmen, Natural and Red-stained. produced by the East Indian John Company around 1820. The King stands 3” tall with a 1″ diameter base. The chessmen are in excellent condition with a deep, pleasant patina. The red stain is still very vibrant. This chess piece style is often referred to in the literature as Vizagapatam Chessmen, a name that covers a very wide range of chess set designs produced in India during the early 1800s. The style shown here closely follows the style of Burmese Chessmen which were produced in Canton, China around the same period. The period-correct Sandalwood and Elk Horn Vizagapatam box with decorative penwork is in quite good condition, with some minor losses. The chessboard shown is not included, but a suitable chessboard can be found elsewhere on this site.
These sets were apparently made to compete with the Chinese for the lucrative European market. For each of the four types of Burmese chessmen, there is a corresponding Indian design.
- Type I Indo Burmese chessmen tend to be the smallest, and the chessmen will have faceless headpieces.
- The Type II Indo Burmese Chessmen will have a face carved on the Bishops only and are normally found on sets with King heights around 3-3/4″ to 4″.
- The Type III Indo 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 Indo Burmese sets with King heights 4-1/4″ and larger.
- The Type IV Indo Burmese chessmen are often mistakenly referred to as Macao, with fully carved heads atop all the chessmen except the Rooks.
The East India Company was established in Vizagapatam around 1670. In the early 18th Century, a furniture manufacturing industry developed in the region. Specialties included inlay, carving and turning work with ivory, Sandalwood, rosewood and Tortoise shell. By the early 19th century, Buffalo and Elk horn were added to the artisan materials. By the beginning of the 19th century, elaborately carved and turned ivory chess sets such as this on, were being produced for sale on the very lucrative European market.
Visakhapatnam (or, phonetically, Vizagapatam) is the largest city, both in terms of area and population in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The city is nestled between the Eastern Ghats mountain range and the Bay of Bengal, and is often known as The Jewel of the East Coast, The City of Destiny and the Goa of the East Coast.
Visakhapatnam’s history stretches back to the 6th century BC. Archaeological records suggest that the present city was built around the 11th and 12th centuries. Conquered by the Mughals in the 16th century, European powers eventually set up trading interests in the city, and by the end of the 18th century it had come under French rule. Control passed to the British in 1804 and it remained under British colonial rule until India’s independence in 1947.