In 1831, a hoard of luxury goods—including more than 70 chess pieces and several other objects, all made of carved walrus ivory and dating from the 12th century—was unearthed on the Isle of Lewis off the west coast of Scotland. The chess pieces (thereafter known as the Lewis Chessmen), which come from at least four distinct, but incomplete sets, are today arguably the most famous chess pieces in the world, and are among the icons of the collections of the British Museum in London and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Beginning today, over 30 chessmen from the collection of the British Museum will be shown at The Cloisters, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. The Metropolitan’s presentation of The Game of Kings: Medieval Ivory Chessmen from the Isle of Lewis represents the first time such a large ensemble of the chessmen has traveled outside the United Kingdom. After the showing in New York, they will return to London.
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