Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pointing Queen Chess Pieces

From Marilyn Yalom's Birth of the Chess Queen: A History

The image quality is not the best - the image in the book that I took the scan from was not the best and my scanner is just a work-a-day one, not top notch professional, but you can see that the queen is pointing her right index toward her shoulder area.  Her left hands rests on her lap.  This is how Yalom describes her:

An ivory chess queen carved in Italy during the early twelfth century makes me think of Matilda [Matilda of Tuscany].  This imposing figure sits openly on a massive arch-backed throne that still bears traces of the original red paint.  She wears huge disks on her ears and a hoop crown on her head.  Her right hand is raised to her breast with its index finger extending upward, and her left hand falls downward into her lap.  When I was lucky enough to have had a private audience with this queen in Berlin, I realiced (once again) the collosal difference between seeing a phot of a work of art and the original of that same work.  In her presenced, this amazing figure exudes an air of regla self-assurance, almost as palpable as the throne she sits on

Compare this 12th century chess piece to the de Cessolis image of the 14th century "chess queen" and I think you will see many similarities. 

You will probably recognize this queen - she is one of the queens from the cache of Walrus-ivory carved chess pieces discovered on the Isle of Lewis that date to about the 11th century, probably carved in Norway.  She is one of my favorite pieces - I call her the "OY VEY" queen.  The question is - is her left hand doing something more than supporting her right arm? Is that index finger coyly pointed? 

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