Rare Indian chess sets to be auctioned by Bonhams on May 1

. April 2, 2012

An early Indian lacquered ivory figural chess set is one of the highlights of the Chess and Games sale taking place on the 1st May at Bonhams, Knightsbridge.

Made in Rajasthan circa 1850, the set is estimated to sell for £7,000 – 9,000 and represents the British East India Company versus Indian Forces. One side is predominantly cream and the other is red, with gilt highlights. With the Kings as elephants, the rooks as elephants with rockets (the East India Elephant with the Union Flag) and pawns as musicians, archers, spearmen and drummers, the set is a highly decorative and fascinating piece of history. A second partial set circa 1840, also representing the British East India Company and the Indian State, is estimated at £6,000 – 8,000.

An extremely rare Indian ivory figural chess set made in Rajasthan circa 1870 will also be offered by Bonhams. It is a stunning 19th century example of a figural chess set in lacquered and gilded ivory and is estimated to sell for £10,000 – 15,000. Each of the pieces have individual expressions on the carved faces and the pawns have curled toes.

The gilt decoration is a typical example of the Rajasthan style; Kings as elephants with two princes riding in a howdah (carriage at the back of an elephant), bishops as camels with riders wearing gilded turbans and pawns as bearded foot soldiers with spears and circular shields on their back. The kings and queens would have originally had plumes on the heads of the elephants.

Further Indian highlights include a mid 19th century “Pepys” ivory chess set from Vizagapatam (est. £5,000 – 7,000), which is similar to the one presented to the London Museum by descendants of the diarist, Samuel Pepys and also three early 19th century Indian export chess sets from Vizagapatam all estimated to sell for £3,000 – 5,000.

Luke Honey, Chess specialist at Bonhams comments, “Bonhams is delighted to be able to offer such an interesting range of sets from India, the birthplace of chess. The exquisite craftsmanship and rarity of these sets are not often seen at auction and Bonhams is receiving much International interest.”

Category: Antiques

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