This king is perhaps the only remaining piece of an unusually elaborate early Romanesque chess set of walrus ivory. The figure is seated in a high-backed throne and holds in his right hand the hair of a warrior in mail who stretches out in submission. The throne back is decorated with...
This king is perhaps the only remaining piece of an unusually elaborate early Romanesque chess set of walrus ivory. The figure is seated in a high-backed throne and holds in his right hand the hair of a warrior in mail who stretches out in submission. The throne back is decorated with intertwined dragon-like beasts, one of which is biting the warrior's behind. The decoration on the left side of the throne is missing, but one can assume that it continued to the back and right around the throne. The iconography may allude to Sigurd overcoming the wicked Regin, a favorite theme in Norse poetry, or may represent the conquered monsters of the netherworld. The intricate carving with its free and restless rhythmic motion recalls the style of the incised drawings on the earlier Viking tombstone on the Isle of Man and the Swedish runestones of Sparlosa and Ramsund, 3 which depict the story of Sigurd and Regin.
Probably until 1952, David David-Weill (b. 1871 - d. 1952), Neuilly-sur-Seine, France [see note 1]; 1952, probably by descent to his widow, Mme. David-Weill [see note 2]; June 16, 1971, David David-Weill sale, Hotel Drouot, Paris, lot 74. By 1973, John Goelet, New York; 1973, gift of John Goelet to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 10, 1973) NOTES:  David David-Weill was an important figure in the art world, forming a large collection of paintings, sculpture, and other works of art, as well as serving as the President du Conseil des Musées de France. When France fell to Germany in 1940, David-Weill fled Paris. At this time, much of his collection was seized by the Nazis. Many of these objects were returned to him following the war. It has not yet been determined whether this object was among the items looted from David-Weill's collection. However, the fact that it was among the articles auctioned from his estate in 1971 indicates that if it had been seized, it was properly restituted.  In 1971, following the death of Mr. David-Weill's widow, over 500 objects from his collection were sold.
Gift of John Goelet
Scandinavian (possibly Denmark), Medieval, early 12th century