Lot 137
  • 137

A large Fatimid rock crystal chess piece, Egypt, 11th century

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Rock Crystal
  • 4.1cm. 
carved with deep bevel-cut scroll designs and dash details


Ex-collection Lothar Schmid (1928-2013).


W. Seipel, Spielwelten der Kunst. Kunstkammer spiele (exh. cat.), Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 21 May - 2 August, 1998, p.112, no.38.
J. Petzold, Das königliche Spiel. Die Kulturgeschichte des Schachs, Stuttgart – Leipzig 1987, Abb. 7 c: zu Bergkristallfiguren.

Schmid, 'Die Hedwigsgläser und die verwadten fatimidischen Glas-und Kristallschnitte', in: Schlesiens Vorzeit in Bild und Schrift, Neue Folge VI, 1912, pp.53-78.
C.J. Lamm, Mittelalterliche Gläser und Steinschnittarbeiten aus dem nahen Osten, 2 Bde., Berlin, 1929, taf. 76/77.
Erdmann, 'Fatimid rock crystals', in: Oriental Art III, 1951.
Kluge-Pinsker, Die Salier. Schchspiel und Trictrac. Zeugnisse mittelalterlicher Spielfreude aus salischer Zeit, Sigmaringen, 1991, p.35.
Thamm, Das sog. Schachpiel Karls des Groben im Osnabrücker Domschatz und verwandte Schchfiguren, Mag.-Arbeit Osnabrück, WS, 1995/96.

Catalogue Note

The Fatimids mastered the carving of rock crystal in the tenth century, owing to their Caliphs’ abundant wealth which provided the means to commission such refined works. An impressive, although limited, corpus of remaining works which include ewers, flasks and chess pieces exhibits the exemplary skill of Fatimid craftsmen. This king or queen demonstrates both their affluence and the superior position they granted to the game of chess at this time.

The stylised, uneven foliate design separated by an etched border that decorate a chess piece in the Victoria and Albert Museum collections are remarkably similar to the designs of this present piece.  Furthermore, the first of two larger crystal chess sets are located in the Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait (inv. no. LNS I Has-j, and published in Jenkins 1983, p.60). It comprises two kings or viziers, two bishops, two knights, a rook and three pawns from the renowned Ager chess set. The second, consisting of eight rock crystal chess pieces, is now in the Diocesan Museum in Orense, Spain.