Lewis Chess Set
Our Lewis chess set is populated by a cast of intriguing characters, replicas of walrus-ivory originals selected from the museum’s collection.
The king sits steadfast, the sword across his knees implying unbiased justice. By his side, his queen poses in an expression of compassion. Bishops in full regalia attend them, as do knights astride sturdy ponies, while fearsome berserker warriors play the role of rooks. Pawns are represented by upright slabs carved with elaborate scrollwork.
Opposing sides, in pewter differentiated by a glimmering polish and a dark matt finish, face each other across a chessboard in nyatoh, scorched with an interwoven knot motif from the king’s throne.
Unearthed on the Isle of Lewis in 1831, in the wilderness of Scotland’s remote Outer Hebrides, the 12th century Lewis chessmen are exquisitely carved in walrus ivory, and very likely of Scandinavian origin. Of the seventy-eight pieces known today, the British Museum’s collection of sixty-seven is one of its most popular attractions.
About the collection
A project with the British Museum, this collaboration draws on the public institution’s vast collection of over 8 million artefacts, documenting the story of human culture from its earliest days to the present. Each piece is marked with the British Museum logotype.