Draughtsman piece (Primary Title)

Unknown, Chinese, ca. 1900-1500 (Artist)

mid-12th century
Draughtsman piece
Toys and Games
Narwhal tusk
Cologne, Germany
Overall: 1 7/8 in. (4.76 cm)

This game piece features two fantastic beasts surrounded by a floral motif and displays traces of red dye made from the madder root. Such pieces were often found in sets of red and white, and they were carved with relief figures of mythological beasts or heroic figures like Hercules or Samson. Medieval table games were popular among both children and adults but, because of the prevalence of gambling, were sometimes outlawed by the Church.

Love and Courtship: For the medieval nobility, love was not an initial factor in determining matrimony; instead, marriage often served as a political union of two wealthy families for the purpose of producing a legitimate heir. Because of this familial arrangement, nobles were very rarely permitted to select their own spouses. To establish this contract, men and women would exchange gifts during a period of courtship, which emphasized an idealized love along with the couple's heraldry. By presenting each other with images of lovers from romances, the couple expressed the hope to become entangled in their own passionate love story.

Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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