Luke Honey | Decorative Antiques, Chess, Backgammon & Games


April 08, 2013

A lovely example of a Cantonese Export ivory chess set dating from the early years of the nineteenth century. Beautiful carving of the highest quality, too. The white king represents King George III of Great Britain, the white queen his consort, Queen Charlotte. The red king depicts the famous Chinese Emperor, Ch'ien Lung. In chess, white has the first move, so this was intended by the Chinese carvers as a compliment to their European market. The pawns hold arquebus or muskets and have powder horns hanging from their chests. The red stain is made from a cochineal dye, a crimson dye much used by the Chinese during the 19th century. The exact recipe for the colour has now been lost and is near-impossible to reproduce.