The Game of Kings: Medieval Ivory Chessmen from the Isle of Lewis

Discover what the Isle of Lewis chessmen can tell us about the development of chess as both a game and an art form. Introduction by exhibition curator Barbara Drake Boehm, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, MMA. Presented with the exhibition The Game of Kings: Medieval Ivory Chessmen from the Isle of Lewis.

Learn more about the exhibition:

The Art and Evolution of Chess
Dylan Loeb McClain, New York Times chess columnist

Explore how the rules and pieces evolved from the Middle Ages onward, and learn how chess sets have often been a medium for artistic and even political expression.

Made for Laughs: How Comic Are the Lewis Chessmen? James Robinson, senior curator, Late Medieval Collections, Department of Prehistory and Europe, The British Museum

From the very moment of their discovery in 1831, the Lewis chessmen were compared with “pigmy sprites” or “elves.” Their enigmatic charm has been employed subsequently in art, literature, and film—most famously in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But how funny were the Lewis chessmen originally intended to be? Assess their comedic character in the context of production, patronage, and attitudes to humor in the twelfth century.

Before TV and Computers: Playing Games in the Middle Ages
Charles T. Little, curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, MMA

Chess is one of many games still played today that arose from courtly culture during the Middle Ages. Examine more closely great works of art in the Museum’s medieval collection by placing the Lewis chessmen within a larger context of forms of entertainment—some allegorical and symbolic, others physical.

The exhibition is made possible by the Michel David-Weill Fund.


  1. Great subject matter .. but lack luster presentation no doubt the presenter is capable of a fantastic lecture if he had only practice a bit before .

  2. An interesting and magnificent idea. Congratulations Mr. Barbara Drake Boehm for the initiative of sharing.

  3. Great treatise. However, I think Mr.Morphy would dispute the claim of Staunton being "The Greatest" :).

  4. this is a good history of chess set as an art in the past

  5. On that graphic about the linguistic development from Wesir to Queen.
    There is a mistake on the German part. Koenigen or Dame = Queen
    Laeufer = Bishop Laeufer never stood for Queen.

  6. so many errors in this presentation. I give up.  too many to list 

  7. great info but this guy is not a great speaker

  8. Can one buy a replica set og sessolis chess set?

  9. alright im sick of you promoting that guys music. where can i get the mixtape?

  10. th..the…the wo…www..worst speaker…eeever….
    Sorry,,, he tried at least…

  11. The subject matter has the potential of being very interesting but the majority of the time is spent going Er, Ah, no I mean, .. stutter … its just SAD that these intellectuals couldn't put more effort into practicing their presentations.

  12. 25:49 I believe it to be louis the 14th of france vs william of orange no?

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