Chess Piece in the Form of a Knight

Date: ca. 1350–75

Culture: Western European, possibly British

Medium: Ivory (elephant)

Dimensions: H. 2 13/32 in. (6.1 cm); L. 2 3/4 in. (6.4 cm); W. 5/8 in. (1.6 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Pfeiffer Fund, 1968

Accession Number: 68.95


Once a piece of exquisitely carved small sculpture, this ivory chessman is today an important document for the study of late medieval horse armor. It gives a rare and remarkably detailed representation of a complete armor for both man and horse of the mid-fourteenth century, a period that witnessed the final development of full plate armor. The most notable element of this bard is a large shaffron of plate, encompassing the entire head of the animal, while the lower neck, chest, and rump are protected by a full mail trapper. Four additional panels, presumably made from textile or hardened leather and suspended by straps, served both as additional protection and adornment, having probably been painted or embroidered with the rider's coat-of-arms. Although the legs, and a base, are missing, the horse appears to have been rearing.