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Copyright
All Rights Reserved ()

Fragment of a gaming piece with male slaying beast, possibly Hercules and the Erymanthian boar, zigzag pattern with incised circles in border

Accession Number
1987/1.262

Title
Fragment of a gaming piece with male slaying beast, possibly Hercules and the Erymanthian boar, zigzag pattern with incised circles in border

Artist(s)
Samson Carver, Pricked-Ivories Workshop, Cologne, Germany

Object Creation Date
circa 1150

Medium & Support
elephant ivory

Dimensions
2 1/2 in. x 1 1/4 in. x 1/2 in. ( 6.3 cm x 3.1 cm x 1.2 cm )

Credit Line
Anonymous Gift

Label copy
March 28, 2009
The physical struggle depicted on this gamepiece fragment, originally from a set used for games similar to backgammon, would have reflected the battle of wits waged between the players. Half of the pieces in the set contained scenes from the life of the Old Testament hero Samson, who was renowned for his feats of strength. The opposing pieces represented episodes from the life of Hercules, including his famous deeds of might and cunning known as the Twelve Labors. In this particular piece, Hercules drives a sword into the chest of an inverted beast that he grasped with his now-missing left hand; this likely represents the Fourth Labor, in which Hercules defeated the savage Erymanthian boar. The vigorous plasticity of the figures captures the force of Hercules’ exertions and skillfully translates the robust monumental quality of twelfth-century large-scale stone sculpture into a work that sits comfortably in the hand.

Subject matter
This fragmentary gaming piece comes from a set that originally included thirty pieces used for playing a game similar to backgammon. Fifteen pieces depicted episodes from the life of the Old Testament hero Samson, who was renowned for his feats of strength. The opposing fifteen pieces, including the one under discussion, contained scenes from the life of another hero famed for his physical prowess, Hercules. Although the subject of this particular piece has not been identified with certainty, the scene perhaps portrays Hercules's Fourth Labor in which he captured the savage Erymanthian boar. The themes of physical struggle and triumph represented here and in the other gaming pieces would have alluded evocatively to the contest of wits being played out on the gameboard.

Physical Description
Fragment of circular gaming piece carved in elephant ivory in high relief. Standing male figure wearing knee-length robe holds sword in right hand and stabs inverted beast in the chest. Forelegs of beast end in hooves; head of beast characterized by large eye and pronounced nostril. Left arm of figure and rear half of the beast missing. Border contains zigzag pattern with bead motif.

Primary Object Classification
Decorative Arts

Primary Object Type
gaming piece

Additional Object Classification(s)
Decorative Arts

Collection Area
Western

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
cards (information artifacts)
fighting
high relief (technique)
ivory (material)
swords

1 Related Resource

Before 1492
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted

On display

UMMA Gallery Location ➜ AMH, 1st floor ➜ 102 (Richard and Rosann Noel Gallery)