The Museum of Ancient Art shows the exchange of games between East and West

THE The exhibition “Cross Games. Journeys between East and West”, presented until September 25, is based on one of the largest private collections of game boards in the world and is curated by Ulrich Schädler, director of the Swiss Museum of the Game, and Thomas Thomson.

Divided into eight sections, this exhibition addresses the migration and exchange of games between the East and the West, with an emphasis on this type of Asian production for the European market, carried out from the 16th century to the mid-19th century. , as well as the presence of Western games in Asia.

According to the organization, it will be “a unique opportunity to understand how the games have become a mirror of world history, but also a reflection of the relations established between Europe and the East from the 1500s”.

During a guided visit to the press, the deputy director of the National Museum of Ancient Art (MNAA), Anísio Franco, underlined the importance of the game throughout history as a factor of union between peoples, and the central role played by the Portuguese during the discoveries.

Ulrich Schädler said that the discovery of trade routes to the east by the Portuguese is widely associated with spices, but “one seldom thinks of games”.

In the 16th century, the regular trade routes to India, China and Japan established, not only by Portugal, but by other European powers such as the Netherlands and Britain, gave rise to a intense trade with these regions, whose games were apart.

“It was a period in Europe when gambling was one of the most important social activities, not only among the aristocracy but also among the middle class, who discovered gambling as a favorite pastime,” added the curator of the exhibition.

The games were developed mainly in the 17th and 18th centuries. People played every afternoon, mostly cards, and there was a set of rules that everyone had to know if they wanted to be part of society, he added.

A reflection of this road of games is the fact that in Asia games are produced for the European market, that dominoes, which became famous in Europe, were created in China, and that the card game was introduced in Japan by the Portuguese, illustrated .

The first section of the exhibition is precisely titled “Jogos Cruzados” and it contains two chessboards, one made in China for the European market (in Asia the game pieces are not figurative) with various characters represented, including Napoleon (as the king’s game), a sign that “it was clearly made for Europe”.

In this first room there is also a display with the rules of the card game “Whist”, which “everyone should know”, vintage game tables and paintings representing game scenes.

The second section “Card Games. Travels in the East and the West”, in addition to several copies of this game, which arrived in Europe via China, but which was developed with “Latin” costumes due to the Portuguese influence , also offers card accessories for card games, such as Chinese lacquer boxes, mother-of-pearl card games, decorated with engravings of floral decorations and Chinese landscapes or worked boards.

The next room is devoted to “Pachisi”, a traditional Indian game, some examples of which are shown demonstrating its importance at the time, consisting of pawns and dice of jade, ivory or silver decorated with precious stones and ” boards” of silk embroidered in silver and gold.

These games were not produced for export, but during the British colonial period, Pachisi would gain worldwide popularity and, thanks to an English official, he would gain a simplified version, “Ludo”, which became one of the most popular board games of all time.

“Ludo was so successful that it spread to the United States, Europe and India, where it is now most famous. [do que original] and played a lot with children”, explained Ulrich Schädler, stressing that today “few people know that it is an Indian game”.

The fourth core is called “Go, Tangram, Puzzles and Dominoes” and is dedicated to these East Asian games, some of which are more difficult to introduce into Western gaming culture, such as Chinese chess (xianqi) and the Weiqi (Go), which were already known to Europeans since the 16th century but were never adopted.

Since these games of intelligence and not chance, it is speculated that the lack of success in the West is linked to a type of mental mechanism used more in the East than in the West.

Some examples of these games are exhibited in this room, as well as others which had the same origin but were very successful in the West, such as, first of all, the dominoes, and the tangram, represented here through copies made in ivory and engraved in relief with Chinese scenes.

The famous “Game of the Goose”, or “Game of Glory”, created in Italy, occupies a large central showcase in the fifth section of the exhibition, in an Indian version intended for the European market.

The next room is devoted to Backgammon, a game that dates back to the 3rd millennium BC in Byzantium and Persia and reached China and Japan in the 7th century.

Here you will find several examples of luxurious backgammon boards, including one entirely in mother-of-pearl, accompanied by a “facsimile” version of the “Libro de los juegos” by Alfonso X of Spain, which explains the rules of the game in a specific tray model. , which will have been produced mainly for the Iberian Peninsula.

The last part of the exhibition is devoted to chess, a game created in the year 500, between Persia and India, and introduced into southern Europe by the Arabs, with a first room where several examples are presented , which came from the Indians, with abstract pieces, which “were not made for export, because the Europeans wanted beautiful figurative pieces”, according to the curator, even small travel chess sets, namely the one that was kept inside a cane.

Here you can also find a copy with images of classical antiquity, made in the West, but in the Japanese style, and another made in China, in the European style.

There follows an “appendix” to this chess room, entitled “Game of Thrones”, which “shows chess all over the world”.

“The innovation that chess brought to the world of games was the creation of figurative pieces, six different pieces with different ways of walking on the board,” said Ulrich Schädler.

In this room are several chessboards, which show the versatility of the game in terms of creating figures, with games whose pieces represent philosophers, or Trojan horses against Greeks, mice and even insects.

Even today, ‘merchandising’ develops around chess, underlined the curator, recalling the existence, for example, of games with figurines from “The Simpsons” or characters from “Star Wars”.

Read also: D.Manuel’s guard that I thought was lost found in a French museum

Always be the first informed.
Consumer’s choice for the sixth consecutive year and five-star award for online press.
Download our free app.

Leave a Comment