When an antique dealer in Scotland bought an ivory chess player for £ 5 in 1964, he probably did not suspect that he had owned one of the most famous chess pieces in the world.
The Lewis Warder, which has been kept in a drawer for 55 years, has now raised up to £ 1 million ($ 1.3 million) at auction after the deceased owner's family sent him to Sotheby's auction house for a review. # 39; s brought in London.
The chess player was entered in the owner's general ledger as "Antique Walrus Tusk Warrior Chessman". Photo credits: Courtesy of Sotheby & # 39; s
The Lewis Chessmen were found on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland's Outer Hebrides in 1831, but the circumstances surrounding their discovery are puzzling. Of 93 found pieces – most of them carved from walrus ivory – were missing a knight and four "guards".
The leading theory of their origin states that they were carved in Trondheim between the late 12th and early 13th centuries, Norway said Sotheby's in a press release.
The rediscovery is a 3.5-inch guard, a bearded figure with a sword in his right hand and a shield on the left. In modern chess it would be the equivalent of a tower. It will be auctioned on July 2 at Sotheby's London, the first time that Lewis Chessmen is auctioned off.
A spokesman for the family, who wants to remain anonymous, said in a statement that the warden was cataloged in the antiquities dealer's book as "Antique Walrus Tusk Warrior Chessman".
"This description indicates that he did not know that he had bought an important historical artifact," the spokesman said. "It was kept in his house, and when my grandfather died, my mother inherited the chess piece."
The Lewis Warder will be auctioned at Sotheby's in London on July 2nd. Credit: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images for Sotheby's
"My mother really liked the Chessman when she admired his complexity and quirkiness, she thought he was special and maybe he thought so could even have had a magical meaning. "
" For many years it was in a drawer in her house, where it had been carefully wrapped in a small bag, and from time to time she removed the chess piece from the drawer to to appreciate their uniqueness. "  The Lewis chess pieces are "rich in folklore, legend, and the rich tradition of storytelling," said a press release from Sotheby & # 39; s. They are "an important symbol of European civilization".
Alexander Kader, the Sotheby & # 39; s expert who rated the piece for the family, told CNN that seeing the chess player for the first time was a "delightful surprise".
"I said: 'Oh my goodness, it's one of the Lewis Chessmen's,'" he recalled. "The family knew that they had something special, but they were quite surprised."
"The new Lewis Warder was on a remarkable journey to get where he is today," said Kader. "Over the last year, we conducted a thorough study of him, researching in detail for many months, analyzing art historically, examining his physical condition and background, and carefully comparing it to the other Lewis chess pieces."
In a press release, Kader said, "There's certainly more to tell about this Guardian's story, about his life in the last 188 years since he was separated from his chessmates, and about the next chapter of his journey he is now rediscovering. "