the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

Europe decorative arts

moresca themed artefacts and decoration

chess board

Ivory and bone artefacts, drawings and carvings depict the moresca dance. This well-known dance of the 15th and 16th centuries was performed both in court and in town celebrations. 

Moresca is characterised by a lady, a jester and prancing dancers accompanied by a pipe and tabor player. The people are dressed in up-to-date fashion.

Bargello chess boardBargello chess board 1460-1470
Paula Nuttall 2010, Burlington Magazine
The Bargello gamesboard: a north-south hybrid

Bargello chess board1Bargello chess board rim morescarim moresca dancers
Chess was played from medieval times onwards. It was a mark of respectability for the nobility and women were expected to be as adept as men. chess1305-1340l Germany
couple playing chess
chess problemmedieval chess problem
late 14th century France
bone and ivory caskets with moresque themes

Boxes were made for the luxury and the urban trade in many workshops in Europe for many centuries. Some were made of wood and covered with bone or ivory plaques; others are of carved wood. Many designs were copied from one workshop to another and so were similar in style.

Musicians were a common theme.

11th century11th century gable lid box 11th century drummer11th century drummer on lid
  15th century15th century German, wood casket, inside 15th century 15th century German, drummer carved on back
1430 bone box1430-60 bone box, Flanders, Belgium Games boxes have a wooden carcase, onto which are glued plaques of carved bone or ivory on all faces. The lid or side depicts moresca dancers and a musician. On the lids the player is usually in the centre of lower register.

1440-70 France or Germany box lid1440-70 France or Germany, box lid

The base takes the form of a games board. games board base15th century Bourges, France, games board base Carved on the sides of these caskets are
popular entertainments that carried
connotations of sex, the folly of love
and the power of women; the sides of
the boxes depict courtly love, jousting
and hunting. Scenes of Beating the Pear
Tree are now interpreted as denoting fertility. 
Games box lids
1425 Italy 15th century Italy
15th century Italy
mid 15th century Flanders late 15th century c. 1440-70 South Netherlandish
1440-1470 French or German
1440-1470 Germany
Cluny Museum 15th century
15th century Bourges France
For more information on these games boxes see:
'Dancing, love and the 'beautiful game': a new interpretation of a group of fifteenth-century 'gaming' boxes', Renaissance Studies 24.1, 2010, pp.119-141 by Paula Nuttall

1486/1500 Flanders ? / Northern Italy ? | Netherlands ? / Italy ?

Ivory games box
'On the bottom of the box is a chess board, with animal and other depictions on the side. 
Above, ivory fields, four of them each with a dancing man, one with a dancing woman
and one with a woman who is blowing a one-handed flute and beating a small drum.'


These carvings do not show a tabor but the left hand is in the correct position for playing a three-holed pipe.
15th century Flanders
15th century Bourges, France 15th century15th century Netherlands
Sometimes the moresca are on the side of the boxes:  
1470 side1470 Netherlands 1470 sideside of the box with dancers and fool
sideplayer on side of box
French or German
1470side of the box with dancers and fool
1440-701440-70 Netherlands, box side
personal items
comb, end 15th century, south Germany
Carvings on both sides include a pipe and tabor player; side 1 has a moresca design.
comb side 1comb side 1 player
comb side 1comb side 1
comb side 2 playercomb side 2 player
comb side 2comb side 2
comb second half 15th century, N Italy; moresca design carved in ivory
late 15th century
late 15th century
15th century comb fragment; moresque design
15th century fragment player
15th century comb fragment
mirror case:
15th century Flemish or French, ivory
Northern French or Flemish, late 15th century jester player mirror caseback of case 1320 lady combing hair1320 lady combing hair
drawings, paintings, sculpture

1440-501440-1450 Provence, France
Page from a manuscript Book of Hours.
The marginal drawings seem to illustrate moresca figures.

14401440 France

medievaldate unknown - possible moresca 1500 Innsbruck1500 Innsbruck, Austria, (copies of originals)
player and jesterlate 15th century Germany wall decoration16th century stone carvings, Salamanca, Spain
copyright: Javier San José Lera.
Beverley Minster misericord1520 Beverely Minster, England, misericord

1460-70 with dancers1460-70 Lille, France

moresque player1460-70 player, Lille, France player1465 - 1500 Germany
© Ashmolean Museum
University of Oxford
14751475 - 1485 Germany
player1512 - 1515 Austria

1520 and here

player 1480 statue, Germany, modern copy1480 statuette, Munich, Germany, modern copy
Victorian copyVictorian copy
playerclose-up of player
1621 Betley Hall window:

1621 original glass1621 Betley Hall window
Staffordshire, England
© Stuart Cox / Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1844 copy1844 frontispiece, copy of Betley Hall window Staffordshire, England Kingston copy1911 [?] Kingston copy of Betley window, England  
Wilsons Almanac, Book of Days: also Chambers Book of Days
enlargement of #Wilson's taborer Victorian maypole
1981 stamp1981 stamp [detail] England ADA publicity2020 Association of Dance Antique publicity
for more reproductions of the Betley window pipe and tabor player see here    

1490 Wedding Festivities for Isabella (Mantua, Italy)

During a performance of a play by the ancient Roman playwright, Plautus, there were three intermezzi. ... The third,
a moresca in mime and dance, featured a group of “rustics” who, with hoes, spades, rakes, and winnowing fans,
alternately “worked the land” and “fought with swords,” always keeping in time to the pipe and tabor music
and cuffing each other for fun at their exit.


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