final issue 30 web - Flipbook - Page 49
Above left, fig. 3 Seated King, Lewish Chessmen. 12th century,
walrus tusk © The British Museum. Above right,Fig. 4 Fighting
Walruses ( ). Detail, Tyldal Chair © Historical Museum Oslo.
This affinity between the carved ornaments and the tusk
carving industry centred at Nidaros might lead to the
conclusion that the Tyldal chair was in fact carved by
crafts people proficient in working this particular material.
Engraved lines or dots are found typically on tusk
carvings. Interestingly, the Tyldal chair is widely adorned
with such engraved ornaments, alongside the more
traditional carved lines used in woodcarving (see fig. 4).
The details circled in red highlight engraved details, a
technique used typically in tusk carvings; here shown in
comparison between the lines present on a chess piece of
the Lewis Chess Set and on the carved figures of the
Above, fig. 2 Tyldal Chair. © Historical Museum Oslo.
Dorothea Fischer sees in the chair’s detailed carvings a
joining element between stone carvings from Nidaros
Cathedral and Morse tusk carvings from the mid 12th
century (Fischer, 1963 ). The ornaments do not seem to
relate to the bold carvings commonly used for furniture
pieces in this time period but rather recall the intricate
and detailed tusk carvings made in the workshops around
Nidaros between the 9th and 14th centuries. Significantly,
Nidaros was at that time one of the leading centres of walrus tusk trade throughout Europe with ivories imported
from Greenland, Iceland and Northern Finland.
Another hint to the profession of the carvers might be
given by the motif of intertwined creatures present on the
armrests of the chair -a possible representation of walruses
and allusion to the tusk trade (fig. 4)?
Possibly, this particular carving style was purposively
adopted to create the impression of a more precious
material than wood - namely tusk. This assumption might
be reinforced by a carved walrus tusk from the 12th
century currently held at the British Museum. The fragment originally belonged to a throne and probably formed
part of a leg before it was re-purposed as reliquary (fig. 5).
Accoring to Xavier Dectot (2018) most probably tusk
carvers were influenced by the sculptors of Nidaros. An
exquisite example of this cross-over might be given by the
well known Lewis Chessmen (fig. 3) or Uig Chessmen,
which were probably carved in Nidaros and exported to
the British Isles in the mid 12th century.
Other parts of the chair seem to emulate in their carving
style forged objects (fig. 7) as can be observed on the rails
of the armrests (fig. 6). Traces of pigment found on the
chair further suggests that the throne was partly or even
Below, fig. 5 Fragment of a throne in walrus ivory, c. 1150 © The
Conservation & Heritage Journal