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Between the East and the West

The game unites peoples because it uses a universal language. The paths that the Portuguese opened between oceans accelerated the process of exchanges and gaming experiences. The Portuguese had not yet taken Malacca when, in 1509, one of Afonso de Albuquerque's fellow captains, Diogo Lopes Siqueira, played chess on board and received the son of one of the most prominent members of the Javanese community (Utimuiraja).

As if to stop the game, the Javanese tells him to continue, as they too had that game, albeit with many more figures. He took advantage of the opportunity to, in one fell swoop, assassinate the captain with a Kris. But a cabin boy in the crow's nest, like a sixteenth-century drone, spies the scene and warns the captain, who, getting up, overturns the chess game and precipitates the conspirators' flight.

The game is in itself a battle, but it is also the representation of a physical or moral struggle. Sometimes the preference for this codified combat in the face of real war becomes the perfect metaphor for contempt for the things of the world, for the preponderance of spirit over matter. The Persian tale of the two princes calmly playing chess indifferent to the unfolding war has become a repeated theme of culture in both East and West.

Most of the games, popularized in Europe between the 16th and early 19th centuries, came (with the exception of the Goose) from the East; the West adapted them and often returned them to the East, transformed in later times, as was the case, for example, with Backgammon.

Games are also socially transversal, as they can either be played on simple boards scratched in chalk on the floor, using ordinary stones to represent the elements that move, or they can be performed in the richest materials, serving as diplomatic gifts or distinctive elements of the social status of those who own them.

Naturally, it will be the exquisite game objects that are presented to those interested in this auction. They are wonderful pieces, which represent this meeting between East and West. Pieces made of precious materials, with techniques of great skill, that can still be used today or preserved by collectors and lovers of the game's arts.

More than any other element of human creation, games are metaphors of the art of war which, when they are fought on a board, are, after all, symbols of peace and conciliation between peoples.

Anísio Franco
Assistant Director of the National Museum of Ancient Art