skip to content

Department of History of Art


Chess and Skin Colour in the Global Middle Ages


Speaker: Dr Krisztina Ilko

Queens’ College, University of Cambridge


Wednesday 8 November 2023, 9am-10.30am GMT

World History Seminar, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Online via Zoom


How could the game of chess facilitate cross-cultural interaction? To perambulate this question, this talk explores medieval images of chess games between players of contrasting skin colour. Key pieces of medieval art, like the lavishly illuminated gaming manual commissioned by King Alfonso X of Castile, are brought into conversation here with little-known pieces, such as a fourteenth-century Mallorcan altarpiece. Despite chess often being perceived through the lens of western European chivalric culture, these examples highlight a much more diverse social and cultural spectrum for this ‘game of kings’. This talk investigates the crucial role of colour in the chequered world of chess, and highlights new avenues to refine our understanding of the representation of skin colour and diversity in the Global Middle Ages. 


Follow the link to join through Zoom:


For more information: