Collection online

print / playing-card

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1976,0925.16.1-52

  • Description

    Complete pack of 52 humanist playing-cards, each with several lines of Latin text. The suits are millstones, harps, goats and cupids 1544
    Hand-coloured woodcut
    Backs plain

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1544
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 98 millimetres
    • Width: 71 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered beneath the ace of cupids is the maker's address "Prostant noua hæc chartarum ludicra in preclara Parisiorum Lutetia apud Christianum Wechelum sub scuto Basiliensi, in vico Iacobæo: & sub Pegaso, in vico Bellonacensi. Anno Redemptæ salutis 1544". The ace of goats bears the Royal privilege: "Cum priuilegio Regis ad Quadriennium, ne quis vel latinè vel in vernaculu traductus sermonem chartas hasce imprimat, aut alibi impressas vendat. Regia mandata dati priuilegii exarauit De Launay."
  • Curator's comments

    Report of the Keeper of Prints and Drawings to the BM Trustees, 12 August 1976:
    A pack of 52 mid-sixteenth century French 'humanist' playing-cards. The suits are Cupids, Harps, Millstones and Goats, each symbolizing a particular classical author. The Kings are the authors themselves (respectively Ovid, Horace, Plautus, and Seneca), and the Queens are the four appropriate Muses (respectively Erato, Terpsichore, Thalia and Melpomene), three of the Knaves are 'studiosi' and one (of Millstones) 'discipulus'. All the cards bear quotations from the authors in question, the values of those from ace to ten being indicated by the number of lines in the quotation. An inscription on the Ace of Harps explains the symbolism of the Suits: Ovid, the erotic poet, is typified by Cupid; Horace, the lyric poet, by the harp; and Seneca, 'tragedy' as 'The Song of the Goat' (Greek, 'tragos'). Why the Millstone should represent Plautus, the writer of comedies, is less obvious. The inscription explains that 'he suffered at a mill' (i.e. he is said to have spent several years as a labourer in a mill).
    The Ace of Cupids is inscribed, 'this new pack of cards is offererd for sale in Paris by Christian Wechsel, at the Basel Arms in the Rue St. Jacques and at the Pegasus in Rue St. Jean de Beauvais, in the year of Our Lord, 1544.'
    Reasons for purchase: 1. Rarity: This pack is quite possibly unique, and no other similar pack appears to be known. The Museum has one of the best collections of playing-cards in the world, and these would make an outstanding addition to it. 2. Their cultural importance, as an unique document in the history of humanism. 3. The quality of the woodcuts themselves. French woodcuts of this level of excellence are very rare. The work of the anonymous designer and cutter of this pack is not only equal to the finest French work of the period but compares favourably with the best that artists in other countries were producing at the time.

    More 

  • Location

    Not on display (Playing-cards Additional)

  • Exhibition history

    1976 Amsterdam, Mus. Willet-Holthuysen, Looking at Cards, No.213

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1976

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number

    1976,0925.16.1-52

  • Additional IDs

    • F.46a
Complete pack of 52 humanist playing-cards, each with several lines of Latin text. The suits are millstones (?), harps, goats and cupids. The knaves are students, the queens muses, and the kings scholars.     Hand-coloured woodcut, letterpress  Backs plain  1544

Complete pack of 52 humanist playing-cards, each with several lines of Latin text. The suits are millstones (?), harps, goats and cupids. The knaves are students, the queens muses, and the kings scholars. Hand-coloured woodcut, letterpress Backs plain 1544

Image description

Recommend


Feedback

If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: collectiondatabase@britishmuseum.org 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: PPA289244

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 

Supporters

Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help  

Loading...