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Published October 24, 2012 Updated August 13, 2023

Leonor Fini

The originality of Leonor Fini's work is evident in these playing card designs. The imagery of her paintings was loosely based on dreams and this led her to be associated with the Surrealists...

1950 Argentina Leonor Fini Art & Design Surrealism Add to Collection
sketch for playing card by Leonor Fini

Leonor Fini   (1908 - 1996)

Leonor Fini was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and raised in Trieste, Italy. As a girl she'd been expelled from three schools for her wayward behaviour, but she loved to paint and draw and persuaded her mother to let her study art. She started her studies in Milan, but knew that Paris was the place to be. In Paris she became a sensation as both an artist and a personality and was admired for her paintings, illustrations, theatre designs and, above all, her flamboyant bohemian lifestyle. The imagery of her paintings was loosely based on dreams and this led her to be associated with the Surrealists, although she preferred to remain independent of any conventions. The originality of her work is evident in these playing card designs.

playing cards designed by Argentinian artist Leonor Fini Joker designed by Argentinian artist Leonor Fini

Above & Right: playing cards designed by Argentinian artist Leonor Fini, c.1950. Each of the face cards Jack, Queen, King and a Joker have fanciful, double-ended designs, the lines full of energy and the colours bold and bright, especially in the sketches she made for the playing cards. The designs are typical of Fini's work of this period. The cards have gilt edges. The backs have a "sponge" pattern in green or purple. Images courtesy Barney Townshend.

sketch for playing card by Leonor Fini

Leonor Fini was equally adept at etching, drawing, watercolor and oil painting. Many of her paintings feature strong, beautiful women (often resembling herself) in ceremonial or provocative situations.

REFERENCES

"Leonor Fini: surreal thing" The Daily Telegraph online.

Wikipedia article

Note from Roddy Somerville

The original pack does date from 1949 or 1950 but, confusingly, the cards illustrated above are from a later reprint. As you will see from my scans of some of the original cards (below), they were printed on off-white, almost cream card rather than white. The colours were more subtle and nuanced (11 colours were used, I believe) than in the reprint (which was my reason for never buying the reprint!). The original back design was not the one you show (please see below). As far as I know, both single and double packs were issued originally, both using a sideways telescopic box. Barney has an original pack in a different box which may have been a more upmarket version or possibly one that was specially made to house the pack.

playing cards designed by Argentinian artist Leonor Fini, c.1950 playing cards designed by Argentinian artist Leonor Fini, c.1950

Above: playing cards designed by Argentinian artist Leonor Fini, c.1950.

I believe the original pack had 52 cards, 1 Joker and 1 blank card. The cards are gilt-edged. The size is 63 x 89 mm. See the box - R.S

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131 Articles

By Barney Townshend

Member since October 06, 2015

Retired Airline Pilot, interested in: Transformation Playing Cards, Karl Gerich and Elaine Lewis. Secretary of the EPCS. Treasurer of the IPCS.


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