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Published August 05, 2010 Updated May 28, 2022

Tarock Cards

The earliest Tarot decks originated in Italy in the fifteenth century, with Italian suit symbols. However the game was very popular elsewhere and tarots with French suit signs, usually called "tarok" or "tarock", appeared around 1750 which are now mainly produced in Austria.

Austria Adametz Joseph Estel Piatnik Tarock

Austrian Tarock Cards

Tarock deck made by Johann Herrl in Graz 1815

The earliest Tarot decks originated in Italy in the fifteenth century, with Italian suit symbols (cups, coins, clubs or batons and swords). However the game was very popular elsewhere and tarots with French suit signs (hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades), usually called "Tarok" or "Tarock", appeared around 1750 and which are now mainly produced in Austria. The four-suited pack with court cards King, Queen, Cavalier and Page follow the same arrangement except that the Italian suit symbols were replaced with French ones. The numeral cards were sometimes reduced so that the pack contained a total of 54 cards, instead of the full 78 cards.   See also:  Tarock deck made by Johann Herrl in Graz 1815

Joseph Estel, Vienna, Tarok Cards, 1820

Above: Cards from 54-card Tarock pack manufactured by Joseph Estel (Vienna), dated 1820 on the Ace of Hearts.   Learn more →

The subjects appearing on the Trumps of Tarock packs varies from the Italian prototypes. In the 18th century there was a vogue for animals or hunting scenes on the Trump cards, and later on mythological and literary subjects became popular. By the beginning of the 19th century it was possible to find almost any series of pictures on the Trumps. Very often these pictures alluded to popular proverbs, fables, social criticism, satire or heroic actions. The "Fool" is usually depicted as a harlequin. One particular series was widely copied and has become known as "Industrie und Glück" or "Rural Scenes" tarot in which the Trumps feature rural scenes and costumes from different regions. Most of these show a crowned eagle with a sword and sceptre clasped in one claw, perched on a rock with the legend "Industrie und Glück" on Trump II.

Above: cards from a 54-card "Industrie und Glück" Tarock pack manufactured by Ferd Piatnik & Söhne, Vienna, c.1900.   More →

Above: cards from a 54-card "Industrie und Glück" or "Rural Scenes" Tarock pack manufactured by Franz Adametz, Vienna, c.1948.   See more →

An Animal Tarock pack was published in Denmark by Jean Friedrich Mayer (1752-1783) and L.P. Holmblad published newly-designed packs depicting prominent buildings from in and around Copenhagen. The "Rural Scenes" Tarock pattern has also been used as the basis of divinatory fortune-telling cards manufactured in Argentina by Vigor S.R.L. with the title "Cartas Gitanas"

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


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