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Published March 21, 2023 Updated March 21, 2023

Commedia dell’Carte

Commedia dell’Carte political transformation cards illustrated by Stef van Stiphout, Belgium, 1977.

1977 Belgium Aurelia Games Cartamundi Stef van Stiphout Cartoon Political Transformation Add to Collection

This double pack of transformation playing cards was created by TV journalist Jan Bauwens and illustrated by the political cartoonist Stef van Stiphout (1931 – 1995). This set was published in 1977 by Carta Mundi for Aurelia Games, Brussels, and is a humorous look at local Belgian politicians. See the boxes

According to Albert Field (1987) “the title of this pair of packs plays on the name of the of the 16th century form of Italian comedy that combined satire and farce. The face cards are caricatures of contemporary political figures in the guise of historical personages. One pack is Flemish, the other Walloon. The transformed pip cards are the same in both packs with the exception of the 10 of spades – in one it is the Flemish lion, and in the other, the French cock” (p.165).

For example, Willy Claes (former Secretary General of NATO) is cast as Archduke Albert VII of Austria, and Leo Tindemans (former prime minister of Belgium) as Erasmus. A bilingual booklet in French and Dutch accompanies. While each pack has different jokers and court cards both have the same colour back design. And both are housed in an attractive sleeve showing a theatre façade, with the lion and cock pulling back the curtains on each side.

Flemish pack

Commedia dell’Carte political transformation cards illustrated by Stef van Stiphout and published in 1977 by Carta Mundi for Aurelia Games, Brussels Commedia dell’Carte political transformation cards illustrated by Stef van Stiphout and published in 1977 by Carta Mundi for Aurelia Games, Brussels

Walloon pack

Commedia dell’Carte political transformation cards illustrated by Stef van Stiphout and published in 1977 by Carta Mundi for Aurelia Games, Brussels Commedia dell’Carte political transformation cards illustrated by Stef van Stiphout and published in 1977 by Carta Mundi for Aurelia Games, Brussels

The pip cards

Commedia dell’Carte political transformation cards illustrated by Stef van Stiphout and published in 1977 by Carta Mundi for Aurelia Games, Brussels

Above: Commedia dell’Carte double pack of political transformation cards illustrated by Stef van Stiphout and published in 1977 by Carta Mundi for Aurelia Games, Brussels.


References

Field, Albert: Transformation Playing Cards, U.S. Games Systems Inc., Stamford, CT, 1987

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By Peter Burnett

Member since July 27, 2022

I graduated in Russian and East European Studies from Birmingham University in 1969. It was as an undergraduate in Moscow in 1968 that I stumbled upon my first 3 packs of “unusual” playing cards which fired my curiosity and thence my life-long interest. I began researching and collecting cards in the early 1970s, since when I’ve acquired over 3,330 packs of non-standard cards, mainly from North America, UK and Western Europe, and of course from Russia and the former communist countries.

Russian Playing Cards

Following my retirement from the Bodleian Library in Dec. 2007 I took up a new role as Head of Library Development at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) to support library development in low-income countries. This work necessitated regular training visits to many sub-Saharan African countries and also further afield, to Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh – all of which provided rich opportunities to further expand my playing card collection.

Since 2019 I’ve been working part-time in the Bodleian Library where I’ve been cataloguing the bequest of the late Donald Welsh, founder of the English Playing Card Society.


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