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Published December 25, 2014 Updated July 12, 2022

Vandenborre Tarot

Belgian Tarot published by François-Jean Vandenborre, Brussels (1762-1803)

1780 Belgium Vandenborre Facsimiles & Replicas Tarot Add to Collection

Vandenborre Tarot, Brussels, c.1780

The Flemish or Belgian Tarot, with Italian suit signs, became a standard design in Belgium during the 18th century. It is a sort of hybrid tarot, and with its cousins the Tarot de Marseille and Tarot de Besançon derives from Italian designs. For some reason the legend “Cartes de Suisses” appears on the ace of Coins.

Above: detail from the ace of coins.

The deck is executed in a vigorous and energetic style with a chequered frame around each card. The trump cards have Roman numerals and are inscribed with French titles. The complete deck contains 78 cards.

See also: Tarot cards by Nicolas Bodet (1743-1751).

Above: facsimile edition of Belgian Tarot published by François-Jean Vandenborre, Brussels (1762-1803).

Several trumps deviate from the tradition: trump II (normally the High Priestess) is depicted as “Le’spagnol · Capitano Eracasse”, a cocky figure from the Commedia dell’arte, and trump V (otherwise the Pope) is “Bacus”, the Roman god of euphoria. Other idiosyncrasies in the deck can be traced back to Italian prototypes. The Fool is number XXII.

Left: inscription from 2 of Cups “POUR CONOISTRE QUE LA PLUS BASSE DE DENIEZ ET DE COUPES ENPORTE LES PLUS HAUTES QUAND AU FAIT DU JEU” reminds players that in Coins and Cups the lower-numbered cards beat the higher ones, suggesting that the deck was intended for playing games rather than divination.

the four aces, Vandenborre Tarot, Brussels, c.1780

Above: the four aces, Vandenborre Tarot, Brussels, c.1780.

The Court Cards

the 16 court cards, Vandenborre Tarot, Brussels, c.1780

Above: the 16 court cards, Vandenborre Tarot, Brussels, c.1780.

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder 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.

1 comments

Stefan Lauwers's Avatar'

The "Cartes de Suisses' were first re-produced in a very limited serie of only 500 decks, in 1974 --in a box-- by Aurelia Books, Brussels, a publishing company that was ran by Jan Bauwens who has several reproductions on his name. Jan Bauwens was very close tot E. Van Autenboer, the former director of the Turnhout National Playing Card Museum. These cards were re-issued a second time in 1984 as 'Vlaamse Tarok', this time distrubuted by Cartamundi and US Games System, (Yellow and Blue box, and with a box in several languages. The origine of the name 'Cartes de Suisses'is known, even if they are basically 'Tarot de Marseille' ... When (by the year 1765 or so), some people also started to use tarot-cards for "fortune telling", the card-makers ran into trouble with the Catholic Church in the South of France. Persecution hit in the South of France, and a lot of them re-located, first to the 'Doubs'/'Jura'/'Franche Comté' region (Besançon), and later further on to Switserland. And of course, they were taking their skills with them. Once in Switserland, the cards received Italian influences and became like a sub-type of their own ... Later, these decks became known as 'Cartes de Suisses' (like in 'cards made by Swiss people'), and Vandenborre, who was a Brussels-based card-manufacturer, also took over this type of cards, by 1780. Others, in Ghent and Bruges would soon follow. These cards became popular in the north of the Belgian country, in Flanders region, by opposition to the south, the Liège region, where 'Animal'-tarot was popular. So, in the end these cards became also known as 'Flemish Tarot'.


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