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Published July 03, 1996 Updated September 30, 2023

Czech Nationalistic playing cards

During the 19th century growing nationalist sentiment led to a rejection of Austro-Hungarian culture in favour of that of the native Czech people. One outcome from this movement was a ‘Nationalistic’ pack of playing cards painted by Emanuel Neumann.

1895 Czechoslovakia Kratochvíl Emanuel Neumann Nationalism Suits Add to Collection

designed by Emanuel Neumann, c.1895

During the 19th century growing nationalist sentiment led to a rejection of Austro-Hungarian culture in favour of that of the native Czech people. One outcome from this movement was a ‘Nationalistic’ pack of playing cards painted by Emanuel Neumann in which the standard national suit symbols are replaced with non-standard ones having particular meaning to the Czech people. Ears of corn, or Sheaves, replace Acorns symbolising the fertility of agriculture and the Czech lands. Deep red Garnets, which replace Hearts, have reputed healing powers. Wine Kegs replace bells to celebrate viniculture in Bohemia and Moravia that was started by the Romans. Lime Leaves are from the national tree of the Czech lands. The cards were made in an effort to raise national self-confidence and esteem.

19th Century Czech Nationalistic playing-cards designed by Emanuel Neumann, c.1895

The suit of Ears of Corn features workers in the fields ploughing, harvesting and celebrating. The Upper Jack shows a man in traditional Moravian dress, and the King is George of Podebrad, the last King of an independent Bohemia. The signature of the artist who painted the cards, Emanuel Neumann (1873-1932), can be seen on the Upper Jack and the daus (2) which also shows the Moravian eagle on a shield. Manufactured by Anton Kratochvíl, Prague.

19th Century Czech Nationalistic playing-cards designed by Emanuel Neumann, c.1895

The suit of Garnets features Charles IV as the King, "Father of the Nation". The lower Jack is a female weaver. whilst the VIII of garnets shows the old town bridge. The daus card (2) depicts a mother and child, symbolising maternity and the founding of the nation, with an inscription which means 'In Prague'.

19th Century Czech Nationalistic playing-cards designed by Emanuel Neumann, c.1895

The suit of Wine Barrels features the Silesian eagle on the daus while the Lower jack shows a woman in traditional Bohemian dress. The numeral cards show scenes such as vineyards and people toasting. The VIII has the Austro-Hungarian tax stamp along with the maker's stamp.

19th Century Czech Nationalistic playing-cards designed by Emanuel Neumann, c.1895

The suit of Lime Leaves features scenes from Czech history and mythology. The King is the farmer Premsyl who married Queen Libussa who is shown as the Lower Jack. The IX shows a scene from the legend of Sharka. On the daus card (2) we see the heraldic Czech two-tailed lion.


REFERENCES

Šťáhlavsky, Zdenĕk: "A 19th Century Czech Nationalistic Pack by Emanuel Neumann", The Playing-Card vol.32 no.6, May-June 2004, IPCS, England.

See also:  1908 Prague Jubilee Exhibition'Jugendstil' designed by Artuš Scheiner, 1920Ritter & Cie "Art Deco", 1933Eagle Playing Card Co., Ltd.

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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.


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