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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

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renaissance

8 Articles

New Figures by A. I. Charlemagne, 1862

“Renaissance” playing card designs by A I Charlemagne, 1862.

New Figures by A. I. Charlemagne, 1862

Tarocchi di Mantegna, c.1465

The so-called Tarocchi di Mantegna (c.1465) reflect an ideological structure bringing to mind the soul's progress towards perfection.

Tarocchi di Mantegna, c.1465

The Visconti-Sforza Tarot, c.1460

This pack of tarot cards appears to have have been made in the Bembo workshop in Cremona for Bianca Maria Visconti, c.1460.

The Visconti-Sforza Tarot, c.1460

Renaissance Playing Cards

Renaissance Playing Cards by Maxim Hurwicz, showing 54 different drawings spanning the years 1066 to 1400.

Renaissance Playing Cards

The Book of Trades by Jost Amman, 1588

The Book of Trades by the prolific German Renaissance artist Jost Amman (1539-91). Suits are books, printers' pads, wine-pots and drinking cups.

The Book of Trades by Jost Amman, 1588