The best-known fantasies with playing cards are the ‘Transformation’ cards. Hand-drawing ‘transformations’ onto a pack of ordinary playing cards, with the suit symbols forming part of the overall composition, became a popular pastime 200 years ago and a test of skill in drawing. A great deal of ingenuity is required in their design. The earliest printed sets were published at the start of the 19th century, often published in the form of an almanac or sometimes known as ‘metastasis’, and these became a fashionable and entertaining novelty.
In the strict sense of the word ‘Transformation’ the pips should be in their standard positions and form part of, or fit into, the overll image portrayed on the card.
Peter Wood’s “2000Pips” transformed playing cards reveal the artist’s love of nature.
Modern transformation pack including some saucy images created by Siegfried Heilmeier.
A Bouquet of Pheasants playing cards produced by Jennifer Gaudion, United Kingdom, 2019.
A book titled “On The Cards” or “A Motley Pack” by Garnet Walch (1843-1913) was published in Melbourne (Australia) and illustrated by George Gordon McCrae in 1875.
Two similar but fascinatingly different hand-drawn transformation decks by the same artist, c.1875
Matarelli was a well known caricaturist who first illustrated Carlo Collodi's famous Pinocchio story. He was also a collaborator in the satirical magazine “Il Lampione”, founded by Collodi.
“Around the world in 54 cards” hand-coloured transformation pack produced by Peter Wood, United Kingdom, 2008.
“Art for the Earth” Transformation Deck published by Andrew Jones Art for Friends of the Earth, 1992.
Baron Louis Atthalin (1784-1856) designed these cards whilst on a sea crossing from Palermo to Marseilles in 1814.
Transformation playing cards designed by Carl Johann Arnold (1829-1916), the court artist for King Friedrich Wilhem IV of Prussia.
Transformed playing cards featuring satirical caricatures of political figures then in the ascendant, Paris, c.1819.
“Jeu de cartes comiques” transformation cards designed by Louis Atthalin (1784-1856) and published in 1817.
Cartes Recréatives is a set of Transformed playing cards designed by Armand-Gustave Houbigant (1790-1863) and first published by Terquem et May, Metz, in 1819.
Charles Hodges produced engraved geographical and astronomical decks, London, c.1827-30.
Commedia dell’Carte political transformation cards illustrated by Stef van Stiphout, Belgium, 1977.
In 1804, J.G. Cotta, a publisher and bookseller in Tübingen, Germany, produced the first set of transformation cards that was published as an actual deck of playing cards.
Transformation playing cards designed by the illustrator, comic artist and stage designer ‘Alfred Crowquill’ (Alfred Henry Forrester, 1804-72), printed by Reynolds & Sons, c.1850.