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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.

Genoese pattern

The design is purely 'Parisian' but the colouring is green, red, yellow and black. Belgium has taken this pattern for general use.

Purely 'Parisian' pattern in design, but the colouring is green, red, yellow and black. 40 or 52 cards. The pack is basically an export pattern from post-1827 France. Belgium has taken this pattern for general use and it is commonly found in many other parts of the world. For some reason the Jack of Clubs often bears a Spanish arms. It is distinguished from the Piedmont pattern by the diagonal division of the double-ended courts.

Belgian 'Genoese' pattern

Above: Standard double-ended Genoese pattern cards from an uncut sheet manufactured by B. P. Grimaud, c.1920. Unlike the closely related 'Paris' pattern, the court cards are unnamed.

Below: Standard Genoese pattern playing cards, with French indices, manufactured by Van Genechten for Cigarrillo Holiday and the Estanco de Naipes del Perú, c.1965. The legend "Estanco de Naipes del Perú" is printed on the box and reverse of the cards in the centre of the advert for Holiday cigarettes.

Playing cards manufactured by Van Genechten for the Estanco de Naipes del Peru, c.1965

See also: Naipes Side-Car Genoese type manufactured by Luis Fourvel, Buenos Aires, Argentina, c.1940 • Genoese Pattern by E. Pignalosa, Naples, c.1950.