The World of Playing Cards Logo
Published January 31, 2016 Updated July 17, 2022

Cartes Comiques du Colonel Atthalin

“Jeu de cartes comiques” transformation cards designed by Louis Atthalin (1784-1856) and published in 1817.

1817 France Louis Athalin Fantasy Transformation Add to Collection

Louis Marie Baptiste Atthalin’s marvellous set of transformation cards, known in France as “cartes comiques”, was first published in c.1817. The court cards are titled and depict persons from classical literature and history in a scene relating to their life, whereas the numeral cards are untitled and portray a variety of contemporary scenes or imaginary cartoons in extraordinary detail (bearing in mind the constrained size of a playing card) and which transform the humble playing card into fine art.

The scenes on the numeral cards include: soldiers, musical gatherings, farm workers, street performers, nursery scene, sailors' sleeping berth, dancers, boxers, doctor's patients, a caged bear, pipe-smoking arabs, a sedan chair, an alchemist and various allegorical scenes.

Besides being an accomplished artist, watercolourist and lithographer, Baron Louis Atthalin was a French Army officer who received numerous awards and distinctions during his military career, reaching the rank of Lieutenant General. In addition, Atthalin was a Knight in the Royal and Military Order of Saint Louis, a Grand Cross in the Royal and Military Order of Saint Ferdinand, and awarded the Order of Glory. In 1848 he retired to Alsace and devoted the rest of his life to watercolour painting.

The cards shown here are from a reproduction of an original deck in the National Playing Card Museun, Turnhout (Belgium) published in 1996. Original cards can also be viewed on the Bibliothèque Nationale de France website

the Valet of clubs, named as ‘Jacquemin Gringoneur’, the artist who painted three packs of cards for King Charles VI of France

Above: the Valet of clubs is named as ‘Jacquemin Gringoneur’, the artist who painted three packs of cards for King Charles VI of France. The card is actually a self-portrait of the artist whose name ‘Louis Atthalin’ appears on the jack of clubs on the easel. Original cards can be viewed on the Bibliothèque Nationale de France website

The Court Cards

The court cards, as is often the case with standard French cards, are titled and represent persons from classical literature and history. But in Louis Atthalin's version they appear in a scene relating to their life history.

Above: cards from a reproduction of an original deck in the National Playing Card Museum, Turnhout (Belgium) published in 1996. All images courtesy Rex Pitts.

avatar
773 Articles

By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.


Related Articles

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Hearts

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Hearts

A limited edition art print of the Jack of Hearts 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Clubs

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Clubs

A limited edition art print of the Jack of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

A limited edition art print of the Queen of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

A limited edition art print of the King of Diamonds 1984 woodblock joker.

1977 Jeu de la V<sup>me</sup>

Jeu de la Vme

A political pack designed by Pino Zac and published in 1977 by Editions Arts et Lettres.

1983 Jeu des Médecins

Jeu des Médecins

Cartoons of doctors and nurses by Pino Zac, published by B.P. Grimaud in 1983.

2011 Colour doodle deck

Colour doodle deck

“1952-2002 commemorative deck” customised with doodles by an uncredited artist, UK, 2011.

1962 Jeu Boléro

Jeu Boléro

Sweeping, semi-abstract designs by J.L. Jolin in red and black only.

1976 Le Giscarte

Le Giscarte

Le Giscarte political playing cards designed by Eddy Munerol, France, 1976.

1968 Knoll International

Knoll International

Geometric designs by the French artist Jean Garçon for Knoll International, the furniture company.

1960 Cartes à Jouer Fluorescentes

Cartes à Jouer Fluorescentes

Standard French cards but printed with fluorescent inks on a black background.

1980 SEMP playing cards

SEMP playing cards

Modified Anglo-American courts advertising a French medical publishing company.

1997 Claude Weisbuch

Claude Weisbuch

Free reinterpretation of the traditional Paris pattern courts by the artist Claude Weisbuch.

1986 Hôtels-Grils Campanile

Hôtels-Grils Campanile

Publicity pack for the Campanile hotel and restaurant chain featuring French provincial costumes, wi...

1980 MISSCŒUR

MISSCŒUR

Elongated cards from France with a fourth court card, a Miss.

1965 Jeu des Copains

Jeu des Copains

French popular singing stars of the 1960s.

2023 Marlow playing cards

Marlow playing cards

Visitor attractions and businesses to be found in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

2020 5th Kingdom playing cards

5th Kingdom playing cards

5th Kingdom Luxury playing cards designed by Maria Fedoseeva, USA, 2020.

Dessoris

Dessoris

Spanish-suited cards by Dessoris, Perpignan, which anticipate the French Catalan pattern.

1760 Lyon pattern by Michel Ressy

Lyon pattern by Michel Ressy

Lyon pattern by Michel Ressy, c.1760.

1995 Les métiers et leurs protecteurs

Les métiers et leurs protecteurs

“Les métiers et leurs protecteurs” playing cards published by Editions Dusserre, c. 1995.

1994 Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Famous people associated with Nicolas Fouquet’s splendid château of Vaux-le-Vicomte.

1975 Compagnie Maritime des Chargeurs Réunis

Compagnie Maritime des Chargeurs Réunis

French navigators and explorers on a promotional pack for the C.M.C.R shipping company.

2007 Shrek the Third playing cards

Shrek the Third playing cards

Characters from the 2007 film Shrek the Third, a DreamWorks Animation production.

1983 Jeu de cartes Armelle

Jeu de cartes Armelle

Advertising pack designed by James Hodges for a company specialising in regional cakes and biscuits....

1976 Jeanne d’Arc, “La pucelle d’Orléans”

Jeanne d’Arc, “La pucelle d’Orléans”

Joan of Arc and her contemporaries in a colourful pack designed by Patrice Louis.

2019 Murphy Varnish pack

Murphy Varnish pack

Reproduction of the 1883 Murphy Varnish transformation pack, USA, 2019

1988 Costumes Alsaciens

Costumes Alsaciens

Typical costumes and views of Alsace together with lists of the principal sights.

1981 Les “Œufs de Cartes” de Krasno

Les “Œufs de Cartes” de Krasno

Egg-shaped cards created by Rodolfo Krasno employing photographic images by Michel Leclerc.

1830 French Cartomancy cards, c.1830

French Cartomancy cards, c.1830

French Cartomancy cards published by J. Gaudais; printed by Mansion, Paris, c.1830.

2020 Eclipse Comic playing cards (reproduction)

Eclipse Comic playing cards (reproduction)

Eclipse Comic playing cards is a reproduction of the first transformation pack printed in the USA in...

1984 Schwarze Katze (or Gioco del Gatto Nero)

Schwarze Katze (or Gioco del Gatto Nero)

Reproduction of a 40-card transformation pack with designs by “WS”, adapted for the game of Black Ca...

1973 Le Jeu des Peintres

Le Jeu des Peintres

Modern designs by 19 contemporary artists including Peynet and Hodges.

1990 Jeu de cartes des Opéras romantiques

Jeu de cartes des Opéras romantiques

Costumes from four operas premiered at the Paris Opera between 1830 and 1840.

2008 Around the world in 54 cards

Around the world in 54 cards

“Around the world in 54 cards” hand-coloured transformation pack produced by Peter Wood, United King...

2008 The Journey

The Journey

‘The Journey’ limited edition playing cards produced by Peter Wood, UK, 2008.

1983 Les Montgolfières 1783-1983

Les Montgolfières 1783-1983

Honouring the bicentenary of the Montgolfier brothers’ first balloon flights in 1783.

2009 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Characters and scenes from the Disney film of the same name, on a pack made for Eastern Europe.

2002 Sa Majesté, le roi des jeux de cartes

Sa Majesté, le roi des jeux de cartes

A colourful pack aimed at children, with illustrations by Muriel Kerba.

2009 Disney Princess

Disney Princess

Featuring Disney Princesses and Enchanting Tales in two sizes of pack made for Eastern Europe.

1971 Gibert Jeune

Gibert Jeune

Publicity pack for Gibert Jeune, the famous Parisian bookshop, with designs by James Hodges.

1820 Costumes des Peuples Étrangers

Costumes des Peuples Étrangers

Costumes des Peuples Étrangers & Jeu d’Or dedicated to young people and likely used for games and fo...

1806 Le Nouvel Etteilla

Le Nouvel Etteilla

“Le Nouvel Etteilla” cartomancy deck published in Paris by La Veuve Gueffier, 1806.

1807 Le Petit Oracle des Dames

Le Petit Oracle des Dames

Le Petit Oracle des Dames ou Récréation des Curieux, Paris, 1807.