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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.

Mémoires de Casanova

Mémoires de Casanova artistic and lightly risqué playing cards with paintings by Paul-Émile Bécat, published by Éditions Philibert, Paris, c.1960.

‘Mémoires de Casanova’, c.1960

Mémoires de Casanova luxury artistic and lightly risqué playing cards with miniature paintings by Paul-Émile Bécat, published by Éditions Philibert, Paris, c.1960. Paul-Émile Bécat (1885–1960) was a French painter, printmaker and engraver who is best known for his portraits of French writers, and for his erotic works. Becat began specializing in erotic art quite late in his career, during the 1930s. Before then his focus was mostly on portraits and not-so-erotic literature. The number cards display women alone, while the courts and Aces display men and women. The images in the court cards are reversible so every royal card has two interpretations depending on which way up you hold them that seamlessly flow into one another.

Mémoires de Casanova artistic and lightly risqué playing cards with paintings by Paul-Émile Bécat, published by Éditions Philibert, Paris, c.1960. Mémoires de Casanova artistic and lightly risqué playing cards with paintings by Paul-Émile Bécat, published by Éditions Philibert, Paris, c.1960. Mémoires de Casanova artistic and lightly risqué playing cards with paintings by Paul-Émile Bécat, published by Éditions Philibert, Paris, c.1960.

Above: Mémoires de Casanova artistic and lightly risqué playing cards with paintings by Paul-Émile Bécat, published by Éditions Philibert, Paris, c.1960. . Images courtesy Barney Townshend.

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By Barney Townshend

Member since October 06, 2015

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Retired Airline Pilot, interested in: Transformation Playing Cards, Karl Gerich and Elaine Lewis. Secretary of the EPCS. Treasurer of the IPCS.

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