Translucent playing cards, when held up to the light, reveal a secret image depicting amorous sensuality printed on the middle layer of the pasteboard. These cards became popular in mid-19th century France. It can be noted that the postures of the court cards, superficially presented in classical poses, allow for hidden imagery to be incorporated, sometimes involving nuns. In this example, only the numeral cards contain hidden images as the court cards are not translucent. The hidden images vary from romantic to mildly erotic to pornographic.
In Greek and Roman times eroticism was more freely expressed. India gave us the Kama Sutra. But then it underwent restraint or repression through the middle ages and puritanical times. Erotic playing cards reappeared during the XIX century and translucent cards around the middle of the century. In some examples from this genre, the hidden imagery in the translucent playing card can be more sensual or lewd, as in the example below. The illustrations have nothing to do with the value of the card in the game.
Member since February 01, 1996
Founder and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.
A limited edition art print of the Jack of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.
A limited edition art print of the Queen of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.
“Les métiers et leurs protecteurs” playing cards published by Editions Dusserre, c. 1995.
Famous people associated with Nicolas Fouquet’s splendid château of Vaux-le-Vicomte.
French navigators and explorers on a promotional pack for the C.M.C.R shipping company.
Characters from the 2007 film Shrek the Third, a DreamWorks Animation production.
Advertising pack designed by James Hodges for a company specialising in regional cakes and biscuits....
Joan of Arc and her contemporaries in a colourful pack designed by Patrice Louis.
Typical costumes and views of Alsace together with lists of the principal sights.
Egg-shaped cards created by Rodolfo Krasno employing photographic images by Michel Leclerc.
French Cartomancy cards published by J. Gaudais; printed by Mansion, Paris, c.1830.
Costumes from four operas premiered at the Paris Opera between 1830 and 1840.
Honouring the bicentenary of the Montgolfier brothers’ first balloon flights in 1783.
A colourful pack aimed at children, with illustrations by Muriel Kerba.
Publicity pack for Gibert Jeune, the famous Parisian bookshop, with designs by James Hodges.
Costumes des Peuples Étrangers & Jeu d’Or dedicated to young people and likely used for games and fo...
“Le Nouvel Etteilla” cartomancy deck published in Paris by La Veuve Gueffier, 1806.
Révolution 1789-1989, celebrating the bicentenary of the French revolution, France, 1989
Cyclists from the Domex-Weinmann team who took part in the 1989 Tour de France.
‘Cartes Catalanes’ published by Fossorier, Amar et Cie (Paris)
Elegant fashion costume deck published by O. Gibert, Paris c.1860.
An educational card game designed by F. Séré and published by Lithographie Musicale de Boboeuf, Par...
The “Parisian Tarot”, early 1600s, with imagery and design synthesizing several influences.
Early French Cartomancy deck "for the amusement of Ladies" but also referred to as "Jeu divinatoire ...
Delightful pack advertising Joseph Bardou & Fils cigarette papers for the Philippines.
Aluette game by Fabrique Dieudonné Jeune, Orléans, for Spanish market, c.1850.
Illustrations by Yannick Pennanguer of old sailing ships for Brest 2004, a maritime festival.
Mountains, flowers, animals, tourist sites of the Pyrenees, all drawn by the artist Pertuzé.
Colourful card game featuring the Marvel Comics superhero Spider-Man and some of his fearsome advers...
Fully pictorial pack featuring rockets, satellites, scientists and views from space.
Playing cards with an educational and instructive purpose first trended in mid-17th century France, ...
Bold designs by Jacques Auriac representing people and enterprises for which the town of Issy-les-Mo...
Original designs by French artist Jean Vérame, with clubs replaced by four-leaf clovers to bring goo...