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, 1996View Articles
Curator 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.
Wedding invitation and thank you card in the form of playing cards. France, 2019.
Advertising pack for Vivacidol pharmaceutical product, France, c.1960s.
Table tennis players in action published by La Ducale, an imprint of Grimaud, France, 1979.
Tarot game pack with fantasy sci-fi artwork on the trumps published by Pocket SF, France.
Jeu de 54 cartes, completely anonymous, designed to resemble locally produced French packs.
Luxurious Spanish-suited pack made by Alphonse Arnoult, Paris, France, c.1850.
Original designs from the French overseas department of Martinique by local artist Martine Porry.
Standard French designs adapted for children. Made by France Cartes for La Grande Récré, c.2016.
Pack promoting Beaujolais wine published by Editions du Nuton, France.
Complete re-design of traditional pack into what the publishers considered to be ergonomically efficient.
This deck was inherited from ancestors, it has has a family history surrounding it. Details of the lives of previous owners make it all so fascinating.
My late mother found these miniature cards in a skip around 50 years ago.
La Sibylle des Salons facsimile of 19th century deck published by J M Simon, 1979.
Feminine beauty has been appreciated since prehistory.
Eurotrotter by La Ducale, c.1980s.
‘Tout Est Bien Qui Finit Bien’ family card game by Dondorf.
Puss in Boots card game manufactured by H. Fournier, 1981.
Bass & Bass ‘Jeu des Familles’ made by Franz-Josef Holler, Münich, 1989.
Gambling and Vice in the Hours of Charles V: card-playing in the local tavern
Jeu de Quaternes ‘Rizá’
A facsimile of an early 19th century French-suited deck from the collection of F.X. Schmid.
Le Jeu du Destin Antique, originally published by Grimaud in XIX c., republished many times since...
Eroticartes with drawings by Pino Zac, 1983.
Sleeping Beauty card game published in France, c.1980s.
Benedicte Morand-Bail’s striking and colourful abstract poker deck with French named courts
Bretagne (Brittany) playing cards, Grimaud, c.1970.
Jeu “Gerente” - published by Moncar in 1983 in the “Cartes de Fantasie” series.
Bicentenaire de la Révolution Française 1789–1989 created by Christian Offroy.
Jeu du Moulin by Watilliaux, Paris.
Playtex - le jeu de la beauté et du destin, Grimaud, 1971.
Jeu de Memoire card game promoting Véritable Chaumes cheese from the village of St Antoines in south west France.
Facsimile of “Le Jeu de la Guerre” designed by Gilles de la Boissière in 1698.
La Mariée du Mardi-Gras, published by Jeux et Jouets Français. Paris, early 1900s.
Parisian style Spanish deck by Grimaud for export to Uruguay.
Jeu des 7 Familles © K.F.S. Opera Mundi c.1960.
Chocolat du Planteur cards (reproduction) by French artist Louis Bourgeois-Borgex, c.1900.
‘Tease Me’ 1960s glamour pack.
Les Géants d'un Mythe created by François Poulain and manufactured by Grimaud, 1983.
Hungarian pin-up deck illustrated by Imre Sebök, c.1960.
“Atouts de la Vie” wartime card game created by Madame Lucien Willemetz, c.1940.