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Published December 05, 2022 Updated December 06, 2023

Animal Tarot by Johann M Backofen

French-suited ‘Bavarian Animal Tarot’ by Johann Matheus Backofen, Nürnberg, late 18th C.

1790 Germany Backofen Tarot Tarock Add to Collection

French-suited 78-card Animal Tarot deck by Johann Matheus Backofen, Nürnberg, c.1800, also known as ‘Bavarian Animal Tarot’. French-suited tarot patterns reflect different preferences and customs from state to state. The designs on these trump cards are mostly animals, birds, including no.VII which is a unicorn, in place of the usual allegorical figures found in Italian-derived tarots. Often the animal trumps follow the same order, but occasionally the sequence varies. Various types of Fools can be found, for example an oboe player, or a flautist, fiddler or lute-players may appear on the unnumbered trump card. In this deck the trunp no.I is a harlequin, with a child harlequin by his shoulder, perched on his sword.


The Court Cards

The court cards are derived from the French Paris pattern, with the addition of four cavaliers. The jack of clubs has the inscription ‘I. M. Bakofen’ along the bottom, while the jack of diamonds reads ‘Backofen’ on a small shield. Various fleurs de lys and other symbols decorate the king and queen’s robes. The king of hearts has the initials IMB on a cartouche.

French-suited Animal Tarot deck by Johann Matheus Backofen, Nürnberg, c.1800 © The Trustees of the British Museum French-suited Animal Tarot deck by Johann Matheus Backofen, Nürnberg, c.1800 © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: French-suited Animal Tarot deck by Johann Matheus Backofen, Nürnberg, c.1790-1800. Hand-coloured woodcut, backs marbled in rose-madder, late 18th Century. Size = 110x55 mm. Lozenges of the Bavarian arms can be seen on the round shields of the King of clubs and the Queens of diamonds and hearts and the jack of hearts. © The Trustees of the British Museum • Museum number 1982,U.4615.1-78

This pattern lasted into the 19th century in Germany until new ones evolved but also influenced imitations elsewhere.


References

Mann, Sylvia: All Cards on the Table, Jonas Verlag/Deutsches Spielkarten-Museum, Leinfelden-Echterdingen, 1990

Willshire, W. H.: A Descriptive Catalogue of Playing and Other Cards in the British Museum, Trustees of the British Museum, 1876, reprint 1975. (German 117).

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By Simon Wintle

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.


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