The World of Playing Cards Logo

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.

Hunting Depicted on Playing Cards

In the Middle Ages hunting was an integral part of life.

Detail from Flemish Hunting Deck, c.1475-80

la chasse au cerf Guildhall Tarocchi Jack of Clubs

Hunting animals was central to man's existence since prehistoric times, supplying materials for tools, clothes, food, fuel and medicine. Developing endurance and bravery, training for battle… Plato reckoned that hunting developed moral strength and virility.

Hunting can put life at risk: mortal injury may befall the hunter or his quarry. Face-to-face with a hungry predator your adrenaline and cortisone levels will rise sharply… there is an analogy here with gambling where fortunes may be lost or won…

In the Middle Ages hunting was an integral part of life. Animal hides also provided vellum and parchment for manuscripts and, in some instances, playing cards were made from vellum or rawhide. Most packs, however, were made on pasteboard. Several hand-made packs of playing cards from the fifteenth century based on the theme of hunting have survived.

The medieval Christian saw the struggle against sin as a test of moral strength and faith: the Church disapproved of gambling. But hunting was honourable, and animals were moralised as virtues with parallels in human nature, from demonic to divine: donkey, bull, swan, ox, unicorn, deer, dragon,  elephant, fox, boar, rabbit, eagle, lion, bear, mermaid, falcon, griffin, hound, etc.

See also:

The Flemish Hunting Cards
Ambraser Hofjagdspiel
Stuttgart painted cards, c.1430
Spanish Bullfighting
Mexican Bullfighting
Waddington's Sporting Series

XV century manuscript border

Above: XV century manuscript border.

Hunting Whist

Above: Whist Score Cards with a hunting theme, 1930s.

avatar

By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

View Articles

Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

Recommended

Gambling and Vice in the Middle Ages

Gambling and Vice in the Middle Ages

Gambling and Vice in the Hours of Charles V: card-playing in the local tavern

Jeu “Gerente”

Jeu “Gerente”

Jeu “Gerente” - published by Moncar in 1983 in the “Cartes de Fantasie” series.

Middle Ages

Middle Ages

Middle Ages by Germano & Cª, (Litografia Maia),

Fox & Hounds

Fox & Hounds

Fox & Hounds card game published by C.W. Faulkner & Co., c.1899.

Romance Español

Romance Español

“Romance Español” designed by Carlos Sáenz de Tejada and published by Heraclio Fournier in various editions since 1951.

Europe

Europe

“Europe” designed by Teodoro N. Miciano and printed by Heraclio Fournier in 1962, portraying XIV century European fashions.

Master of the Playing Cards

Master of the Playing Cards

Animal suited playing cards engraved by the Master of the Playing Cards, Germany, c.1455

Wild und Hund Skat

Wild und Hund Skat

Hunting deck designed by Walter Niedl for “Wild und Hund” magazine, c.1977

Hunting Themed Skat

Hunting Themed Skat

German-suited hunting themed deck designed by Günter Schmitz and made by VEB Altenburg, 1980.

Hunter’s Bridge

Hunter’s Bridge

“Hunter’s Bridge” playing cards by ASS depicting animals and associated symbols of hunting, c.1976.

La Baraja

La Baraja

Anonymous “La Baraja” Spanish deck, c.2005.

Hidden meanings in painting by Jheronimus Bosch

Hidden meanings in painting by Jheronimus Bosch

Medieval View of Gambling in the ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ by Jheronimus Bosch

D’Ye Ken John Peel

D’Ye Ken John Peel

“D’Ye Ken John Peel” by Greta Games, Carlisle, c.1920.

St Hubert’s Bridge

St Hubert’s Bridge

“St Hubert’s Bridge” published by Éditions Philibert, Paris, c.1956.

Stuttgart pack, c.1430

Stuttgart pack, c.1430

The luxury, hand-painted Stuttgart Cards (Stuttgarter Kartenspiel) dated c.1430, with suits of ducks, falcons, stags and hounds.

Jeu de Bataille

Jeu de Bataille

“Jeu de Bataille” card game published by Éditions Willeb, Paris. The court cards represent characters from different nationalities or ethnic groups who are presumably engaged in battle

Flemish Hunting Deck

Flemish Hunting Deck

Set of medieval playing cards with King, Queen, Knave and numeral cards from one to ten in each of four suits which refer to the activity of hunting, as practiced by the nobility.

Four Centuries

Four Centuries

“Four Centuries” playing cards by Esselte Öbergs with court cards depicted as caricatures from different historical periods.

Spielkarte für Schützen

Spielkarte für Schützen

“Spielkarte für Schützen” deck designed by Karl Heinz Lanz, published by Rudolf Bechtold and Co., c.1966

British Museum Playing Cards

British Museum Playing Cards

Unique pack of playing cards created for the British Museum with illustrations by Frances Button.

Hans Sebald Beham

Hans Sebald Beham

Playing cards designed by Hans Sebald Beham (1500–1550).

Battle of Grunwald

Battle of Grunwald

Medieval style playing cards commemorating the Battle of Grunwald (1410), designed and published by Studio Wena, 2011

Daveluy

Daveluy

Daveluy produced card games between c.1840 and 1890. Many of his playing cards have historical connotations and show figures with a landscape background.

Première Croisade

Première Croisade

‘Première Croisade’ with single-ended courts by Daveluy, Bruges, c.1850.

Moyen-Age by Daveluy

Moyen-Age by Daveluy

Cartes Moyen-Age by Daveluy, Bruges, c.1875.

Jeu Moyen Age

Jeu Moyen Age

Quénioux believed that aesthetic feelings are the highest values: “C’est précisément cet amour de l’artisan pour le travail qu’il accomplit, la satisfaction intime qu’il en éprouve, qui ont donné naissance à tous les arts et qui ont fait dire que l’art est la joie dans le travail”.

Baraja Edad Media

Baraja Edad Media

Baraja Edad Media, fantasy Spanish-suited medieval playing cards published Mas-Reynals, Barcelona, 1993. Designed by M. Malé and illustrated by V. Maza.

Master of the Banderoles

Master of the Banderoles

Playing Cards by the Master of the Banderoles, one of the earliest professional printmakers, c.1470.

Master PW Circular Cards

Master PW Circular Cards

Master PW Circular Playing Cards: roses, columbines, carnations, parrots and hares... everyday objects evoking life and fertility.

The History of Playing Cards

The History of Playing Cards

Playing Cards have been around in Europe since the 1370s. Some early packs were hand painted works of art which were expensive and affordable only by the wealthy. But as demand increased cheaper methods of production were discovered so that playing cards became available for everyone...

Phelippe Ayet, c.1574

Phelippe Ayet, c.1574

Archaic, late medieval Spanish-suited playing cards printed by Phelippe Ayet, c.1574.

Hunting Depicted on Playing Cards

Hunting Depicted on Playing Cards

In the Middle Ages hunting was an integral part of life.

Hofamterspiel, c.1460

Hofamterspiel, c.1460

Hofamterspiel, c.1460

The Princely Hunting pack, c.1440

The Princely Hunting pack, c.1440

The Princely Hunting Pack, c.1440/45, is attributed to Konrad Witz and his workshop in Basle.

Early German Engraved Playing-cards

Early German Engraved Playing-cards

During the second half of the fifteenth century, with printing technology commercially established and playing cards already a mass-produced commodity, a succession of masterly German engravers practised their art and decorative playing cards reached a zenith.

Waddington’s Sporting Series

Waddington’s Sporting Series

Waddington’s Sporting Series, 1933.