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Published May 12, 2013 Updated June 09, 2022

Adolfo Matarelli Transformation

Matarelli was a well known caricaturist who first illustrated Carlo Collodi's famous Pinocchio story. He was also a collaborator in the satirical magazine “Il Lampione”, founded by Collodi.

1860 Italy Adolfo Matarelli Caricatures Satire Transformation Add to Collection

Transformation playing cards designed by Adolfo Matarelli (1832-1877) and originally published by Lit. G. Payer, Florence, c.1860 with the title “Album”. Matarelli was a well known caricaturist who first illustrated Carlo Collodi's famous Pinocchio story. He was also a collaborator in the satirical magazine “Il Lampione”, founded by Collodi. The images in the intricately designed “transformed” playing cards are supposed to be street scenes, but are often allegorical or symbolic, suggesting a moral or political innuendo and resulting in a visually pleasing and intriguing transformation deck.

The Court Cards

The 12 court figures are all standing in front of a background scene which enhances the sense of drama.

Transformation playing cards desgned by Adolfo Matarelli (1832-1877)

Above: 52-card deck of transformation playing cards designed by Adolfo Matarelli (1832-1877), reissued here as a facsimile edition named 'Toscana playing cards' published by Cavallini & Co., San Francisco. The set is presented in a handmade box accompanied by a Jolly Joker and information card. The original pack was printed in two versions: 52 cards and 40 cards. Images courtesy Rex Pitts.

Above: the same cards in an uncoloured version reissued in a facsimile edition named 'Carte Comiche' published by Vito Arienti, Edizioni del Solleone, Lissone, 1982. The edition includes a title card and an information card. images courtesy of Rod Starling, author of "The Art and Pleasures of Playing Cards".

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By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.


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