The World of Playing Cards Logo
Published June 09, 2023 Updated June 09, 2023

Infirrera

Italo-Portuguese-suited cards by Andrea Infirrera with the arms of Malta, 1693.

1693 Malta infirrera Archaic Patterns Portuguese Pattern Suits Add to Collection

The "Portuguese suit system," also referred to as the "Italo-Portuguese system," was once widely used in Portugal, Sicily, Malta, and other regions connected to Portuguese colonization and trade. However, this system is now largely outdated. It is worth noting that the boundaries and simultaneous diffusion of the different variations within these regions and Europe as a whole are not clearly defined. Moreover, this system had an impact on Far Eastern countries, including Japan. Additionally, remnants of the Portuguese suit system can still be found in early Spanish and Italian playing cards, specifically in Minchiate packs, while it continues to be preserved in the Sicilian tarot to this day.

Malta was ruled by the Order of Saint John as a vassal state of the Kingdom of Sicily from 1530 to 1798. A thriving playing-card manufacturing industry had flourished there since 1684. The example of cards with dragon aces shown here is believed to have been made by a Spanish cardmaker, A.Infirrera, whose name is on the four of cups, whilst the date 1693 appears on the two of coins. The kings have Maltese crosses on their chests and the four of coins has arms said to be those of the Grand Master of Malta of that time.

The cards have a centrally-placed index at top and bottom, placed within a rectangle, and there is also an inner rectangle in the design of each card. The index letters refer to the card rank and suit names in Italian (rather than Portuguese). The kings are seated and hold shields. The maids also hold shields and those of swords and batons are battling with serpent-like creatures, similar to those depicted on the aces.

Portuguese-suited cards by A. Infirrera with the arms of Malta, 1693. Source gallica.bnf.fr / BnF Portuguese-suited cards by A. Infirrera with the arms of Malta, 1693. Source gallica.bnf.fr / BnF

Above: Portuguese-suited cards by Andrea Infirrera with the arms of Malta, 1693. Source gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France • Jeu de cartes maltais aux dragons de type portugais

Further References

Denning, Trevor: “What Are Infirrera Cards?” in The Playing-Card, Journal of the IPCS, Vol. 16 number 3.

Salvatore Bonaccorsi, Nicola De Giorgio, Emilia Maggio: The origins of the "Portuguese" suit system for playing cards and tarots in Sicily Section II

Giovanni Bonello: “Maltese Playing Card Makers 1684-1750” in The Playing-Card, Volume 32, Number 3, IPCS 2005.

avatar
1,432 Articles

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.


Related Articles

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

A limited edition art print of the King of Diamonds 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Clubs

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Clubs

A limited edition art print of the Jack of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Joker

Woodblock and Stencil Joker

A limited edition art print of the 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

A limited edition art print of the Queen of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.

1996 Postak – Las Postas

Postak – Las Postas

‘Postak - Las Postas’ playing cards commemorating the history of the Basque postal service, Spain, 1...

1987 Bischofszell

Bischofszell

Advertising pack for the food producer Bischofszell, designed by Heinz Looser-Brenner, with non-stan...

1973 Marcello Morandini

Marcello Morandini

Modern designs by Italian artist Marcello Morandini using the simplest of forms and colours.

1739 Trappola pack by Joseph Fetscher

Trappola pack by Joseph Fetscher

Trappola pack published by Joseph Fetscher, Graz, 1739.

1760 Lyon pattern by Michel Ressy

Lyon pattern by Michel Ressy

Lyon pattern by Michel Ressy, c.1760.

Trappola pack by Anton Herrl

Trappola pack by Anton Herrl

Trappola pack of 36 double-ended cards published by Anton Herrl, Graz, Austria.

2023 Moorish Deck

Moorish Deck

Review of “Trzes’ Moorish Deck” facsimile published by Ulrich Kaltenborn, Berlin, 2023.

1450 Early German playing cards

Early German playing cards

Some early examples of popular German playing cards from the XV and XVI centuries.

1690 Auvergne Pattern

Auvergne Pattern

The Auvergne pattern is one of the oldest in France.

2023 Carte Bolognesi

Carte Bolognesi

New designs reinforcing Bologna’s reputation as the gastronomic capital of Italy.

1693 Infirrera

Infirrera

Italo-Portuguese-suited cards by Andrea Infirrera with the arms of Malta, 1693.

1890 Portuguese cards for Brazil

Portuguese cards for Brazil

Portuguese-type cards made in or for Brazil, c.1890.

1609 Vittoriosa Church Museum

Vittoriosa Church Museum

Antique playing cards in Vittoriosa Church Museum dating back to the Knights of Malta period.

1983 Tulsa City-County Library System Annual Report

Tulsa City-County Library System Annual Report

Tulsa City-County Library System Annual Report playing cards, USA, 1983.

1995 Stars of Country Music

Stars of Country Music

Stars of Country Music playing cards with non-standard suit symbols, USA, 1995

1999 New Orleans Suits

New Orleans Suits

New Orleans Suits playing cards designed by Eddie Tebbe, USA, 1999.

1999 The Fat Pack

The Fat Pack

A vastly expanded pack with 8 suits for playing traditional or new games, devised by Roger Howard Bu...

1962 Le Burling

Le Burling

1960s pack from Annecy with non-standard suits all connected with the office.

1971 Nintendo deck with Medieval theme

Nintendo deck with Medieval theme

Courts in medieval costume holding both French and Italian/Spanish suit-signs.

1977 Il Quinto Seme

Il Quinto Seme

An Italian pack with a fifth suit of “amici” (“friends”).

2000 African Renaissance Deck

African Renaissance Deck

African Renaissance Deck published for Nkosi's Haven, South Africa, 2000.

1460 XV Century Spanish-suited playing cards

XV Century Spanish-suited playing cards

XV Century Spanish-suited playing cards with moorish influences

2012 Juego de Naipes Andalusí

Juego de Naipes Andalusí

Andalusian playing cards designed by Marifé Montoya Carrillo with booklet by Jorge Lirola Delgado, 2...

1785 Pierre Roiné Aluette

Pierre Roiné Aluette

Archaic form of Aluette published by Pierre Roiné, Nantes, c.1785.

2000 Airummy

Airummy

Souvenir pack made for the Malta Tourism Authority, Malta, c.2000.

1980 Pentacards

Pentacards

A five-suited set of playing cards published by Fleet and Case Games Ltd., Rainham, Kent, UK, c.1980...

Cartas Portuguezas

Cartas Portuguezas

Portuguese pattern playing cards published in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, late 19th century.

1613 Portuguese-suited cards

Portuguese-suited cards

Portuguese-suited cards with dragon aces, made in Italy, 1613.

Antoine de Logiriera

Antoine de Logiriera

Archaic Spanish-suited playing cards published in Toulouse by Antoine de Logiriera (1495-1518).

1490 J. Deluy  c.1490s

J. Deluy c.1490s

Archaic Spanish-suited cards produced by J. Deluy c.1490s.

1584 Toledo, 1584

Toledo, 1584

Archaic Spanish-suited deck with 48 cards made in Toledo in 1584.

62: French regional patterns: the queens and jacks

62: French regional patterns: the queens and jacks

Continuing our look at the figures from the regional patterns of France.

61: French regional patterns: the kings

61: French regional patterns: the kings

On page 11 I illustrated several examples of the regional French patterns from Sylvia Mann's collect...

1937 Five Suit Bridge

Five Suit Bridge

Five Suit Bridge was invented in Vienna in 1937 by Walter W. Marseille and Dr. Paul Stern.

1682 Navarra Pattern, 1682

Navarra Pattern, 1682

Navarra pattern produced for the Pamplona General Hospital Monopoly in 1682.

Navarra Pattern

Navarra Pattern

Navarra Pattern produced for the Pamplona General Hospital Monopoly.

1760 Anonymous Spanish Suited pack, c.1760

Anonymous Spanish Suited pack, c.1760

Anonymous archaic Spanish suited pack, c.1760.

1904 Hindooly

Hindooly

Hindooly published by Chas Goodall & Son Ltd with four newly designed suits, c.1904.

1611 Georg Kapfler

Georg Kapfler

Antique deck of old Bohemian playing cards of the German type manufactured by Georg Kapfler and date...

1455 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