Spanish Playing Cards ~ La Baraja Española
Spanish suit symbols are cups, swords, coins and clubs (termed copas, espadas, oros and bastos) but the form and arrangement differs from Italian cards.
SPAIN has played a pivotal role in the history of playing cards in Europe and Latin America. One view is that the early history of playing cards in Europe was related to the invasion of North Africa, Spain and Sicily by Islamic forces during the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt which ended in 1517. This coincided with the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada (13th - 15th century), the last Islamic stronghold in the Iberian Peninsula, which was linked to North Africa via the Strait of Gibraltar. Spain has had a complex colonial history and Spanish playing cards have travelled to the ‘New World’ where the legacy of Spanish-suited playing cards still prevails today from Mexico to Patagonia, as well as other remote parts of the globe.
An abundance of early literary references are in the Spanish language. Playing cards have been popular in Spain since their very first introduction there. Early sources refer to playing cards and card games in dictionaries and merchants’ inventories, to various card-makers and to prohibitions of card games, mostly around Barcelona and Valencia, in the late 1300s and early 1400s. Historical archives from Barcelona, 1380, mention a certain Rodrigo Borges, from Perpignan, and describe him as “pintor y naipero” (painter and playing card maker). He is the earliest named card-maker. Other card makers named in guild records include Jaime Estalós (1420), Antonio Borges (1438), Bernardo Soler (1443) and Juan Brunet (1443). The types of cards mentioned include large cards, painted and gilded as well as Moorish cards and small cards.
The Spanish state playing card monopoly was first established during the reign of Felipe II, in the 16th century. It was divided into several regions, including Mexico and ‘New Spain’, Toledo, Castile and Seville. Leases for these respective monopolies were awarded on a competitive basis to the highest bidder and subject to strict controls. Lease holders also enjoyed the protection of laws governing the playing card monopolies, which included the outlawing of contraband playing cards read more →.
Spanish playing cards are today divided into several distinctive types or patterns, some more ancient than others, which are often associated with different regions, as well as a wide range of non-standard cards which testify to the creative genius of Spanish artists. The suits are usually numbered through 1 - 12. A peculiarity to be observed in Spanish cards is that the suits of cups, swords and clubs have respectively one, two and three gaps or intervals in the upper and lower marginal lines of every card, called pintas.
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.
A limited edition art print of the Jack of Hearts 1984 woodblock joker.
A limited edition art print of the Jack of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.
Review of “Trzes’ Moorish Deck” facsimile published by Ulrich Kaltenborn, Berlin, 2023.
Historical figures and artefacts from Navarre with designs by M. Sinués for the Navarre Association ...
‘Baraja Mística’ satirical playing-cards featuring revelling clergy published by Litografía Fernánde...
Satirical playing cards manufactured by Francar y Cía depicting political situation, Barcelona, 1872...
Raimundo García pattern produced by José Cumplido in Madrid, dated 1860 on the four of coins.
‘Amorcillos’ (Cupids), a masterpiece from the golden age of Spanish playing cards by Clemente Roxas,...
Costumes of people of Brazil, Peru and Mexico, with views of Rio de Janeiro on the aces.
Félix Solesio e Hijos - Real Fábrica de Madrid - Spanish National pattern for Venezuela
Aluette game by Fabrique Dieudonné Jeune, Orléans, for Spanish market, c.1850.
A Spanish-suited pack as conceived by 48 different artists from the region of Murcia.
Re-edition of a French-suited Spanish pack from the Napoleonic era, with designs by J. Carrafa.
Baraxa Galega designed by F. Perez Llamosas and published by Naipes Heraclio Fournier, 1983.
Designs by Guitián, published by Ideas Peregrinas, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, c2018.
‘Baraja Fiesta Taurina’ bullfight playing cards published by Heraclio Fournier, Spain, 1975.
Secrets of the Far East playing cards featuring the designs of Violeta Monreal , Spain, c. 1991.
Museo del Prado: Pintores y familias reales / Painters and royal families playing cards.
España imperial / Imperial Spain playing cards with artwork by Serny, published by Heraclio Fournier...
‘Medium Aevum’ (Medieval Life) playing cards designed by Violeta Monreal, published by Heraclio Four...
American Civil War centennial playing cards designed by Teodoro N. Miciano and published by Fournier...
Baraja conmemorativa del 130 aniversario de naipes Heraclio Fournier (1868-1998) Spain, 1998.
Ases de la pintura / Masters of painting playing cards made by Naipes Comas, Spain, c.1990.
Celebrating the costumes, architecture, coins and crafts of Aragon in Spain, with designs by Raúl Ro...