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Published November 10, 2013 Updated August 15, 2023

Animal Tarot

Woodblock and stencil Animal Tarot cards, probably of Swiss origin, 2nd half 18th century.

Switzerland Tarock Add to Collection

Bavarian Animal Tarot

Tarots with French suit signs started appearing in around 1750, notably by Andreas Göbl of Munich. Subjects depicted on the trump cards varied, but during the 18th century there was a preference for pictures of animals or hunting scenes. The number cards were often reduced so that packs consisted of only 54 cards. Towards the end of the century mythological and literary subjects started to appear as well. The Fool was usually depicted as a harlequin, often dancing and playing a musical instrument.

As they have no titles or legends, the images on the trump cards must speak for themselves. Sometimes they appear to depict fables or folk sayings, perhaps even suggesting a moralising interpretation. In trump XIII we see a person being devoured by a crocodile: this is indeed unfortunate! On trump XVII a cat has caught a fish...

woodblock and stencil Animal Tarot cards, probably of Swiss origin, 2nd half 18th century

Above: woodblock and stencil Animal Tarot cards, probably of Swiss origin, 2nd half 18th century. The city of origin seems to be indicated at the bottom of the King of Diamonds (A Mumijswii) but it is a real challenge to decipher. This is the most usual form of Bavarian Tarot, with panels at the top and bottom of the trump cards containing their value in Roman numerals. Lozenges of the Bavarian arms can be seen on the round shields of the King and Queen of Diamonds. Other decorative features on the court cards suggest a derivation from the old Paris pattern. The 'Fool' card in this example has been reassigned as the Queen of Hearts by a previous owner. Images courtesy Frederic C. Detwiller.

See also: Danish Animal Tarok cards by Jean Friedrich Mayer (1752-1783)Jacob Holmblad Animal Tarot c.1835

FURTHER READING

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

Note from FREDERIC DETWILLER - additional background history

These cards were owned by my 3 x great grandfather Jacob Detwiller of Langenbruck Switzerland near Basel. Since the town of Mümliswil is in Canton Solothurn next door to Canton Basel, it seems likely that was where they may have been printed and where they may have been acquired with inscription in French: "Å MUMLISWIL".

Detwillers have lived in Langenbruck since at least the 16th century. The cards were found by my Gr. Grandfather J.J. Detwiller and my grandfather CH Detwiller in a silver cigar(?) case along with some brass dice in his hunting lodge at Neunbrunnen (Nine Springs) when Jacob died 1878. The house is still extant as a Gasthof (see old view: www.gast-hof-spittel.ch/

We also inherited a couple of Swiss-German 17th-18th century hunting swords (and the bronze stag hooks from which they hung in the dining room at the Neunbrunnen lodge. The hunting swords (and perhaps the tarot cards) probably originally belonged to 4 x Gr. Grandfather Heinrich Dettwiler (1760-1814, or his father of same name b.1718) of Langenbruck. The first to settle in Langenbruck was Jacob Dätwyler (old spelling) of Saget near Zofingen in 1582.

woodblock and stencil Animal Tarot cards, probably of Swiss origin, 2nd half 18th century

Thanks again to Marc Flöter for your information in the comment below - F.D.

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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.

1 comments

Marc Flöter's Avatar'

I just checked the inscription on the king of diamonds. I'm pretty sure it reads "A Mumljswil" and I quickly googled that. There is a town in Swizzerland called "Mümliswil"! (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCmliswil-Ramiswil). So these cards are probably of Swiss origin. Would be nice to find out about the maker!


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