While it's been a few years since I went to the Musée Français de la Carte à Jouer, it's about time I shared some photos of the tarot and Lenormand cards that I viewed during my visit. The pièce de résistance is one of the oldest known tarot cards, a 15th-century hand-painted gold-stamped work.
I also share photos of some fascinating antique playing cards. There are many cards in their collection as you'd imagine. Please excuse some of my photos. I shot these in 2015 using a Samsung Note 2, so the photos just don't compare to current smart phones. That, plus the challenge of taking photos through display glass sometimes made it difficult to capture the cards. (They keep it dim in there, which actually made browsing the museum's collection a delight!) I did spend some time adjusting the photos in an app to try to improve them, but there's nothing I could do about light reflection. I hope you still enjoy looking through these!
Tarot de Merlusine #24/300. Charles Pasino, Paris, 1996. Woodcuts and original sketch.
The Chariot. School of Ferrara, Italy, circa 1450. Gold-stamped background painting on paper, prepared gesso.
When I visited in October 2015, I thought this was a Visconti-Sforza Chariot card. I later realized it wasn't from that group. Though, I'd love to see the Visconti-Sforza cards at the Morgan Library & Museum if they exhibit them again.
My photos do not do this card justice. The gold was so reflective! And, the card is quite large too, at about 6.5" in length. I shot at an angle to try to capture the card's thickness.
There are only three known cards from this deck, the other two are housed in the National Museum in Warsaw: the Queen of Cups and Knight of Coins. The Chariot card was purchased by the Musée in 1992. Stuart R. Kaplans' Encyclopedia of Tarot was published in 1978, and he mentions only the two in Warsaw stating, "No trump cards from this deck are known today; therefore it is not certain if these cards belong to a tarot pack," page 108.
Translation of the museum's placard: This tarot card, acquired by the Musée Francais de a Carte à Jouer, belongs to the category of the first beautifully illuminated cards that emerged in aristocratic and cultivated circles of northern Italy in the first half of the 15th century. Along with two other cards, a Queen of Cups and a Knight of Coins owned by the National Museum of Warsaw, it is the vestige of a deck of tarot cards painted by hand on an incised and stamped gold background. The back is silver preparation from Armenia. This is The Chariot which, in the "Tarot de Marseilles", holds the seventh place among the trumps, its representation being inspired by those of the ancient Roman triumphs brought back to honor in the Renaissance, in particular by Petrarch in his famous allegorical poems "I Trionfi".
The composition of this card reveals in the upper part, the female figure of the triumph seated on a canopy throne. Holding a disc in her right hand, supporting a sword in the left hand, she is surrounded by four young women whose eyes and hand positions are somewhat strange. The lower half of the image shows the front of the wheeled chariot pulled by two young horsemen whipping their mounts and riding over a grassy knoll.
The supple, elegant and precious execution which characterizes this brightly colored painting, as well as certain elements of comparison, encourage art historians to recognize it as a work from Ferrara from the 1450s. Reminiscences of late Gothic and a new language of the Renaissance are mixed here.
Lithographic stone for printing ten Grimaud tarot cards. B.P. Grimaud, Paris, c. 1930. Nine cards from L'Ancien Tarot de Marseilles, c. 1930. Color lithograph.
L'Ancien Tarot de Marseilles. Grimaud, Paul Marteau, Paris, c. 1930. Color Lithograph.
The hand-written astrology notes on the cards are so intriguing. I love seeing antique cards with someone's notes written on them. You really get that feeling of someone sitting at their desk long ago, lovingly connecting with their deck. I love Le Fanu's Destroyed Dondorf for this reason. Here's a copy from my collection:
Le Fanu's Destroyed Dondorf. A 2014 reproduction of an antique c.1880 Dondorf that Le Fanu purchased from Budapest and Lauren Forestell printed.
Le Fanu was the wonderful writer of the beloved blog, My Curious Cabinet, where he'd share his musings on his collection of tarot, Lenormand, and passion for the cards.
Back to the museum collection, here's their Dondorf:
"Petit Lenormand" Divination Cards. B. Dondorf, Frankfurt, Germany, 1st half 20th century. Chromolithography.
Translation of placard: Mademoiselle Le Normand (1772-1843) did not create any card game, Le "Petit Lenormand" was born in Germany, first in the form of a board game, the 36 cards of which, once laid out, could also be used for a game of goose. This "Game of Hope" (Das Spiel der Hofnung), published in Nuremberg around 1800, originates from a Germanic tradition which subsequently attributed these cards decorated with simple symbols to the famous clairvoyant. It's one of the most popular cartomancy games today.
"Grand Lenormand" Divination Game. Grimaud, Chartier & Marteau succ., Paris, late 19th century. Chromolithography.
Translation of the museum placard: Anne-Marie Le Normand (1772-1843), the famous clairvoyant, created no card game and left nothing in this area. This is to say that the "Grand jeu de société et pratiques secrétes de Mademoiselle Lenormand" published two years after the death of the "sibylle", in 1845, by the Parisian editor/publisher Breteau and lithographed by Engelmann and Graf, has all the chances to be apocryphal. This set, overloaded with astrological and floral symbols, however, enjoyed lasting success, including abroad, incidentally contributing to the "universal" fame of Mlle Le Normand.
Thirteen Indian "Mogul Ganjifa" Cards. Kashmir, India, early 19th century. Round, hand-painted on ivory, then varnished. Dated back in the era of the Emperor Akbar (1542-1605).
Ganjifa are a type of playing cards used in a card game in India. The antique hand-painted ones I saw at the museum are stunning! I had never seen or heard about this type of playing card. They have a few sets in their collection. The cards are slightly larger than poker-size and the small detail in some of the artwork is incredible!
Sadly, my photos really do not do these beautiful works justice at all. The lighting on the cards above was quite bright and difficult to capture with my phone. The original images were dark, so I adjusted the brightness and contrast in order to view the details better.
Ganjifa Playing Cards. Rajasthan, India, 19th century. Rectangular hand-painted animals.
The two red cards that show tigers with elephant heads are so intriguing. The museum has 14 of these rectangular ganjifa animal playing cards.
"Dasavatara Ganjifa" Playing Cards. Narayan Ramchandra Kelkar, Savantvadi, India, circa 1900. Round, hand-painted on cardboard, then varnished.
Awase, Poets Game. Japan, late 19th century. Painting on silk, on cardboard. The first Japanese assembly games, called Awase, dated 800-1200, when the first great poetic anthology was born. (Click each image to see full photo.)
Tarot de Marseille. Jean-Pierre Payen, Avignon, France, 1713. Woodcut, color stencil.
Tarot de Besançon. J. Jerger, Besançon, France, early 19th century. Woodcut, color stencil.
The so-called Tarot de Besançon is a variant of Tarot de Marseilles, but Juno and Jupiter replace trump II and trump V. It was probably created in Strasbourg in the 18th century.
Della Rocca Tarot. Edoardo Dotti, Milan, 1885. Color lithograph, stencil.
This very romantic interpretation of Tarot de Marseilles is due to the engraver Carlo Della Rocca and to the Milanese merchant Ferdinando Gumppenberg who made the 1st edition around 1840. The model was subsequently copied, as evidenced by this lithograph copy made by Edoardo Dotti, card maker in Milan at the end of the 19th century.
Tarot "égyptien" Grand Etteilla. B.P. Grimaud, Paris, late 19th century. Chromolithography.
Etteilla (Jean Baptiste Alliette le jeune, 1738-1791), according to the museum's notes on this deck, was the first known professional cartomancer. From 1781, he discovered the tarot through Court de Gébelin and began to study "The Book of Thoth" In 1788 he founded a circle of disciples who helped him create a tarot "restored in its original hieroglyphs." The "Égyptien" Tarot of Etteilla is thus the oldest divinatory tarot. It was first published in 1789, then constantly reissued despite some alterations, and is still in print today by Grimaud.
Tarot Maddonni. Silvia Maddoni, Grimaud, J.M. Simon France Cartes, 1981. Offset printing.
Tarot of Gutemberg. Albert Lemant, Tanguy Garric Editions, Bulan, 1990. Intaglio.
Trimmer and other printing tools. B.P. Grimaud, Paris, late 19th century. That is a notebook with gold leaf on top!
I'm going to stop there. That was a fun walk through memory lane. I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of the Museum's magnificent card collection!
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Maree Bento is a collage artist and practitioner of the mystical & healing arts.
She’s a professional tarot reader and veteran deck creator born under a Sagittarius Sun with a Libra Rising & Capricorn Moon conjunct Pallas Athena. She's been stepping up her astrology studies the last few years, after a years-long hobby interest in the subject.
Maree has been a licensed massage therapist for 17 years practicing various holistic modalities for body, mind, and spiritual well-being & connection.
Her background in the healing arts deepened her intuitive abilities and inspires her present approach to tarot, creativity, ritual, and divination.
She loves to travel and enjoys connecting with family, friends, & animals. She lives in Pacific NW U.S.A. with her beloved, David, and their huggable hound, Dante where they hike rain or shine.
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