An 18th century deck of cards – embroidered


The National Library of France has a strange set of playing cards. These are all embroidered!

The game bears the title of Florentine card game with a portrait of Lorraine-Burgundy on brocaded satin and silk.

It dates from 1730-1737.

There are 48 cards measuring 9.2 by 5.7 cm. The 5 of hearts, 9, 10 and king of clubs are missing.

The back of the cards is in satin, on which is printed the same character on a red background.

The edges of this background were then folded over the face of the card and glued. This makes it possible to hide the back of the (embroidered) card while providing additional protection (not to mention that all the backs of the cards must of course be identical!)

The face of the queen of hearts

The right side of the card is covered with white silk. Colored flat silk threads were then couched with a white silk thread to create the designs. Here we have the old technique of the diaper couching, which differs from the Italian shadow stitch in that the couched threads are always horizontal (the Italian shading stitch follows the curves of the patterns – see the explanations of Natalie Dupuis in this article: Histoire de techniques du Point de Boulogne, on this website*). The ancient diaper couching was often geometric (as seen here in the design of the colors – clubs, hearts, diamonds and spades). This technique is best known for laying gold or silver threads (for financial reasons, these precious threads should not be lost on the back of the work, but also for a visual effect). Silk-on-silk work is less frequent.

* This article is in French but you can find the link to the original article in English here

Detail of the game bag of the king of spades

The game is the same as today’s current games: 4 suits (hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades) from Ace to King.

The name of Gio Panichi is embroidered on phylactery under the feet of the knights (servants).

You can see the whole deck here:  Bibliothèque nationale de France

The name Panichi stitched on a phylactery – the embroiderer signature?

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