400-year-old playing cards reveal royal secret
2013-01-03 0:00

By Owen Jarus | MNN.com

A complete set of 52 silver playing cards gilded in gold and dating back 400 years has been discovered.

Call it a card player’s dream. A complete set of 52 silver playing cards gilded in gold and dating back 400 years has been discovered.

Created in Germany around 1616, the cards were engraved by a man named Michael Frömmer, who created at least one other set of silver cards.

According to a story, backed up by a 19th-century brass plate, the cards were at one point owned by a Portuguese princess who fled the country, cards in hand, after Napoleon’s armies invaded in 1807.


Created in Germany around 1616, the cards were engraved by a man named Michael Frömmer, who created at least one other set of silver cards.


At the time they were created in 1616 no standardized cards existed; different parts of Europe had their own card styles. This particular set uses a suit seen in Italy, with swords, coins, batons and cups in values from ace to 10. Each of these suits has three face cards — king, knight (also known as cavalier) and knave. There are no jokers.

In 2010, the playing cards were first put on auction by an anonymous family at Christie’s auction house in New York. Purchased by entrepreneur Selim Zilkha, the cards were recently described by Timothy Schroder, a historian with expertise in gold and silver decorative arts, in his book "Renaissance and Baroque Silver, Mounted Porcelain and Ruby Glass from the Zilkha Collection"(Paul Holberton Publishing, 2012).

"Silver cards were exceptional," Schroder writes. "They were not made for playing with but as works of art for the collector’s cabinet, or Kunstkammer." Today, few survive. "[O]nly five sets of silver cards are known today and of these only one — the Zilkha set — is complete."

On the cards, two of the kings are depicted wearing ancient Roman clothing while one is depicted as a Holy Roman Emperor and another is dressed up as a sultan, with clothing seen in the Middle East. The knights and knaves are depicted in different poses wearing (then-contemporary) Renaissance military or courtly costumes. Each card is about 3.4 inches by 2 inches (8.6 centimeters by 5 centimeters) in size and blank on the back.

Gilding with mercury
Creating the card set would have been a hazardous job. For the gilding, its designers used mercury, a poisonous substance that can potentially kill.

"You ground up gold into kind of a dust, and you mix it with mercury, and you painted that onto the surface where you wished the gilding to appear," Schroder told LiveScience in an interview. The mercury gets burned off in a kiln, a process "that would leave the gold chemically bonded to the silver."

The process is illegal today, he noted, and even in Renaissance times, it was known to be hazardous. "I don’t think they quite understood why it was dangerous, but they did appreciate the dangers of it," Schroder said.

A gift from a princess?

The owner of the 17th-century card set is not known. However, according to a tradition detailed by the anonymous family who sold it, in the early 19thcentury, the cards were in the possession of Infanta Carlota Joaquina, a daughter of a Spanish king, who was married to a prince in Portugal. She fled to Brazil when Napoleon’s armies marched into Iberia in 1807, apparently taking the silver cards with her.

[...]

Read the full article at: mnn.com

For a gallery of the cards, lick here.









Related Articles
Aeclectic Tarot
Florida man murdered for his Magic: The Gathering cards
19th Century Postcards - Historic visions of the future
Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot


Latest News from our Front Page

Netanyahu ‘spat in our face,’ White House officials said to say
2015-01-23 22:28
The White House’s outrage over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to speak before Congress in March — a move he failed to coordinate with the administration — began to seep through the diplomatic cracks on Friday, with officials telling Haaretz the Israeli leader had “spat” in President Barack Obama’s face. “We thought we’ve seen everything,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed senior ...
The Return of the Protected Jewish Minority in Europe
2015-01-23 2:53
Contrary to the standard narratives of Jewish ‘history,’ a prominent feature of the historical presence of Jews in Europe has been their protected status. The common context for this status was a symbiotic relationship between the Jewish minority and exploitative or tyrannical elites. As agents of the feared elite, as foreigners, as exploiters in their own right, and with interests ...
Truth Revealed: McCain’s ‘Moderate Rebels’ in Syria ARE ISIS
2015-01-23 1:50
Poor John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Washington’s real first couple. They only want to arm the ‘moderate opposition’ in Syria. Three years on, how come their master plan isn’t working, while ISIS has grown so strong? Despite what media lauded as, “the largest demonstration in France’s history – bigger than liberation at the end of WWII!” (can you rightly compare the ...
European 'No-Go' Zones: Fact or Fiction?
2015-01-22 0:37
Comment: This is an interesting article about Muslim no-go Zones in Europe. However, keep in mind that the focus in this piece is not addressing the root of the problem, but a symptom of the problem. Yes, there is an issue with large Islamic colonies in Europe today, but the article mentions nothing about who has changed the immigration laws ...
A Radical Traditionalist Critique of the Anti-Islam Movement
2015-01-22 0:20
The terrorist attack against the staff at the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris shook an entire continent. In a European climate in which protests against the perceived Islamization of our civilizational sphere becomes ever more widespread, showing in increased electoral success for moderate nationalist parties, as well as in expressions of mass public dissent, the recent resurgence of violent Islamic ...
More News »