Dialogue of cultures at the card table. Study of social and cultural history of playing cards in Asia, Europe and Russia | Статья в журнале «Молодой ученый»

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Рубрика: История

Опубликовано в Молодой учёный №7 (141) февраль 2017 г.

Дата публикации: 15.02.2017

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Кожухарь А. И. Dialogue of cultures at the card table. Study of social and cultural history of playing cards in Asia, Europe and Russia // Молодой ученый. — 2017. — №7. — С. 386-396. — URL https://moluch.ru/archive/141/39566/ (дата обращения: 21.10.2018).



In the process of their historical development in the East and then in Europe, and in Russia playing cards gained a number of important social and cultural functions. They reflected social structure, served as a channel of communication, as an object of decorative art, and as a marker of marginal parts of society. Also there was an economic function related to state monopolization of playing cards production and sales. These functions transformed with the transition of playing cards from one area of existence to another, reflecting the evolution of society and culture.

Keywords: playing cards, Asia, Europe, Russia, social structure, communications, arts and crafts, state monopoly, marginal elements of society

Introduction. Since their appearance in the late 10th century in the Far East, playing cards took a long way through space and time, changing accordingly to new circumstances. Getting into the different environment, while travelling from China to India, from the Middle East to Europe, and then to Russia and Siberia, they each time accepted a new form, reflecting the structure and features of different societies and cultures. Analyzing this whole way of changing, we can distinguish how several important functions of playing cards were performed. The chief sources for the examples, informative enough to support the analysis, are the museum and library collections from all over the world.

Reflection of social structure by playing cards. The composition of playing cards deck always reflected the specificity of hierarchy of that society where the particular type of deck was invented or adapted from another culture. Sometimes borrowed foreign versions were slightly changed, and sometimes they were completely transformed. For Chinese and Japanese early versions of playing cards this function is under discussion. Partially they seem to be related to social structure, but it could not be told for sure, if that relation appeared initially or developed later. Also, it is difficult to date correctly the appearance of those card games themselves. However, in China a board game still exists, which is named Xiangqi and goes back, probably, to Indian Chaturanga (ancestor of chess), and this Xiangqi game has card version as well. Suits in this deck differ by colors, and cards rated by equivalence to bureaucratic and military ranks [15]. Thus, social hierarchy is reflected by Xiangqi deck. One more type of early Oriental playing cards developed from old Japanese traditional aristocratic time-spending and became known as Uta-garuta, or “Song Cards” [25, c. 78–113]. Cards of this deck bear miniatures of scenes from famous poems and quotes from them. Players should show their knowledge in classic poetry and match the fragments in pairs. So far, this is not just a game, but also an intellectual riddle for educated people, which could as well serve for learning. Initially, for this game pearly shell valves or wooden pieces were used, but after the Portuguese brought to Japan European playing cards in the 16th century, paper decks came into use also for local traditional games, and they are sill produced. In the Library of Congress there is a photo of 1925 depicting Japanese girls playing Uta-garuta (Library of Congress, Inv. LC-B2–3578–4 [P&P]), and there is a similar photo in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Inv. 2002.17705). Both photos shows, that learning this game was a part of home education for girls from noble families. At the same time, some pictures reflects, that women of lower social position preferred another type of playing cards developed later, so-called “Flower Cards” — for example, “Prostitutes Playing Flower Cards” (1913) (The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Inv. J00174). These cards appeared in Japan under the name Hanafuda, and then they were brought to Korea, where became known as Hwatu. They got name “Flower Cards”, because 12 suits in the deck, having 4 cards in each, correspond with calendar and have plants as their symbols [Ibid, c. 114–139]. However, without special research of this aspect, it could only be supposed that preference of any social group for a certain type of game or kind of deck was a steady trend. But that allows discussing the possibility of reflecting social structure not only through the composition of deck, but also by the choice of game type.

Function of reflecting social structure more clearly appeared during the Middle-Eastern period of playing cards evolution. It seems, that cards came to this region from China (where to the 12th century they were already in common use [27, c. 641]), following geopolitical transformations of the 11–13th centuries, particularly the Seljuks’s conquests and later the Mongolian Empire expansion [9, p. 42]. As a result of those changes the whole Asia became cross-linked with active intercultural contacts. Probably, in this time playing cards were brought from the Far East to Persia and India. And in the 13–14th centuries, local card game appeared, spreading over India as Ganjifa and over many other Arabic countries under similar names adapted to their native languages [Ibid]. Though, continuity between Chinese cards and Ganjifa is not obvious and needs proofs, yet there seems to be no other possible source, as consistent in its development as Chinese playing cards were, and that allows supposing, that they could be the basis for further complication and structuring of card game. There are several good examples of Ganjifa in museum collections, such as two decks of the mid-19th century in the Victoria & Albert Museum (Victoria & Albert Museum, Inv. 01316&A/(IS), Inv. IM.78:1,2–1938), as well as published description of Ganjifa decks from the British Museum [16, p. 331–333]. Structure of this deck is quite specific and has some variations with different number of suits, though number of cards in each suit is always the same — 10 pip cards and 2 face cards: the King and the Vizier [4, p. 33–38]. Thus, so-called “court cards” per se for the very first time appeared in Ganjifa. Suits in Ganjifa differ by colors, signs and figures depicted on cards [27, c. 641], as well as by their symbolical meaning. For example, in the variant of deck with 10 suits each of them is related to one of the avatars of Indian god Vishnou [4, p. 36]. Image of Vishnou himself in his various forms appears on the eldest card in each suit, thus, it could be considered as an equivalent to the King in modern European decks. There are several cards from this version of deck of the 18th century in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Inv. 26.154). But in another version of Ganjifa there are only 8 suits which reflect different groups of Indian society — nobles, slaves, warriors, etc. [Ibid, p. 50], and among the suit symbols signs also used in some other types of card game, such as swords and coins, can be found. Previously mentioned decks from the Victoria & Albert Museum are of this kind. In the context of discussing the function of social structure reflection, this version of Ganjifa is the most important, because its appearance is the first confident step in future development of this function, according to the circumstances and conditions, into which playing cards continued their evolution in different countries and cultures, changing and adapting to them.

Editors of the Brockhaus and Efron Dictionary built quite entangled genealogy of playing cards, admitting their invention in China, but denying possible connection with Ganjifa. However, referencing the Chronicle of 1379 as the first documental evidence about cards in Europe, they quote, that in Viterbo a game appeared, which came from the land of Saracens and was called by them Naib [27, c. 641]. This is one more playing cards deck from the Middle East which differs from Ganjifa by consisting of only 4 suits — coins, cups, swords and polo-sticks. In each of the suits there are also 10 pip cards and 3, not 2, face cards — the King and the two Naibs (literally “Viceroy”), probably derived from the Vizier of Ganjifa deck. This structure could be considered as partial succession and further development of the deck, which continued after the borrowing of playing cards from Asia to Europe. The Naibs turned into the Knight and the Knave in Romance type of playing cards, and into the Over Knave and the Under Knave (by the place of a suit mark in the upper or lower portion of the card) in the East-European (German) type [19]. The name of the game itself was also borrowed, and from it general term for playing cards was derived in Romance languages [9, p. 42]. But face cards or court cards in this deck have no faces, actually, because it was forbidden by Islamic tradition to depict people, thus, on the court cards in Naib there are just ornamentations. All the characters of the court are male, and the absence of female cards, probably, also depends on traditions and reflects the connection between structure of the deck and specificity of Islamic culture and social hierarchy, where woman has not very active role. Naib also became known as Mamluk cards. In the Topkapi Palace Museum there is a deck of that type of the late 15th — early 16th centuries, which was accurately studied by researchers [8; 13]. In Europe Mamluk deck became a basis for Romance system of suits, consisting also of coins, sticks (or clubs), swords and cups, and it is widely believed, that these suits, as in one of Ganjifa versions, symbolized social groups — cups for clergy, coins for merchants, swords for knighthood and nobility, and clubs for common people.

The Europeans made some changes in the structure of Mamluk deck. The most important among them is adding of trumps or triumphs — trionfi, as they were initially called in Italian, but to the early 16th century the term “Tarocchi” came into common use as a name not only for trumps part, but for the whole deck [9, p. 44]. Tarocchi, or Tarot, or some other variants of this name still exist to define the Romance type of playing cards. At the same time, possible prototypes or, at least, analogs of European trumps were additional cards in old Chinese “money” deck [1], or similar pieces in Mahjong [12], which have special functions in game, and that is again an evidence of possible structural continuity of playing cards in every step of their evolution. But often origin of trumps is traced back to the deck allegedly made for Charles VI of France (1368–1422), who became known as the Mad, because he was mad literally, suffering from a mental disorder. There are documental evidences, proving that a painter Jacquemin Griugonueur in 1392 or 1393 got some money for making three colored and gilded card decks for king’s time-spending. That was a reason why Griugonueur is sometimes mentioned as an inventor of these cards, but it does not follow from the documents [14]. Though it could not be told for sure, how exactly do those cards look like, in the National Library of France there is a deck, known as Tarot of Charles VI (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Inv. RESERVE KH-24-BOITE ECU). However, curators of the collection admit that history of these cards is partially mythologized, and the truth is, that the deck is of the 15th century and has the North-Italian origin. Yet, it is important, that most of the extant cards in this deck are trumps, and that allows concluding, that in that time in the Southern regions of Europe the first decks of this kind appeared, which later developed as Tarot. Composition and exact number of trumps in Tarot repeatedly changed with time; so far it is difficult to reconstruct in details their development. S. Culin mentioned the most traditional for later Tarot decks version of 78 cards with 22 trumps as Venetian [5, p. 931]. In “lesser” Bolognese deck there were only 62 cards [19]. Florentine variant, expanded with more complete range of virtues, additional cards for elements, Zodiac and some more changes, had 97 cards in the deck and 41 trumps among them. This last version became a basis for Minchiate game. There are some examples of this deck in museum collections (British Museum, Inv. 1896,0501.36; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Inv. 15641; Society of Antiquaries of London, Inv. LDSAL 137), and its structure is described in previously mentioned catalogue.

It seems that initially trumps were in parallel use with borrowed Naib cards, but a bit later were combined into one Tarot deck, which was followed by further changes in structure and symbolical meaning of it. Thus, European and Asian versions (if they could be called those) of playing cards origin do not contradict one another, but they are two large branches in deck evolution. There are two evidences of initial independent existence of trumps as alternative deck to Naib, only later being combined together. The first one is that European deck without trumps, derived directly from Naib, continued to be in use and with time turned into modern playing cards. The second evidence is that trumps partially repeat social hierarchy of court cards. So called Tarocchi of Mantegna is an example of early independent deck, from which trumps of later versions of Tarot formed. It consisted of 50 cards depicting people of different social groups, astronomical objects, virtues, sciences and arts, ancient gods and muses, and other characters. Pip and court cards were absent. There is partially preserved Mantegna deck of 1530–1561 in the British Museum collection (British Museum, Inv. 1895,0617.103-.150, Inv. 1982,0515.26, Inv. 1947,1111.1). Problem of preserving is important for studying playing cards history, specifically, concerning those decks which have not so many analogs or none of them at all. In such cases it is difficult to analyze composition of the deck, because it is always possible, that some unknown cards, which were there originally, are now lost. But anyway, there is a reason to believe, that allegorical figures of trumps symbolized structure of the whole Universe, as well as court cards depicted social hierarchy. Thus, it became a complete picture of the world order, in which upper than social ranks, as permanent honored triumphs, there are natural powers (elements, astronomical objects), moral laws (virtues) and supernatural beings (the Death, the Devil, different geniuses and gods) [9, p. 44–45].

Combinations of trumps in Mantegna and Minchiate decks partially match, and there are several cards also included in later versions of Tarot, but many of them changed their names and pictures, or disappeared from the deck at all. During the next centuries some of Tarot variants lost their allegorical symbolism and became just pictures of everyday life, like hunting, dining or theatrical performance. Nowadays structure of Tarot deck usually consists of 22 trumps and 56 cards of 4 suits — clubs, swords, cups, and coins. Thus, it is closer to the old Venetian version. Each suit includes 10 pip cards and 4 face cards: the King, the Queen, the Knight, and the Knave. Male characters were directly taken from Naib, but female face card initially appeared in Italian decks. In the 15th century French, Italian, and German card fabricants experimented with combinations of court cards, including the Queen instead of the King or the Knight. As a result, in French system combination of the King, the Queen, and the Knave became standard [Ibid, p. 43]. In Romance system they kept 4 court cards, and German deck remained the closest to Naib with the Knig and the two Knaves or Marshals — female card did not appear there. But it seems that in some early decks the number of court cards could increase to 6 to counterbalance all male characters with female ones [Ibid, p. 44]. For example, in so called, after the family of owners, Visconti Tarot of 1428–1447, probably painted by Italian artist Bonifacio Bembo (Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Inv. ITA 109), there is an incomplete and not standard combination of trumps, pip cards looking very similarly to Naib style and clearly inspired by it, and court cards, including not just the Queens, but also the female Riders and Servants as pairs to the Knights and the Knaves. Appearance of such cards could be caused by differences in social position and activity of women in Asia and in Europe. This variant of Tarot did not survived, but in some later decks the Knaves of all or only of red suits were presented as female characters, thus, playing cards again reflected specificity of the society, where they continued their evolution.

It seems, that playing cards came to Russia couple of centuries later than to Europe, and it could not be told for sure, which way of borrowing was initial. There are evidences that the first mentioning of playing cards in Muscovy was in 1586, in a document of the first French expedition by the Northeast Passage, as well as there is a suppose that playing cards could be brought to Russia by English or Dutch merchants [26, c. 196]. But the old Russian card nomenclature [22] borrowed the East-European terms, and that shows that playing cards could also came nearly at the same time through Poland and Ukraine. On the other hand, later two types of card deck and two variants of nomenclature reflected social differentiation — high society preferred French deck and terms, while common people often used the East-European deck, and terms as well. In the 17th century playing cards, transported by European merchants to the Russian port of Arkhangelsk, then were sold all over the country, and the largest consignments of them were sent to Siberia [26, c. 197], where playing cards came to immediately after their appearance in central Russian regions. According to customs documents, playing cards were brought to Tomsk in 1620s [Ibid, c. 196]. They remained an imported good until the time of Peter I, who ordered to establish the first Russian card manufactories. Imported playing cards were quite expensive, because paper is perishable, being kept in wet conditions, and requires special measures when transporting [21, c. 34]. Initially playing cards in Russia were not as popular as traditional common game of dice or as chess which high society was fond of [26, c. 197]. But very soon card gambling spread over the whole country, even small villages, and most of all — cities. And to the second half of the 19th century popularity of playing cards was so high that, as local newspapers wrote, in public assembles library desks were replaced by card tables and the game itself became a cult [Ibid, c. 199]. When European fashions came to Russia in the 18th century, they brought in an interest in commercial games, built not just on hazard and fortune, but on strategic calculations, as well as in card tricks. The highest popularity of commercial games was at the courts of Russian Empresses, while common people continued to play hazard variants of game. As a result, by Empress Elizabeth in 1761 card games were officially separated into permitted commercial and forbidden hazard ones. And even commercial games were permitted only in houses of nobles, for time-spending, and not for very high stakes [23, c. 731]. However, law limitations could not restrain nobility’s passion for game, which increased even more at the court of Catherine II, when not only money, but lands and serfs became stakes for the game. This fact was a topic for several satirical drawings, for example, for the picture by G. Doré, published in the album “History of the Saint Russia” [7], in which the artist showed Russian feudal lords making stakes with their servants packed in bundles. And yet, this is one more episode of reflecting social differentiation by choosing the type of game.

In the 20th century gradually playing cards lost their connection with social structure. In the beginning of the century there were several attempts of reinterpretation of cards symbolism according to social changes. For example, in Soviet Russia during the period of the New Economic Policy they tried to create “workers and peasants” decks [17], but such innovations quickly disappeared. Nowadays some aspects of social structure still are reflected by playing cards pictures, though composition of deck does not change under their influences. Thus, function of social reflection could be considered as reducing. At the same time, its development step by step through the centuries in different countries could be traced, and its historical and cultural importance allows using it as one of the variants of symbolical self-identification of society in a certain region of a certain age.

Influence of playing cards on arts and crafts. In China, later in Japan and in the Middle East producing of playing cards already was a kind of art and craft. But since cards came to Europe, their influence in certain way on other arts and crafts grew more and more. For example, we can track it in porcelain manufacturing. In the 18th century European manufacturers began to produce items made of porcelain specifically for card games, such as boxes for l’Hombre counters (German, c. 1760, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Inv. 1974.28.134 a-kkkk) or for cards (English, 1891–1902, Powerhouse Museum, Inv. A2778–230). In both cases box covers are decorated with an image of the King of hearts, but the first one manufactured in Meissen bears images of cards from French deck printed for German market in the mid-17th century with the original Saxon tax stamp for imported decks. The second box bears image of a card from English standard deck, which was in use in that historical period. Nice English set of counter trays made between 1765 and 1790 and ornamented inside with cards and money is one more illustration of gambling atmosphere fulfilled with many specifically created items and details as an important aspect of everyday practices (Manchester Art Gallery, Inv. 1958.646/3). Playing cards motifs were used for decoration of porcelain figurines of the mid to late 18th century, like Commedia dell’Arte characters (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Inv. 1988.764, Inv. 2006.1012, Inv. 55.409, Inv. 2006.980, Inv. 58.1402, Inv. 30.315; Rijksmuseum, Inv. BK-17486). Images of cards and signs of card suits became also popular for ornamentations of dining and tea sets, for which there are many evidences in museum collections. For example, in the State Hermitage there are two sets of European porcelain dishes manufactured in the second half of the 19th century, decorated with court cards from English deck. Dishes of one set have rectangular shape and look like playing cards themselves (The State Hermitage Museum, Inv. ЭРФ-4801 — ЭРФ-4804). Dishes from the second set shaped as card suits (The State Hermitage Museum, Inv. ЭРФ-4781 — ЭРФ-4784). There is also a larger Russian rectangular dish in the same collection made in 1880s, which bears three cards from the “Atlasnaya” (“Satin”) deck by Adolf Charlemagne (The State Hermitage Museum, Inv. ЭРФ-4800).

Mentioning A. Charlemagne and his deck, which became in Russia as accustomed and traditional as in the Western world English deck was in common use, it is necessary to make a little step aside and look at the history of Russian playing cards design appearance per se. Creation of the “Satin” deck in the mid-19th century is tightly connected to evolution of Russian playing cards industry. Initially in Russia they used imported cards or made their own pictures, but repeating simplified European patterns. Though they’ve performed some attempts to improve the look of Russian playing cards, changes were minor. Yet, emancipation of Russians serfs influenced on many sectors of industry and on playing cards fabrication as well. Instead of serfs at the Imperial Card Factory wage laborers began to work, and new machines for printing came into use. These innovations had to be followed by changes in cards design, to bring it into line with modern technologies. To create new look of Russian playing cards two academic painters, Adolf Charlemagne and Alexander Beideman, were invited. From the range of drafts and sketches made by them, which now are in collections of the State Russian Museum and the Peterhof Museum, drawings of A. Charlemagne were chosen for printing and became known as the “Satin” deck [21, c. 35–36]. A. Charlemagne, who was from Russified French family, had rich experience of making illustrations. This helped him to draw pictures nearly ideal for small size printing with only four colors, never losing their brightness at the same time. As a basement, he took already known in Russia since the 17th century pictures from the early French deck. He redesigned them, somehow making them more suitable for new technology of printing. Development of his drawings step by step is shown in publication [Ibid, c. 36, 38]. Also, there is a complete deck of the mid-19th century in the British Museum (British Museum, Inv. 1866,1110.54–105). This deck has one interesting detail — the Knave of hearts bears a shield with heraldic imperial eagle upon it, which in Soviet adaptation was replaced with hatching. The name “Satin” originally meant not the deck itself, but the type of printing on high quality paper coated with talcum powder, which was different from the rough, uneven, and definitely uncomfortable to use materials for earlier decks. Of course, that made the “Satin” deck more expensive. But when they began to print all cards with this technology, the name was reserved only for the deck with pictures by A. Charlemagne. With some corrections they were also kept in Soviet playing cards industry [Ibid, c. 38–39].

Returning to talk about the accessories ornamented with playing cards patterns, it should be mentioned that there are quite unusual items among them, such as English fan of 1793 (British Museum, Inv. 1891,0713.121). Along the edge of it there is a scattering of playing cards, and the main space is taken by the description of “Casino” (or “Cassino”) game, which came to English culture from Italy in the late 18th century. One more item of the same kind is a leaf for fan of 1810 with instructions for card tricks performing (British Museum, Inv. 1891,0713.539). Also, they made fans decorated with just cards-themed ornamentations, for example, the fan of 1750s (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Inv. 43.2081). Playing cards symbolism came into jewelry in the 18th — 19th centuries, generating quite unusual things, like Russian pendant in the shape of an Easter egg of ca. 1900 with signs of card suits upon it [3]. And, of course, jewelers were involved into gambling accessories manufacturing, like, for example, counters made of amber, ivory, mother-of-pearl, and other materials (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Inv. 02.209a-e, Inv. 2001.238.1–4, Inv. 1972.432–459).

Gambling stimulated producing new types of furniture, as well. Card tables became very popular interior element, which is reflected in museum collections (for example, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Inv. 1951–121–1, Inv. 1935–10–66; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Inv. 1983.185.3). Sometimes, tables were also decorated with playing cards ornamentations, like table from the Royal Collation, which has corners inlaid with four Aces, and covered with cloth embroidered with an image of cards dealt for three persons (Royal Collection, Inv. 26792). Specific niche in furniture manufacturing was taken by multifunctional tables. For example, table made by Abraham Roentgen in 1750–60s (Victoria & Albert Museum, Inv. W.2:1,2–1966). When top part is opened and drawers are moved up this table could serve as a writing desk. When it is unfolded another way, it became a game table. There is a similar table made by Abraham’s son David Roentgen in 1780–83. It could serve as a writing desk also, but its several surfaces could be “leafed through” like pages of a book, providing different covers for card, chess, or backgammon gambling (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Inv. 2007.42.1a–e,.2a–o,aa–nn). When folded, both tables can be used as consoles. Description of the last table says that in the 18th century, with growing popularity of gambling, special furniture for this purpose appeared in the houses of high and middle classes. But in narrow rooms of that period space was limited, and owners preferred multifunctional items. However, if the size of the house allowed, they allocated separate rooms specially for gambling. In the Metropolitan Museum so called “Bordeaux Room” of ca. 1875 for private dinners and gambling is reconstructed (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Inv. 43.158.1), and its interior is commented in the Museum’s publication. Concerning special gambling furniture it says: “Although the size of the table, or table à jouer, brought players into close proximity, the legs as well as the rounded corners of the playing surface (designed to support candlesticks) limited and controlled this proximity, protecting each player’s hand and preventing the possibility of cheating” [11, p. 100]. Also, in the room there is an unusual chair, which “was designed specifically for gaming sessions and was produced in a variety of different models depending on the sitter’s gender” [Ibid]. This chair was appointed for a person, whose function was to prevent cheating: “Straddling it backward, he could rest his arms on the top of the rail of the chair and watch the game unfold” [Ibid]. By the way, interesting social aspect of gambling is mentioned there: “A true nobleman never gambled purely for the purpose of winning, but to show his indifference to and independence from money as a commodity. Cheating revealed a person’s social inferiority by indicating an immoderate attachment to financial attainment” [Ibid]. Interesting type of gambling accessories, which was in use, at least, since the 18th century, is playing card press [2]. Purpose of such presses was to keep unpacked deck. But in the East they used much more simple things for that; there is an Asian case for deck of the 19th — 20th centuries in the British Museum, made of just two pieces of wood tightened with string (British Museum, Inv. As1972,Q.2765.ab-ac).

In the 19th century they even printed miniature playing cards for dollhouses (Philadelphia Museum of Art, Inv. 2001–103–1(269)). Also playing cards were sometimes used for handmade decorations. In Boston Museum of Fine Arts, there is a needle-case, serving as a good early example of such domestic use of threadbare playing cards, of which the sides of this case are made (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Inv. 54.1347). It is American and dated to 1780, yet, according to Brockhaus and Efron Dictionary, in the United States the first playing cards factory was found in 1880 [27, c. 642], so for making this needle-case an imported deck was used. Thus, influence of playing cards on arts and crafts changed cultural space in general and some aspects of everyday life specifically, not only connected with gambling itself, but others like crockery and jewelry. New direction in fashion was created, new use for traditional materials found, new types of domestic items performed, having in each region its own features.

Communicative function of playing cards. Using playing cards or their symbols for communicative purposes should be considered in several aspects, according to the types of translated information: political propaganda, social communications, and education. Main trends of political propagandistic use for playing cards formed in the 18th century in Europe. Specific feature of French decks was that face cards or court cards had personal names related to some historical or legendary characters. L. F. Garin mentions the range of names [19], shown in the Pl. 1.

Table 1

French Version of Court Cards to Historical and Legendary Characters Correspondence

Court card

Historical or legendary character

King of spades

David

King of clubs

Alexander the Great

King of diamonds

Julius Caesar

King of hearts

Charlemagne (Charles the Great)

Queen of spades

Athena Pallas

Queen of clubs

Argine

Queen of diamonds

Rachel

Queen of hearts

Judith

Knave of spades

Hogier, the Dane

Knave of clubs

Lancelot

Knave of diamonds

Hector

Knave of hearts

La Hire

He also says that this type of cards existed until the second half of the 19th century. In some museum collections there are examples of these “named” cards (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Inv. 2002.586; British Museum, Inv. 1896,0501.576.1‑10). M. K. Greer mentions several variations in this system, and also gives the equivalents for the Romance type of deck [9, p. 46–47]. E. Grigorenko, repeating the list, notes that calling court cards by names was usual not only in Europe, but also in Russia [21, c. 37–38], which allows looking from a different point of view at some artistic images. For example, in L. Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” there is a description of regimental commander who was nicknamed “the King of hearts” [24, c. 142]. There is no interpretation of this nickname, but according to the mentioned system the King of hearts is Charles the Great, which could be ironical or flattering epithet for a military man. But that is a little step aside, and, returning to the topic, it should be said, that these parallels between court cards and depicted characters changed with time. In particular, L. F. Garin mentions, that after the French Revolution republican government entrusted famous painter Jacques-Lois David the creation of new pictures for playing cards. Instead of the Kings he depicted geniuses of war, trade, peace and art; the Queens he replaced with female personifications of freedoms of religion, press, marriage and profession; and instead of the Knaves he put allegorical figures of equality of states, rights, duties and nations. In some time, playing cards fabricants also have contributed to that, replacing the Kings with philosophers and writers, the Queens with virtues, and the Knaves with famous republicans [19]. There were different versions of such decks, and this trend was also reflected by other arts and crafts, for example by pottery painting. In collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston there is a decorative plate of 1795, judging by the date, dedicated to the beginning of the French Directory (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Inv. 2006.1058). Its border is ornamented by a scattering of playing cards of similar “revolutionary” type. This is an example of not just “propagandistic” pottery of the 18th century, but also of expressing social structure transformations through playing cards symbolism. Instead of traditional court in this decoration there are again some historical characters and allegorical figures of revolutionary ideals, like freedom, equality, justice and others, at the same time, bearing card suits and mixed with usual pip cards. It is remarkable that some symbolical details of the images, first of all, the Aces, specifically, the Ace of hearts, which looks similarly to the Eye of Providence, could be interpreted like Masonic iconography. Characters of this deck and their attributes are shown in the Pl. 2.

Table 2

Symbolism of the “Revolutionary” Deck from the French Plate Decoration (1795)

Court card

Historical character or allegorical figure

Attribute

King of spades

Brutus

Scroll

King of clubs

Lycurgus

Scroll

King of diamonds

Gracchus

Scroll and shovel

King of hearts

The name cannot be read because of the damage

Scroll

Queen of spades

Equality

Masonic square

Queen of clubs

Justice

Scales

Queen of diamonds

Humanity

Horn of plenty

Queen of hearts

Freedom

Phrygian cap

Knave of spades

Force

Lion

Knave of clubs

Courage

Rooster

Knave of diamonds

Unity

Fasces

Knave of hearts

Hope

Anchor

It seems like there is no real absolute analog of this deck, but there are some more of less similar versions with the same idea, yet with different associations of court cards with characters and allegories. For example, in the National Library of France there is a brochure of 1793 with the images of such deck (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Inv. RESERVE FOL-QB-201 (134)). There is also the same brochure in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the catalogue entry names a possible artist — Jacques Coissieux. Judging by the inscriptions, this deck is very similar to that, which L. F. Garin attributed to Jacques-Lois David, and indeed it is marked with line “Dessiné par David”. However, again catalogue entry of the Victoria & Albert Museum says, that it is only old tradition, on which we cannot rely, to credit this pictures as created by Jacques-Lois David, but probably they were drawn by Jacques Coissieux (Victoria & Albert Museum, Inv. E.409–2005). It is difficult to say, did the authors of both decks mean something, when attributing one character or another to one or another court card — their choice could be either random, or symbolically conditioned. To compare with the variant from the painted plate, correspondences from the deck in the brochure are also shown in the Pl. 3. There are no attributes, because each character bears several of them, sometimes repeatedly from card to card. Instead, in a separate column there are mottos inscribed on each card additionally to the names of the characters.

Table 3

Symbolism of the “Revolutionary” Deck from the Propagandistic Brochure (1793)

Court Card

Allegorical figure

Motto

King of spades

Genius of art

Taste

King of clubs

Genius of peace

Prosperity

King of diamonds

Genius of trade

Wealth

King of hearts

Genius of war

Force

Queen of spades

Freedom of press

Enlightenment

Queen of clubs

Freedom of marriage

Chastity

Queen of diamonds

Freedom of profession

Industry

Queen of hearts

Freedom of religion

Fraternity

Knave of spades

Equality of rights

Justice

Knave of clubs

Equality of states

Power

Knave of diamonds

Equality of duties

Security

Knave of hearts

Equality of nations

Courage

In the next centuries there were several attempts to modernize images of playing cards, and on the court cards rulers and politicians of new age, such as Napoleon, Emperor Wilhelm, and many others, appeared. Thus, playing cards became connected with political games, and deck structure in Modern Europe reflected not only social hierarchy, but also political transformations in society. Often playing cards served for satiric messages. For example, in the British Museum there are decks with political (Spain, ca. 1872) and social (England, ca. 1720) satirical pictures (British Museum, Inv. 1896,0501.866, Inv. 1879,0510.36–87). It was England, where more often than wherever else playing cards served for political satire [27, c. 642]. Some of suck decks were related to Russian political problems. In the State Museum of Political History of Russia there is a satirical “Constitutional” deck, printed in the United States in 1909, in which Nicholas II depicted as the Joker with an inscription “Imperial clown”, and as court cards there are politicians like John of Kronstadt, P. Stolypin, K. Pobedonostsev etc. with similarly scandal proclamations (The State Museum of Political History of Russia, Inv. Ф.I-8601/1–15). Sometimes the idea of using playing cards symbolism for the purposes of satire or political propaganda passed to related types of printed products. For example, the first King of Belgium Leopold was depicted as the King of hearts on a postcard dated to the very beginning of his reign (Rijksmuseum, Inv. RP-P-OB-88.409). Circumstances of his election are well known, and the term “hartenkoning” could be understood as a king of hearts literally, which means support of the certain part of society. The inscription on the postcard is “Un roi de Cartes au milieu d'un jeu de Piques”, which also opens possibilities for some guesses and speculations, as well as the sign of heart suit depicted upside down, making it similar to spade suit. So far, king is surrounded by his opponents, but he is trying to be one from their party. “Piques” could mean not only suit of spades, but also literally lances, and that is an indication of military or revolutionary environment. And even more noticeable detail is that the King of hearts is depicted here very much like in the old French decks, where this court card bore a name of Charles the Great. Did the painter mean those parallels, is not quite clear, yet it seems that using of this character in such context was popular and easily understandable by viewers. At the same time, the fact of visual changes in playing cards images per se is not connected with political activity directly — there is a range of decks, which bore just scenes of nature or everyday life, like an English deck of 1670–80s (British Museum, Inv. 1982,U.4628).

Of course, playing cards industry has a long and direct relationship with printing development both in the East and in Europe, as evidenced by researchers [16, p. 24–28; 25, c. 78–86] and by preserved items in the museum collections, like boards for playing cards printing — for example, of the 16–17th centuries French or Spanish origin for the deck with Romance suits (Musée national de la Renaissance, Inv. ECL13451, Inv. ECL13452). This is a large topic for a separate discussion, however, in the frame of talk about communicative function of playing cards, it is necessary to mention some types of printed products related to communications and initially not connected with playing cards industry, but in the 18th — early 20th centuries subjected to its influence. In that period playing cards symbolism came to advertising and was used in newspapers — a good example is the alcohol advertising of Russian entrepreneurs the Shustovs, entitled “The Main Shustov’s Trump” and included images of the four Aces [18]. Also, playing cards pictures continued to be used in postcards decorations. In the British Museum there are a couple of such postcards — one of them is clearly designed for some personal message (British Museum, Inv. 1896,0501.1608), and the other is looking like the Ace of hearts bearing the inscription “with love and best wishes” (British Museum, Inv. 1896,0501.1607). They a not dated precisely, but definitely they are before 1896, or maybe even earlier. The evidence for the earlier dating is that in the State Archive of the Russian Federation there are Grand Prince Alexander Pavlovich’s personal notes of 1793 inscribed on sheets of paper with cards symbols or just on playing cards [20]. One of those notes is definitely written on a piece of court card, which is, obviously, the Queen of diamonds from the French deck with names — part of the name Rachel can be read and the image is the same which later was used by A. Charlemagne as a motif for the “Satin” deck. Perhaps, this was a manner of sending personal notes on the playing cards, and indeed there are more analogs. There’s a remarkable example of using backs of playing cards for writing messages — the money order for £360 dated February 1785 (Folger Shakespeare Library, Inv. PN2598.G3 F5 Ex.ill. copy 4 v.9 after p. 112). And again it is of the late 18th century, as well as the private notes from the Russian State Archive. So, it might be a common practice to use playing cards this way in that time. Playing cards with musical notations could be considered in both communicative and educative aspects. Example of such deck with German suits and notations on the backs of the cards was published in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Blog: “The backs of the cards are inscribed with musical notation and lyrics, a feature unique to this deck. Each suit is a different voice: Acorns, bass; Leafs, tenor; Hearts, treble; and Bells, alto. They appear to be original to the deck, not added later, and together form four-part songs that are devoted to themes of love” [10]. Though this feature mentioned as unique, there are at least two more decks with notations on the face side of the cards published. One of them is an old French deck [6, p. 235], and the other is similar, but of later period, dated to the 19th century [Ibid, p. 237]. Returning to postcards, it is remarkable, that when playing cards in their local versions as well as borrowed European ones and other board games became traditional New Year time-spending in Japan, it was reflected by the greeting postcards and stamps ornamentation. There are several examples of such postcards in museum collections, like very unusual one of 1947 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Inv. 2002.13122). There are several gambling attributes on this postcard with two cards from Hanafuda deck. Interesting feature of this picture is that the holyday date is encrypted in it. Two cards depicted here are the Crane, the eldest card in January suit (so this means the New Year) and the Boar, the animalistic symbol of 1947 in the Oriental calendar. Such examples show how playing cards motifs were adapted by the symbolical language of Asian culture.

Symbolism of trumps, added in Europe to the deck borrowed from the Middle East, and also used as a separate set of cards with varying composition, allows thinking that they could be designed not only for game, but for education as well. During the later centuries, as L. F. Garin mentions, they produced decks, which could be used in pedagogical and other purposes [19]. Sometimes those decks even were not divided into suits, or suits were overshadowed by different structure, perhaps, under the influence of the earlier decks like Tarocchi of Mantegna or similar ones, showing the new way of development for them. Range of such decks preserved in museum collections, being observed closely, allows distinguishing some types of educative playing cards. The first type is ethnic and geographic decks. As a good example of them French deck of the 18th century could serve. It is entitled “Costumes des Peuples Étrangers” (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Inv. 59.654.17(1–32)). In this deck there are characters in traditional clothes of different nations depicted, as the anonymous artist of the period imagined them. Geographic names are inscribed, and small gambling symbols are placed in the corner of each card. It seems like the intention of creating this deck was to combine gambling and educative purposes. Similar decks were printed in Russia also. For example, a geographic deck with coats of arm of Russian provinces (British Museum, Inv. 1896,0501.809). It is not precisely dated, but there is a separate card for Russian America in this deck, so it is not later than 1867. Each card here is divided into segments, in which there are gambling symbols, names of provinces and pictures of people in local traditional dresses. Another example of Italian origin is a deck of 1770s with information about different countries (British Museum, Inv. 1896,0501.61). Also, there are two cards in the Folger Shakespeare Library from a deck bearing maps of English regions (Folger Shakespeare Library, Inv. ART 265507 (size XS) and Inv. ART 265508 (size XS)). This is one more variant of geographic type of educative playing cards. Next type of educative decks, which could be distinguished, is historical and religious decks, and that is specifically remarkable, because playing cards were instantly condemned and forbidden by the Church, yet religious card decks, perhaps, were one of the repeated attempts of compromise between secular and ecclesiastical thinking. French historical deck of ca. 1880 (British Museum, Inv. 1893,0331.95) consists of cards divided into sections, part of which is taken by gambling symbols and another part bears images of historical characters and sententious scenes, and also in includes a set of cards with pictures from the New Testament. Italian deck of 1770s is another example. It includes chronology of the Popes of Rome from St. Peter to Clement XIV (British Museum, Inv. 1896,0501.66). Finally, there are several examples of literary and folklore educative decks. One of them is an English deck of ca. 1700 with proverbs and illustrations to them (British Museum, Inv. 1941,0325.1–51). According to these examples, French and English educative decks usually are brightly illustrated, and Italian ones are black and white and bear mainly text information. Also, in English and French decks there is French system of suits, and for Italian decks Romance suits are used. All these deck have moral and didactic nature. So far, it is possible to say that educative decks appeared, perhaps, in the 15th-16th centuries and came to full development in the 17th-19th century as a particular genre of playing cards with its own types, features and functional specificity.

Playing cards as amarker of the marginal elements of society, and state monopoly for cards manufacturing and trade. These two functions are more related to economic than to cultural history, yet at least briefly they should be observed here to make the story complete. Tendency of placing playing cards production and sale under the state control was caused by commercial competition of fabricants. With growth of gambling popularity, playing cards manufacturing became a large industry. That found a basis for further development of their art function and economic role, and as for economic aspect, it was a European feature with no parallel processes in Asia. There are evidences about early Italian decks, with fine lines, very beautiful, hand painted, but quite large in size, which made them expensive and uncomfortable in use. Though in Spain popularity of cards grew quickly, they never made there as excellent decks as in Italy, but Spanish people were the first who brought gambling to the New World [27, c. 641]. Woodcut printing of cards appeared in Germany. German and Dutch playing cards spread so widely, that Venetian fabricants in 1441 addressed the authorities with a petition to forbid import of foreign cards. It is remarkable, that before that in Germany they produced cards with Romance suits, and since the second half of the 15th century began to use their own [Ibid, c. 641–642]. On the contrary, in France for the long period playing cards remained an imported good, and their local manufacturing was limited. Only in 1581 French corporation of playing cards fabricants appeared, which existed until 1789 [Ibid, c. 642]. In England native fabrication of playing cards was already known to 1463, when it was mentioned in documents in connection with a ban on imported decks, also implemented because of the local fabricants’ complaints [14].

In a parallel way with growing gambling popularity, cheating at play developed so much, that, as protection from it, in the mid-16th century in France they began to produce cards with backs covered with fine dotted lines, which did not allowed cardsharpers putting their own marks [27, c. 642]. Socially adverse consequences of gambling were followed by repeated strict limitations of both cards manufacturing and games. Criminalization of gambling environment had lead to gaining by playing cards a function of marginal marker. Society began to consider gambling as a vice and sin, connected with a risk of devastation and loss of reputation. The strictest laws against gambling existed in France in the 17th century. Those people, in which houses there were gambling gathering, could be deprived of rights and outcast from cities. The law even did not recognize card debts and winnings. However, these measures in France and in other European countries were not effective enough and gambling followed by many vices spread in all social groups from the bottom of society to the very top of it, even at the royal courts. In 1791 National Assembly forbade hazard games, yet the punishment was intended not for players, but for the owners of gaming houses. Though cards themselves were not forbidden, and it was that time, when they were redesigned accordingly to revolutionary ideas. The Directory legalized gaming houses, assigning them under farming management. Since 1804 part of the income was transferred to poor people. Similar system existed in Russia in the 19th century. In 1837 gaming houses in France were finally closed and the owners moved their business to German cities, yet there it also was soon restricted. In 1853 gaming houses were forbidden in England and to 1873 in the whole Europe except Monaco [Ibid]. At the same time, European countries began a process of monopolization. Playing cards were taxed, and this kind of taxation existed until the beginning of the 20th century. Only cards marked with state stamp could be sold legally. In some countries, like in Germany, only cards fabrication was under the state control, and in some others, like in Greece, playing cards trade became state monopoly as well. In many countries, like earlier in England and later in Russia, imported playing cards were illegal [Ibid, c. 642–643]. And all mulcts also went to state budget. So far, during the several centuries, simultaneously with prosecution of gambling, playing cards industry was one of the largest sources of state income.

Conclusion. Thus, five social and cultural functions of playing cards could be distinguished. However, not all of them appeared at the same time in the very beginning of cards history in the East, and most of them came to the full development in Modern Europe, yet they shows how clearly playing cards reflected the evolution of society in every aspect. Though nowadays some of those functions deceased, these items of material culture could be still considered as an effective source and, depending on purposes, instrument of macro and micro historical analysis in a range from global policy and economy to smaller, but not less important events of everyday life.

References:

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Основные термины (генерируются автоматически): URL, ART, RESERVE, CAR, ECU, ITA, LDSAL, XXXVI, XXXVIII.


Ключевые слова

Россия, игральные карты, Азия, Европа, социальная структура, связь, искусства и ремесла, Государственная монополия, Маргинальные элементы общества

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