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 playerís 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 FrŲmmer, 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 Napoleonís armies invaded in 1807.


Created in Germany around 1616, the cards were engraved by a man named Michael FrŲmmer, 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 ó 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 Christieís 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 collectorís cabinet, or Kunstkammer." Today, few survive. "[O]nly five sets of silver cards are known today and of these only one ó the Zilkha set ó 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 donít 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 Napoleonís 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

Professor: Reason Itself Is A White Male Construct
2015-07-04 3:55
A philosophy and religion professor at Syracuse University gave an interview to The New York Times Thursday in which he critiqued the notion of pure reason as simply being a “white male Euro-Christian construction.” Prof. John Caputo was being interviewed by fellow philosophy professor George Yancy for the 13th installment of an interview series Yancy conducts with philosophers regarding racial topics. Given its emphasis on first principles ...
The Broken Window Fallacy
2015-07-04 3:48
Youtube description: This short video explains one of the most persistent economic fallacies of our day. Source: youtube.com
Jenji Kohan and the Jewish Hyper-Sexualization of Western Culture
2015-07-04 3:33
As detailed in The Culture of Critique, Freud and his followers regarded anti-Semitism was a universal pathology which had its roots in sexual repression. The theoretical basis for this can be found in Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality where he linked aggression to the frustration of human drives — especially the sex drive. Kevin MacDonald notes that: ...
Confederate History - Dispelling the Myths
2015-07-03 3:28
History books, the media, the school systems, etc abound in falsehoods and inaccuracies of Confederate and Southern history. This fact sheet will help to clarify and dispell some of these rampant inaccuracies. MYTH - The War of 1861 - 1865 was fought over slavery. FACT - Terribly untrue. The North fought the war over money. Plain ...
Gays Rights May Open Door for Pedophile Rights
2015-07-03 3:31
Democrats have attempted to normalize pedophilia as a sexual orientation. A recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage may soon allow pedophiles to argue they are suffering discrimination. ‚ÄúUsing the same tactics used by ‚Äėgay‚Äô rights activists, pedophiles have begun to seek similar status arguing their desire for children is a sexual orientation no different than heterosexual or homosexuals,‚ÄĚ writes Jack Minor ...
More News »