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Nouvelles Cartes de la République Française

  • Object:

    Print

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (printed)

  • Date:

    1793 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Dugourc, Jean-Démosthène, born 1749 - died 1825 (Publisher)
    Jaume (Urbain) (publisher)
    Coissieux, Jacques (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood-cut and stencil colouring with letterpress on wove paper. The grant of patent is printed on laid paper.

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased through the Julie and Robert Breckman Print Fund

  • Museum number:

    E.409-2005

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 1, case CA10

This is an advertisement for a sheet of French revolutionary playing cards in which the artist has supplanted traditional royal and court based figures for personifications of revolutionary ideals and beliefs. It was made as a sheet of proofs in order to obtain a patent of the design from the government in 1793. The sixteen images represent the Law (Aces), Genius (Kings), Liberties (Queens) and Equalities (Knaves). Included in these republican virtues are the Liberties of Religion, of the Press, of Profession and the Equalities of Rights, Ranks and Colour. The image on each card is related to the aims and supposed achievements of the French Revolution - restoring French nationality and fighting for security, justice, fraternity, prosperity, enlightenment and social equality.

Physical description

Advertising sheet of French revolutionary playing cards showing sixteen images of the revolutionary equivalent of Aces, Kings, Queens and Knaves. An explanation of the cards and a grant of patent or copyright is attached to the sheet.

DESCRIPTION OF THE INDIVIDUAL CARDS
The Kings and Queens are dressed in Roman costume to symbolise the Republic, the Knaves are dressed in contemporary clothing representing the different types of republican society. The Kings are represented as Geniuses and are winged. The Queens are transformed into personifications of Liberty whilst the Knaves are now Citizens of Republican France. The Aces show an image of four fasces (a bundle of wooden rods tied together with a strap representing Roman law, justice and strength through unity). Each suit has a different meaning. The information below is obtained from the 'Brevet d'Invention' attached to the advertisement.

The Aces are shown with four Roman Republican fasces forming a triangle with at the centre the suit symbol with the inscription 'LA LOI' and 'REP. FRA.'

The King of Hearts has become the Genius of War (Génie de la Guerre) representing Strength. He is wearing a headdress made from a lions head. In one hand he holds a two-edged sword over which hangs a laurel crown. On the other arm he bears a shield on which is written 'Pour la République Française', the centre adorned with lightning bolts and a laurel wreath. He is sitting on a mortar, a symbol of military steadfastness, behind which are cannonballs. At his feet are a griffin, a symbol of courage and ferocity, and an urn, perhaps representing death. On the side of the card is printed the word 'Force'.

The King of Clubs is transformed into the Genius of Peace (Génie de la Paix) shown wearing a phrygian cap. He is seated and carries in one hand a scroll inscribed with the word 'Loix'. In the other hand he holds a fasces, symbol of Concord, with the word 'Union' printed on it and an olive branch, a symbol of harmony and peace. Between his thighs is a cornucopia and to the side a plowshare. On the side of the card is printed the word 'Prospérité'. This Genius extolls the virtues of concord and union in creating peace and prosperity throughout the country.

The King of Spades is now the Genius of Arts (Génie des Arts). In one hand he holds a lyre and plectrum, the attribute of poetry and in the other a statue of Apollo (the word 'Apollon' inscribed at the base of the statue). He is sitting on a block with hieroglyphic inscriptions and is surrounded by instruments of art and learning. He wears the revolutionary Phrygian cap surmounted by the classical symbol of a poet’s laurel wreath. At his feet are a bust and an artist's palette. On the side of the card is printed the word 'Gout'.

The King of Diamonds is shown as a seated figure, the Genius of Commerce (Génie du Commerce) wearing a Phrygian cap. In one hand he holds a pouch and in the other a caduceus (the attribute of the classical Hermes/Mercury) and an olive branch. He is seated on a bail of goods behind which is an anchor. His wallet, papers and books are at his feet as well as an ink well and quill. There is a satchel at his feet on which are printed the words 'Confiance et Fidélité'. On the wallet and a sheet of paper are printed the words 'Échange' and 'Ordre'. On the bail of goods are the combined initials of P and L next to which is a heart with a cross through it. The meaning of the intials and the heart is unknown. On the side of the card is printed the word 'Richesse'.

The Queen of Hearts is shown as Liberty of Worship (Liberté des Cultes). She symbolises the freedom of French citizens to follow any religion. The books supported between her knees are the Talmud, the Koran and the Gospels, (the words 'Thalmud', 'Coran' and 'Evanglie' are printed on the spines), representing Judaism, Islam and Christianity respectively. The spear in her left hand is adorned with a Phrygian cap and a small cloth banner with the words 'Dieu Seul' printed on it. In the background is a palm tree. On the side of the card is printed the word 'Fraternité'.

The Queen of Clubs is shown as Liberty of Marriage (Liberté de Mariage). She is seated on an ornate throne decorated with a sphinx. The word 'Divorce' appears on a banner attached to a spear held in the right hand of the figure. Beside this spear is a classical statuette, possibly of Venus, the personification of chastity. A Phrygian cap adorns the top of the spear. This card indicates that the Revolution was not just political but also socially revolutionary and responded to changing attitudes towards the status and position of women. She also stands for the liberty and choice given to women indicating that women under the First Republic had supposedly more freedom than ever before. On the side of the card is printed the word 'Pudeur'.

The Queen of Spades is shown as Liberty of the Press (Libérte de la Presse). With freedom of speech everyone should be able to choose moral values, their religion, their political party, their view of history and learn philosophy and physics. These are listed on a scroll supported on the lap of the seated figure - 'Morale, Religion, Philosoph., Politique, Phisique, Historie'. All these beliefs represent enlightenment. In her right hand she holds a quill. In her left hand she supports a spear adorned with a Phrygian cap and an laurel crown. At her feet are the masks of Tragedy and Comedy, a trumpet, scrolls and a wooden club symbolising her strength. On the side of the card is printed the word 'Lumière'.

The Queen of Diamonds is shown as Liberty of Profession (Liberté des Professions), illustrating how the revolution dispensed with feudal ties and serfdoms, replacing them with individual freedom and choice. The cornucopia in her right hand represents Abundance. Perhaps this indicates all that would be gained from the liberalisation of professions and the development of industry. She also holds in her right hand a scroll bearing the word 'Patentes'. Below the scroll is a pomegranate. In her left hand she supports a spear adorned with a Phyrgian cap. She is seated on a throne with a sphinxes head on the arm rest. On the side of the card is printed the word 'Industrie'.

The Knave of Hearts is now characterised as the Equality of Duty (Egalité de Devoirs) and is dressed in the uniform of a French National Guardsman. He has a duty to fight for the security of the nation. In his left hand he holds a scroll with the words 'Pour La Patrie' (For the Homeland) and in his left hand a rifle. His foot rests on a mound of canon balls. He is seated on a drum. In the background are flags and a powder keg. This would have been a habitual sight for those on the streets of Paris. On the side of the card is printed the word 'Sécurité'.

The Knave of Clubs has been transformed into the Equality of the Law (Egalité de Droits). He is dressed in a republican costume and represents equal rights, justice and equal laws for every citizen. His right arm rests on the altar of Law which has a fasces carved on it and in his hand he holds a scroll with the words ’La Loi Pour Tous' (the law for all). In his left hand he holds a set of scales. Next to his feet are two decapitated serpents. On the side of the card is printed the word 'Justice'.

The Knave of Spades is Equality of Classes (Egalité de Rangs). He is depicted as a Parisian San-Culotte. He represents those who participated in the storming of the Bastille on 14th July 1789 and other revolutionary days. He is wearing a Phrygian cap and holds a rifle in his right hand. He is seated on a stone bearing the inscription 'Démolition de la Bastille' and '10 August 1792' and ‘Droits Feodal' (feudal rights). At his feet lies a scroll bearing the inscription 'Noblesse' and a crown lying on its side. He symbolises all that the common people have overturned in favour of equality. On the side of the card is printed the word 'Puissance'.

The Knave of Diamonds is represented by Equality of Colours (Egalité de Couleurs). He is shown as a freed black slave. He holds a rifle in his left hand and at his feet is a broken neck and ankle shackle. He is seated on a bale of coffee. In the background is sugar cane and a camp. On the side of the card is printed the word 'Courage'

Place of Origin

Paris (printed)

Date

1793 (made)

Artist/maker

Dugourc, Jean-Démosthène, born 1749 - died 1825 (Publisher)
Jaume (Urbain) (publisher)
Coissieux, Jacques (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Wood-cut and stencil colouring with letterpress on wove paper. The grant of patent is printed on laid paper.

Marks and inscriptions

Mai 1793

Ce prospectus, et cette feuille d'une telle conservation sont d'une excessive rareté.
Ce prospectus et reproduit dans le Journal allemand du livre et du modes, No.de Mai 1793.

Dessiné par David

acquis à la vente de la Coll. Lateriade pour 32 fr.
This prospectus and this leaf in such condition are of great rarity

This prospectus was reproduced in a German journal on books and fashion, May 1793.

Designed by David

bought at the sale of the Lateriade Collection for 32 francs.
Written in ink at the top and bottom of the sheet on which the advertisement is stuck

NOUVELLES CARTES DE LA REPUBLIQUE FRANCAISE.
PLUS DE ROIS, DE DAMES, DE VALETS; LE GENIE, LA LIBERTE, L'EGALITE LES REMPLACENT:
LA LOI SEULE EST AU-DESSUS D'EUX

Si les vrais amis de la philosophie et de l'humanite ont remarques avec plaisir, parmi les types de l'Egalite, le Sans-Culotte et le Negre; ils aimeront sur-tout a voir LA LOI, SEULE SOURVERAINE D'UN PEUPLE LIBRE, environner L'AS de sa supreme puissance, dont les faisseux sont l'image, et lui donner son nom.

On doit done dire, Quatorze DE LOI, DE GENIE, DE LIBERTE ou D'EGALITE; au lieu de Quatorze d'As, de Rois, de Dames ou de Valets; et Dix-septieme, Seixieme, Quinte, Quatrieme ou Tierce au GENIE, a LA LIBERTE ou a L'EGLALITE; au lieu de les nommer au Roi, a la Dame ou au Valet: LA LOI donne seule la denomination de MAJEURE.

Aux Jeux ou les Valets de Treffle, ou de Coeur ont une valeur particuliere, comme au Reversy ou a la Mouche, il faut substituer L'EGALITE DE DEVOIRS ou celle DE DROITS.

Par Urbain Jaume et Jean Demosthene Dougourg.
Written in ink at the bottom of the grant of patent or copyright sheet attached to the advertisement

Dimensions

Height: 38.5 cm size of sheet, Width: 24.4 cm size of sheet

Historical context note

These cards were made during an incredibly tumultuous time in French history and are a remarkable survival, documenting an intriguing interface between politics, social history and design in the crucial years of the Revolution. They were reproduced in the year that Louis XVI was guillotened (21 January 1793) and also during the height of The Terror, when the government was deemed 'revolutionary until the peace'. In the same year, on 22nd October 1793, a law was enacted that no cards could depict royalty or members of the court. The idea of supplanting the 'court' cards of the traditional pack with new designs exemplifying the revolutionary virtues is attributed to the Duc de St. Simon. Several packs bearing revolutionary and Napoleonic imagery are known from this period. An old and unreliable but persistant tradition has linked David's name to the designs but this set was probably designed by Jacques Coissieux.

Descriptive line

Advertisement [placard publicitaire] for revolutionary playing cards probably designed by Jacques Coissieux and published by Jean-Démosthène Dugourc and Urbain Jaume with a grant of patent or copyright; woodcut with stencil colouring; 1793

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

'Les Cartes de la Révolution - Cartes à jouer et propagande', 17 Novembre 1989-12 Fevrier 1990; catalogue établi par Thierry Depaulis; Ville D'Issy-Les Moulineaux, Musée Français de la Carte a Jouer
Online Library of Liberty
Representing the Revolution - pg 63 to 65

The desire in France to eliminate all vestiges of royal imagery extended to items used in everyday life. On the revolutionary playing cards depicted in an advertisement (pl.59), traditional representations of kings, queens and knaves, evocative of royal rule, have been replaced with classically inspired figures. The kings have become Geniuses, the queens Liberty and the knaves Equality. The aces are the Law of the French Republic. The red Phrygian or liberty cap - symbol of the freed slave - appears on many of the cards. While some of the attributes may only have been understood by an educated minority, the overall message is clear, and playing cards would have been an effective way of circulating revolutionary ideals and ideas.
The Arts of Living Europe 1600-1815 edited by Elizabeth Miller and Hilary Young

Labels and date

Advertisement for playing cards with revolutionary symbols
1793

In the playing cards advertised here, the traditional court characters are replaced by personifications of revolutionary ideals and beliefs. The image on each card refers to the original aims of French revolutionaries: security, justice, fraternity, prosperity, enlightenment and social equality.

France (Paris)
Probably designed by Jacques Coissieux
Woodcut, with stencil colouring
Purchased through the Julie and Robert Breckman Print Fund
[09/12/2015]

Materials

Printing ink; Wove paper

Techniques

Woodcut with stencil colouring

Subjects depicted

Revolution; Slavery; Phrygian caps; Liberty

Categories

Black History; Entertainment & Leisure; Games; Playing cards & Tarot cards; Politics; Prints; Propaganda

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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