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  • Place of origin:

    London (designed)
    London (published)
    Stroud (printed)
    London (published)
    London (produced)

  • Date:

    1874 (designed)
    2003 (published)
    2003 (printed)
    1874 (published)
    1874 (produced)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Reuben Townroe, born 1835 - died 1911 (designer)
    Berry, John, born 1929 - died 2004 (publisher)
    Thomas de la Rue & Co Ltd (publisher)
    Swift Print (printer)
    Felix Summerly's Art Manufactures (producer (collection))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    photogravure

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Berry

  • Museum number:

    E.3715.1-54-2004

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The original of this pack was issued by the printing company of De La Rue & Co in 1874 to mark the wedding of Queen Victoria's second son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and the Grand Duchess, Marie Alexandrovina, daughter of Alexander II, Emperor of Russia. The designer of the pack was Reuben Townroe, a well-known artist and sculptor who designed the ornamental terracotta work on the Royal Albert Hall and many decorative works at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). The pack was published by Felix Summerley's Art Manufacturers, set up by Henry Cole in the 1840s. Sixteen original cards from the pack are in the V&A's collection, given as part of the Sir Henry Cole Bequest.

The design of the cards follows the traditional format of a standard English pack except that the aces and courts (kings and queens but not the jacks) bear recognisable portraits of European royalty, with the names of their countries included in a decorative band within the design. The original wrapper for the pack bore the title 'International Playing-Cards' and it is the portrayal of these illustrious figures in a happy adaptation of the 'face' cards to a royal occasion, which gives the pack its unique make-up. The aces are set within a frame of symbolic national devices and feature the most important heads of state: Queen Victoria, Tsar Alexander II, Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany and Ulysses S. Grant, President of the United States. The Kings represent Leopold II, King of the Belgians; Alexander, Crown Prince of Russia; Edward, Prince of Wales and Victor Emmanuel II, King of Italy. The Queens represent Alexandra, Princess of Wales; Empress Elisabeth of Austria; Queen Olga of Greece and Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise, Crown Princess of Germany. All the Jacks are anonymous figures in costume of the various countries named on the cards although The Jack of Hearts (Scotland) has been identified by modern commentators as Queen Victoria's devoted servant John Brown.The 'Times' published a notice of the cards on 3rd December 1874 which helped to identify the portraits on the courts and aces.

The commemorative back design features the arms of the Duke of Edinburgh (Alfred) above the imperial Russian arms (for Alfred's wife, Maria Alexandrovina) surrounded by sprigs of acorns, thistles, roses and shamrock printed in gold. However the examples already held by the Victoria and Albert Museum, of sixteen cards from the 1874 pack, have plain red backs, plus four examples of the decorated backs.

This facsimile pack was based on an original pack in the Waddington Playing Card Collection at the Guildhall Library, London. John Berry, the publisher of this pack, issued the catalogue of part of this collection and was an expert on the history of playing cards. This pack was published on the occasion of the 2003 Annual Convention of the International Playing Card Society and packs were given as a gift to delegates.

Physical description

Fifty-two playing cards in a box with an information sheet. The back-design of each card comprises the arms of the Duke of Edinburgh above the imperial Russian arms surrounded by sprays of acorns, roses, thistles and shamrock; printed in gold on a plain ground. The aces and courts of the pack bear portraits of European royalty with the names of the countries included in a decorative band within the design.

Ace of Hearts = Queen Victoria of Great Britain
Ace of Diamonds = Tsar Alexander II
Ace of Clubs = Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany
Ace of Spades = President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant
King of Hearts = Leopold II, King of the Belgians
King of Spades = Frederick III as Crown Prince of Prussia
King of Diamonds = Edward, Prince of Wales
King of Clubs = Victor Emmanuel II, King of Italy
Queen of Hearts = Alexandra, Princess of Wales
Queen of Spades = the Empress Elisabeth of Austria
Queen of Diamonds = Queen Olga of Greece
Queen of Clubs = Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise, Crown Princess of Germany

All the Jacks are anonymous figures in costume of the various countries named on the cards. The Jack of Hearts is believed to be a portrait of Queen Victoria's servant John Brown.

Place of Origin

London (designed)
London (published)
Stroud (printed)
London (published)
London (produced)

Date

1874 (designed)
2003 (published)
2003 (printed)
1874 (published)
1874 (produced)

Artist/maker

Reuben Townroe, born 1835 - died 1911 (designer)
Berry, John, born 1929 - died 2004 (publisher)
Thomas de la Rue & Co Ltd (publisher)
Swift Print (printer)
Felix Summerly's Art Manufactures (producer (collection))

Materials and Techniques

photogravure

Marks and inscriptions

Honi soit qui mal y pense
Shame be to him who thinks evil of it
Motto surrounding the arms of the Duke of Edinburgh on the reverse of the card

INTERNATIONAL PLAYING-CARDS
First Published in 1874 for the wedding of the Duke of Edinburgh

Published by JOHN BERRY Bromley 2003
Printed on the pack containing the playing cards

Dimensions

Height: 9.3 cm, Width: 6.4 cm, Height: 10.5 cm packet, Width: 7.2 cm packet

Object history note

The original of this pack was issued by the printing company of De La Rue & Co. in 1874 to mark the wedding of Queen Victoria's second son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and the Grand Duchess, Marie Alexandrovina, daughter of Alexander II, Emperor of Russia. The designer of the pack was Reuben Townroe, a well-known artist and sculptor who designed the ornamental terracotta work on the Royal Albert Hall and many decorative work at the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum. The pack was published by Felix Summerley's Art Manufacturers, set up by Henry Cole in the 1840s. Sixteen original cards from the pack are in the V&A's collection, given as part of the Sir Henry Cole Bequest.

The design of the cards follows the traditional format of a standard English pack except that the aces and courts (kings and queens but not the jacks) bear recognisable portraits of European royalty, with the names of their countries included in a decorative band within the design. The original wrapper for the pack bore the title 'International Playing-Cards'.

Descriptive line

Facsimile of a pack of playing cards first published in 1874 for the wedding of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovina; published by John Berry; 2003

Production Note

De La Rue & Co. were the publishers of the 1874 edition of playing cards. The publisher and printer of the 2003 facsimile edition were John Berry and Swift Print, Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Materials

Printing ink; Card

Techniques

Photogravure

Categories

Royalty; Prints; Entertainment & Leisure; Playing cards & Tarot cards; Images Online; Portraits; Scotland

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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