5 February 2015

‘World’s Oldest’ Playing Card Deck Has Fascinating Hand-Painted Symbols

The Cloisters set of fifty-two playing cards’ is now the oldest complete deck of playing cards in the world, estimated to be from the 15th century.

The oval-shaped cards were hand-painted with four suits that consisted of a king, a queen, a knave, and ten pip cards—it was depicted in a hunting theme, with symbols of hunting horns, dog collars, hound tethers, and game nooses, that represented today’s hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades.

It was first purchased by an anonymous antique dealer in Amsterdam in 1978 for US$2,800 during an auction in Paris, but had later on discovered and confirmed that they were incorrectly classified from the painting styles and costumes drawn on the cards—the antique deal then sold the collection to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for US$143,000 in 1983.

The cards are now exhibited on a rotating basis at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, head over to their website to find out more.

[via Laughing Squid, images via The Metropolitan Museum of Art]