13 February 2010

Cups and Hearts: The Evolution of Playing and Tarot Cards

Lorraine artist Georges de La Tour (1593-1652) painting The Cheat is a social commentary. A shrewd card shark is about to cheat a vacuous young man. Compliant in the scheme are the well-dressed woman and her servant. Playing and Tarot cards started out as a diversion for the aristocracy and wealthy of Medieval Europe and probably were Middle Eastern in origins. The cards engraved and painted by artisans were very expensive. In the fifteenth century woodcut decks developed. Suites evolved from Islamic symbols of the chalice, swords, coins, and polo sticks. The queen of hearts is from a Claude Valentin playing cards deck and the queen of cups a Jacques Viéville tarot deck. Both are mid-seventeenth century. Cups the precursors of hearts, were emblematic of love and happiness.


  1. Thank you Gretchen, I hope you had a lovely Valentine's Day! Kind regards, Kendra

  2. What are the marks for clubs, diamonds spades and hearts. Everything is rather obvious, clubs and spades and polosticks are not so well explained. Are the suits always the way we have them now? This is a VERY INTERESTING and short, as well as on the bullseye when you present us what you are interested in on a particular day. You have a huge spread - of curious things to talk to us about.

  3. Anon~ So glad you are enjoying the posts! Coins are diamonds, clubs are polo sticks and swords are spades. Kendra


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