January 2013



Halfway January our garden -and the rest of the Netherlands- was covered in snow. Roads were slippery, trains didn't run and Miriam was easily out of breath. She had just recovered from almost three weeks of enteritis, so a little anxious to go out, and we slowly picked up our social life again.
There were no interesting flea markets or collectors meetings this month and the internet was our only resource. Among others it brought us a few unusual artist decks, and an East German homemade pin-up deck. But they were all modern. We spotted a nice antique oval deck from Germany, but that went too high for us.

However, a few days earlier we had seen these three cards on Ebay...........

The joker immediately rang a bell here and after some research we decided on a substantial bid in the last seconds. We don't know if the other serious collectors were on vacation or had overseen the auction or not recognized the cards, but to our surprise we won the deck at a ridiculously low price. It arrived on the 28th, so just in time to solve our monthly dilemma, again in one stroke. And this time we're not only happy, but also a little proud to share this rare deck here with you. Enjoy.........


The deck was made by the "Internationale Spielkartenfabriks A.G. vorm. Aug. Denk & Co." from Vienna, Austria. It obviously dates from 1923, see the Ace of Hearts. However, tax stamps don't always reveal the exact year of manufacturing, but in this case Dr. Uwe Volker-Segeth gives that same year for this deck in his beautiful book about Art Deco and Jugendstil playing cards. Our deck came without a box, so for the name of the publication, "Whist No. 140", we had to rely on that source too.
The deck was printed in offset. In the early 1900's offset was a new technique in printing and often a bit crude. But here it's done very nicely and the grid is reasonably fine for those days.

The courts show mildly caricatured fantasy royalty. Their dresses are embellished with their suit signs.

The aces are embellished with an oval, decorated with flowers and leaves. Only on the Ace of Spades a sort of decorative ornament is used instead.

The Ace of Hearts has 2 tax stamps. The round red one is an Austrian tax stamp, the octagonal is Italian. The small stamp, dated July 1923, is Italian too.

The deck was designed by Franz von Bayros.

We should say Marquis Von Bayros (1866 - 1924), as he comes from an old noble family with a mixture of French, German and Croatian blood in their veins. In his many official functions his father traveled throughout Europe and this highly affected the personal and artistic development of Franz von Bayros. His later preference for the female body and erotic illustrations, was already caught in his drawings of the half naked gypsy women that he saw in Bosnia in his youth. His success began in the entourage of the Munich art circles and schools, but ended there in 1911, when the local police took a special interest in his erotic illustrations. He went to Vienna, where renewed success awaited him. But depressions and times of overworking himself made him ill. This deck was created a year before his death and it is rather decent for this "classic of erotic drawings and Ex-Libris".

Although set in a Jugendstil frame, the landscape with the noble lady and her lover illustrate Franz's other nickname:
"the most wonderful illustrator of the purest Rococo".

There was just one disappointing thing. The used card is rather thin, definitely not the three layered quality.
The result is that -when held to the light- one can see the denomination of the card through the back design quite clearly.
But then again, one can wonder if such a pretty deck was ever meant to be played with. We wouldn't!