August 2015



There should have been a blank page here. August was such a hectic month here, that we didn't have time to follow the different auction sites, so our mail box didn't contain any foreign packages this month. 

There was one package on its way, but our address seems to have been incomplete, so that wasn't delivered, but instead returned to France. It's on its way now again, but hasn't arrived in time to be shown here.

So we've decided to show you a deck that was one of the first surprise finds when we browsed through our newly acquired collection for the first time. The seller had set aside what he considered to be the real old decks in a separate box. However, we did find some nice surprises in the other boxes too. This deck was probably considered to be new, as both the box and the cards are in almost new condition. It sat between a bunch of modern Grimaud decks, although this deck is about 115 years old now. But it wasn't the age that made us happy. The deck has a wonderful and elegant Art Nouveau design. It was one of those decks that we had on our wish list, but of which we thought that it would remain there forever.

It's a rarely seen collectors item and together with the Cartes Indiennes (see 06/2007) a highlight in the Art Nouveau style decks that were produced around 1900. The "Jeu Moyen Age" (Mediaeval deck) was manufactured and published by B.P. Grimaud from Paris. It was designed by Gaston Quénioux (1864 - 1951), whose initials can be found on the shield that is held by the Jack of Hearts. In itself an unusual place as in French decks the (tax) shield is usually in the hands of the Jack of Clubs. Here it's not a tax shield but only mentions the manufacturer's name too. However, the meaning of the small letters "DEL", which are below the designer's initials, is unknown to us.


Only on the Queens floral details are applied.

The designs are rather intriguing. Not the courtly figures themselves. They are done in a fine line style and dressed in mediaeval clothing. And not the letters themselves either. They are in Gothic style and a prominent part of the complete design. However, they do show some unusual graphic choices. Closing the C, E on the right side and the S on all sides doesn't help in readability for those who are not familiar with the usual names in French decks. The King of Hearts here above is a good example. Of course a Frenchman will immediately recognize this name, without even bothering with these details. But that's not what's intriguing us.
The designs can be divided into layers. The small pips are definitely the top layer, as they overlap all other parts of the design. The large pips are the background for the courtly figures who are placed in front of them. However, the placing of the names suggest that there's even a deeper layer than that background on most cards, but also suggest being the upper layer on some cards. On the King of Spades the name overlaps the harp, thus suggesting to be the top layer in that design. But on the King of Hearts parts of the name disappear behind the large pip, suggesting to be the deepest layer. And looking at the flower of the Queen of Diamonds there seems to be an even deeper space, as it disappears behind the large pip and the name.
The name of B.P. Grimaud and France are not found on every court card. Only on five court cards the designs leave enough room for these names to be printed along the side.


The aces show a large pip, embellished with a floral design. Each suit has a different flower which can also be found on the Queen and in the background of the pip cards of that suit.

There's a faintly visible stamp of the French 1890 tax law on the Ace of Clubs.

The deck was lithographically printed and clearly published as a luxury edition. The cards have gold corners, but there are also gold printed details on each of the courts and each card, pip cards included, has a gold printed outline around the design.

The different flowers return on the pip cards.

Remarkable is that none of the Kings is bearing arms. They are presented with their symbol of power and King David plays the harp.


Each of the pips has a floral design in the background. A different flower is used for each suit, corresponding with the flower, which is held by the Queen and can also be found on the Ace of that suit. We're not botanically skilled, so we have only identified the rose in the Hearts suit. If there's anyone who can identify the other flowers, send us an email.


The floral back design of the cards was also used on the box.

The sides of the box state the content and factory number.