It is probably due to the fact that traveling to neighboring states throughout Europe had become easier and available to a wider public, including business contacts and upper-middle class, that decks with scenic aces, which depict town views or sceneries came into fashion in the second half of the 19th century. These decks are often referred to as "souvenir" decks. Famous is the deck that was produced by the German manufacturer C.L. Wüst with regional Swiss costumes on the courts and Swiss scenes, not only on the aces, but also with a different scene on each back. These decks may have been exported to be sold in Switzerland to the 19th century traveler or may also have been sold in Germany to returning visitors of Switzerland. In both cases they would have acted as a souvenir.
And even if you were not fortunate enough to be among those travelers, you could still enjoy the images. In those days scenes from other places or countries must have had the same attraction to people as pictures in holiday guides have nowadays. You can daydream away over them, pretend you're there, being part of the depicted scene. But as time went by these images became historical testimonies. So now we can dream away in space and time, when we look at the scenes from long gone days.
professional designers, artisans, they all have –often anonymously- created
these images for us and sometimes the image is so perfect that it may be seen as
a piece of miniature art.
Maybe it is a combination of these attractions that have had a special appeal to Dutch people or maybe it is just that we have become accustomed to them for almost a century, but in the Netherlands there are plenty of decks to be found that have a set of illustrated aces. From antique to contemporary decks, with different patterns on the courts, most of these illustrated with aces showing views of Dutch cities and towns.
-DUTCH SCENIC ACES-
There are two ways to look at this title. One can read it as scenic aces made in the Netherlands, but also interpret it as aces depicting Dutch scenes. In this article both categories will be brought into the spotlight, but first a deck with a pattern that’s presently found in most Dutch advertising decks and that has been produced by Carta Mundi since 1971 in large numbers for the Dutch market only.
The courts show the present form of the so-called Dutch pattern. In the IPCS pattern sheets the Dutch pattern is classified on sheet 76, with the added comment: "nowadays usually with scenic aces of the Netherlands". This is an interesting observation, because as far as we know it's the only standard pattern that is always accompanied by scenic aces, unless special (advertising) aces are commissioned.
In the History chapter of pattern
sheet 76 we read: "The history of this
pattern is not so simple as it may appear. It was never produced in the
Netherlands, nor was it associated specifically with the Netherlands when the
pattern first began to appear in Turnhout. It appears to have been adopted in
the Netherlands after the collapse of the indigenous card-maker in 1969". It
is true that the pattern wasn't immediately associated with Dutch scenic aces.
In our collection are some Belgian late 19th century packs, in which
the Dutch pattern is combined with German scenic aces or Parisian scenic aces,
obviously for export to Germany and France. However, the last sentence tends to
simplify the process of adoption.
The Netherlands is a small country and in the second half of the 19th century there was no longer a major playing card manufacturer active in the Netherlands. Still, the Dutch do like to play cards, so decks were imported to meet the demand. Playing card manufacturers from surrounding countries have supplied us with many different patterned decks during this period, firms like Dondorf, Wüst, Lattmann or Fromann & Morian from Germany, Grimaud or Heron from France and Piatnik from Austria. Of course English deck were imported too, but they will not be found in this article. The international or anglo-american pattern doesn't come with scenic aces and the English manufacturers have made no exceptions to this rule.
The main supply came from the established playing card manufacturers from Turnhout, Belgium. The reason for this is probably that they were closest to the western part of the Netherlands, where all the major cities are found. Cheaper transportation costs and faster delivery guaranteed a competitive price and time span, and of course communication was easier too, because there's a great similarity between the Dutch and Flemish language.
I have gone through our collection and have selected a wide range of Dutch scenic aces that I would like to show you here. Hopefully you'll also be able to dream away over these images and experience the Netherlands a bit, without having to go outside.
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