An Unfamiliar and Beautiful Belgian Tarot

#1
On my blog page I discuss a Belgian Tarot that I found on the BnF site:
http://www.tarothistory.com/2008/03/17/ ... ian-tarot/

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Larger view

I asked Michael Hurst if he recognized anything in the pips that might lead to more information about the deck, and he suggested that there may be a connection to Trappola cards.

On Aeclectic several years ago, I asked about Trappola cards:
http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=52389

What's interesting about the Trappola pack is its composition:

"Four Italian suits of nine cards: King, Cavalier, Jack, 10 - 7, 2, 1, making a 36-card pack."

Looking at these images of the "Belgian", we notice the exact same numbering.

Is there a connection between this "Belgian" tarot and Trappola? Is there a connection between "Belgian" tarots in general and Trappola? It seems an odd coincidence, but it's also possible that a Belgian deck was simply altered to play Trappola.

This is very intriguing.

What do you think?
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: An Unfamiliar and Beautiful Belgian Tarot

#2
Hi, Robert,

Thanks for the invitation to your new forum. Starting out with a discussion of these stylish, unusual, and obscure cards seems appropriate.

My initial thought was that the long cards with Latin suit signs, the absence of trumps, the odd apparel and attractive design, and especially the absence of cards 3, 4, 5, and 6 from what is otherwise a complete suit set, all suggested Trappola. You pointed out that the Two is numbered 6, which is very suggestive. I have so little familiarity with Trappola decks, and they appear to be rather poorly represented in the sources I have access to, that it's difficult to know what to make of them.

The idea that a stylish Trappola deck would be copied, to one extent or another, from a Tarot deck seems reasonable enough, in the same way that a stylish Tarot deck, like Catelin Geoffroy's, would be copied (in part) from Virgil Solis' 4-suited deck. If someone wanted to make a Trappola deck in a locale where a Belgium style Tarot deck was used, this would make sense. If these cards are Trappola, however, it was apparently a novel deck in other ways as well. In particular, the Ace of Cups lacks the bird sitting on top.

It's also odd that the entire suit is preserved, but without any of the rest of the deck. I wonder if BnF has some or all of the other cards? Of course, what would have been exceptionally cool is to find the suit of Coins as a separately preserved group. That might suggest someone using Marcolino's fortune-telling method, and they only kept the suit being used for that purpose.

Best regards,
Michael
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

Re: An Unfamiliar and Beautiful Belgian Tarot

#3
Thanks for inviting me to the new club...er, forum, Robert. Glad to see Michael here too.

These cards have intrigued me since I saw them on your blog, and Michael's observations about Trappola are good.

I notice also that the courts are written R, D and V (Roi, Dame, Valet) so a French person wrote them. If these markings mean anything except labels for the person who wrote them, it seems these cards were adapted from another deck, whether tarot or not I can't say, but they don't look anything like the standard Trappola pattern, and they really look like the Belgian and Vieville Italian suits (as you show on your blog Robert), although with less detail.

Intriguing set.

Ross
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Re: An Unfamiliar and Beautiful Belgian Tarot

#4
Michael, Ross, it's nice to have you visit. You're most welcome anytime. Jean-Michel is on vacation for two weeks (the bloody nerve), so it will likely be a bit lonely for a while.

Michael, as you point out, the eagle is missing from the Ace of Cups, a sure indicator of Trappola design. Compared to the few cards I know of, these are, as Ross points out, not generally much of a match.

Here is the beautiful Trappola Knight of Batons from the Cary Collection at Yale:
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It is apparently from Austria. Is the "plate" with a face on the front of the horse on the Knights an indicator of the early Trappola pattern? Do the kings also have them on their belts?

See these images from the I.P.C.S.:
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I know very little about the Trappola. It would be fascinating to find some connection to the Belgian. Do we know which is older?

The Two of Cups is so distinctive; and the other pips so highly decorative. Even as a "Belgian", this deck is still rather unique.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: An Unfamiliar and Beautiful Belgian Tarot

#5
A few other considerations occurred to me while resting.

If the deck were adapted from a Tarot to play Piquet, for instance, why not use the original Queen and 6, which would have been present in Tarot? It thus seems more likely that this is a complete suit as made, and was adapted from its original purpose to play, say, Piquet.

A less likely scenario is that the adaptation is *twice* removed - i.e. the Tarot was adapted to play Trappola, and then somebody who wanted to play Piquet had to readapt what was left.

But it seems to me - with very limited knowledge of standard patterns (there are probably clues scattered around in Mann, Dummett, Hoffmann, even Denning (on Spanish cards)) that it is a non-tarot regular deck related to the Belgian pattern - or better Vieville and whatever *he* represents.

just thoughts for anybody still up.

Ross
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Re: An Unfamiliar and Beautiful Belgian Tarot

#6
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:A few other considerations occurred to me while resting.

If the deck were adapted from a Tarot to play Piquet, for instance, why not use the original Queen and 6, which would have been present in Tarot? It thus seems more likely that this is a complete suit as made, and was adapted from its original purpose to play, say, Piquet.
Couldn't it also have been adapted from a Tarot to play Trappola? At least originally? Of course, that's just noting the existing cards match Trappola. It doesn't mean much without knowing if other cards exist.

It's certainly strange that someone would mark the cards in such a manner. Why have the Knight as "Dame" unless there was no Queen? Of course, this is likely someone later marking the cards.

I'm so ignorant of playing cards. I guess it was pretty common to have King, Knight, Valet sets. Were they common everywhere? Does that tell us if these were originally a set of playing cards?

I was so struck by the similarity to the Vieville and Vandenborre that I assumed these were probably Tarot.

I'm not sure where to go from here. I wonder if the BnF has more cards from the pack? If only we knew someone who could speak French! :roll:
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: An Unfamiliar and Beautiful Belgian Tarot

#7
le pendu wrote: Couldn't it also have been adapted from a Tarot to play Trappola? At least originally? Of course, that's just noting the existing cards match Trappola. It doesn't mean much without knowing if other cards exist.
Yes, that was my twice removed hypothesis - "A less likely scenario is that the adaptation is *twice* removed - i.e. the Tarot was adapted to play Trappola, and then somebody who wanted to play Piquet had to readapt what was left."

The suit - courts and pips, Italian suited - match a Trappola suit, but it is a non-standard Trappola if so. The handwritten indices are French, and by making the Knight indicate a Queen, and 6 on the 2 seems to want to make the cards play the older form of Piquet, with 36 cards (it got shortened to 32 in the 18th century I think, by taking out the 6). But that seems an odd thing to do to a pack of cards, if you really wanted to play with them.
It's certainly strange that someone would mark the cards in such a manner. Why have the Knight as "Dame" unless there was no Queen? Of course, this is likely someone later marking the cards.

I'm so ignorant of playing cards. How common were King, Knight, Valet sets? What does that tell us if these were originally a set of playing cards, anything?

I was so struck by the similarity to the Vieville and Vandenborre that I assumed these were probably Tarot.

I'm not sure where to go from here. I wonder if the BnF has more cards from the pack? If only we knew someone who could speak French! :roll:
That's what I wondered - if taken straight from Tarot, and desiring a Queen, there'd be no need to make the Knight fill that role. Thus, a priori, there was no Queen when the handwritten indices were made, and that makes it much less likely that these cards are the first diminution of a previous full tarot (and the absence of the 6 as well), if they were originally tarot at all. Hence the suggestion that it is either a strange Trappola or a "Belgian" standard pack.

I'm sure that somebody could help us (maybe Thierry), but I can't make out anything else from the BnF site. I'll look around in D'Allemagne and other places to cover all bases so I sound intelligent when and if I have to write him.

Fascinating!

Ross
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Re: An Unfamiliar and Beautiful Belgian Tarot

#8
Something I've noticed about Trappola cards, which also seems to be hinted at in the Vieville, is distinct 'regional characteristic' to the face cards. The Trappola pack pictured on page 57 of Kaplan Vol. 1 (dated 1829 from 1782 woodcuts) shows the Sword faces looking very Arabian, and the page of Cups has a dark complexion, perhaps Indian. Does anyone know of a specific set of 'tradition' regional correlations with Trappola cards?


Cheers,

RAH
When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.

Re: An Unfamiliar and Beautiful Belgian Tarot

#9
Ross, it would be wonderful if you would contact Thierry. I'd be very interested to hear if he knew anything more.

RAH, yes, the Trappola cards certainly have the eastern sabers; and the Vieville has the exotic look to several of the cards. Take the Valet of Cups for example:
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I wonder if there was some "memory" of the import of cards from "foreign" lands, that led cardmakers to create ethnic features? Perhaps some of it is actual legacy?

I think this question is worthy of a thread, so shall start a new one.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

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