[GERMANY.THUERINGEN 30551] Altenburg has been a production centre for playing cards for 500 years and has a 'Spielkartenmuseum' (Playing Card Museum) in the 'Stadtschloss' since 1923.
The oldest deck of cards shown in the museum is the 'Hofämterspiel' (Court-office Game).
The cards were printed from woodblocks and then hand coloured. Each suit in turn shows members of the royal household - from the court jester up to the king's steward, including servants and court officials. These are depicted in a hierarchy, numbered 1-10 in Roman numerals, plus a queen and king. There are 48 cards in total. Which game or games the Hofämterspiel was devised for is impossible to tell.
The Hofämterspiel reflects political relationships in Central Europe in the mid-15th century. The four suit signs are the coat of arms of four kingdoms: France, Germany, Bohemia and Hungary.
The deck was possibly commissioned around 1450 by Ladislaus I, King of Hungary and Bohemia and Duke of Austria. The original deck is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna; the cards shown in Altenburg are facsimiles.
Here we see the 'Nerryn' (Fool) of the French Suit with Roman numeral one on the left. Photo Mick Palarczyk.
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