“Dauphine” pattern early French playing cards




unfinished and more subdued upgrade.


Complete Dauphine playing cards

about the cards


In my pursuit of understanding the origins of playing cards, I have taken to sketching out the basic lines of the court cards, as well as any other consequential images.
In the case of most French-suited packs,  I only need to confirm twelve cards to be able to replicate a pack, while the rest can use my pre-cut French stencils.

In the mid 15th century French card makers went to this suit system, as opposed to German, Italian, and Spanish style decks, which required a woodcut for every card in the pack. This made a lower priced finished product, and the resulting popularity holds its international influence to this day.

This equipment was still expensive to produce, and it often outlasted its owners. Combined with the ease of replicating designs, and other influences of the market, cards began to reflect their commercial nature by a sort of acceptable copying.   These ‘patterns’ began to solidify about 1500, although many may be much older, some becoming extinct by this time after a long run.

Eventually, taxation mandated more rigid descriptions. In 1701, The French standardized playing cards into nine official regional patterns, which lasted until Napoleon. The Paris pattern survives today as the French national pattern.

The Dauphine pattern is the least understood, as no known complete packs survive prior to 1800.  One of the distinguishing elements of this pattern are the barefoot Jacks in Roman armor. They have hilly landscape and wording, and may represent romantic heroes popular during the pattern’s development. The valet de treffles can be found in other patterns that were influenced by the card industry in Lyons.

I found an uncolored sheet dating to the late 16th century, and based these drafts on them, as well as similar samples at Yale. The cover card is inspired by an ace of hearts from the latter half of the seventeenth century. I have allowed for a little more personal inflection in these.

Dauphine pattern playing cards

Dauphine pattern playing cards

At the top is an upgrade of this pattern, which is still stronger in my personal style than some of the other packs. As such, I am more relaxed about the accuracy of the stencil colours, and admit to going with hues from later Dauphines.

I have this design in the running to carve from fruit wood, as my ultimate desire would be to resurrect an extinct pattern. Heck, I hope to resurrect as many as possible! It is a tedious undertaking, and I’m hoping for consumer input as to which styles will be the most crowd pleasing, although I cannot promise that I won’t follow my heart.












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