I’m reluctant to go into too much depth about these cards, as the sources are in French, and I want to be certain about translation. I do know they are believed to be from Lyons, and made in the second half of the fifteenth century. Due to the layout of the wood block they were carved on, the “pattern” has numbers of cards that don’t add up unless multiple packs are printed at a time. For example, The jacks were often printed on a separate sheet than the kings and queens. when stenciled, these were painted with four colors instead of the five for the other cards. Other examples of the time include sets of blocks that have twenty or more figures, and little if any indication of suits.
It is likely these blocks were constructed with this sort of efficiency in mind, resulting in packs that appear to have more than four courts.
As I was able to find images of five kings and queens, but only four valets, I will need to produce these five at a time to make use of all of the prints. I Have rotated the suits from pack to pack, as each has a different lineup of royals (the valets are the same).
The four jacks that correspond with this set are pretty battered (I believe these blocks were used to make a chest). Two are missing the tops of their heads, while another two are missing feet. A ‘topless’ valet is also missing his calves, while all four are missing part of the left side. This is where weapons are held, and I will need to reconstruct them. Some of the royals have similar damage.
Upon assigning them suits, I recall some authors (Benham,) suggesting the possibility that certain held weapons correspond to certain suits, so I tried to use those suggestions.
References I have encountered don’t seem to give a name for this pattern other than names such as “modes” and “Lyons cards” (Merlin, Romain). This is a bit vague to me, so I felt the need to give one. The botanicals on the royals made me think of Fougere Royale, an old perfume name.
Cards from these times are difficult to date. They are often dated by connecting a maker’s name to a guild roster, and in those cases, the maker’s active years can be determined. this may give more accurate dating to some packs, but does not take in to consideration the possibility of blocks being sold, inherited, copied, etc. These elements mean that even a date carved into the block is not enough to trust.
Colours for this pack are unknown to me, so I will assemble a palette based on contemporary cards, such as the ones found here:
My favorite sources are here