Scholars don’t all agree on quite when they were made, although most opinions I have encountered believe the costume suggests around 1470. They were discovered in the 1860s, when they were likely attributed to Liechtenstein.
These cards, along with a few other early fragments, exhibit a few very curious traits. They feature German courts (king, ober, unter), but the suits are latin. Like the earlier Morisca cards, there seems to be a transitional suit of clubs. A shillelagh, a pilgrim staff, or perhaps an adze?
There is also a fifth suit of Schilten, a suit found in Swiss packs. Could this be a parent pattern?
Although no queens were found, the pack does feature women. The Unter of coins wears her hair short, but has a long, flowing frock. The Unter of sticks, on the other hand, is naked and straddling her suit sign.
Although the print is smudged (they were rejects recycled into a fifteenth century manuscript cover) it is still quite expressive. As I flesh them out I’m reaching for the same brushes and pens as I did for the Morisca cards, and they feel like there is a relation. They certainly feel like a natural evolutionary fit, and I’m thinking they may be finger-painted.
The pack is quite large at 57 x 89mm; combined with a fifth suit, and the possibility that it also included a fourth or even fifth court ( queens and knights) means this pack was a lot of paper.
I printed up a few to see what they look like in the hand.
These are currently available in bridge size.