Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell

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Designs folded from Playing Cards
 
This page attempts to record what is known about designs folded from playing cards. Many of these designs use cuts and so can be considered to be cardboard modelling / cartonnage. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.

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Folded Playing Cards - possibly for use as Skittles - c1735 onwards

This painting by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin (1699 - 1779), dated to c1735/7, shows a boy playing with folded playing cards. From the way the cards are arranged it seems as though they are being set out for a game of skittles.

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This second painting, also by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin (1699 - 1779), and also dated to c1735/7, shows a boy building a house of cards using unfolded playing cards, but also shows several folded cards standing nearby on the table.

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This third picture by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin, titled 'La Gouvernante' (The Governess), held in the collection of Tatton Park in Cheshire, and which can be dated to c1738, includes two folded playing cards standing / lying on the floor.

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In about 1740 the studio of the British painter Francis Hayman produced a painting, designed by Hubert Francois Gravelot, titled 'Building Houses of Cards' which was hung in a supper-box at Vauxhall Gardens. In 1743 a print of the design was made by Gravelot / Lauren Truchy. The adults are building a house from cards. The children on the smaller table are playing with folded playing cards. From the way the cards are arranged they appear to be playing skittles.

From http://www.historicalportraits.com/Gallery.asp?Page=Item&ItemID=520&Desc=Card-party-%7C-Hubert-Francois-Gravelot: 'In about 1740 the then proprietor of the Gardens Jonathan Tyers decided, in the face of competition from the Rotunda at Ranelagh Gardens (later made famous by Canaletto), that displaying works of art could help him attract more visitors. The decision was an astounding success, not least because it was effectively England’s first public art gallery. In each of the supper-boxes Tyers hung a painted scene, or ‘conversation piece’, with the latest designs by artists such as Hogarth, Hayman, and Gravelot. Almost all the pictures were painted in the studio of Francis Hayman, a leading artist of the day whose pupils included the young Gainsborough. Professor Allen has shown in his article ‘Francis Hayman and the Supper Box Paintings for Vauxhall Gardens’ [in The Rococo in England, London 1986], that most of the supper-box pictures for Vauxhall were produced in a short period of time in the early 1740s. We know from the letter-press of early engravings that Gravelot was responsible for a number of designs, which are immediately distinguishable in the Vauxhall series by the elegance of the composition and the obviously French fashion and interiors. Those now known to be by Gravelot are; The House of Cards, the Mock Doctor, and Quadrille.'

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Playing Card Monks / Capuchins - c1760 onwards

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Folded Playing Cards used to construct a House of Cards - 1744

This engraving from 1744 shows a young woman building a house of cards using folded playing cards. The print was made by Jean Michel Liotard after Francois Boucher and comes from the collection of the British Museum.

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The Playing Card Cube - c1800 onwards

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Folded Playing Cards used as bows on kite tails - 1821

'Les Jeux de Jeunes Garcons', illustrated by Xavier Le Prince (otherwise known as Xavier Leprince), which was published in Paris in 1822 (although the drawings are dated 1821) contains a picture of boys using folded playing cards as bows on the tail of a kite.

The accompanying text reads 'At the bottom of the kite hangs a long tail made from a string to which are attached, from distance to distance, folded and flattened cards or half cards; the tail terminates in a kind of cut paper tassel.'

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