Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell

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The Playing Card Monk / Capuchin
 
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of the origami design known as the Playing Card Monk / Capuchin. 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.

So far as I know this fold and cut design first appears in the historical record in a painting by François Hubert Drouais (French, 1727–1775) titled 'Boy with a House of Cards'. I do not know when this picture was painted but it can be no later than 1775 when the painter died.

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The design also appears in a paintinmg by Jeanne Elisabeth Chaudet Husson (1767 to 1832) entitled 'Marie-Laetitia Murat portant le buste de Napolean', which can be dated to 1806. This picture also shows a folded Cocotte.

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A written description of how to make 'Les Capuchins' / Playing Card Monks from folded playing cards with a single diagonal cut (and how to use them as skittles to play the game of domino rally), appears in 'Manuel Complet des Jeux de Société' by Elisabeth Celnart, which was published by La Librairie Encyclopedique de Roret in Paris in 1827.

Roughly, 'Here is the simplest cutting of cards: wide at one end, pointed at the other, and slightly curved at the top, to keep it in balance, the Capuchin, which resembles a rifle bayonet, is a sort of card skittle; indeed, the children plant the Capuchins close to each other, and when one falls, the others fall in a row.'

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'Manual completo de juegos de sociedad o tertulia y la prendas', translated by Frances for D. Mariano de Rementería y Fica, which was published by Palacios in Madrid in 1831, contains a translation of the material about the Playing Card Monk which appeared in Celnart (see above).

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A similar description also appears in 'Juegos de los Ninos', which was published in Madrid by R y Fonseca in 1847. The final sentence says, roughly, 'The children stand the cards up, one after the other ... then, dropping the first, they push each other over and all of them fall in succession.'

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Both the design and its use as skittles in the game of domino rally are illustrated in 'Jeux et Jouet du Jeune Age' by Gaston Tissandier, which was published by G Masson in Paris in 1884.

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The design also appears in a section devoted to toys made from playing cards in 'Pour Amuser Les Petits' by Tom Tit, which was published in Paris in 1894. (Bottom left of the page shown below.)

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