Playing Cards, 16th Century, Flottner

Although Nuremberg had no university, towards the end of the 15th century the city became a major centre of humanism in Germany, as well as a centre of trade and skilled craftsmanship. The influence of classical forms and humanism was also mirrored by anti-classical tendencies, so that these playing cards can be seen as a parody or burlesque. The vulgar everyday activities of common folk (e.g. toilet humour and irreverence) is juxtaposed to bourgeois pretentiousness. The art of printing made it possible for art, knowledge and information - including political or social comment - to be made accessible to the common people… in this case thanks to a good block maker.

This deck is a reproduction of a satirical woodblock printed and water coloured pack designed by Peter Flöttner of Nuremberg, c.1545. Flötner (c.1490-1546) was a Nuremberg designer, sculptor, and printmaker. He was an important figure in the introduction of Italianate Renaissance design to sculpture and the decorative arts in Germany.  

The suit symbols are acorns, leaves, bells and hearts and the card values run from deuce, 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, Unter, Ober, Künig. The 10s are represented by banners. In the numeral cards the suit symbols have been moved to the upper half of the cards so that the bottom of each card is free for illustration, in what must be one of the most splendid woodblock packs from the first half of the sixteenth century.

48-card decks were commonly used for a trick-taking game "Karnoffel." It was played mostly by the lower classes, and the naughty or satirical images on this deck reflect the game's lower class origins (the name Karnoffel itself translates as "hernia") 


  • 48 card deck
  • Full colour front, plain back
  • includes an insert with the rules for the game Karnoffel.


Add to Cart:

  • Model: SL-HG04
  • Shipping Weight: 0.25lbs

This product was added to our catalog on Friday 10 May, 2013.