chapter  2
15 Pages

Playing With Destiny

Three Late Fifteenth-Century Uncut Playing-Card Sheets from Florence and Urbino
WithLoretta Vandi

Three recently discovered late fifteenth-century playing-card sheets from Florence and Urbino, seemingly belonging to the sphere of cheap production and popular use, lend themselves to a fresh investigation of a topic still much debated by art historians: the dynamics of image multiplication and modification in the fifteenth century by means of printmaking, along with the function and value of their iconography. The Rosenwald and the Urbino Playing-Card Sheets, produced in the late fifteenth to early sixteenth century, and the Crippa Deck, of the late fifteenth to first quarter of the sixteenth century, seem the work of woodblock carvers who copied blocks with an outdated style. The three Urbino uncut playing-card sheets are good instances of how a discovery showcases the importance of understanding printed images as unique and modifiable multiples. However, among printed images, a playing card is an exception to the ideas of uniqueness and modifiable multiplicity as a comparison with a “classic” printed image demonstrates.