Continental miniature of an elegant red-haired gentleman with well-trimmed hipster beard. Circa 1600-1620. Oil on playing card: a 9 of diamonds. According to the study of Prof. Leonhard (cf below) this card refers to ‘money and worldly affairs’. Hence we may assume that this gentleman was wealthy either by social class or by profession (trader or treasurer).
Dimensions (without frame): 5,5x4,5cm.
Professor Karin Leonhard is Professor for Art History at Konstanz University, Germany
In her article from 20 September 2020 in British Art Studies: "Game of Thrones: Early Modern Playing Cards and Portrait Miniature Painting", (British Art Studies, Issue 17), https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-17/kleonhard
Prof. Leonhard examines whether there is a relationship between the playing cards used as a support and the portrait of the depicted individual. She examines the work of Hans Holbein, Nicholas Hilliard, Isaac and Peter Oliver, Jean Clouet and Lucas Horenbout.
British Art Studies https://www.britishartstudies.ac.uk/index/article-index/playing-cards-and-portrait-miniature-painting/article-category/article
All quotes below are from this article: “Anyone taking up the study of portrait miniature painting in England in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries is immediately struck by the ubiquitous appearance of playing cards as painting support. It is all the more striking that these are barely mentioned in the literature and that there are almost no illustrations of such playing-card backings. This may be because for a long time the reason for their use was supposedly mainly a practical one. For example, we read that playing cards were made of a pasteboard composed of several sheets of paper glued together. They were rather inexpensive, frequently thrown away after use, and therefore served as a handy material for artists and craftsmen in search of extra support for small paintings on paper or parchment. We know that the earliest portrait miniatures were routinely painted in watercolour and bodycolour on vellum, the vellum having been pasted onto the unprinted side of a playing card. This practice is mentioned in even the earliest treatises and recommended to painters of miniatures, as in the well-known passages by Nicholas Hilliard and Edward Norgate (…)
It is only recently that the re-use of playing cards as the backing for portrait miniatures has been accorded the least attention, for example, in a technical research project initiated by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, on the materials employed in the oeuvre of Isaac Oliver. Such investigations raise questions about the possible correspondences between the portrait miniature and the imagery on its support medium (…)
As far as I can see, Horenbout, Holbein, and perhaps Clouet as well shared a common code that is still the professed meaning of cards today: “Court cards are taken as indicating people; numeral cards relate to events. Hearts are construed as referring to the affections; Diamonds to money and worldly affairs; Clubs to business; Spades to the ‘serious affairs of life’”, especially military ranks.”
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