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Grasp of the Enjoying Playing cards

Grasp of the Enjoying Playing cards

2024-02-17 04:15:54

German engraver (fl. 1430s-1450s)

The 3 of Birds from the enjoying playing cards, a “single-plate card”
Virgin Mary

The Grasp of the Enjoying Playing cards (German: Meister der Spielkarten) was the primary main grasp within the historical past of printmaking. He was a German (or conceivably Swiss) engraver, and doubtless additionally a painter, energetic in southwestern Germany – most likely in Alsace, from the 1430s to the 1450s, who has been known as “the primary character within the historical past of engraving.”[1]

Varied makes an attempt to determine him haven’t been usually accepted, so he stays identified solely by way of his 106 engravings, which embrace the set of playing cards in 5 fits from which he takes his identify. Nearly all of the set survives in distinctive impressions, most of that are within the Kupferstich-Kabinett in Dresden and the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.[1] An additional 88 engravings are thought to be sufficiently near his fashion to be by his pupils.[2]

It has lengthy been recognised that Grasp’s fashion was intently associated to that of work from south-western Germany and Switzerland within the interval 1430–1450, by artists of whom the perfect identified is Konrad Witz. As well as, the Alpine cyclamen – a flowering plant native to the area – very steadily seems within the engravings. Though the idea proposed by Leo Baer to determine the Grasp as Witz has not been broadly accepted, the Grasp does seem to have been skilled as an artist moderately than a goldsmith like many different early engravers. His prints present an engraving approach intently associated to drawing, with types conceived in three dimensions and delicately modeled; different engravers have been often skilled both as armourers or as goldsmiths, comparable to Master E. S. or Israhel van Meckenem, and their works show a distinct set of stylistic conventions.[1] The Grasp’s shading is usually performed utilizing parallel vertical traces, and cross-hatching is uncommon.[3]

An engraving showing a standing poet with his back towards us in 3/4 profile, looking down at his printed poem
Grasp of the Enjoying Playing cards, A Poet Studying, 1430s, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Other than comparisons with work, the beginning of his interval of exercise can solely be dated to earlier than 1446 by a dated print by his presumed pupil, known as the “Grasp of 1446”. The truth that by then he already had a mature pupil means that the Grasp himself had been energetic for a few years by that date.[3]

Prints performed by the Grasp very not often seem available on the market, however on 20 September 2006 Christie’s London auctioned a print titled Queen of Flowers for £243,200 (about $450,000). The print is now a part of the print assortment on the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[4]

The 9 of Beasts from the enjoying playing cards. The central climbing bear additionally seems in an illuminated copy of the Gutenberg Bible. It is a “multiple-plate card”, the place every animal is on a separate small copper plate, a number of of that are reused on different playing cards.[1]

A lot of Grasp’s engravings, particularly the playing cards, comprise compositional components that additionally happen within the miniatures of the Giant Bible of Mainz of 1452–3 and different illuminations made in Mainz between then and 1482, together with not less than one illuminated copy of the Gutenberg Bible, which is now within the Princeton University library. It has been prompt that he painted components of those miniatures.[1] It’s usually thought that each units derive from a standard manuscript model-book of the kind painters are identified to have maintained, although this doesn’t rule out his involvement, or that of his workshop, within the portray.[5] There are related repetitions in lots of different manuscripts and different artistic endeavors, principally however not all German.[6]

The playing cards have typical suits for Northern European playing cards of the interval: flowers, birds, deer, beasts of prey and wild men – so 5 fits in whole. Every image (or “pip”) on a card is completely different, so the amount and issue of the engraving is way higher than present in a contemporary set of playing cards (and, equally, fast play will need to have been very tough as there aren’t any numbers depicted on the playing cards). Engraved units of playing cards are few; they will need to have been far more costly than these made in woodcut, which could be printed in a lot higher numbers earlier than the matrix wears out. Curiously and unusually, a number of the playing cards are composed of various little plates, one per pip, which have been presumably held collectively in a body for printing. Presumably the Grasp was in Mainz and was influenced by Johannes Gutenberg‘s movable type.[5] Regardless of this, nearly all of the pips are distinctive, and though they seem moderately jumbled as teams, when checked out individually it’s obvious that many are very effective research of their topics.[7] Regardless of the only a few impressions surviving, some playing cards exist in two states, and a few in numerous variations, all catalogued by Max Lehrs.

Place in printmaking[edit]

Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian (circa 1440)

Woodcut old master prints had begun across the flip of the century, and have been extraordinarily standard by the beginning of the Grasp of the Enjoying Playing cards’ profession, however have been then nearly all very crudely executed. Enjoying playing cards and spiritual photographs have been the overwhelming majority of the manufacturing. Though he comes very early within the historical past of engraving for prints, the Grasp of the Enjoying Playing cards is definitely not the inventor of the approach. He’s nonetheless thought-about the primary vital artist to make use of both printmaking approach. The artwork historian Arthur Mayger Hind characterised his fashion as “incisive and particular person”.[8]

See Also

After him got here a sequence of different vital engravers who had skilled as both an artist or a goldsmith, and after woodcuts grew to become broadly used for illustrating printed books, their high quality additionally improved. The Grasp’s different works are principally non secular and a few are comparatively giant for very early engravings; these have been supposed primarily for insertion as illustrations into manuscript devotional books. As with most early printmakers, a lot of his designs survive solely in copies by others, and plenty of haven’t survived in any respect.

A few of his presumed pupils have additionally been given names by artwork historians, such because the “Grasp of the Nuremberg Ardour”, the “Grasp of 1446”, and the “Grasp of the Banderoles”.[3] If the Grasp additionally practiced as a painter, whether or not on panel or in manuscript illuminations, no identification of any of his works has been usually accepted.


  1. ^ a b c d e Alan Shestack; Fifteenth century Engravings of Northern Europe;1967, Nationwide Gallery of Artwork, Washington (Catalogue), LOC 67-29080
  2. ^ Lehrs, Max. Geschichte und kritischer Katalog des deutschen, niederländischen und französischen Kupferstichs im XV. Jahrhundert (Vienna: Gesellschaft für vervielfältigende Kunst, 1908-1934): vol. I, pp. 63-207
  3. ^ a b c A Historical past of Engraving and Etching, Arthur M. Hind,p 20-21, Houghton Mifflin Co. 1923 (in USA), reprinted Dover Publications, 1963 ISBN 0-486-20954-7
  4. ^ “Master of the Playing Cards – The Queen of Flowers”. Metropolitan Museum of Artwork. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  5. ^ a b A Hyatt Mayor, Prints and Folks, Metropolitan Museum of Artwork/Princeton, 1971, nos 115-117.ISBN 0691003262
  6. ^ Anne H. van Buren, Sheila Edmunds: Enjoying Playing cards and Manuscripts: Some Broadly Disseminated Fifteenth Century Mannequin Sheets, In: The Artwork Bulletin 56. March 1974, p.12-30, ISSN 0004-3079
  7. ^ See Van Buren & Edmunds op cit for a desk
  8. ^ Hind, Arthur M. (1963). A History of Engraving & Etching From the 15th Century to the Year 1914. Dover Publications. p. 21. ISBN 9780486209548. Retrieved 3 July 2014.


NB: Twenty-nine of the playing cards, and different prints, are illustrated on Commons at [1]

  • Max Geisberg: Das älteste gestochene deutsche Kartenspiel vom Meister der Spielkarten, Studien zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte, Heitz, Straßburg 1905 – The usual work on the playing cards, through which all are reproduced.
  • Dorothy Miner, The Nice Bible of Mainz, five hundredth Anniversary, Washington 1952
  • Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt, Gutenberg and the Grasp of the Enjoying Playing cards, 1966 (Yale)
  • Martha Anne Wooden Wolff: The Grasp of the enjoying playing cards: an early engraver and his relationship to conventional media, 1979, Dissertation, Yale; UMI (ProQuest), Dissertation Providers, 2002
  • Martha Wolff: Some Manuscript Sources for the Enjoying Card Grasp’s Quantity Playing cards, In: The Artwork Bulletin 64, Dec. 1982, p. 587-600, ISSN 0004-3079

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