Just like the "Joker of the Month" in the Jokers section we will select a "Deck of the Month" from all the decks that we could add to our collection during that month. It will be what we consider our best find. We've started this section in April 2007 and without any doubt we can say here that over the years there will be antique, vintage and modern decks shown on these pages. Age, design and value of the chosen decks may be very different each time.

 

January 2024

 

Coming from the Dudley Ollis collection which is auctioned in several parts at Dominic Winter, all the decks arrived early this month, so this time the choice was easy. This deck was the most interesting in a lot of 3 French patterned decks and the main reason to participate in the live auction. So here is the first deck that was designed by Gatteaux.

This version of the deck has always intrigued me. The dots to establish ranking, the single images with double sided dots and pips and the unusual names of the queens and jacks were the most intriguing ones, but also the appearance of the dog on the Jack of Spades. He is a feature that has been repeated in the later standard single image French pattern, also designed by Gatteaux.

A short history: after Napoleon Bonaparte had taken power in France in 1799 and had declared himself emperor in 1804, he commissioned the Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David to design a new French pattern in 1810. However, his classical designs were not received well by the public and dismissed by Napoleon, who now commissioned Nicolas-Marie Gatteaux. The sculptor, who lived in Paris from his birth on 2 August 1751 until his death on 24 June 1832, had become famous for his engraving of special medals and had been appointed "graveur des médailles du Roi" in 1781. He based his designs on the neoclassical style by David. Neoclassicism was in vogue in those days. Gatteaux presented his designs in his "Empire" deck in 1811.

The illustrations above show the Gatteaux name and date, which can be found on the shield on the jack of clubs, and the over-stamp with the name of the publisher, which can be found on the jack of hearts. The Fabrique de J.T. Dubois was located at the Rue Souverain-Pont 314 in Liège (Belgium). Although there are wrappers of other decks, on which J.T. Dubois presents his company as "manufacteur" (maker), I doubt that in this case J.T. Dubois printed the sheets. In his description Dudley Ollis already wrote about J.T. Dubois "but they could well be simply the colourer of the printed sheet" and I agree with him. I don't know how easy or difficult it was for a Belgian manufacturer to obtain official French playing card paper, but the cards from the deck all have the eagle watermark. So I tend to rather regard J.T. Dubois as the publisher.
According to the WWPCM site there were 3 generations of Dubois active in Liège, of which this J.T. Dubois between c1800 -1825. His was first located on nr. 314 and later on nr. 83 in the same street.

In the Gatteaux deck the courts are all named in full, in French and in the same type font. In the deck by J-L David only the kings were named and their names printed in the language that they spoke. So king David's name was printed in Hebrew and Alexander's in Greek. That must have been one of the reasons that the public didn't like the deck. Gatteaux named his queens and jacks after figures, related to the king in each suit. In the later standard French pattern all the kings have kept their names and their suits, but the names of all the queens and jacks, except for Ogier (renamed as Hogier), have been changed. Noticeable in this Gatteaux deck is that the names of the kings are all printed on the right and those of the queens and jacks on the left.

In the spades suit King David is accompanied by his second wife Abigaïl and Azael (a.k.a. Azazel) is seen as a demon in the Hebrew culture, however here represented as a hunter.
Which brings me to something completely different: the question of the dog. Was it Gatteaux who introduced it?

Click the Jack to see some versions by other publishers and the answer to the question.

 

Hildegarde was a Frankish queen consort, the second wife of Charles.

Charles (I), king of the Franks, better known as Charlemagne.

Ogier (the Dane) is a legendary paladin of Charles.


Their old age doesn't make them less dull.......

 

Statira was his wife.
Alexander (the Great) Parmenion, a general in his army.
(Gaius Julius) Caesar.

Curion (Caius Scribonius Curio) was a political friend of Caesar.

Calpurnie (Calpurnia), his third or fourth wife.


He also lead the invasion of Africa.

 

The deck has 52 cards with a blank back.

Dudley Ollis, the auction house and the Britsh Museum dated the deck as 1811. Of course that year is mentioned on the shield, so the date should be obvious. However, when you've seen the different versions, which I show with the comparison of the jacks, there's a development, ending in the double pips and dots. So I tend to date the actual publication of this specific deck in a later year: c1815?