December 2022

The 3 decks from the French auction indeed arrived early this month. So I could take my time, as my choice for this spot had already been made up after winning the lots.
So here it is........

In the auction catalogue the deck was attributed to Gustave Lenssen, a Dutch playing cards maker, and dated c1860. But there is no reference on any of the cards to that maker. However, the presence of a set of scenic aces with views of Batavia with captions in Dutch suggests a Dutch maker. There were not many playing card manufacturers left in the Netherlands in the 19th century. The company of Gustave Lenssen was based in Maastricht and was active there between 1838 and 1859. Thanks to Lex Rijnen, the expert on antique Dutch playing cards and their makers, we know that in the late 1850's the company has exported playing cards to the Dutch East Indies too: 169 gross in 1858 and 185 gross in 1859. A deck with a set of recognizable scenes on the aces could have been an attraction for the Dutch residents in the Dutch East Indies.

The images on the courts are copies of the courts from a deck, which is known as "Lohengrin & Tannhäuser". The maker of that deck is not clear. France is mentioned as country of origin, but Jean Darquenne attributes the deck to Wolfgang Reuter and dates it as c1855. Those courts were accompanied by a set of aces with scenes from Wagner's Lohengrin and Tannhäuser, hence the nickname of the deck. That deck was printed by steel engraving and the kings and queens are named.
The Lenssen deck was printed in lithography, so there are differences although the overall image looks the same. The names have been left out, but the special suit signs were copied too. A noticeable feature are the delicate round cornered outlines around the image within the square cornered cards. They were not used in the original Reuter deck.

The courts have two different images each. The kings depict 8 German emperors or rulers from the Middle Ages. Jean mentions a few of them, such as Barbarossa (KS), Otto III and Heinrich I (both on KH). Lohengrin (top) and Tannhäuser are on the JH.

A nice set of scenic aces, dedicated to the city of Batavia in the Dutch East Indies (now: Jakarta, Indonesia) was the most important reason to buy this deck. Note the "déposé" on the ace of spades. In the 19th century French was the lingua franca and printing "deposited" on one or more cards was a way of claiming copyright. It's seen in some Belgian and French decks from that era and it's plausible that Lenssen has used it too. The aces show scenes from different districts of Batavia, like Pintoe Kitjil or Goenong Sahari. Rijswijk is named after a Dutch town and the Waterloo square is still famous in Amsterdam too.

An upside down presentation of these aces can be seen by clicking the ace of spades.


The queens are named after historical or legendary figures, such as Isabella von Thuringen (top) or Gertrudt von Flandern on QC.
The jacks show mythical heroes.


A secondary reason to buy the deck were the special designed suit symbols, repeated on each of the pip cards.


It's nice to see how Facebook groups can give additional new information. I posted a teaser for this Deck of the Month in a few groups and in the 52+Joker group Paul Symons brought it to my attention, that Daveluy had produced a similar deck with a similar set of aces.
Paul wrote:
 "I think this may be an early version of the Batavia Playing Cards by Daveluy. The aces have the same views and the suit signs are the same. Only some of the courts are different".

I replied:
"Thanks for this interesting observation, Paul. It would certainly explain the thin outline with the remarkable rounding of the corners, which acts as outline for the gold finishing in the Daveluy deck. I too have compared the images on the courts, but couldn’t find any differences. Some figures are just presented upside down in your picture.
Of course the Daveluy is a luxury version, probably printed on porcelain card with gold around the images. Still, it also seems to be derived from the deck, which was attributed to Reuter by Jean. Similar designs of the courts, but without the added names to the figures.
I’m not sure if my deck can be described as an early version of the Daveluy deck. It rather looks like a poor man’s version of it and I doubt that Daveluy would have published such a low quality version of this pattern and aces first.
When I took out the book about Daveluy (Biebouw/Clays/Cremers/D’hondt/Smet, 2004) the luxury version is dated 1860 – 1885. Luc has this Daveluy deck in his collection too and shows it in his book on p45, with similar dating info, referring to the Daveluy book from 2004.
But there’s an interesting discussion in the Daveluy book about the connection between Daveluy and Lenssen, in which Jean Darquenne has explored plagiarism in 2 decks, attributed to Daveluy. In the case of the Moyen Age deck Jean concluded that the original design was by Daveluy, but in case of this Batavia deck he concluded that it was Daveluy, that had plagiarized the Lenssen deck, which was based on the Lohengrin & Tannhäuser deck. 
The first editions of the Moyen Age deck by Daveluy had a gold border, but not rounded off on the inside. That feature came in later editions of the deck. So it's even possible that Daveluy has copied the round corners from Lenssen. But of course Daveluy did them in gold.

Click HERE to see the Daveluy version, which was added by Paul Symons to his post.