Saturday, November 12, 2016

19th Century Lenormand Fortune Telling Cards

 Madame Lenormand was a fortune teller in the early 19th century who was wildly famous as these things go at that time! She was perhaps the best known fortune-teller of her day and her main stock in trade was cartomancy. On her death publishers of playing cards tumbled over themselves to offer Lenormand fortune telling decks. It isn't clear just how closely related, if at all, to the card she may have used, these 'gypsy' style decks were but they soon became a more or less uniform system. They are still popular today and have a much more 'storytelling' approach to telling fortunes than, say, tarot cards.

19th century decks are scarce and I was delighted to find this one the other day. A little research tells me that this was published by the German lithographic printer of playing cards, Berndard Dondorf and that this variation (with the dragon logo and BD in the top right corner of the cards) was printed from 1878 until the closure of the company in 1933. Beyond that, therefore, dating is a bit of a best educated guess affair. But, since you asked, I suspect this deck is 1890-1900.


Chris said...

I'm not that familiar with European work but compared to American illustrations the style of drawing and content such as the architectural images (see numbers 4, 19, 20), the bunches of flowers and fruits (numbers 9, 24, 25, 30) and the clothing (28, 29) all look mid-century to me.

Callum said...

Hi Chris,

You are completely right of course, the style is very mid-century and would probably have been looking a little old-fashioned even when produced. The same prints were used right up to the 1930s to produce this deck (by which point of course it would have been very old fashioned indeed)so the only way to date it within the very large date range is just by the condition of the paper and the usage and just the 'sense' one gets after years of dealing with old paper.

Of course, I suppose that appearing old fashioned is probably a bonus when it comes to presenting a fortune telling deck!


Chris said...

"the condition of the paper and the usage and just the 'sense' one gets after years of dealing with old paper."

All things I couldn't tell online, of course. That'll teach me that there's more to look at than style.


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