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Suit System:F
Usual Name:  the Dauphiné pattern.

Documented name: the Piedmont pattern ("figures de Piémont")
Variation: the Geneva pattern ("portrait de Genève" or "genfer Bild")


Although cards made in Grenoble between 1701 and 1719 bore circular (trade-) marks "Cartes de Dauphiné", the designation "portrait du Dauphiné" introduced by H.-R. D'Allemagne is questionable. Documents show that these cards were primarily aimed at an export market, namely the neighbouring Duchy of Savoy which spread as far as Lyons until 1601. A late 16th C. anonymous JC of this very pattern (former Mann Collection) bears the caption "Fatte in Torino" in a banderol. The sheets made for the Savoy card and tarot tax administration by Francesco Franco in Turin early in the 17th C. (British Museum, Willshire, F 48 and Musée français de la Carte à jouer, Issy-les-Mx) show that it was already the Duchy's Standard pattern. In 1668, the Lyons cardmakers were using the term "figures de Piémont", no doubt for this very pattern, and in 1702, we find mention of "planches servans pour [...] le Piémont" ("blocks used for Piedmont"). In 1698, an edict promulgated by the Duke of Savoy made this pattern compulsory (with model attached to the original document kept in the Turin Archivio di Stato). After 1700, Grenoble succeeded to Lyons, providing both the local market and the demanding Savoyard market. As the Grenoble archives show, between 1708 and 1714, the Turin monopoly kept on buying cards specifically made for Piedmont. From 1761, cards were manufactured by the Royal Factory ("Ferme Royale") in Turin; there were also cardmakers in Chambéry and Annecy. We do not know exactly when the Piedmont pattern was adopted in Geneva. Whereas Piedmont and Savoy seem to have rapidly switched to the French pattern under French rule (1800-1815), Geneva became the last recess of the Dauphiné pattern which was constantly produced there during the 19th C. — mostly double-headed — up to WWII. Some of the courts have been reversed so as to get all suit-signs on left; JC, still with his lion, shows a shield with the Swiss cross (on single-headed packs).

Characteristic features

Although largely produced in Lyons during the 16th Century, the Dauphiné pattern has almost no court in common with the other Lyons patterns (e.g. Lyons I, Lyons II, Provence, Burgundy); only the JC, with its heraldic lion on its breast (the lion of ... Lyons!) betrays its origin, for it is similar to that in the pattern of Lyons. Surprisingly, the nearest French pattern is that of Auvergne: actually the four kings are the same, the QC and QD are very similar. (Obviously the Auvergne pattern originated from Lyons too.) Two jacks of the Dauphiné pattern are very distinctive: JH, standing full-face, dressed in Roman cuirass, tunic and toga, holding a sabre, points his left forefinger upward, sometimes with the motto CHUT ("sh!") or IOVES BIEN ("play well"); JD, similarly dressed (cuirass, toga, leggings), is bare-headed and walks in profile; his kneecaps are decorated with human faces; the motto MAIS BIEN VOVS often appears. The JS cap with turned-up brims and feather, the JC doublet and trunk hose point to the reign of Francis I (1515-47). The maker's name generally appears in banderoles on JS and JC.


Like most French patterns, the Dauphiné/Piedmont pattern was produced in 32 and 52-card packs, but no pack made before 1800 has reached us complete.

Some makers

Lyons: Nicolas Rolichon (1572-83), Jean II Genevoy (1567-1610). Grenoble: J. Bourlion (1612-23), J. Garet (1648-89), the Cheminades (18th c.). Romans: C. Bertoin (1693-1745), J. Coissieux (1711-1786). Chambéry: B. and J. Mermoz (1686-96), C. Bovard (18th c.), E. Colombard (c.1730), C. Bodevin (c.1765), C.F. Carrajat (1786-1805). Turin: F. Franco (c.1600-1634), Fabrica di Torino (1737-C.1750), Fabrique Royale (1761-1769), Ferme Royale (1761-1800?). Geneva: the Gassmanns (19th c.), J.J. Logoz (early 19th c.). Schaffhausen: Müller. Milan: Gentilini e Zoya (c.1800-1810).

Sources of Information

D'ALLEMAGNE, Henri-René: Les cartes à jouer du XlVe au XXe siècle, Paris, 1906.

DEPAULIS, Thierry: Les cartes à jouer dans les Etats de Savoie: 1401-1861, (IN) Le Vieux Papier, forthcoming.

MAIGNIEN, Edmond: Recherches sur les cartiers et les cartes à jouer à Grenoble, Grenoble, 1887.

MANN, Sylvia: Alle Karten auf den Tisch / All cards on the table, Leinfelden-Echterdingen and Marburg, 1990 (Nos. 168-170).

PRATESI, Franco: Dauphiné cards on the wrong track, (IN) The Playing-Card, XXI/3,1993, pp.65-71.

Schweizer Spielkarten, Zürich, 1978 (Nos. 69-76).

WILLSHIRE, William Hugues: A descriptive catalogue of playing and other cards in the British Museum, London, 1876 (reprint Amsterdam, 1975).

The Dauphiné/Piedmont pattern

Illustration of "Dauphiné"/Piedmont pattern (jpg 806 x 955)
Top two rows: Courts from different packs made in Chambéry, late 17th Century.
Bottom row: Geneva pattern, by Gassmann, Geneva, mid-19th Century (all T. Depaulis collection)

The International Playing-Card Society 6/1997 ThD

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