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Suit System:S
Recommended Name:  the Franco-Spanish pattern.

When this pattern was first described by the (International) Playing-Card Society (5) the name used for it was 'Archaic Franco-Spanish' - the object of 'archaic' being to avoid confusion with more recent patterns also having both French and Spanish associations. For general use 'the Franco-Spanish pattern' should be adequate. It is called 'the Volay pattern' by W.B. Keller (6) from the name Jehan Volay (the marque of the Delotz family of Thiers) which appeared on packs over a long period of time. It appears as 'Aluette I' in S. Mann's catalogue (7); in that context it is paired with 'Aluette II', though if, as seems likely, the older pattern served a broad card-playing purpose, the name 'aluette' places premature emphasis on the later 'single-game' association.


It conforms to a broadly Spanish appearance but has certain peculiarities of detail and, on the evidence of surviving examples, seems to have been made mainly in France. Packs found in locations as widely separated as the Netherlands and northern Spain have the date '1570' on one of the coins illustrated - though it has been questioned whether this is the date of the cards themselves. Comparable examples made in Spain do not appear until the next Century, as, perhaps, did a printing block with the arms of Navarre in the Museo de Naipes in Vitoria. Far more examples from the south and west of France can be seen in various collections.

Several features distinguish the pattern. If a single unmistakable feature were sought, it is that the cavalier of coins is shown in back-view, with the horse's head virtually hidden by the rider. The ace of swords with its ornamental strap is characteristically accompanied by a naked child; the sota of cups bears an heraldic lion on his breast. The ace of coins usually carries a Version of the Spanish heraldic arms, and the central coin of the five, portraits of the Catholic Monarchs. The king of coins holds aloft a small axe.

The pattern is now extinct, its obvious successor being the present Aluette pattern of France, while its influence can also be seen in the Piacentine cards of Italy. Individual details have long been shared with other patterns - the axe-brandishing king, for example, appears in several of the former French regional patterns, while the knave of coins with his heraldic lion is equally at home in others. Different Spanish packs have shared one or more of its features at some time. Scarcity of material from before the 18th Century makes it precarious to state with confidence which were the true initiators and which the legatees of the pattern which emerged.


Usual Spanish composition of 48 cards: roi, cavalier, valet and 9 to l (though packs of 52 are known, with 10s included - e.g. see Willshire (8)).

Some makers

A named example carrying the date '1570' is by Jehan Bresson (4). One or two packs from Spain which come close to the pattern include a dated one designated 'S.A./SEVILLA/1647' (3, ESP 16), though T. Depaulis (2) considers this to be an independent pattern. Mostly from 1690 onwards, the French names Jean Pouns, Guillaume Grossard, François Gaben, Jehan Person and Jehan Volay (as well as Jehan Valay and Jehan Virney) appear, together with many anonymous examples 'fechas en Bordeaux', 'fechas en Bayona' etc. and others from makers in Agen, Dax, Nantes, Rouen and Thiers. An isolated late maker of the pattern in Spain, c.1800, is Franco Hormilugue (6, SPA 71); possibly another, c.1750, is 'Fabrica de Landa', both with addresses in Vitoria.

Sources of Reference

1 DENNING, Trevor: Spanish Playing-Cards; The International Playing-Card Society, London 1980.
2 DEPAULIS, Thierry: Portraits en Espagne avant 1800, (IN) The Playing-Card, XX/3, 1992,PP76-78.
3 FOURNIER, Felix Alfaro: Los Naipes..., catalogue, Museo de Naipes, Vitoria, 1982.
4 JANSSEN, Han: Spanish Cards found in 1574, (IN) The Playing-Card, XV/3, 1978, pp88-89.
5 Journal, The Playing-Card Society: VII/2, p36.
6 KELLER, William B.: A Catalogue of the Cary Collection of Playing-Cards in the Yale University Library, New Haven, 1981.
7 MANN, Sylvia: All Cards on the Table; Leinfelden-Echterdingen and Marburg, 1990.
8 WILLSHIRE, William H.: A Descriptive Catalogue of Playing and Other Cards in the British Museum, London, 1876 (reprinted 1975).

The Franco-Spanish Pattern

Illustration of Franco-Spanish pattern  (jpg 903 x 1111)

The International Playing-Card Society 3/1992

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