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Suit System:S
Recommended Name:  the Turnhout Spanish pattern.

The Turnhout Spanish pattern is the name proposed (2, Ref. 48) for the best-defined of several 'Spanish' patterns to emanate from this Belgian town.

History and Description

Turnhout is well known as a centre of playing-card making and the source of playing-cards in the style of those from all parts of the world. This is certainly not their only attempt at a Spanish design, but it is the most deserving of recognition since it appears to be original and has departed from the usual imitations of crude woodcuts to adopt an individual and refined flavour of its own. It employs a lithographed line drawing rather in the manner of an etched design. The quality of the stencilled colouring varies from one edition to another, but when excessive use of Belgian crimson is resisted it is possible to find some very delicately executed examples. It probably originated in the 1860s. The figures are drawn with naturalistic proportions and all stand on firm ground occupying the lower fifth of the card. The outer margin is defined by thin double lines.

All the kings show stockings and knee-breeches, and the others have plumed hats of various shapes. The sotas grasp their suit symbols. The cavaliers of clubs and swords are distinctive in holding their weapons virtually at arm's length instead of sloping them to the shoulder as is more usual. Traditional heraldic symbols of Castille, Leon and Valencia appear on the ace of coins and the 4 of cups, and a date on the 4 of swords. A basket overflowing with flowers decorates the 4 of coins and other floral motifs appear elsewhere.


The usual Spanish composition of 40 or 48 cards: rey, caballo, sota and 9 to l or 7 to 1.

Some makers

The sharing of designs by Turnhout makers often makes it difficult to attribute individual packs. One dated 1864 is from Mesmaekers Frères ('Ms Fs a Tt' on the strap of the ace of swords). Others are said to be by Brepols & Dierckx Zoon, van Genechten and L. Biermans S.A. An example of the last named is said to be from about 1930 (l, Ref. 106).

Sources of Reference

1  AUTENBOER, Eugeen van, and CREMERS, F.: Turnhoutse Speelkaarten; Turnhout 1983.

2  MANN, Sylvia: All Cards on the Table; Leinfelden-Echterdingen and Marburg, 1990.

The Turnhout Spanish Pattern

Illustration of Turnhout Spanish pattern  (jpg 991 x 1442)

The International Playing-Card Society 3/1992

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