On loan to The Met The Met accepts temporary loans of art both for short-term exhibitions and for long-term display in its galleries.

5 of Flowers, from The Playing Cards by the Master of the Playing Cards

Master of the Playing Cards German

Not on view

Here the Master of the Playing Cards arranged the suit symbols symmetrically, but, contrary to convention, he often scattered his suit symbols randomly across the face of the card. Note also how each rose takes a variant form.

The Playing Cards by the Master of the Playing Cards

An anonymous Upper Rhenish artist known as the Master of the Playing Cards produced these engraved cards—a considerably less costly alternative to hand-painted decks. They are the earliest known intaglio prints and were made from engraved copperplates. The figures are brilliantly modeled, with fine parallel lines creating a masterful play of light and shadow as well as sculptural volume. The artist’s sure control of both the burin and the stylus (tools used to incise the copperplate) suggests he had traditional training as a goldsmith, whereas his painterly style with a skilled command of line and tonality may well be indicative of experience in a painter’s workshop. Scholars have often noted distinct affinities with Konrad Witz (whose workshop made The Courtly Hunt Cards) both in the plastic treatment of figures and in his close observation of nature. The pip cards, with values indicated by the number of repetitions of the suit sign, vary in both the choice of the symbols (there are variant forms) and their placement. The face cards were produced with a suitless image for each of the four ranks, to which a suit symbol could be added. Theoretically, the same suitless face card could be used for all five suits, which eliminated the need for a separate plate for each figure, but the Master of the Playing Cards also created an individual face card for each suit; thus numerous combinations were possible in different decks. Of the seventy-some impressions known, only one actually mounted as a card and hand-colored has survived.

Suits: Stags, Birds, Beasts of Prey (Bears and Lions), Wild Men, and Flowers (Roses, Cyclamen, and Pinks)
12 (?) cards in each suit: King, Queen, Upper Knave, Under Knave, 9 through 2; apparently no Banner (10) or 1
Original number of cards is uncertain, possibly 48

5 of Flowers, from The Playing Cards by the Master of the Playing Cards, Master of the Playing Cards (German, active ca. 1425–50), Copperplate engraving on paper (suits signs printed from a separate plate), German

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.