The Inglewood Hunting Deck consists of four suits of thirteen cards. Each of the suits is associated with an aspect of the medieval hunt: hawks, hounds, deer, and pheasants. The suits are easily distinguished not only by the animals appearing on the cards, but also by the background colours, and, for the court cards, by the colours of the clothing: hawks are on sky blue with navy blue clothing; hounds are on crimson and dark green with scarlet clothing; deer are on lilac with turquoise clothing; and pheasants are on yellow-orange with maroon clothing.
The four suits: aces of deer, hounds, hawks, and pheasants
Each of the fifty-two playing cards is a print of a watercolour painting. The "pip" cards (1-9) show scenes with the appropriate number of each of the hunt animals.
The tens are marked with the roman numeral X, and illustrated with banners. Such "banner tens" were found in the medieval hunting decks, and are in fact still seen in modern standard Swiss-suited Jass playing cards.
Finally, there are three court cards (J, Q, K) for each of the suits.
Court cards: pheasants and hawks
Court cards: hounds and deer
Thus, this deck of playing cards can be used to play many games usually played with a standard deck.
After playing cards first arrived in Europe in the late medieval period, a good deal of variation and experimentation took place in terms of the suits, especially in German-speaking areas. There are surviving early decks of cards with such exotic suits as wild beasts, wild men, crowns, hares, carnations, and many more.
Three complete or almost complete decks survive in which the suits of the cards were based on a hunting theme. And two of these: the Ambras Hunting Deck (Ambraser Hofjagdspiel, ca. 1440: hawks, hounds, lures, and herons) and the Stuttgart Deck (Stuttgarter Kartenspiel, ca. 1430: hawks, hounds, deer, and ducks) provide the greatest influence and inspiration for the Inglewood Deck. Both are ostentatious decks of cards, large, hand-painted, and doubtless extremely expensive; they are examples of what are now called luxury decks. The two decks have probably been used little if ever for play. Indeed, the Ambras deck seems unfinished: although the animals are outlined in detail in black, and the backgrounds are painted, none of the animals are coloured.
The Ambras hunting deck and the Stuttgart deck provided much of the inspiration for the creation of the artwork for these playing cards. But in addition, I also drew on other medieval sources, especially the richly illustrated Livre de Chasse (Hunting Book) of Phoebus.
A glimpse into the studio: paintings in progress
Some of the finished artwork
The makeup of the deck with four thirteen-card suits was chosen so that the cards could be used to play many popular card games. In early playing cards, the number and nature of the court cards was also rather variable: the Ambras Hunting Deck has four court cards per suit -- two manservants, a queen and a king; the Stuttgart Deck has three court cards per suit, but for two of the suits the court cards are all male, and for the other two they are all female. In designing the Inglewood Deck, I chose to stick to a standard jack, queen, and king for each suit for the court cards.
The medieval hunting decks do not have numerical indices. This, together with the fact that some of the hunting scenes shown are rather busy, could make some of the pip cards difficult to distinguish, and this could make playing with the cards rather difficult.
In designing the Inglewood Deck, I took care to ensure that cards with similar numbers of animals should also have some clear differences to allow them to be more easily recognised. So for example, for the bird suits, the 4, 6, and 8 are all flying. The 5, 7, and 9 are mainly perched, or all on the ground. For the land animals, the 6's also have baby animals, the 7's and 8's are running in opposite directions, and the 9's are standing still. But to avoid any uncertainty in recognising the cards, I have also added corner indices (1-9, X, J, Q, K), small, and in-frame, as seen on e.g., standard modern Spanish or Swiss decks.
"Pip" cards: deer
"Pip" cards: hounds
"Pip" cards: hawks
"Pip" cards: pheasants
The great majority of early playing cards had plain backs. To make this new hunting deck more attractive to today's card players, I have added a simple vermilion-coloured back pattern influenced by medieval daiper decorations.
The cards are delivered in a custom tuck box.
This deck of cards owes all its inspiration to two beautiful luxury art decks from the late medieval period, but the design of the playing cards has been updated a little to make them somewhat more useable. So this will hopefully bring a luxury painted hunting deck to the card tables of today.
The Inglewood Forest is the name of a historical Royal hunting forest close to Carlisle in the north of England. It is known as the setting of the old ballad of William of Cloudsley, Adam Bell, and Clim of the Clough, three woodland-dwelling outlaws with unsurpassed archery skills and a taste for the king's deer. Historically, the forest was wooded, but today the area is mainly farmland.
You can order the Inglewood Hunting Deck here.