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Judith as the Queen of Hearts

About that drug-induced hallucination … the former depiction of Judith by Elisa Johns reminds me of Alice in Wonderland.   The shifting scenery and perspective.   Which actually brings up a little known fact about Judith:  she is the Queen of Hearts.

No, seriously – her name is on the original cards.

English playing card of Rouen design

Standard playing cards of the Paris design

Originating in Asia, playing cards first appeared in Europe in the late 14th century with suits similar to current tarot suits:  Swords, Staves, Cups and Coins (aka disks or pentacles).    The four suits used today (spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs) were designed in France.   In the 15th century, historical and mythological heroes and heroines depicted as European royalty were introduced as court cards – designs from Paris being standard in France but designs from Rouen becoming the standard design in England.  The suits and court names from these cards became:

  • Kings:  David (spades), Charlemagne (hearts), Julius Caesar (diamonds), Alexander the Great (clubs)
  • Queens:  Pallas/Athena (spades), Judith (hearts), Rachel (diamonds), Argine (clubs)
  • Knave:  Ogier the Dane (spades), Le Hire (hearts), Hector (diamonds), Judas Maccabee/Lancelot (clubs)

There is little to recognize Judith as the Queen of Hearts.   Seems like she would have been more appropriate as Queen of Swords.   Unless we consider Helene Bonham Carter portraying Lewis Carroll’s embodiment of unbridled fury:

however, these two depictions created by contemporary graphic artists attempt to return Judith to her rightful place.

Edgard Paiva, Queen of Hearts, (2007), http://www.toshizohijikata.deviantart.com/

Reticensual, Queen of Hearts, 2009, http://www.reticensual.deviantart.com

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For a fascinating departure into the history of playing cards:
The World of Playing Cards
White Knuckle Playing Cards
David Madore: Courts on Playing Cards
Jim McNeil: How the Jack of Hearts was trumped by Joan of Arc

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2011 in Glory

 

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