Japan. Circa early-Edo Period, [1700- 1750] Complete Set with 200 cards, 100 painted illustrated cards and 100 poem cards. In fine condition, [780 x 560mm], in fitted lacquered case
A SPLENDID SET OF HAND PAINTED PLAYING CARDS.
The poems and illustrations have been hand-painted (in colours in the case of the illustrations) on the card faces which are made of silk. Silver- coloured paper has been pasted on the backs and borders of the cards. The cards themselves are flecked with gold dust, and come in their silver coloured wrapping papers. The wrapped cards come in gold brocade cloth cases with a chrysanthemum pattern, all preserved in a black lacquered case, the inside of the case is painted in gold.
The ‘Hyakunin Isshu’ established in the late Heian period (mid 13th century) is a collection of 100 famous poets and their works. It is thought that the Hyakunin Isshu’ began to spread to the upper class as a card game around the 16th century in the Warring States period. From the 17th century onwards during the Edo period, the game spread until it became important education for children of noble families.
The word ‘karuta’ came from the Portuguese word ‘carta’. This particular set of cards, thought to have been made in the early-Edo period, is a beautiful example in which the calligraphy on the cards with poems is highly accomplished and flowing, the painting on the illustrated cards is precise, the expression on the poets faces is lively, and the colours and other features have been executed in a lavish style.
These valuable cards were made in the early to mid Edo period. Smaller and mass- produced cards were made in the later period using woodblock printing instead of painting.