Card players in art – works from the National Lottery Collection

[Turnhout, Belgium]

New exhibition at the National Playing Card Museum

Museum van de Speelkaart (National Playing Card Museum)
26 October 2019 – 30 April 2020

Everyone knows the National Lottery with its popular products such as Lotto or Win for life. Less well-known is that the Lottery also manages an extensive art heritage collection. In addition to the institution’s historical heritage, it owns a collection of over 10,000 art objects on the theme lotteries, games of chance and gambling. The collection includes paintings, graphics, sculptures, gaming tables, vending machines, playing cards, books and utensils. Large and small art from antiquity to the present.

To make the works accessible to the public, the National Lottery decided to place its collection in existing museums. For example, the National Museum of the Playing Card recently received a permanent loan of 570 works related to playing cards and card games.

Jan Olis – Soldiers playing cards and smoking.

Card players and playing cards are an attractive subject for artists. From the 15th century the theme occurs frequently in Western art. Painters and graphic artists do not shy away from criticizing the sinful behavior of the players in their work. According to moralists and clergy, card games have a demonic aspect: the presence of money on the table encourages cheating and gambling. Fortunately, a game of cards can also be completely innocent and can even evoke love and temptation. Thanks to the popularity of playing cards the colored ‘heart’ symbol has become the universal sign of love.

The loan starts in a grand way with the exhibition Card players in the arts in which the National Playing Card Museum is displaying various highlights from the collection. Art from the 15th to the 21st century, work by unknown masters and by big names such as James Ensor, Félicien Rops, Rik Wouters, Gustave de Smet, Frans Masereel and Niki de Saint Phalle. Images, old prints, cartoons and special furniture also have a place in the exhibition, such as a fairground wheel from 1900 with Lady Fortuna, a beautiful 19th-century ‘Harlequin’ gaming table or an impressive slot machine.

National Playing Card Museum
Druivenstraat 18,
Turnhout, Belgium
+ 32 14 41 56 21