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A Princely Education through Print: Stefano della Bella’s 1644 Jeux de Cartes Etched for Louis XIV

This article studies a set of 199 educational playing cards published in 1644, commissioned by Cardinal Jules Mazarin as an educational device for the five-year-old Louis XIV upon his coming into power. Etched by the famed Florentine printmaker Stefano della Bella, and written by the French poet-playwright Jean Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin, the Jeux de Cartes were divided into four sets, presenting morals from Ovid, teaching geography, depicting famous queens and the characteristics for which they were remembered, and portraying every king from French history, thus proffering positive and negative examples of rule. Upon completion, they were immediately, repeatedly printed and widely sold. This article newly discusses the Jeux in the context of the speculum principum, alongside trajectories of early modern playing cards and pictorial education, to analyze how they imbued morals in the mind of the young king while broadcasting his educational agenda to the French public during an unpopular Regency.
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, Baroque, Etching