Shakespeare in Sweden

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By Jan Padover


Jan Padover, the illustrator for Prospero Art Publishers recently finished an exhibit of his playing card designs at the Nut House Cafe & Gallery in Upplands Väsby, just north of Stockholm. Among the original art shown for the companies many decks, are twenty watercoloured pen & ink drawings done for their Shakespeare Playing Card Decks.

“I got the idea for the Bard deck when I suddenly realized that playing card decks have  characters such as Kings, Queens and Jokers, as do many of Shakespeare’s plays.” Jan lives in San Francisco, but visited Sweden for the exhibition. “I then thought of putting quotes on all of the cards, and if that wasn’t enough, also having each suit represent the emotion of the card, for instance hearts being quotes expressing thoughts of love. To load more icing on the cake, we also decided to have the quotes on the number cards having that same number in the quote, so a two of hearts might have a Romeo love quote about two lips, for instance.”

Jan’s love of Classical and Baroque art also came into play in the designs of these decks. “The illustrations for the face cards were drawn from the works of the old masters, such as Brutus being from the sculpture by Michelangelo, or Henry VIII from the portrait by Hans Holbein. This allowed me to study the art of the masters by copying their work, and delve deeper into Shakespeare while searching for the quotes.  I work in the San Francisco school system, and on occasion it has given me a thrill to see school kids playing card games with these cards featuring classical art and quotes from the greatest writer in the English language.”

After the success of the Shakespeare Quotes decks, Prospero Art decided to produce a second deck, “volume two” of Shakespeare Insults Playing Cards, using the same basic format of a Classical and Baroque look to the art and design. “Here we decided to avoid any of our previous restraints regarding the suit theme or numbers, but give the 54 most insulting, or funny insults we could muster. The Insults generally outsell the quotes by a two to one margin. You can be the judge if this says anything about our society today.”


The views expressed in this post are the author’s own.

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