CULTURE. PLAYING CARDS, A REAL SELECTION OF THE CRIPPA COLLECTION AT SFORZESCO CASTLE

Milan – The “Achille Bertarelli” Civic Collection of Prints at Castello Sforzesco is enriched by the prestigious collection of playing cards and travel games created in Milan by Giuliano Crippa from the seventies of the last century until his death in 2020.

The collection was recently donated to the municipality of Milan (through a decision of the council of 4 February last year). A selection of these, 50 works in total, including fifteen playing cards and twenty different games, will be on display from tomorrow, Thursday 7 July, and until 9 October at the Saletta delle Grafiche in Castello Sforzesco.


The Crippa collection is a collection of extraordinary typological and chronological variations, comprising nearly two hundred piles of playing cards (among the oldest, a core of about forty-eighteenth-century decks) and about fifty board games (mostly from the eighteenth century).

The types of card games include traditional French and Italian playing cards (full or half figure), tarot cards, number cards and cards for other purposes, such as instructive and divination.

Milanese by birth, Giuliano Crippa has oriented his interest in collecting and as a scholar above all to the production of his city, which occupies a prominent role in the collection, which boasts the presence of tires from the major manufacturers who are active in the capital of Lombard between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A place of honor is occupied by decks made by the Bavarian Ferdinando Gumpenberg, author of valuable specimens that combine neoclassical influence and popular matrix, as evidenced by a rare tarot card dedicated to the views and crafts of Milan.

In addition to traditional card games, Crippa has collected other types of cards (popular since the nineteenth century): pure fun cards (Questions and Answers), cards with divination (Sibilline), games that involved the use of dice (Campana and Martello), but also cards used as models for a modern version of the ancient Chinese game Tangram, popular in the early nineteenth century as an extreme offshoot of eighteenth-century chinoiserie fashion.

The collection is enriched with a small core of engraved wooden matrices, which are used to print the sheets of the cards, which were subsequently cut and colored by hand, using masks (stencils) for a faster execution.

The board games are also of great importance, such as games about route, extraction and battle, about fifty in all, mainly from the eighteenth century.
Among these, the group of plates of Giochi dell’Oca belongs to special importance in its numerous variations. There are also two very rare examples of billboards glued to wooden structures and painted dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, respectively, incredibly survivors and survivors despite their use.

Some items in the collection also allow you to document material aspects of the game. For example, the old bag for extracting tickets to the most popular of gambling games: Biribissi will be on display. It is a leather skin that contains objects that look like large olives and that carry small pieces of parchment rolled up inside them with the symbols from the slot machines.

The Crippa collection had already made a significant contribution to the exhibition “Come play. Games and toys 1750-1960 ”, organized by the municipality of Milan in 1984 at Rotonda della Besana. Other pieces were the protagonists, along with those collected by Alberto Milano, in the basic review of parlor games Osteria games in the life of Milan from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century held in 2012 at the Palazzo Morando Costume Moda e Immagine.
The exhibition Card Games and Playing Cards, arranged on the occasion of the donation to the Bertarelli Collection, is the first monographic exhibition dedicated to Giuliano Crippa and his collection.

The exhibition is set inside the newly inaugurated graphic spaces, dedicated to the exhibition, in rotation, by the very rich graphic heritage of the Bertarelli collection and the drawing department of Castello Sforzesco. The exhibition is organized in two areas dedicated to playing cards, the other to games.

Civic Collection of “Achille Bertarelli” prints

It is one of the largest image archives in the world, with a legacy of prints, posters, postcards and illustrations estimated at around one million works. It was born in 1927 from an important core donated by Achille Bertarelli and strictly commissioned by him according to iconographic criteria in sections such as Plants and Views, Portraits, Historical Events, Popular Prints, which are the subject of ongoing implementation. It preserves masterpieces of the art of printing from its origins in the fifteenth century to the present day.
The archive is usually only open for consultation of the materials to an audience of researchers, while the exhibition of small thematic groups takes place cyclically in the graphic spaces.

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