It’s a great pleasure for me to introduce you to my Queen of Hearts! I illustrated and designed this card for the amazing “52 Aces Reloaded” poker deck by Zeixs – Books for Designers which will be published later this year. I look very much forward to that! Right now, Zeixs are showing a preview of the cards on Facebook, and it’s exciting to see this fantastic deck grow with different styles.
This is what they write about their first edition: “52Aces is a deck consisting of 52 extremely different cards. The basic idea was to have each of these cards individually designed by an international designer or illustrator in their distinct style. Then the unique ensemble, in which a variety of illustrations in many styles come together to form an interesting compendium, was to be presented in high-quality packaging and sold in a limited edition of 999 copies.”
First edition of Zeixs 52 Aces poker deck, Photo © Zeixs – Books for Designers
I think the idea of these decks is pretty awesome (no surprise that their first edition won the Reddot Award!) and I felt so honoured to participate this time. I could even choose a card – thank you so much for this, Marc and Sahba!!! – and I was so happy the Queen of Hearts was still available.
As a child, I really loved playing cards, especially with my Granny, and the cards themselves. For my card and in particular for the illustration, I aimed for some kind of traditional style, but with a twist. I wanted to do more than just using the card as a canvas for something pretty, and there are elements in the traditional cards that are there for a reason (like the option to turn the card upside down and still see the illustration), so I wanted to treat these things with respect.
Three of the traditional Queen of Hearts playing cards I’ve known since childhood
Based on traditional styles, my Queen of Hearts has a very limited number of colours (basically just black, dark teal, cherry red, golden yellow and a bit of silvery grey – which was a very nice challenge as I am used to work with a full colour palette) and shows an upside down illustration, but much more connected than the traditional playing cards and with a slightly different Queen on each side. Doing some research, I found the rose and the swallow as symbols for love… plus the tender little touch in the center of the image.
It was interesting to find that the classic Queen of Hearts, according to legends, was impersonated by Elizabeth of York or Catherine of Aragon, both Queen Consorts from the Tudor era – I didn’t want to use the typical headdress as she wouldn’t wear that today, but I used the typical corset of the time (it’s always so nice to apply some costume history knowledge!) and some kind of Tudor rose with five petals and coincides nicely with five being the number of love. Old German decks don’t show any Queens, but a special season card with country women doing seasonal things. Here, the Hearts symbolize spring and the “season” cards pictures a woman picking a flower – it was nice to see that all the decks I looked at had the flower in common. In the French deck, the Queen of Hearts is supposed to show the biblical figure of Judit, which I like a lot. I didn’t want to attribute mine with Holofernes’ head though or just write the name as in the French card, but her ring might have some very special abilities. If you’d like to know more about playing cards, please visit Wikipedia.
I didn’t know before there were so many songs, poems, novels, plays and nicknamed people that refer to a “Queens of Hearts”, but it was definitely nice to have a playlist for this project!
I found many, very different interpretations of what a “Queen of Hearts” is said to be like… is she (a) a much loved and caring person (like the Queens and Princesses impersonated or nicknamed, f.e. Lady Diana), (b) a heartbreaker (like in the poem by Christina Rossetti (1866): “How comes it, Flora, that, whenever we / Play cards together, you invariably, / However the pack parts, / Still hold the Queen of Hearts?”), (c) someone who would do anything for the one person she loves (like in the song by Joan Baez (1972): “To the queen of hearts / is the ace of sorrow / He’s here today, he’s gone tomorrow / Young men are plenty but sweethearts few / If my love leaves me what shall I do?”), (d) someone with the courage to kill a king for her beloved people’s sake (like Judit) or (e) just a blind fury as Lewis Carroll suggests in Alice in Wonderland, based on (f) the tart-loving Queen in the old nursery rhyme (“The Queen of Hearts / She made some tarts, / All on a summer’s day; / The Knave of Hearts / He stole those tarts, / And took them clean away.”)?
I tried to add a bit of them all (excluding the nursery rhyme and Carroll, as the character is too different and seems mostly based on the rhyme of “hearts” and “tarts”) in my own interpretation of the character.
By the way, I would just love to illustrate and design a whole deck… someday.