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Working on a recreation of the Mamluk cards

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Working on a recreation of the Mamluk cards


Recently I started working on a slightly modernized Mamluk cards recreation. My reference is a copy of the mulůk wa-nuwwŕb reproduction published by Aurelia Press (Series B). There is a good introduction to Mamluk cards on Andy Pollet’s site: http://l-pollett.tripod.com/cards64.htm

I don’t attempt to faithfully repaint every detail of the existing cards but rather try to use the principles that I think define the Mamluk pattern and to recreate the cards from scratch. In my book repeated abstract patterns (including more or less floral patterns), many symmetries and mathematically constructed forms (like parts of perfect circles) are an important part of the “spirit” of the cards. What I also would like to achieve is a consistent look and feel of all the cards. The Aurelia press reproduction is based on 47 cards thought to be part of three different decks. Some of the card had to be recreated to make a full deck of 52 or even 56 cards. This leads to a quite heterogeneous feel for the whole deck.

I haven’t got very far yet though. There are borders for pips and courts. And there is an incomplete king of coins (see attached images). And there are already many things up for discussion, I think.

The borders of the existing cards are in fact bronze/brownish for the pips and golden for the courts. But that may well be a result of the different decks these cards come from. Using different colors is closer to what there is but leads to a less unified look. I still somehow prefer different colors.

My major issue with the existing cards is these large blue patches of blue with Arabic calligraphy that cover tops and bottoms of the court cards. I think it is quite obvious that those are later additions, but couldn’t find anything about it online. Some reasons in favor of my theory: First, the bottom patch is missing on the 2nd vice King of polo-sticks. Second, on some cards the patterns of the rest of the card is shining through (see 3rd attached image). Third, and most crucial for me, when looking at the whole cards without the blue bits, the rest of the cards that is not blue look quite incomplete and imbalanced. Therefore I am in favor to leave out the bottom blue patches entirely and restrict the top blue patches to an area that seems to have been left out in the first place.

Does this whole approach make any sense for you? Or is it all going to be too stiff and too formal, using a vector graphics program to “construct” the cards rather than to actually draw them?

Thanks for any feedback.
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I actually like what I see. It might not have the authentic feel of the originals, but it can be a beautiful deck in its own right - not pretending to be a restoration, but rather a 'Mamluk-inspired' deck. Not to mention the great value of your personal learning, experience, exploration, and discovery of this (or these?..) gorgeous deck.
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I like what you have done, and like the blue along the top. I think you are on the right track!
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thanks, dancing_moon and delizt for your feedback and encouragement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dancing_moon View Post
Not to mention the great value of your personal learning
This is mainly the start of a self-educational journey for me indeed
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faded red


Red is the color that seems to have faded away more than the other colors on the mamluk cards. The remains are most obvious on the flower patterns but can be seen on various other places as well. The recreated cards in the Aurelia Press edition therefore contain a fair bit more red than can be seen on the original cards. But when they used the "royal pattern" (on the lower half of the king cards) to recreate what they thought would have been the 4th courts they painted this pattern in blue only.

Still there is some remains of red visible in this pattern as well, most obvious on the king of cups. I made two versions of this pattern. A blue-gold-white one that is closer to what is visible on the cards now and a blue-gold-red-white one which is probably closer to what the cards used to look like. The red one looks more lively but somehow less "decent". I can't decide which one to choose at the moment.
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Personally, I like the version with the red color more. To really decide which one looks more 'decent', you need to see the entire card, I think.

Perhaps, if you find the primary red too aggressive, you could try choosing a muter hue.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dancing_moon View Post
Personally, I like the version with the red color more. To really decide which one looks more 'decent', you need to see the entire card, I think.

Perhaps, if you find the primary red too aggressive, you could try choosing a muter hue.
It may sound strange but the red I used is already muted down a fair bit.

I put the patterns into the card, and to me the red does look quite nice in the whole card. I'll post the complete king of coins once it's ready.
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Can't wait to see it.
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I'd like to see you draw one by hand
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Debra View Post
I'd like to see you draw one by hand
I do see your point. It's just that the cards keep shouting "constant ratios" and "symmetries" at me so loudly that I can't not respect that And I like the thought that the people who created the mamluk cards in the first place might have done the same if the technical tools had been available back then. Pure speculation of course.

I'll try to draw cards by hand though when I get on to the Moorish cards and the Visconti deck, after I finished this project. Well, that is in a year's time or two ...
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