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Cards

Some of the most unexpected and intriguing works that J. Rustem created were cards that he called “Cartes Barbouillées” (“Kitsch Cards”) and “Cartes de Fantaisie” (“Fantasy Cards”). The idea for the cards was probably taken from Germany, where “Cotta” cards with the symbols of the suits integrated into pictures spread at the start of the 19th century. Playing cards, which were very popular at the time, were thus turned into aesthetic items.

J. Rustem composed “Fantasy Cards” from different drawings and sketches (mythological, religious and domestic compositions, still lifes and portraits), deciding where to place the symbols and playing with stories, motifs and cultural allusions.

In 1814, Gotlib Kisling agreed to make engravings for 100 of J. Rustem’s cards and announced subscription. When the first 50 cards appeared, the Governor General of Vilnius received a complaint with the following denunciation: “[...] The chief administrator of Catholic spiritual issues, the secret advisor duke Alexander Nikolayevich, presented a few drawings on cardboard to me related to the Sacred Scripture that might cause indignation. He added that the author is one of Vilnius University’s professors, Rustem. From my side, assuming such an occupation of Mister Rustem indecent, I beg your Excellency to show the drawings delivered and advise him not to produce any such pieces in the future, as he might use his talent for better purposes”.

Due to the complaint, 20 of J. Rustem’s cards were banned through censorship. They were engraved on one side of a copper plate; the engravings of the banned cards were only slightly crossed with barely any damage to the images. A total of 80 copper engravings were initially printed, but all 100 cards were later reproduced.