Late nights meant more time for fun, especially for people flush with cash. Card playing and other games of chance that originated in the Middle East became wildly popular throughout Europe in the 1700s. The names of the games—hombre (Spanish), quadrille (French), cavagnole (Italian)—suggest the range of countries that adopted the trend. 

Elites usually played cards at home to socialize, flirt with lady luck, and flaunt disposable wealth. But children were also encouraged to join in the (daytime) fun, as card games also honed math skills.

The new noctural lifestyle was not unique to France. Here we see an aristocratic British couple paying the economic and social costs of nightlife. Candles burn low after a wild night, the gamers having apparently kept at it until sunrise. An exhausted servant yawns in the messy salon in the background. Cards are strewn across the floor. The couple encapsulates the excesses of a new generation of night owls.

Today, tarot cards are associated with fortune-telling, but they were developed in 1400s Italy for card games. Tarot decks and tarot games altered as they grew in popularity and spread throughout Europe, but a common feature is an extra suit that could be elevated above its rank for “trumps”—a key ingredient in complicated trick-taking card games—card games that have rounds (tricks) that can each be won (taken) by a single player. It was not until the 1800s that it became more common to use tarot cards for making predictions.

Report A Bug