Playing Cards in Rezaabbasi Museum

Ganjfeh or Ganjafa is a kind of card game that is a treasure of understanding‭, ‬and because of its multiplicity in use in the word‭,‬‭ ‬it has been called Ganjfeh‭. ‬This game increases intellect and understanding‭.‬

Apparently‭, “‬Ganjafa‭” ‬was not a typical game before the Safavid era‭. ‬Mirza Sadegh‭, ‬the author of Shahed Sadegh‭, ‬who dedicated chapter 64‭ ‬of his book to Ganjafa‭, ‬writes as follows‭: ‬This game is one of the inventors of Mirghiasuddin Mansour Shirazi‭, ‬who lived during the Safavid era and was a brilliant and genius person‭.‬

Ahli Shirazi also has a booklet called Ganjfeh which contains 96‭ ‬bits‭, ‬and if we want to write each bite on white paper‭, ‬it is‭ ‬a sheet of Ganjfeh‭. ‬This person died in the year 942‭ ‬AH‭, ‬and if Ahli composed these couplets 30‭ ‬years before his death‭, ‬this game still does not date back to before the Safavid era‭.‬

Therefore‭, ‬according to the surviving documents‭, ‬this game was popular in the Safavid period‭.‬
During the Safavid period‭, ‬especially during the reign of Shah Abbas I‭, ‬it was familiar‭, ‬but during the reign of Shah Abbas II‭, ‬this game was like a forbidden game due to changes in society‭.‬

The playing cards consist of 8‭ ‬groups of 12‭ ‬pieces‭, ‬which are in a set of 96‭ ‬sheets‭, ‬and each category has its name‭: ‬slave‭, ‬crown‭, ‬sword‭, ‬Ashrafi or red-gold‭, ‬harp‭, ‬Barat‭, ‬coin‭ (‬gold-white‭), ‬and cloth‭. ‬This game was the game of eight important government guilds and each of the 12‭ ‬cards was as follows‭: ‬one card in the name of the king and one card in the minister and the remaining 10‭ ‬cards numbered 1‭ ‬to 10‭. ‬Most likely similar to today’s sentence game‭. ‬The dimensions of these cards are small and about 3‭ ‬by 4‭ ‬cm‭. ‬The weight is about 3‭ ‬grams and is in the shape of oval and rectangular‭, ‬which was used in the beginning only in the court‭.‬

They are made of ivory and precious stones so in the book Joharnameh‭ (‬Goharnameh‭) ‬written by Mohammad Ibn Mansour‭, ‬it is stated as follows‭: ‬In the regions of Neyshabur‭, ‬a turquoise-like jewel was extracted which was shaved for nard‭, ‬chess and Ganjafa‭,‬‭ ‬But over time‭, ‬as it spread to the general public‭, ‬materials such as wood‭, ‬palm leaves or paper were used to make these cards‭.‬

The reason for the gloss of these cards is the use of a material called lacquer‭. ‬Lacquer is a brown or red substance obtained from plant and animal sources‭. ‬Lacquer is a good background for decorating the structures of delicate and precise artistic examples and has a protective and covering aspect‭.‬

Beautiful examples of these cards are available in the Reza‭  ‬Abbasi‭  ‬Museum‭. ‬These cards are rectangular‭, ‬and the images on them‭ ‬are King‭, ‬Queen‭, ‬Lion‭, ‬Dancer‭, ‬Soldier‭, ‬etc. These cards are decorated with lacquer art‭. ‬Lacquer is a hard and potentially shiny‭ ‬coating or finish applied to materials such as wood or metal‭. ‬The term originates from the Sanskrit word lākshā.

In Iran‭, ‬lacquer works first became famous under the name of paper-mâché‭ ‬and have a long story in Iran‭. ‬This art was used a lot during the Timurid‭, ‬Safavid‭, ‬and Zand periods‭.‬
The peak of the development of this art belongs to the Qajar period‭. ‬In principle‭, ‬varnish or the same oil was used to protect wooden and paper works and polish them‭.‬

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