One of the most unusual advertising decks I have ever seen. The cards were made by Universal Playing Card Co. ("Alf Cooke") for Tollemache and Cobbold Breweries then of Ipswich, the historic town in Suffolk, England. Tollemache and Cobbold was formed from the merger of the Tollemache and Cobbold breweries in 1957, and Universal began to use the "Alf Cooke" designation on its Ace of Spades at or about the same time. I have dated the deck 1960, and I think that is pretty close.
The backs of the cards are an illustration based upon a very controversial sculpture made by expatriate (to France) American sculptor, Frederic MacMonnies, in or about 1896. The history of that piece is described in Wikipedia this way:
"Bacchante and Infant Faun is MacMonnies' second best-known sculpture. The life-size nude was offered as a gift to the Boston Public Library by the building's architect Charles Follen McKim in 1896, to be placed in the garden court of the library. The Woman's Christian Temperance Union caused such a public outcry citing its "drunken indecency" that the library had to refuse the gift, and McKim gave the statue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
"The spectacle that was made regarding this gift, a salvo in the American Culture Wars, gave MacMonnies and this sculpture a great deal of notoriety in the United States: examples of the Bacchante can be found in the permanent collections of most of the large museums in the United States and France. A reduced-size version of the sculpture, rendered in bronze, resides in a private collection in Provenance, New York. The miniature rendition , which stands 30 1/8" tall, of the work that once struggled to find a home sold for $4,800 at an auction.
"A copy of the statue . . . has now taken its place in its intended original location in the Boston Public Library. The original statue, loaned to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston by George Robert White in 1910 and bequeathed to the MFA in 1930 by White's sister, Mrs. Harriet J. Bradbury, is now on display in the MFA's new Arts of the Americas Wing."
It is a mystery, to say the least, why a controversial American sculpture from the end of the 19th century would be chosen by an English brewery in 1960 to adorn the backs of an advertising deck of cards. I have decided to categorize this as a "pin-up" deck, because I have a difficult time believing the sculpture was chosen because of a company enthusiasm for MacMonnies or the art of sculpture generally. Perhaps it was the company's logo at the time, but then the same question arises as to the decision to use the sculpture for a logo.
The final picture with this listing is a photograph of the actual scupture -- the copy that is now outside the Boston Public Library.
The deck has 52 cards, plus 2 Jokers. The cards are bridge size, measuring 88mm x 58mm, and come in the original box.
The cards are mint. The box is clean and generally speaking in very good condition, except that at some point in the history of the deck a side panel came unglued, and tape was used to secure it. That tape has now split, and the side panel is still unglued.
Thanks for visiting.