Catalog Archive
Auction 145, Lot 805

Unique Playing Cards Satirizing the "Mississippi Bubble"

"Toverkaart of Genees Middel der Wind-breuken vant Zuid West en de Uituaart van Cartouche", Anon.

Subject: Satire - Stock Trading

Period: 1720 (circa)

Publication: Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid…

Color: Black & White

14.7 x 11.9 inches
37.3 x 30.2 cm
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This engraving is from the important account of one the most infamous financial meltdowns in history, known as the Mississippi Bubble incident. The engraving is partitioned into 18 compartments lettered A through S, which were intended to be cut and used as playing cards. Each compartment has a different figure participating in an odd activity or type of circus act; in compartment B, a man points an arrow at the sun while trying to catch scurrying rabbits and mice; in compartment G a strong man holds a bench between his teeth; in compartment M one man lies on the ground balancing a chair on his foot, while a second man dives through a burning barrel; in compartment S a man sits astride a cannon chained at the wrists, while the devil (Professor Bombarismi) hold a wheel and lights the cannon's fuse.

John Law, a Scottish financier, established the Banque Generale (central bank) in France. He was then granted control of Louisiana and founded the Compagnie de la Louisiane d'Occident, in 1717. Law developed an elaborate plan to exploit the fabulous resources of the region, which quickly gained popularity and people rushed to invest, not just in France, but throughout Europe. This resulted in the development of several other overseas companies, such as the English South Sea Company and a number of smaller companies in the Dutch Republic. The share prices rose dramatically in a frenzy of speculation. In 1720 the bubble burst; speculators cashed in, caused a run on the shares, and the company went bankrupt. As a consequence of the failure, confidence in other similar companies failed, and thousands of individual investors across Europe were ruined.


Condition: A

Very minor soiling.

Estimate: $350 - $450


Closed on 6/12/2013