Face card

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Face cards from a Tarot Nouveau deck

In a deck of playing cards, the term face card is generally used to describe a card that depicts a person as opposed to the pip cards.

The original court cards from Mamluk Egypt didn't show any faces to prevent idolatry.[1] Instead they showed abstract designs or calligraphy for the malik (king), nā'ib malik (viceroy or deputy king), and thānī nā'ib (second or under-deputy).[2] It wasn't until the cards arrived into Europe that illustrators could add human figures to these cards. Both Mamluk and modern decks include three face cards per suit, or twelve face cards in a deck of four suits.[3]

  • German and Swiss playing cards similarly have three male face cards per deck, Under/Unter (Jack, a lower-class man or soldier), Ober (a higher clerk), and König (King)

In French, Italian, and Spanish tarot decks, the order is Jack, Knight, Queen, and King for a total of 16 face cards.

While modern decks of playing cards may contain a Joker (or two) depicting a person (such as a jester or clown), jokers are not normally considered to be face cards.