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Though playing cards are believed to have originated in either China or the Middle East, the first card tricks were developed in Renaissance Europe, about the same time as the popularity of tarocchi was at its peak.
Many Renaissance painters and thinkers were also known for their card acumen. Masaccio performed a world-renowned ambitious card routine, and Leon Battista Alberti's second deal was as invisible as his mastery of true linear perspective. Leonardo da Vinci had a brilliant Triumph routine, where he would change a sfumato tarocchi deck into a chiaroscuro one. Even Brad Christian's ancestor, The Amazing Christiani, was legendary for his Vegas Tarocchi Card Cheat routine. A variation can be found here.
The Renaissance painters were so good at magic tricks that they had the rest of the world believing in their mystical powers. But then, along came Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Issac Newton and all their "science" and "natural philosophy," and ruined a really well-paying gig.
Card tricks have endured, however, because they are effin' cool. Even cooler than the word "effin'." And there's plenty of great card tricks on this page to help you blow a few minds with a deck of Bicycles.