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The Adam C. de Hautot Tarot Restored by Sullivan Hismans

Spanish Captain and Bacus from Adam de Hautot tarot

The Adam C. de Hautot Tarot is another beautiful and historically important deck from the Tarot Sheet Revival workshop of Sullivan Hismans. This deck is an early representative of the Rouen-Brussels pattern, an alternate Tarot de Marseille (TdM) that flourished from about 1650 to 1780 in a corner of Europe defined by Paris, Rouen and Brussels. The Popess and Pope are replaced by a strutting Spanish Captain from the Commedia dell’ Arte, and with Bacchus straddling a wine barrel. Most of the trump cards from the Devil on up deviate from the TdM pattern, many of them resembling hand painted decks from 15th century Italy.

four trump cards from Adam de Hautot tarot

Here’s a selection of those alternate trump images which appear in all decks of this type. The Tower is called the Thunderbolt and shows a shepherd taking shelter under a tree. The Devil is my all-time favorite of any historic Tarot. The upright Hanged Man looks like a clog dancer. I see Temperance as a housewife with a feather duster pouring herself a little mommy juice in the afternoon. There’s something playful and irreverent about this deck.

Trump cards from Adam de Hautot tarot

Hismans drew on three incomplete decks housed in museums in France and Germany to compile the deck without needing to recreate any cards. The luminous colors were hand stenciled onto the original cards just as in traditional workshops. Here are two of my favorite cards. I love the fluffy angel wings on Justice, and her red frisbee for a halo. Notice the skeleton on the Judgment card. No need for a complete body to participate in the Last Judgment.

Suit cards from Adam de Hautot cards

The four suits are in the TdM style with some nice flourishes. I love the strength and energy of the Batons. The sweet little bird on the Two of Swords reappears in Hismans’ envelope design (below). The poor Valet de Batons seems overwhelmed by the huge log he’s carrying, while the King of Coins is styling in his ruffly shorts.

Where did this type of deck come from? The most plausible theory says that two styles of Tarot deck migrated from Italy to France about 1500. One style became the Tarot de Marseille and pushed out all competitors. The other style persisted quietly underground, leaving no examples, until re-emerging in Rouen-Brussels decks. What if the situation were reversed and the Tarot de Marseille and fallen into obscurity while the Rouen-Brussels style became the standard Tarot deck? Cartomancy with Tarot would look very different today.

About 1650, Jacques Vievil of Paris published the first deck of this type, with the variant trump cards but not the Captain and Bacchus. The pinnacle of the Rouen-Brussels type is the Vandenborre and similar decks published in Brussels in the mid 18th century. The de Hautot is sometimes considered a bridge between Paris and Brussels. But a linear progression through time doesn’t necessarily mean that earlier decks were the ancestor of later ones. All decks of the Rouen-Brussels pattern may have drawn on one common ancestor, now lost.

In previous centuries, decks were sold in paper envelopes rather than boxes. Hismans envelopes are unique works of art with graphic elements taken from the cards. The colors are applied by hand with stencils, then the envelope is numbered and signed. The cards are on sturdy, smooth paper, 2.75 x 4.75 inches – a very nice size for shuffling.

There are only 400 decks in this edition, so don’t procrastinate. Read more about the deck and Hismans’ working methods, and purchase the deck at the Tarot Sheet Revival website.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sherryl. Thanks for this lovely review. I’ve been admiring Hismans’ work for awhile now. Do you have a favorite of his restorations? Is there one that you read with regularly and others that are more just for collecting?

    December 14, 2020
  2. Hi Wade, I have both versions of his Budapest deck, his Rosenwald deck, handpainted Vieville trumps and this one. I was beyond thrilled when he turned the Budapest and Rosenwald into decks. Even though they come late in the 15th century, they are the only hint we have at what the common people used for playing trionfi when it was first invented. I read with the Budapest, but if I want to read with a Rosenwald, I use one of Marco Benedetti’s decks. I’m not much of a collector – at my age you stop accumulating stuff because you know it’s going to be a problem sooner rather than later. The hand painted Vieville is glorious. I use it to scan cards for articles I’m writing. I often lay out readings in multiple decks using the same cards. I can put decks to use this way that are too precious to shuffle, like this one. If I don’t think a deck is going to be useful, I don’t buy it. His decks have a special magic because they are created with such love and care. You really need at least one!

    December 14, 2020

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