Edoardo Dotti Tarot Published by Giordano Berti
Attention, lovers of the Soprafino tarot. This elegant deck published by Giordano Berti is an essential. I’m completely enchanted by the graceful lines, rich colors, and smooth, sturdy cardstock. The original size (2.0 x 4.25 inches) makes the cards easy to handle.
The Soprafino pattern emerged when the Milanese printer Gumppenberg published a deck engraved by Carlo Della Rocca about 1835. When Gumppenberg died, his employee, Teodoro Dotti, set up his own print shop and issued decks in the style of his former employer, including this Soprafino variant. Seventeen years later, Teodoro’s son Edoardo printed the same deck using his father’s plates, with modifications to make the images politically correct. Notice the Empress’s empty shield in the photo above. By this time, the Hapsburgs were out and Napoleon III was in as ruler of Italy; so the imperial eagle had to be removed from all playing cards.
Let’s see how Dotti’s deck compares with the classic Soprafino style.
Colors are similar to the Soprafino but deeper, while the vegetation is more robust. Dotti stripped off some incidental details, making his deck more elegant and less baroque. For instance, there are no leafy sprouts on the Ace of Batons, and no pink ribbons on the Ace of Swords.
Dotti’s large roman numerals overlap the pip symbols. This made it convenient for card players, but the smaller Soprafino numbers are more balanced and pleasing.
I’m not happy with Dotti’s changes to my favorite Soprafino trumps. I call Soprafino Death the “Declutter” card. Death’s scythe sweeps away books and art supplies, reminding me to get control of my overflowing shelves. My all-time favorite Devil wrestles with his own green monsters. Dotti’s TdM-ish cards seem tame and devoid of energy.
Dotti’s court cards stay close to their Soprafino originals; but these two Pages have somewhat different personalities. The Soprafino Page of Swords wears fancy clothes and ridiculously huge feathers. He’s a young courtier who’s supposed to be spying on a rival; but he’s distracted, posing in his finery and acutely aware of the impression he’s making. Dotti’s Page is an assassin determined to carry out his job. I’ve always seen the Soprafino Page of Cups, with his garland, long curls, and silk scarf as a sensitive poet. Dotti’s sturdier Page, with his simple beret, seems more like a cup bearer. I’ve never liked the pink cheeks on every Soprafino figure, trumps included – just a personal quirk. Dotti loses the pink, and his court figures seem much more dimensional and life-like.
A 58-page booklet accompanies the deck. There are color illustrations throughout, including eight pages of Milanese decks. The text gives the story of playing card manufacture in Milan from the 17th through 19th centuries, with special emphasis on Gumppenberg and his successors. I was especially delighted to read the section on Tarot in Milanese popular culture.
The deck and book are housed in a sturdy, velvet-lined box covered with marbled paper. As with all of Berti’s publications, the packaging adds to the magic of this beautiful deck.
Decks discussed in this article:
Tarocchi Edoardo Dotti 1862. Rinascimento Italian Art. Giordano Berti, 2021.
Tarocco Italiano, Teodoro Dotti 1845. Il Meneghello, 1985.
Soprafino Tarot, Gumppenberg, 1835. Il Meneghello, 1992.