Marco Benedetti’s Personal Visconti
The Visconti-Sforza deck is a hybrid mash-up of sixty-eight original cards painted by Bonifacio Bembo about 1450, six cards that were created by a different artist around 1475, and four cards that are still missing and have to be recreated by a contemporary artist whenever the deck is republished. Marco Benedetti has never been happy with the ten replacement cards, and dreamt for years of creating his own version of these cards that would enhance the deck rather than detract from it. This deck brings his personal vision into fruition. By drawing on other works by Bembo for most of the replacement cards, he has revived the deck’s original spirit.
Benedetti has had a long and intense relationship with the Visconti-Sforza, dating from 1975 when he purchased his first deck. In 1996, he created his elegant and minimalist homage to the Visconti-Sforza in tempera on gold leaf for an art exhibit. He currently prints this deck on demand in gold and silver foil. The Personal Visconti deck described here is a beautiful testament to his life-long love for the Visconti-Sforza deck.
Here are the details on Benedetti’s twelve replacement cards.
The original Temperance card is one of three cards painted about 1475 that show a woman standing in a blue gown sprinkled with gold stars holding a symbolic item. This card has been replaced by the Temperance card from the Ercole d’Este deck that was hand painted in mid fifteenth-century Florence or Ferrara (now located in Yale University). I’m very happy to see the original Strength card, showing a man who seems to be clubbing a lion, replaced by the woman and lion from the Visconti di Modrone (Cary Yale) deck, painted by the Bembo workshop about 1442.
The Star, Moon, Sun series from 1475 includes two more standing female figures in blue gowns, plus the Sun card as the mask of Helios held by a putto skateboarding across the sky. Benedetti wanted to associate this series with Venus, Diana and Apollo, so he surveyed art history looking for appropriate examples. The Star card is from the painting A Nymph at her Bath by Charles-Andre Van Loo in the first half of the 18th century, while the Sun is from Apollo and Hermes by Pierre Narcise Guerin in the early 19th century. The Moon figure is taken from a wall fresco in Pompeii and the background is collaged from the Moon card in the Visconti di Modrone deck.
Three more Modrone cards are used as substitutes for the Death, Judgment and World cards. The fist two cards were in the original 1450 deck, but Benedetti prefers the Modrone cards as he feels they are more attractive and make more of an impact than the original cards.
Currently Missing Cards
The Tower and Devil are currently missing from the deck, so it’s anyone’s guess what the originals looked like. Benedetti created these cards from Bonifacio Bembo’s illustrations for La Tavola Ritonda a book of Arthurian romance illustrated with 289 pen and ink sketches in the International Gothic style. (Codice Palatino 556, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Firenze).
This rendition of the Tower is true to the spirit of Tower cards in previous centuries. In many early decks, this card was called the Thunderbolt and illustrated a sudden catastrophe, not necessarily a falling tower. The Devil was inspired by a similar illustration derived from Bembo and posted online several years ago by Mario Mendez Filesi.
The missing Knight of Coins was created using the horse from the Knight of Coins in the Brambilla-Brera deck (painted by the Bembo workshop about 1442 and located in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan). The Page of Coins from the Visconti-Sforza deck sits on the horse, making this one of the few decks where the knight matches the other court cards in the suit. The Three of Swords has the correct vertical orientation, which is inverted in some decks.
When you purchase this deck, you get 86 cards, the original 74 Visconti-Sforza cards plus the 12 cards described above. The cards are facsimiles that have not been touched up, so the uneven ageing and wear on the cards is visible. The cards are 3.5 by 7.0 inches, about same size as the originals. The card stock is smooth, sturdy and flexible. The backs are plain red. The cards are housed in a custom-made wooden box with a card printed on the cover and a personalized inscription on the inside.
To order a deck, contact Marco Benedetti at tarot @ marcobenedetti.it
See Benedetti’s entire line of decks on his facebook page:
Here are my reviews of other Marco Benedetti decks:
Rosenwald Bordi Rivoltinati
Tarocco Bolognese Al Mondo
Nicolas Rolichon Tarot
I Tarocchi Rosenwald
I Tarocchi Benedetti: Visconti-Sforza Homage