A Fiorentine Minchiate Restored by Marco Benedetti
Announcing a Fiorentine Minchiate deck produced by Marco Cesare Benedetti of Rome, Italy. The strong lines, rich colors and expressive faces make this limited edition deck very readable. Before I get into specifics of Benedetti’s deck, let’s get clear on what a Minchiate deck is and how it differs from tarot.
What’s a Minchiate?
It’s one of largest playing card decks ever created — a tarot deck expanded from 78 to 97 cards by adding the four elements, twelve zodiac signs, plus the four virtues that were omitted from the tarot deck. Shown at left are Taurus, Pisces, Water, and Prudence.
The original trionfi deck from the 1430s must have seemed musty and medieval to a new generation of game players; so in mid-1400s Florence someone updated the imagery and made the game more exciting by adding nineteen trump cards. The deck and game spread quickly from the center of Minchiate production in Tuscany to the major cities of Italy, as well as Sicily, where it influenced the unique Sicilian-style tarot deck. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Minchiate decks were exported to France, Germany and London. By the nineteenth century the game was fading in popularity and eventually was played only in its original Tuscan homeland.
Minchiate decks come in two styles: the original wood block Fiorentine, and the finely engraved Etruria which appeared in the early 18th century. You can quickly determine a deck’s style by looking at the distinctive Fool and Bagatto cards. The Fiorentine style is on top and the Etrurian on the bottom.
Aside from the added cards, Minchiate deviates from tarot by reducing the Pope/Papesse and Emperor/Empress pairs to three figures. In the Etrurian style, these cards are designated the Grand Duke and the Eastern and Western Emperor, and are obviously masculine. In the older Fiorentine style they are called the Three Papi, where some seem rather androgynous or even feminine.
How Else Does Minchiate Differ From Tarot?
The Knights are either centaurs or a hybrid man/monster. In the suits of Cups and Coins the Page is a female Maid. The Swords are straight, and there are little animals on many pip cards. The highest trump cards from numbers 33 to 40 are called the Arie and have distinctive red backgrounds, like Fame at the top of this page and the Sun to the left. The red in Benedetti’s deck is not too bright, not orangish (a color I can’t stand), and not dark and heavy. It’s a just-right Goldilocks color that sets off the rich golds and blues beautifully.
The faces on Benedetti’s court cards are expressive and individual, making the deck very readable. The court cards in each suit are easy to identify by the distinctive colors of their clothing.
The cards are 2.25 x 4.0 inches, printed by Ludocards in a limited edition of 50, on smooth, flexible 350 gpm card stock. The deck is very pleasant to handle and easy to shuffle.
Get your signed and numbered deck by emailing: Benedetti @ MarcoBenedetti.it.
See more cards on the Marco Benedetti Tarot facebook page.
Decks used to illustrate this article
Minchiate Fiorentine. Carte Fine Benedetti, 2022. An 18th century black and white wood block print restored and colored.
Minchiate (Fiorentine). Arabako, 2004. Facsimile of a wood block deck in the Fournier Museum, Spain.
Minchiate (Etrurian). Lo Scarabeo, 2011. Facsimile of a hand painted, engraved deck in a private collection in Torino.