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Posts from the ‘Tarot and Art’ Category

Tarot Picture Books

Once there was a time when lovers of tarot seeking to look at beautiful cards had to (gasp!!) purchase a book! In that long-ago time (say, 1976) there was no Google, no wikis, no surfing nor clicking. To indulge your tarot obsession, you hopped in your Ford Pinto and drove to a local bookstore where these beautifully illustrated volumes nestled on a shelf.

The three books described here are all over-sized, hardbound, beautifully illustrated, focused on the Tarot de Marseille, and published between 1973 and 1986. They’re easy to obtain for about $5.00 at online used booksellers. Yes, you can see many more decks online, but there’s something magical about holding a large book in your hands and looking at a curated selection of cards. Read more

The Cartomancer Magazine – November 2017

With this latest issue The Cartomancer is transitioning to its new owner/editor Arwen Lynch-Poe. I’m very happy to see that the magazine is just as beautiful as ever, stuffed full with tarot art printed in luscious colors. The articles are on a wide range of topics, so there’s something for everyone. Here are a few of my favorites: Read more

Tarotforum RIP

Waves of shock and grief are rolling through a large segment of the tarot community in reaction to the announcement that www.tarotforum.net will be shut down as of July 14, 2017.  Since 2002, Tarotforum has been one of the largest and best-moderated communities on the internet. When Tarot_L on Yahoo shut down over a decade ago, Tarotforum became my go-to place for tarot history. I’m greatly relieved to learn that the forum will still exist in read-only form, so we won’t be losing its huge storehouse of information. Read more

From My Bookshelf: Courts and Courtly Arts in Renaissance Italy

If you want to immerse yourself in the world that gave us the Visconti-Sforza and Sola Busca decks, this book, subtitled Arts, Culture and Politics 1395 to 1530, will deliver.

Nothing was ever the same in Italian politics and society after Gian Galeazzo Visconti purchased the title of Duke from the Holy Roman Emperor in 1395. Other rulers soon followed suit: the Gonzaga of Mantua, Montefeltro of Urbino, d’Este of Ferrara and the rulers of Savoy.

Unlike a French or German aristocrat who could trace his pedigree back to Charlemagne, a newly-minted Italian duke did not have a divine right to rule. These parvenus were acutely aware of their modest origins as merchants or condottieri who had usurped civic power. They felt tremendous pressure to over-compensate by amassing a trophy art collection and building ostentatious palaces that were stage settings for elaborate ceremonies and festivals. Read more

Soprafino Death Card

When I saw this print on the Hyperallergic art blog, I immediately thought it must have been the inspiration for the Soprafino Death card (see below). The artist’s palette caught my eye first. Then I noticed so many other items the two images have in common: gold chains, a medallion, bishop’s hat, armor, a spear point and crown. I think I see the spine of a book near the far right edge of the print. The book isn’t nearly as prominent as on the card, but the stone tablet on the print sits in nearly the same location and tilted at the same angle as the Soprafino book. Read more

The World in Play: 15th Century Playing Cards at The Cloisters

Luxurious playing cards from the 15th and early 16th centuries, including two tarocchi decks, are on exhibit at the Cloisters in New York City until April 17, 2016. This is a unique opportunity to see Visconti Sforza and Visconti (Carey Yale) cards side-by-side.  If you can’t make it to New York, you have alternatives for seeing these cards. Read more

Ofri Cnaani: Card Reading as Performance Art

Artist Ofri Cnaani turned a New York Chelsea gallery into a card reading emporium and used her readings to generate unique works of art for her clients. According to a review in the December 2015 issue of Art News, Cnaani used her own custom-made, over-sized cards.

The client picked a card at random, handed Ms. Cnaani a personal item, then selected two more items from a stash of odds and ends hanging on the wall. Cnaani then created a collage using the card and the selected items, plus fabric scraps and beads. A surveillance camera photographed the collage and projected it onto a screen in the shop window. Read more

Jodorowsky Retrospecitve

According to a review in the November 2015 issue of Art News, a museum in Bordeaux, France has just wrapped up a 50-year retrospective of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s career. In the photo shown here, peeking out from under the screen, you can see the bottoms of the Tarot de Marseille that Jodorowsky designed with Philippe Camoin. But Jodorowsky is about a lot more than tarot. Read more

From my Bookshelf: History of Woodcut by Arthur Hind

Before tarot was a gilded status symbol for Italian aristocrats; before it inspired parlor games and poetry; and before it was a repository of occult correspondences, tarot was a set of paper cards printed in ink with wood blocks.

If we want to understand tarot’s formative years, we must understand the printing industry in the first half of the fifteenth century. Hind’s book gives a comprehensive survey of printers and their output, starting in the mid-fourteenth century, with an emphasis on the fifteenth century. Read more

Tarot in Culture edited by Emily E. Auger

This two-volume book considers tarot from every possible angle: popular culture, occult theory, academic history, literary analysis and artistic commentary. I hope my brief summary of the articles will inspire you to purchase this major contribution to tarot studies.

Volume I offers a good foundation in tarot history.

The late Sir Michael Dummett surveys tarot from its 15th-century beginnings as a card game, to its appropriation by French occultists in the late 18th century.

Robert Place delves deeply into the iconography of the earliest hand-painted decks and discusses the trump sequence as a neoplatonic ascent of the soul. He also describes the first set of trump cards we know of, by the Duke of Milan’s astrologer Marziano de Tortona, which Place is currently re-creating. (Examples can be seen on his facebook page.) Read more