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Posts from the ‘Tarot Decks’ Category

Trzes’ Mamluk Deck: The Granddaddy of European Playing Cards

In 1931, Leo Mayer discovered a nearly complete deck of medieval playing cards in the Topkapi Museum of Istanbul, giving the world solid proof that European playing cards originated in the Islamic world. With its ornate design and gold accents, this deck is comparable to the hand-painted, gold-embellished decks that were the rage among Italian aristocracy in the mid-15th century.

The Trzes deck is a modern reconstruction based closely on the original, with fifteen reconstructed cards. The booklet says it’s “a recreation from scratch that makes use of the original design principles…the cards the Mamluk people might have produced, had they access to modern technology, such as vector graphics software or modern printing devices.” Read more

Tarocchi di Besançon Miller 1780

When we think of the Tarot de Marseille (TdM), France usually comes to mind. But the game of tarot was played throughout Europe, with locally printed decks that had their own unique touches. Giordano Berti has recently produced facsimiles of two German Tarot de Marseille decks. The Tarocchi Miller is a Besançon-style deck where the Pope and Papesse are replaced with Jupiter and Juno. Read more

Tarot des Aux Arcs

The deck’s name had me puzzled for a while. It looks French but makes no sense in that language. Then I checked out the creator’s website — Aux Arcs in French is pronounced Ozark, the mountains where the artist lives. Read more

Tarot Hes 1750

When we think of historic tarot decks, the French Tarot de Marseille and early Italian decks quickly come to mind. But I’m ashamed to say that in my nearly twenty years of deck collecting it never occurred to me to think about German tarot decks. Read more

The Budapest Tarot Recreated by Sullivan Hismans

In the 1440s, you could go to the store and buy a pack of cards for playing the popular new game of Trionfi. What did those cards look like? Did they resemble our familiar tarot cards? We can’t be sure because not a single printed tarot deck survives from the 15th century. All we have are a handful of gold-covered cards commissioned by wealthy aristocrats. Luxury decks like the Visconti-Sforza prove that by the mid-1400s tarot decks had 78 cards including our familiar twenty-two trump cards. But we don’t know how closely these luxury decks resembled cards printed for the masses. Read more

Golden Decks of the Fifteenth Century: The Visconti di Modrone and Brera-Brambilla Tarocchi

Nearly two decades ago, Il Meneghello of Milan gave us the best facsimile available of the 1450 Visconti-Sforza deck. Now they’ve outdone themselves by producing facsimiles of the two earliest trionfi/tarocchi decks we know of — luxurious gold-covered cards created for the Duke of Milan in the early 1440s. Il Meneghello printed the Visconti di Modrone deck in 2015 and 2017, and released a book in 2018. The Brera-Brambilla deck was published in the summer of 2018 with its accompanying book available in September. Read more

I Tarocchi di Valentina Visconti per il Palio d’Asti

Acquiring this hard-to-find deck inspired me to get acquainted with Valentina Visconti and learn about the chapter of her life depicted in these cards.

In 1389, Valentina set out in a magnificent procession from Milan to France to meet her husband Louis, Duke of Orléans, brother of the mad king of France, Charles VI. They had been married in a proxy ceremony two years before, but meeting in person was delayed while Valentina’s father, the Duke of Milan, scraped together her extremely expensive dowry. The procession stopped in the town of Asti to spend five days enjoying the Palio (horse races). Read more

Three Vandenborre Decks

My 1983 Vandenborre deck by Carta Mundi has been sitting unused on a shelf for a few decades. After falling in love with Pablo Robledo’s recent production of the deck, and discovering a third version on the market at the GameofHope website, I went on a buying spree then sat down to compare the decks. All three decks faithfully recreate the lines on the original cards, but none is a photo facsimile. The stains and tax stamps have been eliminated, making each deck pristine. (There’s a link at the bottom where you can see the original cards in the British Museum.) Here’s a run-down of how the decks compare. Read more

The Vandenborre Deck Restored by Pablo Robledo

I am very excited about this fresh new version of the 1762 Vandenborre deck published this month by the Argentinian tarot maker Pablo Robledo.

This Brussels-Rouen pattern deck is first cousin to the Tarot de Marseille. Some of its unique imagery may stem from a lost tradition that migrated from Ferrara to France and Belgium. Its most notable feature is the substitution of the Spanish Captain and Bacchus for the Papesse and Pope. Read a lot more information about this deck and the Captain in another blog article here. Read more

Marshmallow Marseille

This deck is an 18th-century Tarot de Marseille redrawn with a contemporary folk art flavor. The lacy vegetation on the pips and the bright pastel colors like aqua, violet and peach give the deck a fresh, airy feel without being cloying or cute. Read more