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
Posts from the ‘Tarot Decks’ Category
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
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
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
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
Another historically important Piedmontese deck produced by Giordano Berti just arrived in my mailbox. Like Berti’s other productions, this deck is housed in a sturdy handmade box lined with felt and covered with marbled paper. The cards are protected by a sparkling gold bag and are accompanied by a booklet with detailed historical background. Read more
Has anyone read the folded sheet of paper that comes with every Il Meneghello deck? Recently I became curious enough to dust off my Italian dictionary and read it carefully. Osvaldo Menegazzi, the owner and artistic force behind Il Meneghello, is a native of Milan who’s been immersed in tarot most of his long life. I was hoping for special insights from a Milanese perspective. Instead I got a dose of Oswald Wirth. Read more
Yves Reynaud has produced facsimiles of historically important decks like the Madenié, Burdel and Conver. Now he’s done it again with a recreation of the 1713 Jean-Pierre Payen Tarot, one of the few Tarot de Marseille Type I decks available to purchase. If you’re familiar with any of Reynaud’s decks, the Payen is the same high-quality, limited-edition production housed in a sturdy box. Let’s put this deck in context with the Tarot de Marseille tradition. Read more
The Tarocchino Bolognese engraved by Giuseppe Mitelli is a unique treasure. Just as the Visconti-Sforza deck was a luxury item commissioned by an aristocrat from a prominent artist in Cremona, this exceptionally beautiful deck was commissioned around 1660 by Count Bentivoglio of Bologna from a prolific Bolognese artist. Read more