How did a luxurious tarot deck rendered in gold leaf and paint made of crushed malachite and lapis lazuli find is way from its birth place in Milan to New York City? The Visconti-Sforza Tarot was commission by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, about 1450 and created in the workshop of Bonifacio Bembo. Precious, gold-leaf decks were all the rage among the aristocracy of mid-15th century northern Italy, and were given as gifts, or brought out to amuse and impress dinner guests.
We know the deck left the Sforza family by the late 15th century; and that the complete deck (minus the four missing cards: Devil, Tower, Knight of Coins, and 3 of Swords) was in the hands of the Colleoni family in the late 19th century. The deck’s travels in the intervening centuries are shadowy, although there’s evidence the deck had been owned by both the Ambivero and Donalli families, who may have been relatives of the Colleoni. Read more