Celebrating my website’s tenth anniversary: 174 blog articles and 42 website pages on tarot history, reading with non-scenic pips, and decks of historic significance. Throughout the summer, I’m going to group the most useful articles by topic and send out links in a series of blog posts.
Today I’m listing everything I’ve written about the soprafino style. Originating in Milan in the 1830s, it has been reproduced by many publishers down to Lo Scarabeo’s current mass market version. Printers have borrowed random details from the style, especially in Piedmont. See reviews of those decks listed in last week’s blog post on Piedmont decks.
Attention, lovers of the Soprafino tarot. This elegant deck published by Giordano Berti is an essential. I’m completely enchanted by the graceful lines, rich colors, and smooth, sturdy cardstock. The original size (2.0 x 4.25 inches) makes the cards easy to handle.
The Soprafino pattern emerged when the Milanese printer Gumppenberg published a deck engraved by Carlo Della Rocca about 1835. When Gumppenberg died, his employee, Teodoro Dotti, set up his own print shop and issued decks in the style of his former employer, including this Soprafino variant. Seventeen years later, Teodoro’s son Edoardo printed the same deck using his father’s plates, with modifications to make the images politically correct. Notice the Empress’s empty shield in the photo above. By this time, the Hapsburgs were out and Napoleon III was in as ruler of Italy; so the imperial eagle had to be removed from all playing cards.
Tarocchino Lombardo, the long out-of-print soprafino deck published by Il Solleone, fell into my hands recently. This gave me an opportunity to compare it with soprafino facsimiles by Lo Scarabeo and Il Meneghello. The the cards in the illustrations from left to right are: Lo Scarabeo, Il Solleone, Il Meneghello.
If you need a refresher on this deck style, here’s a page with everything you need to know.
The short version: About 1835, the printing house of Gumppenberg in Milan hired the artist Carlo Della Rocca to create an exquisitely beautiful engraved tarocchi deck. Since then, many of the deck’s unique design elements have been used in other decks printed in Lombardy and Piedmont. Read more