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.
Just released: The third book in Dorsini’s trilogy about the fifteenth-century Visconti decks.
In the fifteenth century, Italian aristocrats would commission an artist to make a one-of-a-kind tarot deck painted with precious materials on a background of embossed gold leaf. The three most complete decks in existence were commissioned by the Dukes of Milan in mid-century. The Il Meneghello workshop has created facsimiles of all three decks and published three books with historic and artistic background information. Read more
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
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
I already have three full-sized facsimiles of the Visconti-Sforza deck. So when I came across yet another version, published by Il Meneghello in 1996, I wrestled with temptation for a couple of weeks before succumbing. I’m very glad temptation won out because this deck is the best of the lot.
I compared this deck with my other three: Dal Negro, USGames 1984 and USGames 2015 (with portraits of Francesco and Bianca Sforza on extra cards). Read more
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
Osvaldo Menegazzi, the artistic genius behind Il Meneghello, has once again created a beautiful facsimile of an historic tarot deck. This deck, commissioned by the Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, in the 1440s, is one of the oldest Italian tarocchi decks we know of. The cards were hand-painted on an embossed gold background, much like the Visconti-Sforza deck commissioned by Filippo’s son-in-law, Francesco Sforza, a decade later. Read more
I’m totally enchanted by Osvaldo Menegazzi’s latest production, a handcrafted facsimile of a Piedmont-style deck from the late 19th century. The deck was originally printed by Strambo in the town of Varallo on the Sesia River in eastern Piedmont.
The cards have a charming, folk art feel with deep, rich colors printed on smooth card stock that feels very nice to shuffle. At 2.5 x 4.5 inches (6.5 x 11.5 cm) they are a bit smaller than standard cards but not small enough to be called a mini deck.
The deck is housed in a very sturdy, handmade box covered with dark-brown marbled paper. A Fool card is pasted on the cover and finished with red sealing wax. Inside, there’s a folded paper with standard Il Meneghello divinatory meanings. In addition, there’s a very brief discussion of the Piemontese style in English and Italian, and a title card with a handwritten number. Read more
Opening these evocative books of poetry based on the 15th-century Visconti Sforza and Sola Busca decks releases a gentle magic into the air. The tarot figures speak for themselves in these elegant, imagistic poems, opening up surprising revelations about each card. Energy hums between the poems and color photos of their cards on the facing page.
All Love Goes Before Me: Poems on the Sola Busca Tarot
Tarot historian Giordano Berti sets the mood in his preface by invoking the muses and a lineage of alchemist-poets, while telling us the poems are “access portals to another dimension.” In the introduction, Il Meneghello’s art director, Dr. Cristina Dorsini, conjures up the special magic of this deck. Read more
In 1998, Il Meneghello printed 300 of these lovely decks. Arnell Ando has purchasing information on her website for the few remaining decks (link below).
The soprafino deck engraved by Carlo Della Rocca @1835 appears to be draw in pencil, creating images that are soft, delicate and refined. According to Cristina Dorsini, Il Meneghello’s art director, these cards are reprints of Della Rocca’s original engravings.
The women, and many of the beardless men, have rather sweet, bland expressions; while the mature men have stronger, and more varied facial expressions. Read more