The Gerard Bodet Tarot restored by Sullivan Hismans (Tarot Sheet Revival) may be the oldest complete Rouen-Brussels deck we have. Around the year 1500, tarot migrated from Italy to France and entered a new phase of development. Milanese tarot swept across Europe, becoming the standard gaming deck and evolving into the Tarot de Marseille pattern. An alternate style migrated from Florence and Ferrara, then lurked underground until surfacing in Paris in the mid-seventeenth century as the Jacques Vieville deck, a hybrid of the Tarot de Marseille and Rouen-Brussels patterns. Let’s look at what’s distinctive about this style and where Bodet’s deck fits in with its development. (All cards in this article are Gerard Bodet unless stated otherwise.)
I’ve always been intrigued by the few remnants of fifteenth-century block-printed decks that still exist. They hold tantalizing clues to the early days of tarot, so I’m thrilled that there are three versions of the block-printed Budapest deck on the market. Shown here from left to right are the Fool and Judgment cards by Robert Place, Sullivan Hismans and Marco Benedetti.
The Adam C. de Hautot Tarot is another beautiful and historically important deck from the Tarot Sheet Revival workshop of Sullivan Hismans. This deck is an early representative of the Rouen-Brussels pattern, an alternate Tarot de Marseille (TdM) that flourished from about 1650 to 1780 in a corner of Europe defined by Paris, Rouen and Brussels. The Popess and Pope are replaced by a strutting Spanish Captain from the Commedia dell’ Arte, and with Bacchus straddling a wine barrel. Most of the trump cards from the Devil on up deviate from the TdM pattern, many of them resembling hand painted decks from 15th century Italy.
One of the most exciting events in my twenty years of collecting historic decks occurred in 2017 when Sullivan Hismans (Tarot Sheet Revival.com) introduced the Budapest Tarot. He meticulously recreated a very important fifteenth-century deck that only exists in museum collections as partly damaged uncut sheets of cards. This limited edition of 250 decks sold out quickly and has become a favorite reading deck of the lucky few who own one. Hismans just released another edition of 450 Budapest decks with some changes that I’ll illustrate below. But first, I want to put the deck in its historic context. Read more
The Dodal/Dodali Tarot, one of the earliest and most historically important Tarot de Marseille (TdM) decks, has been beautifully recreated by Sullivan Hismans at Tarot Sheet Revival, after two years of painstaking craftsmanship. Hismans, who gave us recreations of the Budapest and Rosenwald sheets, is a visual artist fascinated by the physical reality of tarot cards and the craft of card making. His process is the same with all his decks – he examines different versions of the cards available in museum databases, takes the elements apart, then alchemically recombines them to create a transformed, but historically accurate deck. Read more
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
Sullivan Hismans, at Tarot Sheet Revival, has worked tarot magic again by creating an actual deck from sheets of tarot cards printed @1500 and housed in the Rosenwald collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Read more