A sister of the Umiliati Order in Milan, Maifreda da Pirovano, was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1300. Many historians believe this card from the Visconti-Sforza Tarot is her portrait. When the Duke and Duchess of Milan commissioned this golden Trionfi deck from their favorite artist, Bonifacio Bembo, shortly after 1450, they commemorated family history in some of the cards. Maifreda may have been related to the duchess; and her heresy involved claiming to be the equal of the Pope, so the connection seems obvious. But if you were the duchess of Milan, with a reputation based on good works and piety, would you advertise a heretic in the family? Let’s look at some other, more respectable, possibilities for this card.Read more
Posts tagged ‘Visconti Sforza’
U.S. Games Systems has just reissued their facsimile of the Pierpont Morgan Bergamo Visconti Sforza Tarocchi, originally produced in 1975 and still in print. They’ve added bonus cards with portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Milan, probably by Bonifacio Bembo, who most likely created the original deck in the 1450s. Both editions are the same size as the original cards: 3.5 x 7.0 inches. Let’s compare the two decks. 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
Gertrude Moakley is my tarot history muse and the wise and magical aunt I wish I could have had. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an image of her anywhere (Not true! See the comments below). I have to imagine her in the 1950s as a gray-haired librarian in tweeds and sensible shoes, a Waite Smith deck hidden in her purse, slipping away from her colleagues at the public library to have lunch with Eden Gray.
After graduating from Barnard College then the Columbia School of Library Science in 1928, Moakley began a 40-year career with the New York City Public Library. In the 1950s, she published two articles in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library: on the Waite Smith deck’s influence on T.S. Eliot’s poem The Wasteland; and on the relationship between the Visconti-Sforza trumps and Petrarch’s poem I Trionfi. Read more
Whenever I go to a museum, I make a point of searching the medieval exhibits for International Gothic art that resonates with the Visconti-Sforza deck. A recent chilly (by Los Angeles standards) Sunday at the Getty Center yielded three finds in one room.
The artist Gentile da Fabriano (1370-1427), the epitome of Italian International Gothic, flourished at the time Tarot was invented and just before Italian aristocracy began commissioning their elaborate hand painted decks. Aristocrats wanted to see an idealized version of themselves and their elegant world reflected in their art. Rich colors, glittering surfaces and intricate patterns were hallmarks of the International Gothic period, when artists reproduced in paint the feel of velvet brocade and the look of clothing intricately embroidered with gold thread. Read more