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The Visconti Tarot

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The Visconti Tarot by Lo Scarabeo

RM 70.00

 

A restoration of one of the oldest tarots, the Visconti-Sforza cards. The symbolism is the same in this version, but the Visconti Tarot cards have clearer colours and there are metallic gold leaf highlights and backgrounds. (The gold doesn't show up well in scans, unfortunately.

There are several different types of Visconti decks in current publication, all with close similarities but printed from different sheets of existing cards. This deck copies the Visconti-Sforza, cards of the Milanese tradition that were commissioned in the mid 15th century and extensively copied and reproduced in the Renaissance period, due to the simplicity and clarity of the designs. These are also the most complete of all the medieval card packs known today - 74 cards of the 78 still in existence. (Just the Devil, Tower, Knight of Pentacles and Three of Wands are missing and have been recreated to complete the deck.)

Visually, green and blue tones predominate in the art. People depicted in the majors are mostly pale and blonde, which the minors are decorated with green ivy and leaves around the pips. Lo Scarabeo has also set the tarot scenes onto metallic gold backgrounds, giving the cards a luxurious look. Some cards have short Latin mottos emblazoned on a banner wound around the suit elements, to emphasise the meaning.

The minors are of course pip cards, showing simply the number of suit elements arranged in a meaningful pattern. (I rarely read with decks with pip cards, preferring fully illustrated decks, but found when looking at these cards in a spread, it is easier to pick the majors from the minors, as they and the court cards stand out against a background of suit cards. This might mirror the importance of the cards - the spiritual and important life influences stand out from the mundane repetition of the everyday.)

The Visconti naturally differs from Rider-Waite style imagery, being several hundred years older. All the figures in the major arcana, or trumps as they are properly called, are static and stately. The Magician figure is a conjurer and doesn't carry the same sense of transformation; The High Priestess is simply an Abbess; The Pope (not the Hierophant) is alone and has no acolytes. The Hermit is based on Chronos, and carries an hourglass rather than the later addition of a lantern. Strength shows a man beating a lion, rather than a woman subduing one.

This set of cards is packaged with a useful companion book entitled 'Visconti Tarots'. It devotes several pages to setting straight the myths and legends to do with the origins or tarot cards in an unusually factual and historical manner. A section on the Art of Cartomancy is next, setting out how and why divination works, proper ethics for the diviner, and providing well-explained spreads for cartomancy and introspection. The bulk of the book studies the meanings of the major and minor arcana in by comparing historical fact and possible symbolic associations. Berti often mentions historical figures that the trumps may well have been based on and other historical titbits. However, it seems to me the author needed a lot more space to express his full ideas - the few paragraphs given to each card seem brief and sometimes inconclusive. The keywords given for divinatory meanings also occasionally don't seem supported by the information preceding them. (This leaves me wondering how these divinatory meanings come about, if they are Berti's associations or if they are older.)

Incredibly important as an artefact in the history of tarot, these cards are a mandatory addition to any collection, and the book-and-cards set is ideal for students of historical Tarot symbolism.

The set includes 1 deck of Visconti tarot deck, 1 book "The Pictorial Key to the Tarot" by Arthur Edward Waite and 1 Celtic spread poster.

Information from this page is populated from Aecletic.com and Llewellyn.

 

 

 

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