The highly anticipated restored edition of the Visconti Modrone Tarot by Lo Scarabeo is finally here!
Last year 717 backers pledged €46,258 on Kickstarter for the project and a few more on a second campaign on IndieGoGo. With a few delays regarding the delivery and some worries regarding the quality of the final products, the waiting was almost painful in the final couple of weeks.
Now as the product is unwrapped and in my hands, I can say I am pleased with the result. The packaging is perfect, the card stock and printing are all right, and the artwork is fantastic. I hope that the gilded edge will not wear out immediately after a few shufflings. I love the coloured, hardcover book – it is great reading. Not sure what to do with the seal yet.
The Visconti di Modrone Tarot deck is one of the three surviving hand-painted Tarot decks from the 15th-century. The Visconti di Modrone family sold these cards to Melbert B. Cary Jr. whose widow, Mary Flagler Cary, subsequently offered them as bequest, along with the rest of his collection, to the Yale University Libary, where they remain today.
This current digitally restored edition by Lo Scarabeo is an excellent study deck or collectable. On the other hand, considering the large size of the cards – 9×18,9 cm, respectively 3.5×7.4 inch -, this is not a comfortable deck for practical use. The large size of the cards makes it easy to study the details and reveal the beauty of the deck.
Along the traditional 22 Major Arcana cards, we have three extra cards which represent three virtues: Hope, Charity and Faith. How many cards were actually in the original deck, is still a matter of disputes among scholars. Some claim that Hope, Charity and Faith are alternatives for The Star, The High Priestess (The Popess or The Priestess) and The High Priest (The Pope or The Hierophant).
While in the traditional deck of Tarot cards there are only four court cards in each suite, here we have six court cards: King, Queen, Knight, Equestrienne, Knave and Lady. It means we have 89 cards. It all comes down to the structure and ratio of the Tarot deck. The 78 cards deck has the 3:2 ratio with 21 trumps plus the Fool as a wild card and 14 cards suites. To keep the same ratio of trumps and suit cards, there should be 24 trumps plus the Fool, and 16 cards per suit are necessary.
Prof. Andrea Vitali in the book deals in detail with all these exciting issues and the iconography of the Trumps.
Prof. Michael S. Howard discusses the allegorical meaning of the cards and shed some light upon the story behind the story.
In the final section of the book, Lunaea Weatherstone gives instructions for the use of the deck for divination and guidance for interpretation of the cards.
What is left of the original, hand-painted 15th-century deck is not a complete deck. All the cards were originally made by layers of tempera colour, overexposed by very thin hand engraved layers of gold or silver. Thanks to foil printing, the restored cards look as they were created over 500 years ago.
During the restoration process, damages to the card were carefully repaired and, at the same time, the pigmentation and colours of the original cards were researched and restored. It was a painstaking effort of accuracy, attention to detail and historical research, which lasted more than a year and was edited by Mattia D’Auge.
I am glad I bought it and it will be an exciting experience to study it. Thanks, Lo Scarabeo!