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GU n. 63 del 10/03/2020
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Pages 192 - 150 color illustrations


Prezzo di copertina 35,00 €


33,25 €

The first page ...




The cards, incisions and books featured in this work are part of a very large collection of a conscientious person, a collector in the truest sense of the word, who has built up for himself and others a magical encyclopaedia of tarots and a vision of the world, which has inspired art, literature and recreational games alike.

Their presentation in an exhibition is the ultimate gesture of a wise collector, since even a private collection needs the public to exist. The same applies to state-owned collections. Public exposure is the moment in which the collector, ever in dialectical tension between the two poles of order and disorder, finally chooses the order of exhibition as a rational activity, with the aim of lending the exhibits new and different interpretations, also from the individual - the visitor, who for the first time encounters (wittingly or unwittingly) something never seen before that moment, only imagined.

I am certain that this is also the true aspiration of someone, a refined connoisseur, who has collected these documents not to hoard up treasures, or to create his own halo of prestige, but for the purposes of research and study, lending his collection not only the traditional function of simple, curious mirabilia, but the precious function of sharing knowledge.

The message of this exhibition is precisely this: to recognize in the items collected and exemplified by the abilities and skills of the collector the strong didactic and cognitive value of a collection that is a veritable visual inventory. And should we wish to line up on the same shelf those ten or so publications that represent milestones in the game of tarots, this volume is worthy of being included among those works which examine the tarots from a iconographic point of view.

Donatino Domini
Director of Classense Library of Ravenna




The word tarot is ambiguous and complex. For me, for my childhood memories, "tarots" are above al, the red oranges of Sicily, splendid, sunny, that the greengrocer (for the Florentines "the ortolan") broke in two to triumphally show its radiant inside as a ruby and perfect as the rose - window of a Gothic cathedral. And that is such a beautiful and vivid memory that the adjective "taroccato" has always bothered me, which young people, with so much frequency, use to indicate something of forgery and of false, and a cheat. Anyway I believe that the orange of Sicily called (it is still called) "tarots" for a sort of misunderstanding, since they recall the "seed" of coins (diamonds) in the game of cards. In that thing that is said to be invented in the Chinese imperial court in the XII century, to give a pastime to the concubines of the sovereign that were annoyed: and that the researchers connect, also formally, to the paper-coin, even if some of them, go on sustaining that the game of cards was not Chinese, but Indian.

The fact that cards and chess have spread together in Europe, can be generic and legendary: it is sure that, as the famous pack of Arabic cards of the XIII century exposed in the Museum of the Topkapi in Istanbul recalls, the muluk wa-nuwwab, for us the game of cards has Moslem origins and it was born, with every probability, in Spain. The na'ib ("governor") is a figure of the Arabic cards; the cards in Italy were called "naibi", and are today still called naipes in the Castilian language. The sources at our disposition already insist on the diffusion of the game in Italy starting from the 14th century, even if the first packs we've got are of the 15th century.

Anyway already Bernardino from Siena, preaching in 1423 in Bologna, was against hazard players and he showed how the "seeds of cards had to be associated to the worse capitals vices: coins to avarice and therefore to usury, cups to gluttony and therefore to drunkenness, spades and batons to anger and therefore to violence". And, after all, they could even be "vices of state" of the social categories that the game symbolized: cups as the clergy, coins as the bourgeoisies, spades as the noble, and batons as the farmers.

What about tarots? Not all the researchers agree on the fact that they joined us together with cards. It is evident the dramatic dichotomy of certain their denominations: the "triumphs" recall court images, of victory, of power, of luxury, whereas the "minchiate" speak the language of the vulgar, of the fraud, of Street violence, of the nothingness. A language that denounces a bipolar attitude toward the game: fear, charm, challenge and contempt. The cards: king stuff and buffoons', it necessary to dissuade people, to decent people, to the ones who want to maintain their dignity. Or their hoard. Or their destiny.

Game? Play or game? Gambling, therefore fortune: that, everybody knows, it is not only blind, but it is also unstable - it moves in equilibrium on a sphere - and bald, except a lock of hair on its forehead, for which it literally must be "taken by its forelock"; but to do that it is necessary to have dexterity and audacity and thus constitutes a circle, I don't know if it is virtuous or vicious, from the moment that, exactly, audaces fortuna iuvat. And, on the other hand, audacity is the natural enemy of fortune, the one that intends to correct it at any cost. From here magic, as will not of wisdom but of power, search of power, therefore as a challenge to the unknown of destiny and its evocation, even if we are stroke, since the divining practices are dangerous as much for who practices them as for who is a client. It was a great hermetic of the 16th century Guillaume Postel, to stop upon the not so much and not only divinatory nature, but on the contrary of wisdom of tarots, and to sustain that they were nothing else but the Book of Toth escaped the fire of the library in Alexandria: 78 pure gold plates containing, in hieroglyphic font, the whole human knowledge and that "Egyptians" exiled - therefore the gypsies - would have jealously preserved as a secret and diffused in theirs aching and admirable nomadic adventure. It was not therefore quite out place a researcher and also artist, Marco Bussagli, while drawing inspiring to the tarsia of the cathedral of Siena a pack of hermetic tarots: the floor of that splendid cathedral, that inspired Wagner for the castle of the Graal in the Parsifal, is a structure of hermetic symbols.

Through the modern esotericism inaugurated at the end of the 18th century in France (even if not only) and of which is an example the monumental work The analyzed primitive word and compared with the modern world edited in 1781 by Court de Gébelin, the "secret" art and the science of tarots have arrived to us. Maybe with a lot of miystifications, some of them of low profile. But their charm remains. For instance, I admire extraordinarily them: but I stay wide far from consulting them. It is not permissible to the believers of the God of Abram to tempt the Lord through fate.

Franco Cardini
Medieval History, Universìty of Florence

The first page ...



The game of tarots is composed by 56 numeral cards, said to be Italian but in fact Arabic in origin ("cups", "diamonds", "clubs" and "spades"), and 22 cards known as Triumphs, which were created at the beginning of the 15th century in Italy.

This game derives from Petrarca' "Triumphi", who in that work described the principal forces which govern men and assigned a hierarchical value to each of them. First comes Love (Instinct), that corresponds to a juvenile phase, won by Modesty (Chastity, Reason), a following phase of mature calmness, to which follows Death, that signifies the transitoriness of the terrestrial things.

Its is at its turn, won nevertheless from Fame, victorious on death in posterity's memory, but upon it Time triumphs which is finally overhung by the Triumph of the Eternity, that makes men escape from the flow of the becoming and sets him in the kingdom of eternity. The medieval theology assigns to the universe a precise order, formed by a symbolic staircase rising from the earth to the sky.

From the top of the stairs God, the First Cause, governs the world, without getting directly involved, but operating ex gradibus i.e. through an uninterrupted series of negotiators. In this way his divine power is transmitted down to the lower creatures, and even to the humblest beggar.

If we on the contrary read this symbology from the bottom to the top, we are taught that the man can gradually elevate in the spiritual order, climbing along the summits of the "bonum", "verum" and "nobile" and that science and virtues make him approach nearest to God. From the first known list of tarots, of the beginning of the Sixteenth Century, it is evident that it was an ethical game. The Bagatto (Magician) shows a common man who has been provided with both temporal guides (the Emperor and Empress) and spiritual guides (the Pope and Popesse, i.e. Faith).

Human instincts themselves must be mitigated by the virtues: Love by Temperance, and the desire for power (the Chariot of Triumph) by Fortitude. The Wheel of Fortune teaches us that success is ephemeral and that even great men are destined to become dust: thus the Hermit who follows the Wheel represents Time, to which all beings are subject, while the Hanged Man depicts the danger of falling in temptation and sin before the arrival of the physical death.

Even the afterlife is represented according to the typical medieval idea: Hell, and thus the Devil, stands at the centre of the earth, while the celestial spheres are above earth. According to the Aristotelian vision of the cosmos, the terrestrial sphere is surrounded by celestial fires which in the tarots are represented as lightning striking a Tower. The planetary spheres are synthesized in three main planets: Venus (the preeminent Star), the Moon, and the Sun.

The highest star is the Empyrean, the seat of the angels who will be summoned to awaken the dead from their tombs at the Last judgement - when divine Justice will triumph in weighing the souls and dividing the good from the evil. Highest of all is the World, or the Holy Father, as an anonymous friar commentator on the tarots wrote at the end of the 15th century.

The same author places the Fool after the World, as if to illustrate his complete alienation from all rules and teachings. During the 15th century the game of tarot was known as the Ludus Triumphorum, and it was only at the beginning of the 15th century that the term Tarocchi, or Tarots, came into use.

The origin of the new term is still controversial today: some hold that it derives from the Arabic Tariqa, meaning The Way of Mystical Knowledge, a variant of a mystic path of Indian origin, having as inspiring source Tara, goddess of Knowledge (The Green Tara represents the goddess of the Supreme Knowledge in the Tibetan Buddhism).

Others perceive a possible link to the technique used in northern Italian courts known as "Taroccato", used for decorating illuminated manuscripts with a punch; still others assume that the word "Tarocco" comes from the dialect word "tarocar", which means saying or doing foolish or sen-seless things while gambling.