(crossposted at Sketch by Sketch)
There is so much going on with the gorgeous, intriguing I Tarocchi di Vetro by Elizabetta Trevisan. Today I’ll talk about:
- The Art Itself
- Unusual Symbolism
- Names of the Deck
- Printing History
The Art Itself
This is one of the most distinctive, beautiful, and well-composed decks I’ve ever seen. Rendered in tempera and pastels, the effect is that of stained glass. The overall style, in my opinion, is a blend of Art Nouveau and Art Deco – the human and animal figures are realistic and have soft shadows as in Art Nouveau, but the rest of the elements are geometric and sharp like Art Deco. The pip cards (1 through 10) have no people and so emphasize geometry more. You will find yourself tracing the dynamic lines and swirls over and over with your eyes.
While you are doing this, you will discover the clever ways zodiac symbols and the symbols for the suits fit into the compositions. I especially like how the Queen of Chalice’s throne is a chalice.
One of the first things you’ll notice is that the suits have unusual elemental associations. Typically,
- swords = air
- cups = water
- wands = fire
- coins = earth
In this deck:
- swords has primarily water imagery with air as a secondary element
- chalices (cups) seems to suggest both water and air – like a lake environment in the summertime, with lily pads floating on water while dragonflies zip above the surface
- wands feature fire but tree imagery frequently overtakes the fire in prominence
- pentacles are earth (no change there)
These differences exist because the Minors of this deck are based on designs by Eudes Picard. Many of the Majors are influenced by Oswald Wirth’s Arcana of the Cabbalistic Tarot, which is itself a modified version of the foundational Tarot of Marseilles.*
The Minors (pips) may at first look like they’re devoid of meaning, but if you look closely, you’ll see helpful symbols.
Also, you may notice that the kings age as you progress through Swords, Chalices, Wands, and Pentacles, which is pretty cool. I don’t know what it means, but I like it.
Names of the Deck
This deck has been marketed as “The Crystal Tarots” but that’s an inaccurate translation of the original Italian “I Tarocchi di Vetro”. I’m learning Italian and while I’m no expert, I have learned that “vetro” means “glass” – not “crystal”. Maybe a marketing person thought “crystal” would appeal to the New Age audience.
“Tarots” in the plural sounds weird to English speakers but is accurate because “tarocchi” is plural in Italian. There is also a singular word, “tarocco”, and I admit I’m not sure which to use. There are many decks out there called “Tarocco Whatever” and “Tarocchi di Whatever”.
Trying to find out when all the editions were printed is like squeezing blood from a turnip while trying to pull the turnip’s teeth. (…It’s really hard.) I used WorldCat, Tarot Garden, the Aeclectic Tarot forums, and Albideuter.de for help.
- The deck started out Majors-only, possibly as early as 1987.
- According to Albideuter.de, images from the Majors-only deck appeared on the covers of Lo Scarebo’s catalog from 1987-1994, but I haven’t been able to verify this.
- At some point, Lo Scarebo published an Edizione d’Arte (Art Edition) on large cards with only Italian labels, which was one of many in a series. I don’t know how many cards this deck has. It may have been the first edition.
- 1995: Lo Scarebo published the 78-card deck, with labels in several European languages; the High Priestess image is reversed for some reason.
- 1996 and 1998: U.S. Games Systems published the 78-card deck.
- 2002: Lo Scarebo published 78-card deck with five Majors printed in reverse (High Priestess, Hierophant, Chariot, Judgement, and the World) – the World being kind of a problem given that the four corners have specific symbols for them. There’s no explanation for this – it was probably a mistake.
This deck is gorgeous and a wonderful addition to any collection. If you’re used to Rider-Waite-Smith or its many derivatives, though, you may have initial difficulties with the pip cards. But it’s worth it because they’re so beautiful!
Here are the rest of my favorites:
Links for Tarocchi di Vetro:
- High-quality scans at Albideuter.de
- An unboxing of the deck on YouTube (video)
- I Tarocchi di Vetro thread on Aeclectic Tarot Forum
- Thread about the Tracchi d’Arte series on Aeclectic Tarot Forum
- Tarot Garden entry
- Universal Wirth Tarot – a card-by-card feature
*Interestingly, the Universal Wirth Tarot, by the same publisher (Lo Scarebo), used this same Wirth + Picard combination over a decade after I Tarocchi di Vetro was produced. I wonder how many decks are out there with this combo.