This time I’m taking a look at some Tarot packs that are perhaps better suited for enjoyment as art, not as playing-cards.
Modiano Tarocco Siciliano. The first thing one notices is the small size. The cards are as wide as typical Bridge cards, but even shorter. Thus, they are a lot smaller than Tarot cards usually are. The pack has just 64 cards. The suits (Italian symbols, but the card design bears signs of the Portuguese pattern — according to Dummett and McLeod this pack is the sole remaining representative of the Portuguese pattern in Europe) have cards 5-10 and the four court cards with coins having also 4 and ace. The jacks are female. Pip cards have indexes, while court cards are fairly easy to tell apart.
There are numbered trumps from 1-20 and two unnumbered trumps, Miseria and Fool. Miseria depicts a beggar with the text Miseria on top. The trumps have fairly typical pictures, but in unusual order and with some curiosities. For some reason I found the Hanged Man card rather disturbing: usually he is hanged from the foot, but in this pack he’s hanged from his neck with his back turned to the watcher. The Sun shines over a fight, too — the art is beautiful, but rather strange at times. There’s apparently some remains from Minchiate influences as well.
For most people this pack will be a curiosity only. There are several games known from Sicily, where it seems they play a different kind of Tarot in the different villages. Dummett and McLeod document several games in their book (A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack), but none of those descriptions are available on Pagat. I’m going to make some effort to try at least one of the games, the pack is curious enough to guarantee that, but for most people that’s not an option.
So, while the pack is perfectly functional for playing — the cards are clear enough, the material good and so on — for most people the value of this pack is in the art. I would recommend the pack for that use as well, as the cards are beautiful and the trumps are curious and fairly unusual. Also, if you want a pack of Tarocco Sicialiano cards, this is your only option, nobody else makes these cards anymore.
Jean Noblet Tarot de Marseille. Tarot of Marseilles is one of the major styles in Tarot cards, and the source where most occult Tarot traditions draw from. The pack designed by Jean Noblet in 1650 is a fine example of the style. There is one remaining copy of the pack in Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. Fortunately it is nearly complete, missing only few pip cards from the swords. This reproduction by Jean-Claude Fornoy is based on the original cards, faithful to the original line drawings and with new, bright colours.
Fornoy has done well. The cards are beautiful, real works of art. The trumps are particularly pretty. They are Fornoy’s favourite, as well. From his boutique, you can buy either a full 78-card pack or just 22 trumps, hand-coloured. I have the full pack, but I believe the hand-coloured trumps are quite a wonderful piece of work, as even the full pack is very beautiful.
I wouldn’t recommend these cards for playing the game. The pip cards are somewhat confusing, as is usual with the older designs. There are small indices in the cards and the court cards have names on them, so it’s not impossible to use this pack for games — after all, that was the original purpose why it was made in the first place. A bigger problem is the sharp corners of the cards and even though the material seems sturdy, I have a feeling the cards might get scuffed fairly easily and frankly, this is a pack I’d rather keep in fine shape and enjoy as a piece of art, not as an object in use.
Included with the pack is a small leaflet with few pages of information on Tarot and Jean Noblet and 60 pages of fairly pointless psychobabble. Those into card-reading might find that interesting; I got nothing out of it. I would’ve preferred to have more historical information, as that is always interesting.
(My scanner isn’t doing justice to these cards; the colours are much better on the actual cards.)