Tarot of the Renaissance
by Giorgio Trevisan
This is a lightly colored, traditionally formatted tarot that has been described
by others as "an art deck." It is
an art deck, because the images are artistically
styled with much real skill and talent, and because the images tend to evoke the historical period
that the artist is going for: the Renaissance. But the deck is not limited to
being an art deck, and I have in fact found it quite useful as an "all-purpose" tool for
general inquiries and soul-searching.
"The allegories of the Chyvalrious World lead to a new perception of the human nature."
This statement, that appears on the box, is apt. The cards strive to do more than their traditional
counterparts, while avoiding creating a new form of tarot.
The Major Arcana images portray the inner truths of the human soul. They veer from the traditional images
while very successfully retaining the traditional meanings. These images draw upon the
knowledge of ourselves that we have gained through centuries of looking within, analyzing what it is to be
What I truly love about this deck is how these images, with their slightly altered symbolism, really speak to me.
The High Priestess sits serenely by an open window, holding a book that is adorned with a Yin Yang. This gives me an impression
of Eastern wisdom, a meditative quality, but seeing the Renaissance woman in her long flowing garb, implies the importance
of being open to other schools of thought, other spiritual truths taught outside one's home culture or religion. This, to me,
signifies important elements of the High Priestess: intuition, deep wisdom, far-reaching understanding. The Hermit, standing
with arms upraised and eyes toward Heaven, reminds me of a Biblical patriarch or prophet, looking for God. His environment is colored
with rosy brown hues, strewn with hard rocks, and the sky behind him is empty. The scene is devoid of other people, or material items.
The Hermit stands alone in nature, like a renunciate who has given up everything in search of Spirit. The Wheel shows a young, blindfolded
figure riding a single wheel on the beach. There is a smile on the child's face, and her arms are out slightly, to keep balance
and stay atop the wheel. This Wheel effectively gives the feeling of unknown fate or destiny. The card of Temperance has personal
symbolism to me. It reminds me of one of my mother's favorite paintings by Vermeer. The Devil stares smugly out at
the reader, not a frightening figure in his black and red cloak, but tempting with his bag of overflowing coins and the serpent (of false wisdom?) he offers.
I usually dislike the Devil card because in most decks he is an ugly creature meant to scare. But it is not the frightening or ugly that tempts us - it is the
dangerously attractive. In this Devil we see ourselves being mocked for our base desires, for being lured by what is not best for us spiritually. Though
the Devil here does not carry an appearance of immense supernatural power (he holds no human figures in chains, for example), he very clearly
represents the power of rashness, or superficiality, in our lives. This Devil points out that it is we who are responsible for our downfalls, for the mishaps in
our lives, not some outside force.
The strength of symbolism continues into the Minor Arcana, where we see a unique take on many of the cards. I am impressed by the intuitive, psychological interpretation
of many of the cards. In the Three of Wands, we see the forming of ideas expressed in a triangle of wands suspended in air behind a lone figure. The feeling of abundance, warmth,
and secure love of the Nine of Cups is demonstrated by the picture of a man returning to a home lit up with golden chalices in every window.
The Three of Swords, which is generally depicted as a wounded heart, is portrayed here as a woman weeping beside a slain man (her husband? brother? father? ... her heart).
The Eight of Pentacles shows a man walking in silent contemplation, away from the scene. Left behind in his footsteps are the golden coins, the previous wealth that no longer fulfils him.
As in the traditional meaning of the Eight of Pentacles, this card represents the need for substance. Each suit offers intriguing scenes such as these, that serve to awaken
within us an acknowledgement of something deeper. In this deck it is not so much mystical or magickal, as it is intuitive and psychological. For this, I admire and appreciate
The Court cards show men and women in luxurious clothing or armor, generally holding their instrument (sword, etc.). Knaves are men in standing poses. Knights, also men, sit on horseback.
The Queens sit regally, except for the Queen of Chalices who is shown walking with a small figure, perhaps listening to his troubles or offering advice. Three of the Kings are at their thrones;
the King of Swords is shown in a triumphal pose. For the most part there is consistency among the Court cards. Some of them are quite beautifully done - I especially like the Queen of Wands,
who is graced with an ethereal golden light from a nearby window.
Unfortunately, a few of the cards veer a little too much from their traditional meanings. It might create some initial confusion to draw the Three of Chalices (Cups), and see a woman sitting forlornly alone.
The little booklet that comes with the deck says for this card, "Nostalgia, daydreaming about the past." I have always seen the Three of Cups as a card of celebration, coming together in joy.
The little booklet might be necessary for determining some of the intended meanings of certain cards, but I would use it very little and simply rely upon my previous understanding of tarot
and my intuitive perception of the cards. It might take a little extra work, but I think it would be very much worth it.
The booklet does state, "Today, the esoteric element of the Tarots has changed quite a bit from the original ones, blending in with Eastern disciplines and psychology.
The magical and esoteric component gave way to introspection and analysis of the human being, at least regarding the Renaissance Tarot." Further, it says
"... the historical Renaissance, after the dark period of the Middle Ages, became a symbol for awakening our hearts to hope, serenity, and courtesy. The cards, in fact,
would like to transport us to an aware state in which the present (where we are), past (where the cards can look to), and the future (where our desires are directed) are fused
together in an evocative combination."
I think this deck succeeds at its purpose and is a very special traditional tarot, that
is beautiful, artistic, and truly unique.
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Card artwork by Giorgio Trevisan
All writing and photography © N Levine - Illumination Tarot, unless otherwise noted. 1999-2020