Tarots of the Renaissance

Giorgio Trevisan, 1995

This deck was first published by Lo Scarabeo in 1995, and has also been distributed
by U.S.Games Systems. (This deck is different from the ‘Renaissance Tarot’ by Brian Williams.) The artist of this deck has also created a ‘Majors only’ deck called Tarocchi Romantici (Romantic Tarots).

Each of these 78 cards is delicately painted in watercolor. Trevisan is obviously an experienced watercolor painter, which is what makes these cards so fun to look at. Trevisan uses the medium well by keeping the composition and details of his underlying pencil sketches simple, relying on the colors to add shapes, form and texture. There is also an informal quality to his style which gives me the feeling that I am looking at the pages of his personal sketchbook.

Many of the figures on his cards tend to be whimsical and carefree. The Trumps less so, though most of the Major figures are posed very informally. The magician stands casually on a balcony, holding an open book while observing the qualities of an elixir as if it were a fine glass of wine. The Wheel of Fortune shows an unusual arrangement of an ocean shore and a blindfolded youth balancing on the edge of a cartwheel. He is being watched, or perhaps chased, by a snake, a fox, and a sphinx which floats in the air above. On Trump XIII, the face of Death is smiling; he looks to me like he is dancing to a Latin rhythm.

This deck appears less related to the ‘Renaissance’ and more to Fairytales. That is because the painting style and the scenery of this deck’s artwork would be well suited for children’s books. However, the illustrations are also reminiscent of stage designs, where backdrops, props, and partial structures are there to intimate larger settings. It is possible that the ‘Renaissance’ in the title of this deck comes from the designs having been influenced by ideas from Elizabethan plays.

The Suit cards seem to be telling several stories, but this deck does not have any booklet to explain the images, or any background on the author’s intentions. This makes the scenes difficult to interpret since very few of the forty pip cards have obvious connections to imagery usually found on decks in the Waite-Smith tradition. I suspect that this may be because these Italian cards are based on meanings more directly derived from Etteilla and the French occultists than are most modern ‘Western’ decks. In fact when I compared the cards in this deck to the divinatory text in Waite’s Pictorial Key which is derived in large part from the French traditions, several of Trevisan’s cards made sense. It was sometimes the secondary meanings or the reversed meanings from Waite’s text which seemed to fit; these meanings were compiled by Waite from Etteilla as well as other unnamed sources. It also helped to make comparisons with Tavaglione’s decks, which gave further hints into the meanings behind Trevisan’s paintings.

Though many of these cards are still enigmas to me, I still enjoy the fact that they are telling a story of their own and not just a retelling of what has gone before. This deck can currently be found readily at many Tarot suppliers.

Review by Mark Filipas, 1/8/00

Images Copyright 1995 Lo Scarabeo, Review Copyright 2000 Mark Filipas


This page is Copyright 2000 by Michele Jackson