Leonardo Da Vinci Tarot by I. Ghiuselev and A. Atanassov
Review by Diane Wilkes

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

The aesthetically pleasing Major Arcana version of the Leonardo Da Vinci Tarot was created by Iassen Ghiuselev (Tarot of the Third Millennium) for Lo Scarabeo's series of art decks. I saw the original monochromatic version (in shades of umber) and bought it immediately thereafter, so impressed was I by the exquisite and refined drawing. The new 78 card version of this deck has just been released and is not quite monochromatic--when comparing it to the original Majors-only deck, you can see that there is considerable tonal variation in the new version. A different artist has created the Minor Arcana: A. Atanassov. Atanassov is the artist of various LS decks, including the Bosch and the Golden Tarot of the Tsar. He also rendered re-drawings of classic decks, the Visconti and the Mantegna.

Needless to say, both men are fine artists, though neither would be in the same class as the actual Leonardo Da Vinci, whose art is the basis for this deck. However, I find there is a difference between the balanced and harmonious Major Arcana and the more disturbing, exceedingly dark Minors. I did a reading with the DaVinci and found that the reading, while it was both accessible and sensible, was tinted in the same bleak pigments used in the deck. Not the deck you want to use with a depressive, I can assure you.

I was surprised that this deck actually worked--art decks don't often serve in the double duty of aesthetics and function. But it did take all my skill and flexibility to create a cohesive reading. And, as mentioned above, I also had to struggle to keep the reading moderately upbeat.

One advantage is that this deck, unlike the Majors-only, is readily available in the United States. And the artists I know have been infatuated with its beauty. It is certainly evocative and occasionally thought-provoking. The Mona Lisa is a crowned High Priestess. I am particularly fond of this card because Brian Williams also based his High Priestess in the PoMo Tarot on the classic painting and it came up in reference to an important personal project. The Lovers card shows a man holding a woman in a position where it seems as if they have become a human form of the twined candle--the base shows complete merging. But one friend, seeing this card, exclaimed in horror, "Where are her legs?" Some don't cotton to the idea of losing limbs in the melting pot of a merged life.

The image on Justice is particularly powerful--a woman holds a very long sword in one hand, and a mirror in the other--a mirror that reflects a wise and stern old man in its depths. The Hanged Man (named L'Appeso in this version, but Impiccato in the original) is not made upright by reversing the card, but shows a guilty but remorseful bound man hanging by a very slim rope--one wonders if he's remorseful because of what he did or the penalty he now pays for his action. A scrawny female Death operates some kind of wheeled machine (DaVinci's scientific inventions are paid tribute in an odd way here!), but she clutches a skull in one hand, to make sure we don't miss the point: some lives are living death, and we all eventually return to our bare-boned selves.

Temperance's beakers would not look amiss in a chemistry lab, and, indeed, her face is studious and intent on her liquid experiments. The Sun is a particularly classic rendering of two embracing putti. I find the sense of movement in the Star and Moon cards, which are often depicted in a rather static way, adds to the luminous quality of these archetypes--both are very entrancing depictions. Oddly enough, the World card is unusually passive, a woman posed limpidly against a tree stump, a broken eggshell at her feet. On the other hand, the woman is no Slenderella, which reminds me of the good old days when womanly beauty was not based on emaciation.

The Minors seem a bit more violent and dark to me. The Three of Wands has the R-W-S image of a man looking outward, but Atanassov's figure carries a poised dagger behind his back. The man on the Five of Pentacles looks more brutish than impoverished. Lest we forget that the artist also worked on the Bosch Tarot, we see the occasional loutish beast, such as the skipper of the boat on the Six of Swords. These animals seem more Bosch-like than DaVinci-esque to me.

There is also more of an emphasis on Christianity and myth in the Minor Arcana. Jesus is shown in the act of creating miracles on the Ten of Wands, and we get two glimpses of The Last Supper on the Eight of Cups and the Five of Swords, respectively. In keeping with traditional interpretation, the Eight of Cups shows Jesus saying his goodbyes; the Five of Swords looks like a disciple bent on betrayal. The Two of Cups offers a depiction of Leda and the Swan.

The coloring of the deck is very subtle--those drawn to bright hues will find the DaVinci Tarot a bit desolate. The card backs are reversible and show the partial image of the Queen of Wands back-to-back. The card stock is sturdy and very smooth, and the excellent physical composition of the deck is typical of Lo Scarabeo.

All in all, I find this to be one of the more artistically interesting decks in my collection. I recommend it to artists, Da Vinci enthusiasts, collectors, and those interested in art decks. If you're borderline depressive, perhaps you'd find another deck more suitable.

  Yes No
78 cards X  
Reversible Backs X  
Strength VIII, Justice XI   X
Color Images X  
Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana X  
Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Disks) X  
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions X  
Standard dimensions (4 3/4" X 2 3/4") X  

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

You can read another review of this deck here.

You can peruse a sample reading with this deck here.

Leonardo Da Vinci Tarot by I. Ghiuselev and A. Atanassov
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN#: 0738704091


Images 2003 Lo Scarabeo
Review and page 2003 Diane Wilkes