The Tarot of Dürer by Giacinto Guadenzi
Review by Arielle Smith


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        “I hold that the perfection of form and beauty is contained

in the sum of all men.” ~ Dürer, Four Books on Human Proportions, 1528

 

I really think The Tarot of the Dürer should be called The Giacinto Gaudenzi Tarot.

 

Gaudenzi, who was “inspired” by the art of German painter and engraver, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), gives us his interpretation of what he sees as Dürer’s thinking and the thinking of the times.  Using animals to represent the four suits, Gaudenzi comes up with ~

 

          Cups – water – dove

          Pentacles – earth – eagle

          Wands – fire – lion

          Swords – air – fox

 

So far, so good, right?

 

But a quick check of the cards held a nasty surprise for me.  On the Five of Wands, there is the man beating the lion with a club.  There is the skin of the dead lion draped over the posts on the Three of Wands.  The lion chewing the bloody carcass of a dog on the Six of Wands.  The lion nailed to the door on the Eight of Wands.  Ok, so I love lions (symbol of sun and female energy) and this is not pleasant.  I move to another suit.

         

Here is the Queen of Pentacles, bare breasted and sticking her tongue out at us!  What is that all about? She certainly doesn’t look like a “generous woman with a noble soul” to me.  And look at this Magician!  He (if, indeed, he is a he) looks like a sidewalk scam artist.  And over here – is this the Fool?  Why is he mooning us?  The little white booklet (LWB) translates the quotes on the Majors for us and the Fool’s quote says, “Wisdom often hides under squalid dress.”  Ah, but what if the Fool’s butt is bare?

 

A few of the cards in the deck are quite attractive – the Star, the Moon, the Sun.  And I had fun trying to find the animals on each minor (where IS the fox on the Five and Nine of Swords?)  But, for the most part, the cards are brutal and evoke feelings of despair, pain, and sadness.  It’s not just the bloody fox or the dead dove that bothers me.  It’s also the growls and grimaces, the suspicion, the mistrust on faces.  Is this really how people were during Dürer’s time?

 

I did a search on the works of Albrecht Dürer….oh, I recognize this picture of the hare!  And this drawing of the man who, to me, looks like Leonardo da Vinci is familiar, too.   I recognize several of the works and it is all noble of spirit and quite remarkable in its character.  It is peaceful and beautiful.  So, I wonder what inspired Giacinto Gaudenzi to put the despair and pain into these cards?  Is it his way of working with the shadow?  Is this part of the lessons we all must learn?   For some, this puzzle might just be what makes this deck desirable.  For me, it's just what makes this deck sit on the shelf.

Dürer Tarot by Giacinto Gaudenzi
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN#: 0738702455

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

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Arielle Smith, well on her way to becoming a weird eccentric, is a Certified Tarot Grand Master living in Florida with her husband and four cats. Both tree-hugger and animal lover, she is also a part-time teacher and lifetime student of the Tarot. You can visit her at her website, Mystik Moons.


Review © 2003 Arielle Smith
Images © 2002 Lo Scarabeo
Page © 2003 Diane Wilkes