Mantegna Tarot (Silver Edition) Published by Lo Scarabeo
Review by Diane Wilkes
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
The Mantegna Tarot wouldn't be considered a "real" tarot by most standards. While some of the Majors are incorporated into the deck, such as the Emperor, Temperance, and The Pope), the 50 card Mantegna deck has a completely different order and intent--for example, Temperance is grouped with the cardinal virtues, not a bridge between Death and the Devil.
The reason this has been referred to as the "Silver Mantegna" is the silver foil with which Lo Scarabeo has bedecked the cards, in addition to colorizing them. "Breathtakingly beautiful" may have become a cliche, but when I saw this deck, my breath caught in my throat at its loveliness. I have always preferred silver to gold--in my jewelry and now, obviously, in my tarot card foils. I have owned the Meneghello edition of the Mantegna for years and liked it well enough, but it never took my breath away. Its thick creamy marbled paper is sensuous to the touch and richly lovely, but not conducive to use. The plastic coating of the Lo Scarabeo version, on the other hand, tempts me to play with it, in addition to appreciating its artistic qualities.
While scans are generally not as attractive as the actual cards, in this case, that is doubly true. You must see these cards to believe them, the silver foil adding the same feel of exquisite luxury and craftsmanship that an ancient tapestry evokes. The backs are a reversible delft blue and white flower Renaissance design that is in keeping with the gentle loveliness of this deck, and is also historically accurate. Speaking of historical accuracy, the deck is named the Mantegna Tarot because it was attributed to artist Andreas Mantegna--now it is believed that it emanated from the School of Ferrara.
The fifty cards with the suggested keyword(s) are as follows:
Caliope Understand the reason for sadness
Urania Search for inner balance
Terpischore Dance with the others remaining one
Erato Blend one's own voice with the choir
Polimnia Discover one's own emotions and those of others
Talia Change mask and unmask
Melpomene Let go of pessimism
Euterpe Listen to the music of things
Clio Put oneself in sync with history
Apollo Control of feelings
Grammatica Write for oneself or others
Loica Think over problems
Rhetorica Discuss alone or with others
Geometria Test the forces at play
Arithmetricha Align the forces at play
Musicha Harmonize the forces at play
Poesia Free up emotions
Philosofia Analyze profoundly
Astrologia Search for hidden causes
Theologia Rely on higher wisdom
Iliaco Act through common sense
Chronico Act sensitively
Cosmico Act instinctively
Temperancia Act in moderation
Prudencia Act in advance
Fortezia Act with determination
Justicia Act honestly
Charita Act with compassion
Speranza Act through sublime inspiration
Fede Act on the will of G-d
Luna Recall one's own dreams or those of others
Mercurio Pay attention to messages
Venus Evaluate the pleasures of life
Sol Act clearly and consistently
Marte Hold back aggressiveness
Jupiter Exercise will
Octavaspera See the course of things
Primo Mobile Act on the cause of things
Primo Causa Search for the origin of things
The cards are broken down thusly:
human condition (cards 1-10)
The nine Muses and Apollo (cards 11-20) (D)
Arts and Sciences (cards 21-30) (C)
Geniuses and Virtues (cards 31-40) (B)
The Planets and Celestial Spheres (cards 41-50) (A)
The silver foil design on each card matches the card backs, but the colors are different for each strata. The first 10 cards' background is pink-peach and silver; the Nine Muses and Apollo, peacock blue and silver; the Liberal Arts cards, sea green on silver; the Cardinal Virtues, ice blue on silver; and the Heavenly Spheres, pale yellow on silver. In the scans of Sol and Luna, the background looks like gold on black, which is why you need to see the cards to fully appreciate them.
The deck comes with an additional 25 cards, each showing a miniature version of two of the Mantegna cards, along with a single keyword for each (in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, and Dutch). The depicted cards lack the silver foil of the deck, but are quite attractive, too. There is also a one-card "Guide to Divining with the Mantegna Tarot" that contains a three card spread, which is also in six languages. Interestingly, the actual cards in the Mantegna deck only include five. Finally, the 14-page little white book (LWB) offers some history and content information, very short interpretations for each card, and The Chessboard Square, a form of solitaire that you can also use as a spread for reading with the Mantegna.
The Imperator is an unusually wise-looking Emperor, who seems more reflective than aggressive or power-hungry. Urania, the Muse who rules Astronomy, has the look of a Goddess who has seen it all. She holds her symbols, a celestial globe in one hand and a compass in the other. I can't help but notice she's looking away from the globe; I'm not sure that I blame her. Apollo, who is grouped with the Muses, seems more than up to the task, and he's as beautiful as any of them. Primo Mobile can be translated into Prime Mover (though on the card, the English translation is "Celestial Power")--one gets a sense of the energy and determination necessary in the act of initiating, which segues nicely as to what I believe will be my prime use for this deck.
I think this is an outstanding deck for anyone in the creative arts to use for a card-a-day inspiration or a direct tool for writing. The images are not simply beautiful to look at, they offer a trigger for divine inspiration, as well as short, but specific directions. To be perfectly honest, I tend not to have a lot of interest in "non-Tarot" decks, but for this one, I'll make an exception. Why?
I think I'm in love.
To read more about this deck, check out Adam McLean's article on The Tarocci of Mantegna and Tom Tadfor Little's website. Recently, Tom began a new discussion group called AntiqueTarot, which focuses on reading with antique tarot decks such as the Mantegna (along with the Minchiate Etruria, Marseilles, Soprafino, etc.), so if you feel attracted to this deck but are a bit uncertain as to how to utilize it, this might be a good resource for you.
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo (distributed by Llewellyn Publications)
Art and cited text © 2001 Lo Scarabeo
Review and page © 2001 Diane Wilkes