Mercante in Fiera by Amerigo Folchi - Review by Diane Wilkes
The English name for this deck is The Fair Merchant or Merchant of the Fair, and the subtitles for this unique deck are "Il gioca della maschera" and Il gioca della memoria" --which roughly translate to "a game of masks" and "a game of memory."
The deck comes in a double well. Each well contains a 40 card deck identical to the other, though one has an extra card, "The Mask." The backs share a design, but are different colors.
Each card is numbered and has an image of an object, such as grapes (Uva), seashells (Conchiglie), keys (Chiavi), and even sneakers (Scarpe da Tennis)!
This is not a deck designed for divination, but three different games. The Merchant of the Fair is played with one of the decks being evenly dealt to all of the players. The other deck is divided into "lots" that are bid on by the players.
Play of the Masks, called an "Old Black Man's game," was also organized to be played with a double deck. The object: to free yourself of all the cards. The one who does that first wins. The person with the mask card loses. It seems reminiscent of "Go Fish."
The first deck is dealt out to the various players. The second deck is placed mid-table card of mask mixed in the middle. When all cards in the middle have been taken, a player pulls a card from the person to the right.
Play of Memory: This one sounds similar to Concentration. It also can have an unlimited number of players. All the cards in both decks (except The Mask) are placed face down on a table. The object is to find card pairs. The person who makes the most "matches" wins.
While this deck isn't divinatory in nature, I can see ways in which it could be used for "fortune telling." You could pull several of these cards and predict specific mundane situations from them. The Labyrinth could indicate being in an emotional, physical, or intellectual maze, from which the person feels there is no way out. The Seashells could foretell a trip to the beach or a vacation. Grapes, keys, and sneakers in combination? You partied too hearty, and now it's time to go quickly (sneakers)...or maybe get a designated driver (keys).
Because the art is by Amerigo Folchi, even this mundane little deck has a festive charm and grace. The Art Deco perfume bottle (Ampolla Di Profumo) or the enticing ice cream (Gelati) show our American Charlie Cologne and Baskins and Robbins up as the boring, pre-fab junk they are. The bright colors in Folchi's profusion of pencils makes you want to take up drawing, because it--like so much of Folchi's art--seems like it's so much FUN.
While I don't expect to use this deck for divination or to play Concentration
or Go Fish with a twist, I am delighted to have these unique Folchi cards, which
were a gift. I recommend this deck (if you can find it) to Folchi
fanatics (I know you're out there!), those who are interested in Italian
versions of Concentration and/or Go Fish, and those who are interested in
creating a slightly different tool for divination.
Mercante in Fiera
Art © Amerigo Folchi
Review and page © 2001 Diane Wilkes
Special thanks to translator and game player extraordinaire, Sergio Carrozzo.