Milan, Italy: Osvaldo
Menegazzi Revisited in 2004
Article by Arnell Ando
If you happen to have read my
last homage to Tarot in Milano, in which I focus
mainly on the magnificent Visconti castle of
renown Tarot history and the great Tarot artist and publisher Osvaldo
Menegazzi, I have some interesting news to report worthy of a second look. In
the first article, much more of Osvaldo's exceptional art is showcased, but here
you'll see a glimpse of a new line of handcrafted shadow boxes, and tarot
containers, as well as a step-by-step look at his tarot box constructing
methods. But first, a bit of background material on this unique artist.
I was surprised to learn that Osvaldo has had no formal art training. As a teenager during WWII, he didn't have the opportunity to attend university. It’s quite remarkable--and even encouraging--to learn that his great skill and vast knowledge of art history is self-taught. Not surprisingly, Osvaldo has been doing art since he was a young boy with a flair and gusto that has never ceased. It is evident in spending even a few days with Osvaldo, and watching him interact with his neighbors, local shopkeepers and restaurateurs that his is a close-knit community where he is appreciated and that he in return gives thanks; hiring neighboring craftsman, and donating his art and antiques to local restaurants such as The Cave. The food here, by the way, is as wonderful as you might imagine, and the downstairs dining rooms showcase Osvaldo’s artwork with great pride for this living treasure.
My husband Michael and I were greeted like old friends with warm hugs and affection – such is the natural charm of this passionate artist. Anticipating our visit, Osvaldo invited his close relation, Cristina to translate for us. We presented Osvaldo with a handcrafted replica of his Tarot shop that has so inspired us on each return to our beloved Milano. He seemed delighted and was most generous with his time and gifts. (This miniature Tarot shop can now be found in the window amongst Osvaldo’s colorful artworks.)
What’s New at the Tarocchi Shop
Since our last visit in 2001, Osvaldo has been creating a fresh line of tarot containers. They are handmade in an antique style, each adorned with classic Tarot archetypes (in most cases, one, but sometimes more), attached in a three-dimensional manner. These boxes are hand-constructed from thick cardboard layers, which are then collaged. Tarot imagery is also attached to the cardboard separately before being collaged onto the piece for added effect. The boxes are all gorgeous and it was difficult to choose which would go home with me. They come in different sizes and can be purchased either with a matching Special Edition Visconti deck or you can buy one without to house one of your own lucky decks perhaps? Prices are reasonable (between $25-$50), considering the uniqueness of the presentation and the time that goes into making them. I include a pictorial demonstration of Osvaldo assembling one such box while we eagerly looked on.
Another new series of products are
shadow boxes, which present many of the familiar archetypes, collaged onto
wooden shapes, intuitively placed in aesthetic, three- dimensional styles. Many
are available and all are unique and lovely and would be a treasure for any
tarot collector. I’m not sure of the cost since Osvaldo gave me the pick of the
shop to choose from and I was too bashful to ask after such generosity, but I
imagine they are again reasonable considering the work put into them.** Osvaldo
also gave us a sneak peek at a new deck of his that focuses on wives and
relations of that bizarre king, Henry the VIII. And, of course, we spent time
ogling all the wonderful decks you associate with his publication, many numbered
editions with his signature wax seal and unique packaging.
A visual candy store for any tarot enthusiast, I can’t recommend this stop enough on any tour you might make to Northern Italy. And while you’re here you might have a lovely lunch at the Cave around the corner and also visit the nearby castle, rich with tarot-origin history, both of which are in walking distance to Milan's Central Station.
I should probably mention that the switch to Euro dollars has affected the economy in Italy harshly. The prices of virtually everything are dramatically higher, including hotels and dining. People there tell me it’s hard to survive when they’re still receiving the same wages but the cost of living has increased to keep pace with the rest of Europe. Prices have doubled and often tripled from what we paid only three years ago, and we felt a general sense of conservation (smaller portions on our plates, cutting corners on the freshness of ingredients, in some circumstances) despair & frustration (much more graffiti and more pickpockets lurking and waiting for any chance to better their predicament). That said, the Italians remain a beautiful, generous, and warm people with whom to visit with and many can speak English enough to help make your stay more pleasant, although attempts at speaking Italian are welcome. As always, we had a most enchanting time and dream of returning.
* Note: The tarot art shop of Osvaldo Menegazzi is called Il Meneghello Tarocchi (click here to see small map) and can be found at Via Fara 15, Milan Italy, 20124. Phone (02) 6703185 Fax number (02) 66987568. The Castle, known as 'Castello Sforzesco,' is just a couple miles South/West of Osvaldo's shop (things change, but in Spring of 2004 the Green Tram # 4 went from Central Station to the castle). Or you can walk--it's a nice, leisurely stroll. Tickets for buses and trams can be purchased at many newspaper kiosks, tobacco shop/bars and the tourist info stand at the station, as well as hotels. It's easy and inexpensive to get around a big, friendly city like Milan).
** Note: Cristina has agreed to act as the contact for those wanting to order Tarot artworks from Osvaldo Menegazzi. Remember that English is a second language for her. Expect to see a website for Osvaldo Menegazzi's work in the near future.
*** Note: You can see another Visconti Tarot Box here.
Arnell Ando is the artist and author of Transformational Tarot and the Hero's Journey Tarot. She also illustrated the Storyteller Tarot written by Diane Wilkes. She is a Certified Tarot Grand Master who gives wonderfully inspiring workshops all over the country on creating your own tarot. She has a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology and is a certified Expressive Arts Therapist.
Article and images © 2004 Arnell Ando
Page © 2004 Diane Wilkes