Tarocchi Barocchi di Marina Cirinei (by Marina Cirinei)
Review by Diane Wilkes

This is one of my more unique Major Arcana decks. It's a photographic deck created by Marina Cirinei, depicting the archetypes via paintings, architecture, and sculptures of Baroque artist Pietro Paolo Vasta. Created in 1998, this deck preceded the Tarot of Paris and Tarot of Prague by quite a few years, so one can't accuse Cirinei from jumping on that particular bandwagon--on the other hand, the deck is obscure enough that one doubts the creators of the two aforementioned decks got the idea from the Tarocchi Barocchi.

Cirinei was clearly a little more limited in terms of selection than the designers of the Tarots of Paris and Prague. Some of the cards are definitely more effective than others. While the statue in the Fool overlooks a balcony, there is no sense of motion (specifically, leaping), though the figure definitely has a sense of foolishness about him. The High Priestess (La Papessa) does not stand alone--she is part of a frieze that includes an angel and various gods and/or religious figures. (I can't be too specific in my descriptions, as the little white booklet (LWB), while plump, is in Italian.

The Emperor is quite the boy-king. The Lovers is very interesting--it depicts two buildings standing side by side. One has a steeple thrusting upwards towards the sky--I am guessing that this is the male building. It would be lovely to know what each of these buildings actually represent, as I'm sure there is additional symbolism to be found.

The Hermit is a bit more puzzling, as it depicts an image of Madonna and child, as does the Wheel of Fortune, though in the case of card X, they are crowned and part of an elegant church altar, complete with burning golden candles. There is a great deal of pomp and elegance in this card--perhaps a comment on the earthly aspect of the upward turn of the Wheel.

Strength is another sculpture. This one shows an image of a woman clutching a man's disembodied head in her grip (I thought it might be Judith and Holofernes, but the text seems to indicate that is not the case). The Hanged Man shows a taut wire stretching out from the top of a building--I must say, without being able to read the LWB, that it seems a bit too abstract.

Temperance is taken from a painting on what I am guessing is a church wall. An angel flies over Saint Maria del Sufragio, who is holding a vessel of some kind, and the muted colors and serene state of the card evoke an idyllic scene that radiates harmony and bliss. It makes for quite a contrast with the Devil card, all white and gray gargoyles, cold and stark and unrelenting.

The Tower seems a bit too stable to convey incipient disaster. The Star, however, usually a vision of calm after the storm, is somewhat striking, even alarming in its contrast of modernity and classic architecture. It is one of the few versions of the Star that suggests the electrical, shocking nature of its astrological attribution, Aquarius.

I am guessing that the Judgment image is from the same church as the image on Temperance. Now St. Maria has wings, and she pours healing water on the naked sinners writhing below her.

While this is a Majors-only deck, it also contains four cards, each symbolizing a suit. Bastoni (Wands) shows Christ on the cross ("Is that a wand you're carrying, or are you just in the mood to crucify me?"), Coppe (Cups), a statue of an angel underneath two large bells with a clock behind her. Spade (Swords) depicts a statue holding an upthrust sword, and Denari (Coins) shows a building with a rotunda. Perhaps the building's shape is the symbol itself, or perhaps the building is representative of something to do with currency. Not being able to read the LWB, I can not say. At least I can look at the pictures; the LWB contains images of the Tarocchi Barocchi next to their Marseilles counterparts. It also provides information on each of the images. It also contains references to Wirth and Court de Gebelin and mentions the Mitelli and other tarocchi decks.

There is something very old-fashioned about some of the photographs--the bright colors and slightly-yellowed white borders bring to mind foreign postcards from the sixties, especially in combination with the thick cardstock on which they are printed. The Magician, in particular, evokes subtext like, "The water is breathtakingly blue and the weather, divine." Commissioned as a promotional tool by the ministries of culture and tourism of Acireale, the deck was designed to commemorate the tricentennial of the aforementioned Pietro Paolo Vasta. Yet the LWB indicates the project began in 1990, eight years before it was published. The oversized cards have non-reversible backs; they are dotted with simple red, rather phallic looking, flowers, but because they also contain identifying information, you can tell if a card is reversed or not.

The box itself is standard stylistically, but it is much sturdier than most, perhaps because the deck itself is so heavy. On one side is the Tarocchi Barocchi di Marina Cirinei Star, on the other, the Marseilles Star card.

This is an interesting and unique deck, and I would love to be able to read the LWB to learn more about it. An art deck, it is more of interest to collectors than readers. My new fantasy is that Philadelphia's council on tourism will commission a tarot deck instead of creating more and more cheesy commercials. We do have a Rodin Museum...

  Yes No
78 cards   X (26)
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 (approx. 4 3/4" X 2 3/4")                     X
Smaller than standard                                            
Larger than standard (approx. 6 1/2" X 4")                      X  

Images 1998 de Luca
Review and page 2003 Diane Wilkes