gattibuffifool.jpg (38698 bytes)I Gatti Buffi--Osvaldo Menegazzi, Published by Il Meneghello, Limited Edition of 2000 
Review by Diane Wilkes

The first time I saw the miniature "I Gatti" deck, I fell in love. Gatti means cat in Italian, and I am a gatti-lover. This tiny deck had me under its paw in no time, and I had to take it home as soon as possible. I Gatti has a treasured spot in my credenza--I keep it there so that my gatti, Benigni, doesn’t treat it like a mouse. It is about the size of one, and Benigni has the soul of a natural born furry killer.

I was delighted to discover a larger deck in the same style devoted to cats, and that is I Gatti Buffi. I’m not sure which came first, as both came out in 1990, and are designed by Osvaldo Menegazzi and published by Il Meneghello. No two cats are alike, so it is fitting that these decks are also different, despite a shared parentage. My partiality for my first Gatti is understandable (new friends silver, but the old ones are gold and all that). I Gatti Buffi has a more animated and mischievous personality--which is an ingredient that attracts some potential pet owners. Both decks do their parents proud; they come in lovely leather binding, with black ribbons tying them together.

The Fool (Il Matto) card in the smaller deck has a reflective look on his puss (a puss with a puss--how endearing); the Gatti Buffi's equivalent has a saucy demeanor that signifies many future catnip revels. He is a far more adventurous Fool. The I Gatti Magician has a ball, but he uses it as a resting pillow--the larger deck’s Magician is much more vibrant as he strums a banjo and adroitly dances on the edge of a table, remaining balanced and full of kitty savoir-faire as he balances a ring around one foot and makes music simultaneously.

Both High Priestess (La Papessa) cards are contemplative, but the Gatti Buffi H.P. looks like she might cuff you with her paw if you refuse to tune into her sagacity; the smaller card is more focussed and serene. Both Empress and Emperor (L’Imperatrice and L’Imperatore, respectively) seem to smile in the Gatti Buffi version; perhaps the little ones have a harder time holding on to their thrones, because they have a weary, threatened air about them.

Actually, all the I Gatti Bufficats wear a smile, which makes them look less realistic than the I Gatti. They are frequently drawn in distinctly human poses, which adds to their fictive aspect. For some reason, I prefer the more realistic cats, despite the others’ charming insouciance. It could be that the smaller cats seem to be long-haired, and I have a soft spot in my heart for them because my first cat looked like a Maine Coon, and even Benigni has a plume for a tail.

Still, my heart is big enough for all kinds of cats, and I am not immune to the whimsical I Gatti Buffi Chariot (Il Carro) card. It shows a cat from behnd, walking on his hind legs, leading a cart carrying a cigar-smoking mouse. The I Gatti looks stodgy in comparison--he’s a bow-tied long haired gentlecat with a bowler hat. He looks unsure of his destination, not to mention his ability to drive the go-cart. Ah, but he is a long hair, so I find him as irresistible as the cleverer cat, despite his befuddlement.

Both decks show the artist’s unerring eye for delightful detail. The caped and bespectacled Hermit of the Gatti Buffi carries the traditional lantern in one paw and leans on a cane held by the other, but I Gatti’s Hermit is curled up on a pile of books, the lantern behind him lying beneath a finely drawn spiderweb. The Gatti Buffi Strength (La Forza) shows two cats in pugilistic battle, complete with boxing gloves--but I Gatti’s more realistic feline pounds a mouse’s tail to the ground, effectively dominating him--and the prickly hairs on the cat’s back are so convincing that you can practically see his or her whiskers quivering in alert preyer mode.

Both cat decks are enchanting and, for me, necessary. While I prefer I Gatti for the most part, I do find the Moon (La Luna) card in I Gatti Buffi superior. A winking cat lies in ambush for the three mice who try to sneak by him, as a smiling crescent moon beams down on him with an impish smile. You can almost hear the cartoon music from Top Cat, foreshadowing doom. The smaller Moon card has a dark cat sitting atop a chimney under ominous clouds, a moon collar echoing the moon in the sky. I love it, too--the cat looks positively possessed.

Oh, this is too hard, choosing one over the other. Both are vital for the true catlover. You can never have too many cats--or too many cat decks. I Gatti Buffi is available from Alida. I asked Michele not to run this review until I ordered my copy of it, but they may still have some left. Act now--you don’t have nine lives to play around with.

Review Copyright 1999 Diane Wilkes

Images Copyright Osvaldo Menegazzi

This page is Copyright 1999 by Michele Jackson