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Bosch Tarot

Bosch Tarot
Designer:  Atanos Atanassov  Publishers: Lo Scarabeo 2000  Size: 600mmx 1200mm (2.50" x 4.75")  Price includes shipping.
Price: £19.95
Points Price: 200
Reward Points: 20


If you are fascinated by the work of Hieronymus Bosch, you are going to love this deck, created by Atanos Atanassov  for the Lo Scarabeo publishing house.  Bosch was a Flemish artist who has enjoyed variable levels of appreciation over the five or six centuries since his death.

His artistic style is easily identifiable by a somewhat ironic whimsy which half-hides the sheer brutality of many images.  His subject matter was primarily religious in nature, in keeping with the times in which he lived.  The world was seen quite starkly then – heaven, hell, right, wrong, white black.   Bosch’s art often gave the impression that he regarded the church’s prelates with a certain cynicism, though the fact remains that there is no commentary at all about how the artist himself regarded his work.

Atanassov seems particularly gifted in “painting in the style of” certain famous artists.  He also worked on the daVinci Tarot, and the Golden Botticelli, as well as a the Golden Tarot of Klimt.  Here he captures Bosch’s characteristic ally whimsical slant – though the images in the deck still present the darker side of life, when closely examined.

The organisation of Majors is pretty much standard, and suits are Wands, Chalices, Pentacles and Swords.  The cards are of the customary superb quality we expect from Lo Scarabeo – though the enclosed ;leaflet is as bad as is customary from this publisher.   It5 does, however, contain  details of a five-card spread called “The Shadow” which aims to try to work out what the “real” intent and consequence is behind any given question.

The artwork is superb, and uses a glorious and vibrant range of colours.  Often the intricacy in apparent “background” detail is quite stunning.  One particular feature which recurs several times is that buildings and landscape features seem to double up as head-dresses.   In some cases this looks like the sort of bad framing that takes a picture of a person with the Eiffel tower growing out of their heads – yet in others it appears quite deliberate – for example the Emperor’s helm looks more like a mausoleum than a helm.   On the other hand the Hierophant –might- be wearing a feathered head-dress shaped something like a bishop’s mitre – or it could be a mountain in the background.  This theme of things on heads it taken to the extreme with the empress, who is wearing a book.

The Hanged Man, captured around the waist by a hoop suspended by a thin rope, which is held by a somewhat bored looking female high above in the boughs of a tree.   Beneath him a cat-like creature reclines in the bole of the tree, clutching another rope.  Death is represented by a robed and skeletal figure – possibly female – who bears a line-drawn arrow in one hand.   Body parts are scattered across the landscape behind this figure and in the far distance searchlight-like beams penetrate the night sky, dimly illuminating small clusters of objects in the sky.  For some reason this reminded me of the aircraft searchlights that would pierce the night in search of bombers during World War II.  The World is a bright landscape encapsulated in a bubble, surround by dark shadowy figures including the traditional representations of the Elements.

The Knaves (Pages) of all Suits are not depicted as children, but in some cases the figures shown are almost comical – nowhere is this better illustrated than with the Knave of Cups who appears to be about to step on a hare, as he bears his chalice before him, all view of the ground obscured by the helmet of his fish-style armour. 

The Ace of Pentacles is depicted by a two-legged cup of sorts, aboard a wooden boat.  Within the cup is the head of a man in whose clenched teeth is the symbol of the Suit.  I think it prudent not to mention where the tenth symbol of the Suit appears from on the ten card – but it raises a smile if you have a sense of humour like mine.   All kinds of weird and wonderful creatures populate the Pentacles.

Wands produce some quite amazing images   I’m not quite sure what kind of fruit that is on the 6 – but it has a lot of arms and legs, and seems to be engaged in a victory dance.  All the knights are mounted – but I especially liked the chimera upon which rides the Knight of Swords.

This is not a beginner’s deck by any stretch of the imagination – but it is compelling and interesting.

Hanged Man
6 Wands
King Wands
8 Chalices
Knave Cups
6 Swords
Knight Swords
Ace Pentacles
King Pentacles

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