This deck is such a delight, and I came across it completely by accident. This weekend, I took a day and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (one of New York’s finer offerings); afterwards, I was wandering through the museum shop, and lo and behold! The Medieval Scapini Tarot leapt out at me from a shelf.
(Not literally, mind you. There was no actual leaping. But it caught my attention.)
This is a modern TdM-style deck from Italian artist Luigi Scapini, who helped with the artistic reproductions for the Visconti-Sforza Tarot. It features figures in 15th century (ish) attire, and is decidedly medieval in tone. Scapini’s artwork has a beautiful vibrancy to it; the Major Arcana in particular are illustrated in bold colors and set against a gold-leaf background that makes them really striking. And the figures depicted in the cards have so much personality it almost hurts me to look at them.
One thing that makes this deck truly unique is the design of the Minor Arcana. Even though this is a TdM deck, Scapini has painstakingly illustrated all of the Minor Arcana with vivid scenes. For readers who are interested in entering the world of TdM reading, but who are afraid of unillustrated pips, the Medieval Scapini Tarot could provide a beautiful stepping-stone, a sort of transitional stage between the Rider-Waite and Marseilles traditions.
Here are a few more pictures. The Court cards are also beautifully done, set against the same gold background as the Majors. I’m particularly in love with the Page and Knight of Wands.
Throughout the deck, the costuming and posture of the characters is unequivocally medieval. In the Majors, this tone extends to the art style, and I would have no issues whatsoever believing that the Trumps from this deck were actually reproductions of a late 15th-century deck commissioned by a Milanese noble. In the Minor Arcana, however, the art style takes on a decidedly modern twist. Scapini’s pips are gleeful, inventive, and tongue-in-cheek. They’re peppered with wizards, dragons, and the like, and in many ways they feel more like illustrations in a children’s storybook than Tarot cards. (Note, however, that I mean this as a good thing. Scapini’s art is refreshing in its levity.)
The art is minutely detailed, so much so that I can’t actually show some of my favorite cards here because the cool bits about them wouldn’t show up. I really cannot say enough how exquisite these cards are.
One thing that might be a bit off-putting for some readers (either readers who are just starting out or those who are firmly entrenched in the RWS system) is the occasional, ah, deviation from tradition in the depiction of the cards. Some cards, simply enough, are more Scapini than Tarot. They depict beautiful, inventive, often comic scenes, but those scenes don’t necessarily connect with accepted meanings of the cards, either in the RWS or TdM traditions. Here are a couple of examples:
That said, these nontraditional cards can just as easily be viewed as quirks of Scapini’s vision as an artist, and their presence is part of what makes this deck special. If you’re still uncomfortable with the basic meanings of the 78 cards, I’d veer away from this deck, simply because there won’t be much material available to help you learn. But if you feel like you’re ready for something a little more complicated, the art in this deck is so incredibly evocative that it can’t help but produce beautiful readings.
All in all, I would definitely recommend this deck. The cards themselves are a little bit sticky fresh out of the box, but some fanning powder and a good shuffling will take care of that issue. For anyone who’s looking to expand their TdM collection, or to bridge from RWS into TdM, this is definitely a deck worth having.