Transplant ! This is what the historian Thierry Depaulis thinks of this 78-card game invented in Italy around 1430. To the ordinary version of 52 cards from the East, the Transalpines add the queen (king, knight and jack are the figures of the first games) and trionfi. These particular cards, called triumphs then trumps in France, are illustrated and numbered from 1 to 21. Another original card, the fool (become the mate or the excuse) represents a mandolin player. It is the ancestor of the joker! We give a card in exchange and… we apologize for not playing.
In northern Italy, illuminators draw and paint luxury cards for princely families, the Visconti and the Sforza. The assets are allegorical figures (the Bateleur, the High Priestess, the Lover, the Chariot, the Judgment, the World…) which reflect the humanism of the Renaissance associating pagan antiquity and Christianity, science and astrology. The emblems and mottos on the cards evoke a refined society.
In France, nobles, magistrates and even King Henry IV play it. The tarot then became popular in the kingdom thanks to a massive production in wood engraving, then on copper, in Avignon, then in Marseille. The master cartier Nicolas Conver thus realizes, in 1760 a superb game, the tarot of Marseilles. In total, thousands of different games have been designed and printed!
In 1781, Antoine Court de Gébelin, a pastor who became a Freemason, laid the foundations for an esoteric reading of the tarot in his encyclopedia entitled Primitive world analyzed and compared with the modern world. From the 19th century, cards are called blades or arcana by occultists.
If it seems a little outdated, the tarot deck still has its fans. It is practiced with three, four or five players. Subtle, it appeals to memory, calculation, psychology and it has a code, courtesy. The French Tarot Federation brings together more than 300 clubs for 9,000 players and every year organizes a Coupe de France.
Grimaud’s new tarot
The new tarot by Grimaud, master cartier since 1848, uses French (spades, hearts, diamonds, clover) and non-Italian (cup, sword, stick, deniers) signs. The assets present urban and rural sketches of everyday life in the 19th century, two per card, head-to-tail.
A museum near Paris
The French Museum of Playing Cards, in Issy-les-Moulineaux, has an exceptional collection of over 11,000 games from around the world. The tarot has, of course, its place in this place. You can also participate in an escape game that begins … with a fortune teller.
Read also :
⋙ Board game: zoom on the goose game
⋙ Board games, cards… 5 good reasons to keep playing!
Article published in the issue Femme Actuelle Jeux Histoire n ° 18 March-April 2021