Bembo’s tarots: mystery on a golden background

Tarots have hidden their mysterious origin for centuries. Even the etymology of their name is unclear: experts have tried to use varying degrees of information and imagination to explain where the word “tarot” originally comes from, with references reaching as far as ancient Egypt and the Hebrew tradition.

The relationships between the 78 cards in the deck – 56 “Minor arcana”, 21 “Major arcana”, and “the Fool” – are to be laboriously interpreted within a coded structure, which once deciphered unveils their true meaning: a complex task that only real enthusiasts, experts in the field, clever fortune tellers, and astute charlatans have been able to carry out to the end.

Tarots, however, have also inspired many talented artists, such as Brescia-born painter and miniaturist Bonifacio Bembo (1420-1480), who was so charmed by these cards’ Neoplatonic idealism and exoteric symbols that he created a deck for Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan, between 1442 and 1444.

Bembo’s deck – 48 cards measuring 180-by-90 millimeters, illustrated on gold and silver backgrounds – is now part of the Pinacoteca di Brera collection.

Here are some of the most beautiful and mysterious cards by the early-Renaissance artist.

Photos via:
http://www.isabetta.com/?cat=4
http://www.atlantedellarteitaliana.it

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

"Maid of Swords"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, "Faith"; on the right, "Maid of Sticks"

On the left, "Horsewoman of Coins"; on the right, "Horsewoman of Sticks"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

"Horsewoman of Coins"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, "Maid of Coins"; on the right, "Maid of Cups"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, "The World"; on the right, "Horseman of Sticks"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

"The World"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, "Hope"; on the right, "Queen of Sticks"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, "Knave of Swords"; on the right, "Knave of Coins"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

"Knave of Coins"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, "The Emperor"; on the right, "Time"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, "King of Cups"; on the right, "Horseman of Swords"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, "Death"; on the right, "The Magician"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

"Death"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, "Doomsday"; on the right, "The Wheel of Fortune"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, "Six of Coins"; on the right, "Two of Cups"

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, "Four of Cups"; on the right, "Six of Swords"

Bembo’s tarots: mystery on a golden background

Milano - Pinacoteca di Brera
Via Brera, 28
+39 02 72263264
+39 02 72001140

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