THE OLDEST TAROT DECK

Lady of SwordsThe oldest Tarot deck that still exists today is the “Visconti di Modrone” deck – from the name of the noble family who owned it –.

It was commissioned by Filippo Maria Visconti – Duke of Milan – between 1441 and 1447.

There are still 67 cards belonging to this milestone in the history of the Tarot, of which 11 Triumphs (Major Arcana).

This deck is a stupendous and unequalled work of art, hand painted on gold or silver foil decorated with a metal punch – gold for the Triumphs and court cards, and silver for the numeric cards –.

Origins

The deck is closely linked to the Visconti family: the heraldic coats-of-arms and the mottos of the Visconti family on the cards leave no doubt of this.

Even the period in which they were made is quite certain: during the reign of Filippo Maria Visconti.

Indeed, the coin cards bear the exact reproduction of a coin that was legal tender during the period he was the Duke of Milan: the gold florin of Filippo Maria.

Characteristics of the Deck

StrengthThe structure of the court cards of the “Visconti di Modrone” deck does not conform to today’s standards.

For each suit, there are 6 different figures: king, queen, knight, lady (also on horseback), page, and maid.

The Triumphs also include some figures that do not appear elsewhere.

The three theological virtues – faith, hope, and charity – are indeed unusual figures in the Tarot.

The many peculiarities of this deck have led to the hypothesis that it may be one of the first experimental phases of the Tarot, in which a precise structure had not yet been defined and would only be consolidated in the years to come.

Different Names for a Single Deck

The complex history of these cards has led to the identification of this deck with different names:

  • “Visconti di Modrone Tarot”. From the Milanese noble family that possessed the deck until World War II, when all traces of it were lost.
  • “Cary-Yale Tarot”. This curious name comes from the American collector Melbert B. Cary, who donated the deck to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (one of the libraries of Yale University), claiming to have bought it after the end of World War II.
  • “Filippo Maria Visconti Tarot”. From the name of the man who commissioned it.

 

 

 

 

Triumphs

The Lovers The Chariot The World Judgement The Emperor The Empress Strength Death Charity Faith Hope

 

Court Cards

King of Cups King of Coins King of Swords Queen of Wands Queen of Coins Queen of Swords Knight of Cups Knight of Coins Lady of Wands Lady of Coins Lady of Swords Page of Wands Page of Cups Maid of Wands Maid of Cups Maid of Coins Maid of Swords

 

Numbers

Ace of Wands Ace of Cups Ace of Coins Ace of Swords 2 of Wands 2 of Cups 2 of Coins 2 of Swords 3 of Wands 3 of Cups 3 of Swords 4 of Wands 4 of Cups 4 of Coins 4 of Swords 5 of Wands 5 of Cups 5 of Coins 5 of Swords 6 of Wands 6 of Cups 6 of Coins 6 of Swords 7 of Wands 7 of Cups 7 of Coins 7 of Swords 8 of Wands 8 of Cups 8 of Coins 8 of Swords 9 of Wands 9 of Cups 9 of Coins 9 of Swords 10 of Wands 10 of Cups 10 of Coins 10 of Swords