Friday, February 11, 2011

A Closer Look: French Tarot: Trumps 3 & 4

Click to enlarge
All of the images in this deck tell little stories, usually as a pair. The third trump for instance, shows a lady catching the eye of a man in conversation with some friends, while the flip side shows a girl sneaking a glance at an officer passing by. (At least I think it's a girl: she looks a bit like Eric Idle in drag.)

No. 3 Trump: detail

Click to enlarge

Number 4 shows a home scene, with mom distracting the baby while her husband conducts important man-talk in the sitting room.

No. 4 Trump: detail


Accordeonaire said...

So forgive an ignorant question. What, exactly, are trumps and how are they related to the suits of the Tarot or the Major Arcana. This series has been interesting, but I'm not sure what makes this deck Tarot, rather than just playing cards. (And I know they used tarot AS playing cards, but, still ... I'm not sure why this is Tarot.)

Thomas L. McDonald said...

In a trick-taking game (bridge, spades, tarocchi, etc), a trump is a card that beats all other cards to win the trick. In modern games, a suit is selected for this purpose, so that if, for instance, spades are trump, then a spade beat all other cards.

Tarot decks are decks with an extra set of trumps, numbered 1 to 21, plus a fool. These extra cards can be used in different ways, but their main function is to serve as a permanent set of trumps. They beat any other card, with higher-value trumps beating lower-value trumps. Thus, a tarot deck would be a standard deck of cards plus the 22 extra cards.

These trump cards have many different illustrations, but the most common were the stereotypical "major arcana": Magician, Priestess ("La Papesse," actually), etc. These are the ones that developed from esoteric symbolism, and you find them more commonly in Italian decks. French decks have them as well, but they also use pictures like the ones I'm posting.

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