Review by Solandia
Pieter Bruegel, a sixteenth century Flemish painter, specialised in painting rich and detailed scenes of nature and country life. The Bruegel Tarot, with art created by Guido Zibordi Marchesi, offers a window into the life of a medieval Flemish village through proverbs and folk wisdom.
The style of the Bruegel Tarot might seem familiar, as the artist also created the images for the Giotto Tarot. But in theme, the two decks are worlds apart. The Bruegel Tarot’s lively, rich and grotesque (but not as much as the Tarot of Dürer) peasant lifestyle is in complete contrast to the formal, stately figures of the Giotto.
We see homely country scenes; a cat feeding her kittens in the Knave of Wands; a Chariot of a hay wagon, pulled by a donkey; many cards featuring stages of ploughing, sowing, harvesting, as every one of the cards is set outdoors. My favourite cards is the Strength card (numbered as XI), where a pious housewife calmly subdues a fierce-looking demon, armed only with a spare kerchief.
Like most Tarot scenes, the main figures are in the foreground, but in the background lies an unusual wealth of detail. Sometimes trees and animals of the native landscape, more often people interacting. Standing around, arguing, working, drinking, playing, goofing off, looking after children, going about their everyday chores and lives.
Each card is linked with a down-to-earth, sensible homily with guidance and advice for living, which was the inspiration for the image. The booklet’s meanings give a literal translation of the proverb, and, fortunately given who difficult it can be to understand another language’s proverbs, another meaning approximated in English. The keywords given are standard enough, but the proverb and image are often off in another direction.
Some examples from the booklet:
The Magician. Will. Intellect. He who paints a flower does not give it a scent. (Something imagined in inferior to something real).
5 of Pentacles. Courage. Loss. Those who wear armor hang the harness bell on the cat. (Those who must fight leave silly things at home).
Ace of Wands. Birth. Victory. Mushrooms can appear at any moment. (New things happen all the time).
Each suit is associated with a season. Swords = Spring, Wands = Summer, Chalices = Winter, Pentacles = Autumn. The colours of each card are mostly dull natural blues, greens, browns of sky and earth, and less often, an accent of rich red. The card borders are cream-coloured with brown print, while the backs of the cards have a mirrored image of the Sun card in brownish sepia.
A comical, earthy Tarot deck. Not for the beginner, but something different for the experienced reader or art deck collector.