Review by Tom Santomartino
Although almost a Rider Waite Smith clone, the Michelangelo Tarot has some interesting features that command one's attention and diverges significantly in some of its imagery. Done in the style of Michelangelo's artwork the deck has a harmonious pastel coloration that is serene to look at. The card stock is durable and a good size for holding in one's hands, but not so small as to make it awkward to hold for people with large hands like myself. The card backs are reversible and has a somewhat architectural look about it.
Many of the figures are either scantily clad or naked and there is some male frontal nudity, so those who are distressed by the sight of male genitalia might find those images unacceptable--but all the nudity in the deck is tastefully done.
Except for the court cards, there is no text on the cards at all, just Roman numerals and different colored borders for the four suits and one for the majors. In this deck Justice is 8 and Strength is 11. I really love the way the artist represented the meanings of the cards. In the majors, of note is the Wheel of Fortune, Death, the Tower and the World. The Wheel of Fortune is represented by a hoop with a 3 figures around it and a fourth falling through it. Death is represented by an image of Jesus' body being supported by the Virgin Mary and another woman. The Tower is not seen in the Tower card just a rain of debris with 2 falling figures, and the World is a conglomeration of various figures that is not even slightly reminiscent of the traditional representation.
The minors are very varied, while some are somewhat straight forward representations of the RWS decks figures, others are far more abstract. The 8 of Wands does not immediately call to mind the typical representation, and the Ace of Wands is almost phallic. Some of the figures are facing the reader and other have their backs turned on us. The Suit of Coins replaces the Pentacles of the RWS deck and harkens back to much older decks that were about long before illustrated pips-- although many of the images are very much RWS interpretations.
The deck comes with a rather typical, but larger than usual LWB. This is definitely a deck, in my mind, which could use a larger companion book to go along with it as well as a nice Tarot bag. In the final analysis I'd say that this deck is something old and something new and for those who like a more classic Tarot look is sure to please. The style and artwork is very reminiscent of the Renaissance Tarot which featured similar artwork only with Greek and Roman mythological figures instead; my guess is that if you liked that deck you'd very much like this one as well.
Others have stated in things written about this deck that it has a "cold" feeling to it, but I could disagree more. The figures are very dynamic and seem to jump off the card. For collectors of Tarot art, it has enough variation and difference to make it a worthy addition to one's collection even if one has not the intention to read with it.