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Who was Cagliostro and why does this deck carry his name?
Alessandro Cagliostro, born in 1743 as Giuseppe Balsamo in Palermo (Sicily) was an adventurer much involved with the occult as it was practiced in the second half of the 18th century. Ultimately it cost him his life. He was sentenced to death in Rome in 1791 because he tried to establish a masonic lodge in the same city. The death sentence was changed by the pope into a life sentence and he finally died in the fortress of San Leo in 1795.
As to why his name is associated to these cards in not entirely clear, but the fact that the Italian artist Bruno Sigon was much inspired by Papus and Etteilla explains a lot.
From the booklet:
"The Cagliostro Tarot deck was first published in the year 1912 in an Italian edition entitled Il Destino Svelato Dal Tarocco, The publisher. Modiano. S.p.A.. is one of Italy's leading printers whose operations in the manufacture of playing cards date back to the 19th century under the name La Concordia,
A fire in 1913 and a bombardment in 1944 destroyed part of the Modiano archives. Nevertheless. it has been possible to ascertain that the original card designs for the Cagliostro tarot deck were prepared by Bruno Sigon. an Italian artist in Modiano's employ.
Sigon relied heavily upon the work of Papus, pseudonym of Dr. Gerard Encausse, the French occultist and author of Le Tarot des Bohemiens (1889) and Le Tarot Divinatoire (1909). Both books contain the twenty-two Major Arcana cards in Egyptian style by Gabriel Goulinat. La Tarot Divinatoire also includes the fifty-six Minor Arcana cards.
There exists a close resemblance between some of the Major Arcana cards by Sigon and the designs by Goulinat, but Sigon takes various liberties with figures, facial features. poses and symbols in order to present his own interpretation of each card. Sometimes Sigon's figures appear dressed in ancient Egyptiar; garments, other times in long flowing robes and clothing popular during the early twentieth century.
The Major Arcana card designs by Bruno Sigon that are quite similar to Goulinat's earlier work include The Popess, The Emperor, The Pope, The Cart (Chariot), Justice, The Anchoret (Hermit), Strength, Temperance and The World.
The Card designs by Sigon which may have taken for their inspiration the earlier Goulinat designs include The Magician, The Wheel of Fortune, Death, The Tower and The Star.
The remaining eight of the twenty-two Major Arcana cards depict scenes that seem to derive solely from Sigon's own interpretation. The eight cards are The Empress, The Lover, The Hanged Man, The Devil, The Moon, The Sun, Judgment and The Madman (Fool).
The illustrations of the fifty-six Minor Arcana cards by Sigon are a stylized version of traditional double-ended court figures and pip cards from the nineteenth century. By contrast, the designs by Papus/Goulinat for the Minor Arcana cards depict sixteen full-length Egyptian court figures and forty pip cards that resemble so-called Etteilla-type cards
Readers interested in the Goulinat designs will find four Major Arcana cards from Le Tarot Divinatoire—The Magician, The Pope, The Devil and The Star—reproduced in The Encyclopedia of Tarot, Volume l. Also included in the Encyclopedia are reproductions of twenty-two Major Arcana cards, two court cards and one pip card from a Brazilian tarot deck, Taro Adivinhatorio, published in 1974 in Sao Paulo, which also is based upon the original Goulinat designs.
Two of the most outstanding features of the Cagliostro Tarot deck are the printing on each card of key meanings and interpretations attributed to the card and the association of the 56 Minor Arcana cards to their applicable zodiac signs and astrological date.
A very interesting and important deck that offers a lot of information on occultism as it was practiced in the 18th and early 19th century."
The deck shown on these pages is the first US Games edition of 1981. The cards are in good condition, the tuckbox shows some wear and tear. The cards come with a small but complete instruction booklet of 68 pages, offering quite an extensive description of the cards.
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