Sola Busca tarot
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The Sola Busca tarot is the earliest known example of a 78-card Tarot card deck. It was created by an unknown artist and engraved onto metal in the late 15th century. Photographs of a complete version of the deck were donated to the British Museum by the Sola-Busca family of Milan in 1907. In this way, the scholar Arthur Mayger Hind, curator at the British Museum and art historian of old master prints, was able to compare the color version owned by the Sola Busca family with the cards held by the British Museum in a printed version purchased by the British Museum in 1845. (see Sola Busca cards at British Museum)
In 1938, Arthur Mayger Hind described the Sola Busca Tarot in his Early Italian Engravings and supposed that the deck was engraved around 1490 and then hand painted in 1491, as results reading some inscriptions on the cards. He also supposed that the deck was created for a Venetian client by Mattia Serrati da Cosandola, a miniaturist operating in Ferrara. In fact, many inscriptions on the cards refer without any doubt to the Republic of Venice.
In 1987, on the catalog of a great Tarot exhibition realized at the Estense Castle of Ferrara, Italian historian Giordano Berti wrote a summary of all researches made to that moment by various scholars.
In 1995 the italian scholar Sofia Di Vincenzo, in her book titled Antichi Tarocchi illuminati. L’alchimia nei Tarocchi Sola-Busca (Turin, 1995 and Stamford, 1998), proved that many images of the Sola Busca deck are related to the alchemical thought of the Renaissance.
The Sola-Busca deck comprises 78 cards including 22 trumps (called the "Major Arcana" in occult circles) and 56 suit cards ("Minor Arcana"). It is the earliest known tarot deck to be structured this way, a structure which most contemporary occult tarot decks emulate, including the Rider-Waite and Thoth tarot decks. It is also the earliest known Tarot deck in which the trump cards are named and numbered, and the earliest known deck to include rich artwork for all 56 suit cards.
The characters depicted in the Sola-Busca cards include Nebuchadnezzar and Gaius Marius, the uncle of Julius Caesar. The Major Arcana cards loosely follow the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, but also include members of the Roman Pantheon such as Bacchus.
The similarities between artwork of the Minor Arcana of the Rider-Smith-Waite deck and Sola-Busca's Minor Arcana has led some scholars to suggest that artist Pamela Colman Smith drew inspiration from the earlier work. Smith created the art for the Rider deck two years after the acquisition of the Sola-Busca deck by the British Museum, and could very likely have been directed by Rider to emulate the photographs on display there. Notable similarities include the Three of Swords card and the Ten of Wands card in the Rider deck, which is almost identical to the Ten of Swords card in the Sola-Busca deck.
A full version of Sola-Busca Tarot was re-issued in 1998 by Wolfgang Mayer in Germany. (see History of Sola Busca Tarot)
- Hind, Arthur (1938). Early Italian Engravings, vol. I e IV. pp. 241–247, 370–393.
- Berti, Giordano (1987). Le Carte di Corte. Gioco e Magia alla Corte degli Estensi. Bologna: Nuova Alfa Editoriale. pp. 88–91. ISBN 88-7779-016-4.
- Di Vincenzo, Sofia (1998). Sola Busca Tarot. Stamford: U.S.Games Systems. pp. 25–33. ISBN 1-57281-130-7.
- "I tarocchi Sola Busca" (PDF). pinacotecabrera.org.
- Gnaccolini, Laura (2012). Il segreto dei segreti: i tarocchi Sola Busca e la cultura ermetico-alchemica tra Marche e Veneto alla fine del Quattrocento. Milano: Skira. ISBN 978-88-572-1764-2.
- Kaplan, Stuart (1990). Encyclopedia of Tarot. III. Stamford: U.S.Games Systems. p. 30.