“Carlos Estévez: The Royal Blue Tarot” is an online exhibition that runs from May 1 to August 31, 2020, courtesy of the Coral Gables Museum. [Many thanks to Veerle Poupeye for bringing this item to our attention via Critical.Caribbean.Art.]
The Allure of the Tarot (John Allen, Executive Director, Coral Gables Museum)
Tarot Cards. The very term conjures up images of wizards and fortune-telling, of sage readers who could foresee the past, present, and future. To those familiar with Tarot decks before the era of the printing press, they also call to mind miniature masterpieces of art, each card painted by hand with incredible detail.
While modern decks focus on their being a discovery tool of the New Age, their documented history, which dates back to the early 15th century, is far more complex. Tarot cards first surfaced in Northern Italy as early as 1418. The oldest, partially surviving deck are 15 cards from a magnificent set commissioned by the rulers of the Duchy of Milan in c.1440. From the detail of the surviving cards, one can readily understand why they were only available to the very wealthy. They were as much works of art as what they were utilized for – very complicated card games. While members of the clergy ranted against cards, primarily for their use in gambling – a popular activity at the royal courts of Europe – there was no serious condemnation of them during these early years.
Over the centuries, several variations on Tarot decks were created, with significant differences in the number of cards per deck, usually depending on which country they were created in. However, most decks had some common elements. The cards were typically divided into two types. The Major Arcana, consisting of 22 cards, were considered the most potent (and could reveal such major events as birth, marriage, and death), and the Minor Arcana, which were divided into four suits of 14 cards each – Cups, Wands (or Batons), Swords and Coins (or Pentacles), for a total of 78 cards. The terms Major and Minor Arcana were not used at the time, the cards lacked numbers, making the games played considerably more complicated than the card games we know today.
The earliest evidence of Tarot cards being used for divinatory meanings and cartomancy dates from Italy c.1750 and gained major esoteric popularity in Paris in 1789, when Antoine Con and Jean-Baptiste Alliette created the “Etteilla” deck, specifically designed for occult purposes. This deck derived from the ancient Egyptian Book of Toth.
The renowned artist Carlos Estévez has here created his own version of the Major Arcana, The “Royal Blue” Deck, which is as much a work of great art as those created over 500 years ago. It is a remarkable work, harking back to those created by some of the great masters. Enjoy!
[Shown above, Carlos Estévez “El Puente,” “El Destino,” and “El Veneno.”]