Art Noveau has enjoyed something of a revival in recent years. Perhaps this stems from the opening of digital archives as many of the images of this period entered public domain. Perhaps it is simply that this style of work is very pretty, and European style always equate with American cool.
It’s unsurprising, given this re-emerged consciousness, that several tarot decks and at least one Lenormand deck have also surfaced, usually authored by either Antonella Castelli or by Lo Scarabeo. In this case, the two come together to present the Art Noveau Premium Tarot. The premium is the packaging, coming in a split-box container, and the cards are large, sometimes too large for smaller hands to shuffle. The art provokes disquiet, as all good art of the early 21st century should be.
The deck’s illustrations express some discomforting concepts. This is not to say that the art isn’t beautiful; it’s stunning, swirly, and in terms of people represented, blindingly white. An added peculiarity of the art is that even the most masculine of figures within it – the Emperor, the Hierophant, and the Magician – have some element of feminization in them. Many representations throughout the deck veer towards the genderqueer, although all lean heavily towards more feminine indicators. Despite the whitewashed beauty, impolite ideas lurk beneath the surface – even before first reading with this deck, it became clear it required two lenses, one of the mainstream world, and one for querents involved in BDSM and consensual power-play relationships.
A tarot deck is only as good as its art, and a tarot reader is only as good as that reader’s ability to adapt to context. In this case, the context’s fluid meanings made it best for people who had complicated relationship questions, especially if the relationship was outside of the societal norm. It also to some degree helped clarify relationship with god questions – at least for those with a spiritual practice predicated on submission.
This deck, while lovely to behold, does not belong to those who like pretty things. It belongs to the people who go to the nightclub and notice the dirt on the floor and accept it. It lacks intersectionality when it comes to representation of race – inexcusable given the importance of divination cross-culturally – but it does allow for gender diversity and sexual variance intersections. A fascinating deck, but in no way for the faint of heart or prudish of nature.
For advanced, slightly kinky tarot readers only.
~ review by Diana Rajchel
Creator: Antonella Castelli and Lo Scarabeo
Lo Scarabeo, 2015
Deck and booklet $34.95