The secret of secrets: an exhibition in Milan on Renaissance tarot cards

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Aina Prat Blasi
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A heart pierced by swords, a furious Nero throws a child into the fire, a face sealed by three sticks for an eternal silence. Complex images populate the 78 cards of the tarot deck exposed to Pinacoteca di Brera in an exhibition that reveals the intertwining of art, humanism and alchemy in the Renaissance.

Painted in 1491 for a Venetian noble, the cards are prints on paper starting from burin engravings, based on drawings by an artist from the Marches. The series is complete and includes cards of the four traditional suits (coins, swords, sticks and cups), but represented with unique and original iconographies, difficult to decipher, which tell of the cultural environment in which they were created.

The Italian nobility of the late fifteenth century loved to commission precious playing decks, with cards finely designed by the most fashionable artists and illuminated in color and gold. These cards were used for the game of 'tarot' o of 'triumphs', a refined and intellectual pastime, completely unrelated to the divinatory art of modern tarot cards or to the pub games of the people.

Small and fragile jewels of art, these cards alluded to Roman antiquity, ancient history, mythology, and, in this case, the secret art of alchemy. There show it clearly decodes the messages hidden behind unusual compositions and subjects, and identifies the typical elements of alchemical wisdom, such as references to the processes of fusion and regeneration, to materials, to the search for the philosopher's stone or the elixir of eternal life.



Le carte they are presented together with works that help to understand the artistic and cultural context, shedding light on the figure of the artist from the Marche region, Nicola di maestro Antonio, who conceived them. L'preparation, who presents these precious cards to the public for the first time, manages to enhance their beauty by harmoniously inserting them in the rooms of the Pinacoteca, where the golden reflections of the miniatures explode in the magnificence of Carlo Crivelli's altarpieces.



The secret of secrets. From November 13th to February 17th at the Brera Art Gallery. Admission € 10.

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