3 GENERATIONS OF TAROT OF MARSEILLE DECKS
In 17th Century France, the Tarot cards may have been more than simple playing cards. The Trionfi deck with 22 trumps, a structure maybe conceived by Ercole I of Este, represented a model for our Universe. And as we will see on the following page about the development of the Trump structure, this structure survives in a different form in the French tarot. In the Marseille Tarot, the cards are likely not considered as simple images. They might have been representations of some aspects of your inner self, of your Soul. To emphasize this self meditation use of Tarot cards, starting with the deck of Jean Noblet, the cards were printed in mirror compared to the well known older models. Many Tarot experts asked, why the deck of Jaques Vievil is mirrored compared to the Marseille Tarot. Personally, I think you have to reverse the question, why is the Marseille deck mirrored compared to the deck of Jaques Vievil? To find an answer to this question, we have to look at the images of the oldest-known Marseille type decks. Later decks only copied the older ones, and knowledge of the message behind the cards might have been faded away well before the beginning of the 18th Century.
In the Marseille Tarot we can clearly distinguish three different styles. Michael Dummett and other Tarot researchers distinguish only two, that they call type I and type II. I consider that in reality there are at least three types. The different types are the following, for every style I give the main card makers:
In the following figure, I will give an example of all three types. First type 0, represented by its only known deck, the 1659 Tarot of Jean Noblet. Thereafter, type I, with for example the export deck of Jean Dodal, made in 1701. And finally, the oldest surviving example of a type II deck, the 1709 Tarot of Pierre Madenie:
The first remark we can make is that the liberty of the 15th and 16th Century card makers has gone. The card makers reproduce older decks, they have very limited liberty in the deck design. This is an important indicator that these decks were mainly used for game playing. Like in modern card decks, card players wanted easily recognizable card images. So, they expected identical images to the known decks. Still, if we compare only these four cards, we remark numerous differences in detail between the three types. They are certainly no simple copies of each other, they are different interpretations of the same theme. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to outline all small differences between the three types, what is interesting for us is how they developed. Jaques Vievil, Jean Noblet and Nicolas Rolichon all based themselves on older Italian models. Considering the different scenery in the higher trump cards, Vievil has based himself probably on a deck from Ferrara. Noblet and Rolichon may have had Milanese decks as models. Jean Dodal and Jean Pierre Payen, who were from the same city as Nicolas Rolichon (Lyon) and members of the same printers' guild (see the page of Jean-Michel David about the Jean Dodal deck: http://newsletter.tarotstudies.org/2005/08/jean-dodal-1701-tarot/), copied the older French decks of the Rolichon type, with slight changes in the Dodal deck because of export requirements. The so-called Marseille Tarot decks have in common their Milanese origins.
Based on the different names for the Fool, and instead of speaking of Type O, I and II TdM decks, we could also indicate them as the Fou type TdM (Noblet), the Fol type TdM (Rolichon, Dodal/Payen and others) and the Mat type TdM (Madenie, Conver and many others). Fou and Fol are two different spelling versions of the same word. The word Mat is derived from the Italian word for a Fool, Matto. Some significant correspondences and differences are as follows:
These are not the only ones, there are many more differences. The differences enumerated here are just to show that we have effectively three different types, and not two, as stated by most Tarot experts. Next to the so-called Marseille Tarots, there developed many regional Tarots, that copied in many details the Marseille Tarot, but that changed for religious, political or other reasons some (or all) cards.