“The symbolism inherent in the Tarot is perfectly coherent with that symbolist culture that also gave origin to Klimt’s work. The pictorial images of the Viennese artist are, in fact, full of hermeticism: his works seem to be depictions of a mystery and even more so an expression of emotions and drives.” – From the L(ittle) W(hite) B(ook) to the Golden Tarot of Klimt
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was a Viennese artist arguably most known for his mosaic-like paintings, especially “The Kiss”. Klimt combined pictorial and graphical techniques and history considers him as one of the initiators of modern design. Once a member of the collective studio “School of Arts and Crafts”, Klimt and several contemporaries left the studio to form the Vienna Secession. What united this group was a rejection of tradition and moral aesthetics of the day. In fact, individuals often accused Klimt of pornography for depicting the nude body, especially ones that were full-figured, pregnant, or old.
Inspired by Klimt’s allegorical subjects, A.A. Atanassov has designed a Tarot deck based on the paintings of this famed artist. The Golden Tarot of Klimt not only re-works Klimt’s paintings for each card but also adorns them with stunning golden embossing. Unfortunately, web scans of the cards don’t reflect these shining ornamentations.
The Golden Tarot of Klimt, published by Lo Scarabeo, follows traditional Tarot assignments: Chalices, Wands, Pentacles, and Swords for the suits, standard card names and court depictions (with Knave replacing the more common Page). A brief bio of Klimt is included in the LWB, as are the upright and reversed meanings of each card; these are provided in English, Italian, Spanish, French, and German as is customary with Lo Scarabeo companion booklets.
Black bordering provides beautiful framing for the colorful artwork; tucked near the corners of each card are four golden squares. The reversible card backings display an intricate Egyptian theme of in subdued colors.
Compared to the originals, the reproductions in this deck vary on several counts: the human complexions often appear washed out, even ashen, as does the hair. Klimt’s pieces often featured bright swathes of ruby red on the cheeks of females as well as on the lips. The hair is usually vibrant and lush. However, the figures in the Golden Tarot of Klimt are often pale and many brunets look to be sporting over-used brillo pads.
For example, the Ace of Wands (based on the painting Hope II) adds a pillar, human-size wand but removes the gray “halo” over the central figure, as well as the women at her feet. Her breasts are now small and perky as opposed to the voluptuous depiction in the original. The Wheel (based on the painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer) removes the bright red makeup of the original while sharpening the facial features.
Nevertheless, what the Golden Tarot of Klimt lacks by altering some elements, it more than makes up for with the intricate gold filigree. Artistically, this is the most striking deck I’ve ever seen. The gilded etchings embellish a multitude of geometric shapes, as well as the rounded pentacles, clothing accessories, pillars, backgrounds, boat sails, and more. For example, The Moon card depicts a dreaming woman surrounded by a myriad of gilt crescent moons. The pillar behind the King of Chalices is almost entirely solid gold. The Wheel card displays dozens of glittering triangles, circles, squares and spirals—even highlighting an eye of Horus.
However, I found a few of the cards in the Golden Tarot of Klimt confusing. A serious woman wearing a helmet portrays the Empress; she holds a nude human in her right hand, arms splayed at right angles. The subject appears to be a reference to Athena, which is usually associated with “airy” cards like The Queen of Swords or Justice—not the earthy, nurturing Empress. The Fool is an emaciated, nude, white-haired man holding his head in his hands as if he’s just lost everything. How is this portrait of despair connected to the youthful recklessness or innocent trust of The Fool? The Strength cards shows a woman who appears to be holding a decapitated head by her hair. What kind of “strength” is this, exactly?
Being what LWB’s are, there is no explanation for these unusual choices.
As for reading with the Golden Tarot of Klimt, I had no trouble receiving intuitive information from the evocative images. My husband and I played around doing readings based on real life (such as me trying to predict a “human interest” story from his workday and he performing a 3-card reading for me), but the accuracy seemed hit-and-miss. I’m unsure if it’s the deck, the kind of questions I was asking, or if it was just an off night. (My husband’s reading was accurate, but his is always accurate—which is frustrating since he’s not even a Tarot reader!)
Regardless of any shortcomings, The Golden Tarot of Klimt is a dazzling art deck that is certainly readable. If you’re anything like me, you’ll open the box, “oooh!” and “ahhh!”, and slowly savor each card as the light plays upon the golden accents. Its uniqueness demands a spot on the shelf of serious deck collectors as well as fans of Klimt.