`Morbid`, `Bloody`, `Perverted`, `Depraved` are words I often hear about Elisabetta Cassari's tarot
decks from a large tarot audience, who prefer butterflies, flowers and unicorns depicted on their
tarot decks. Let me say it directly: I'm an admirer of Elisabetta Cassari's work. She is my top
favorite tarot artist among a number of other favorites. I like her tarot decks. I find them artistic
and interesting in all ways, reflecting the artist's feelings about the modern society that surrounds
her. It is not an idealized and romanticized picture of the world we live in, like we find it in many
modern tarot decks; Cassari`s tarots show us our modern political world, as it is in reality.
35 years old Elisabetta Cassari (1990) is herself not astonished by this characterization. It is true, that her art is morbid, she says. And she does not find it being a negative trait, rather the contrary. As for the apparent sadistic and masochistic traits in her art, Elisabetta Cassari acknowledges, that creativity is a form of psychotherapy; these traits are not more alien to her nature, than they are, more or less, to most human beings. Elisabetta is, however, of the opinion that she express her feelings at best through her art proper. Explanations and intellectual interpretations she prefers to leave to the onlooker.
As a source of inspiration for her art, she tells me, that she is attracted to the visual expressions, which can be found in medieval and ancient books dealing with magic, demonology and the like. She is interested in esotericism and parapsychology, but her attraction is mainly to the visual and aesthetic expressions of the themes. She has created several tarot decks, but is not herself a tarot reader; she finds that it must be extremely difficult to do that well. Elisabetta is mainly attracted to tarot as an artistic and aesthetic art form, an attraction that has led her to create a graphic imagery of a world, in which we can recognize traits of our own lives and surroundings. The only books dealing with tarot she has ever read are Oswald Wirth's "The Tarot of the Magicians" and Italo Calvinos "Castle of Crossed Destiny". It doesn't seem that any of the modern American writers on tarot are translated into Italian, and she has therefore not read works by Mary Greer, Rachel Pollack or any other contemporary tarot writer. As for tarot decks, Elisabetta prefers the ancient traditional packs. She owns a number of the decks published by Edition Solleone, but there is no particular deck she feels has been an inspiration for her.
Elisabetta Cassari has a formal art education from the Brera Academy of Milan, but she is also an art teacher in a secondary school. She finds that her art goes along very well with her teaching, and that even her particular style sometimes fits into the school work. She does not want to define herself as primarily an artist, but she considers the school work to be her profession, a profession that allows her enough spare time and the necessary economical basis to practice and cultivate her art.
Apart from working with drawings and paintings, Elisabetta Cassari has also experimented with pyrographic art*), of which she recently had an exhibition in Sicily. She also likes sculpturing, and especially working with masks and puppets, because they also give the possibility to work with colors at the same time. Like Pamela Colman Smith she made her own toy theatre to use with the puppets, as well as making illustrations for fairy tales. Elisabetta has so far not aimed at having her works published, nor has she been particularly interested in being represented in galleries or collections. She however, feels that this attitude of hers has changed lately, so maybe we will see more of her works in the future.
I have asked Elisabetta if she ever rendered herself as a person in one or more of her tarot decks. The question became obvious to me, when I, at one of my tarot workshops illustrated by slides, showed Il Mondo (The World) from "Gli Arcani di Elisabetta"; this card depicts an execution attended by numerous people. One of them is looking away from the execution scene, and instead looks directly at us. I got the idea, that this was actually a self-portrait of Elisabetta. I asked her, but it was not; actually she was not sure if the figure was a woman at all. So instead she kindly sent me the self-portrait shown at the top of this article: Elisabetta in her world of tarot, surrounded by her tarot figures.
For the benefit of our astrological minded readers I also asked Elisabetta about her attitude towards astrology. She does not believe very much in it, she says, but in spite of that she will characterize herself as an Aquarius character with a Gemini ascendant and Moon in Scorpio. So the astrologers amongst our readers now can decide by themselves if that is compatible with Elisabetta's artwork!
Elisabetta Cassari created three tarot decks: `Solleone Tarot` (1983), `Gli Arcani di Elisabetta` (1986) and `Future Solleone Tarot` (1987). All three decks were published by the Italian publisher and collector, Vito Arienti who, with his series `Editions Solleone', has made numerous modern tarot and playing cards and reprints of historical packs accessible to the tarotist and collector. It was Vito Arienti, who introduced not only Elisabetta Cassari but also Amerigo Folchi to tarot and encouraged them in their careers as tarot artists.
The Solleone Tarot
Future Solleone Tarot
The four minor suits of the `Future Solleone Tarot' are devoted to the four elements, and are depicting daily life activities and situations for this strange race of astronauts and their alien co-workers. We find traditional fortune-telling card titles like Family, Love, Artistic Success, Disorder, Loneliness, Travel, Death, Hope, Work and Letter among the names of the forty cards. While the air suit still shows us the astronauts, the other suits depict strange creatures, like the scaled beings of the Water-suit.
In "Gli Arcani di Elisabetta" we recover the corrupt abuse of power, the blood, the violence, the suppression, the restraint, the despair, the impotence, and still the tiny glints of rebellion. Elisabetta's world is definitely not a happy world. It is the world we live in.
First published in Manteia #3, April 1990.
*) Pyrographic art - illustrations burned into wood
**) Elisabetta Cassari's hand coloring of the planned 99 decks stopped somewhere along the line; to color 99 x 23 cards by hand is a lengthy and extremely tedious affair. The demand for the, naturally rather costly deck, was probably too low at the time. The remaining decks were later sold without colors.
***) I attempted to contact Elisabetta Cassari several times during the last few years, but in vain. I have not been able to locate her. Not even Vito Arienti shortly before his death, knew her present address, nor did other people I contacted. Unconfirmed rumors say, that Cassari left Italy and moved to France or Spain (likely the latter since she speaks Spanish). If anyone knows about her current whereabouts, I'll be pleased to learn about them!
This site designed & maintained by
All contents contributed by K. Frank Jensen