From the category archives:

Illustration

The history of tarot is long, and probably surprising to some. The earliest known surviving full deck dates to the early 15th century in Italy. Painted by Bonifacio Bembo for the Duke of Milan, it is known as the Visconti-Sforza deck, after the Duke’s family name. In Renaissance Europe, these decks of cards, then known as trionfi, tarocchi, and tarock, were used to play games such as tarocchini in Italy and jeu de tarot in France, trick-taking card games in the same vein as Whist or bridge. In Italy, the aristocracy would also engage in a whimsical game known as “tarocchi appropriati”, in which players were dealt cards from the deck and used the imagery and themes to compose poetry. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the cards began to be used as we think of them today, for divination and cartomancy.

A tarot deck is comprised of 78 cards total. Similar to standard playing cards, there is a set of four suits which vary by region, but often are represented by wands/batons, cups, coins/pentacles, and swords. Each suit is comprised of 14 cards, ten cards numbered one or ace to ten, and four face cards: King, Queen, Knight, and Jack or Knave. These 56 cards are known as the minor arcana. The other 22 cards are known as the major arcana and consist of a group of 21 Trump cards and a single card known as the Fool. Although there are wide varieties in tarot decks, stylistically and regionally, some of the more archetypal arcana cards include the Tower, the Devil, the Magician, Death, the Wheel of Fortune, the Chariot, Justice/Judgment, the Lovers, the Moon, the Sun, and the World. Some tarot decks contain only these 22 major arcana cards, eliminating the four suits.

F.A. Bernett Books currently has in its inventory a collection of over 200 assorted tarot decks, comprising an impressive overview of the history and study of tarot. Most of the decks date to the second half of the 20th century and are primarily European in origin. This collection includes reproductions of important historical decks, decks showcasing the work of modern artists and more whimsical decks centered around fantastical themes. Highlighted below are several of the numerous interesting and eye-catching decks from this collection.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reproduction of the Tarocco di Marsiglia (Svizzera 1804). No. 555 of a limited edition of 2000. Milan (Edizioni Il Meneghello/Cavallini & Co.) n.d.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Il Tarocco di Amerigo Folchi. Artwork by Amerigo Folchi. No. 2528 of a limited edition of 3000. Bologna (Italcards) 1991.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Tarot de la Réa. Artwork by Alain Bocher. St-Brieuc, Franc (Les Presses Bretonnes) 1982.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tarocco Fantastico. Artwork by Franco Bruna. No. 160 of a limited edition of 1200, with signed and hand-numbered title card. Turin (Viassone) 1982.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zigeuner Tarot. Artwork by Walter Wegmüller. Basel (Sphinx Verlag/AGMüller) 1982.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Tarot Belline. No. 4366. Paris (J.M. Simon/Grimaud) 1966.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XXII Arcani – I Tarocchi di Andrea Picini. Artwork by Andrea Picini. No. 123 of a limited edition of 1000, with signed and hand-numbered title card. N.p. (Edizioni Luca) 1977.

 

 

Extensive Collection of Tarot Cards. A large collection of over 200 decks of tarot cards, most dating to the second half of the 20th century with a few earlier and later outlying examples, from publishers in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States, including reproductions of antique tarot decks, modern decks showcasing the work of particular artists, and decks providing a more whimsical approach to the arcana. Some decks unopened, a few decks incomplete, the rest all in excellent condition, with little to no signs of wear. Various sizes. Various cities. 1930s-2000s. Together with an assortment of over 100 catalogues and books related to the tarot, some pertaining to specific decks. (48661)

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Cuba, OSPAAAL (Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa, and Latin America), 1971 and 1972 

Extensive and Culturally Significant Archive of Approximately 500 Political Posters. An important, unique, and carefully curated collection of political posters, dated from approximately the 1960s to the 2000s, from a wide variety of leftist and militant groups in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, related to a broad range of domestic and international movements and issues, providing an essential overview of the global political climate at the time with regards to radicalism, solidarity, and liberation. Some with scattered soiling, marginal tears, tack holes, and other minor losses, overall excellent condition. Various sizes. Various cities, 1960s-2000s.

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France, MRI (Mouvement Revolutionaire Internationaliste), 1980s

This collection documents a vital period in the history of both Western Europe and Third World countries in the second half of the 20th century, a time of political upheaval, domestic terrorism, radical left-wing groups, and liberation movements. The posters that make up this collection can be roughly divided into three categories. First, a large number of the posters document the struggle of the militant left at home within Europe, with movements from Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and Ireland covered including Antifaschistische Aktion, RAF (Red Army Faction), RZ (Revolutionäre Zellen), Secours Rouge, CCC (Cellules Communistes Combattantes), CPN (Communist Party of the Netherlands), Kraakbeweging, RVF (Rood Verzetsfront), AFAPP (Asociación de Familiares y Amigos de Presos Politicos), Moviment de Defensa de la Terra, FRAP (Frente Revolucionario Antifascista y Patriota), Circolo Lenin Catania, Sinn Féin, and the Irish Republican Army. These posters cover a range of issues, including the treatment of political prisoners, hunger strikes, anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, anti-NATO, urban development, housing shortages, squatters, election reform, the women’s movement, and the labor movement.

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Netherlands, Communistische Partij van Nederland, Circa 1965

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Ireland, Irish Republican Movement, Circa 1980

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Germany, Autonomen Gruppen/Antifaschistische Aktion/RZ (Revolutionäre Zellen), 1984

A second large group demonstrates the solidarity of Western European groups for the assorted liberation movements and uprisings happening across the Third World. These include posters from CISNU (Confederation of Iranian Students National Union), Chili Komitee Nederland, Komitee Jongeren Voor Vietnam, MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola), Inlichtingen Angola-Comité, Palestina Komitee, Solidariteits Komitee Argentinie Nederland, UJPA Belgique (Union des Jeunes Progressistes Arabes), Collectif Pour la Libération de Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, Comité Catalá de Solidaritat Internacionalista, Asociacion de Amistad y Solidaridad con El Pueblo Saharui, Halkin Kurtulusu, MPP (Mouvement Populaire Perou), Association de Solidarité avec Timor Oriental, and MRI (Mouvement Revolutionaire Internationaliste).

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Netherlands, Palestijnse Vereniging, 1976

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Spain, Circa 1980s

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Netherlands, MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola), Circa 1975

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Netherlands, Vietnambeweging Delft, Circa 1973

Lastly, the third group of posters represents the political climate within the Third World countries themselves, including organizations such as the Cuban group OSPAAAL (Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa, and Latin America), FMLN from El Salvador (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front), Partido Comunista del Peru, ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia), FATAH (Palestinian National Liberation Movement), PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), PFLP (People’s Liberation Front of Palestine), GUPW (General Union of Palestinian Women), PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party), YJWK (Patriotic Women’s Union of Kurdistan), ERNK (National Liberation Front of Kurdistan), and YAJK (Free Women’s Army of Kurdistan).

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“Either Palestine…Or Hell”, Palestine, FATAH (Palestinian National Liberation Movement), 1983

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El Salvador, FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front), 1980s or 1990s

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Peru, Partido Comunista del Peru, 1986

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Palestine, P.L.O. (Palestine Liberation Organization), Department of Information and Culture, 1980s

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“It is a riot, a revival of paganism…It is also, in its way, a hymn to beauty, a living explosion of the senses and of the emotions.” – E. Berry Wall, Neither Past Nor Puritan

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In 1892, Henri Guillaume, Professor of Architecture at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, proposed that the students of the school’s four disciplines – architecture, painting, sculpture, and engraving – put on a joint costume ball. He envisioned a lavish room decorated by the students and ornate processions, inspired by a pre-existing culture of balls and costume parties in turn-of-the-century Paris, including the Bal Blanc, la Fête Païenne, the Bal des Incohérents, and the Bal Rodolphe.

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The first ball was organized by a joint committee of art students together with writers and artists living in Montmartre and Montparnasse. It was held at the old Élysée Montmartre, a Parisian concert hall and host to many cabarets and costume balls. Admission to the festivities was by invitation only, and the ball was an immediate success. The following year, it was decided that attendance to the ball would be restricted to students and former students of the École, as well as “artistic personalities” who had contributed to the preparation of the ball. It became an annual affair, running virtually uninterrupted each summer through 1966. (No parties were held during the war years, from 1915 to 1919 and from 1940 to 1945.) The balls were held in several major venues scattered throughout Paris over the years, with most taking place at the Moulin Rouge, the Salle Wagram, and the Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles.

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Although in its early years the ball was simply an elaborate party, beginning in 1900 each ball had a specific historic theme, often derived from an ancient text or inspired by an “exotic” foreign culture, around which various contests were arranged. Once the organizing committee and workshop students came up with the theme, students from the workshops, either individually or in groups, built floats for the entrance procession as well as a loge which surrounded the central dance floor to house tableaux from the chosen theme or time period, which would be acted out as the voting Committee passed by. Prizes were awarded for the best costumes.

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The balls were elaborate and debaucherous, romping affairs. According to the invitations, which read “Le comite sera impitoyable pour tout costume qui ne serait pas de l’epoque,” attendees were required to attend in period costume; yet the costumes were often shed at some point during the festivities. The doors opened at 10 PM, and no further entrances were allowed after midnight. However, the dancing and merrymaking often continued into the wee hours, usually devolving into drunken revelry and nudity. The dancing frequently ended with a shout of “Vive les Quat’z’ Arts!” around seven o’clock in the morning, followed by a procession through the Latin Quarter, a romp around the Louvre, and a march over the Pont du Carrousel to the Théâtre de l’Odéon, where the partygoers would disband.

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In July 1946, an article was published in Life Magazine by an American journalist, Bernard Frizell, who “crashed” that year’s party. He described the event as an orgy, the female attendees initially “dressed in such a way that more was revealed than hidden”, but by midnight, under pounding music and flashing lights, with hours of revelry still to come, “a number of the girls had lost their upper garments.” Around 1 am he describes the grand procession, that year with the theme of Agamemnon’s victory over Troy: “The orchestra, playing the march from Aida, led the parade of the victors around the room. Then the committee encircled the room to judge the best galley…On the mast of one of the galleys appeared a girl, her magnificent body completely nude. A long cheer went up. Out of the ship marched the students of the atelier. Upon the Wall of Troy a series of contests began….A prize was given for the best male costume and the best couple’s costume. Then came the feminine beauty contest. The girls had to appear without clothes.”

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The Bal des Quat’z’ Arts quickly became one of the premier events of the summer season, and many Parisians desired to attend one of the raucous parties. However, admission was carefully restricted to students of the École and contributing artists, and to gain entrance to the ball each attendee had to surrender their personal invitation at the door, which bore not only their name but also the stamp of the École or atelier they belonged to and the signatures of the Bal’s organizing committee. These invitations were in turn elaborately designed to match the spectacle of the events, and correspondingly were often thematically orientalist, exotic, or primitive, with overtly erotic and sexual imagery. They are a tour de force of the evolution of artistic style, showing the progress from Art Nouveau to modernist primitivism, up through psychedelic design. Almost every invitation bears the warning “Le nu est rigoureusement interdit,” later changed to the more formal “Le comite decline sa responsabilite des pour suites que pourrait entrainer l’exhibition du nu sur la voie publique,” instructions which were presumably expected to be ignored.

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In 1967, the chosen theme was to be the “Tour de Nesle,” but the ball never occurred due to failure to secure a location. And in May of 1968, student strikes at the Sorbonne led to the separation of the architecture department from the École, as well as the end of the Bal des Quat’z’Arts.

F.A. Bernett currently has a remarkable collection of these striking invitations, the themes of which include Ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages, the entrance of Perseus into Athens, Carthage, Babylon, the Incas, the Vikings, the Aztecs, Samurai, and the sack of Rome.

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Bal des Quat’z’Arts.- . Collection of 61 Invitation Cards to the Bal des Quat’z’Arts, Paris, 1907-1966. 61 invitation cards and posters of various sizes, ranging from approx. 6″ x 6″ to 15 3/4″ x 11 13/16″, to the notorious annual costume ball (1892-1966) produced by and for students from the four divisions of the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris (Architecture, Painting, Sculpture, and Engraving), each lavishly illustrated by an artist or master from one of the ateliers with a representation of the year’s unique theme, most exotic and suggestive interpretations of historical, literary or foreign sources. Depicting decorative and figurative scenes, involving various artistic printmaking techniques including etching, engraving, letterpress, embossing, all in color, some folding, most with original perforated ticket coupons attached. Paris (Bal des Quat’z’Arts) 1907-1966. (47826)

 

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Charlie Hebdo’s Ancestors

January 23, 2015

  Journalism in France has a rich tradition of political satire and caricature, dating back many hundreds of years and gaining footholds at many crucial moments in France’s history. Popular in the 17th century, Molière and Jean de la Fontaine earned their fame mocking the upper echelons of society through comic plays or fables, often […]

Under the Matzos Tree.

May 9, 2014

52 Examples of Jewish-American Sheet Music from the Early 20th Century. A collection of English-language sheet music, ca. 4-8 pp. each, in orig. color illus. wrrps., most published in New York, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, or Los Angeles, ca. 1900-1920. (47699) “Under the Matzo Tree: A Ghetto Love Song,” “Yiddle on your Fiddle Play Some Rag […]

Soucoupes Volantes Viennent d’Autres Mondes.

Thumbnail image for Soucoupes Volantes Viennent d’Autres Mondes. August 15, 2013

Collection of 20 titles, ca. 50-300 pp. each. Paris / Geneva / Moscow, 1897-1973, offered with Inforespace. Cosmologie Phénomènes Spatiaux Primhistoire. Revue Bimestrielle. Nos. 1 (1972) – 67, 69 – 71, 73 & 75, incl. the “hors serie” December annuals nos. 1 (1977) – 8 (1984). Altogether 80 issues comprising a 17-year head-of-series run of […]

“The Bankers Shall not Make the Peace” Labor Day Sketch Book 1947

Thumbnail image for “The Bankers Shall not Make the Peace”  <i>Labor Day Sketch Book 1947</i> June 10, 2013

Sally, Ted (drawings). Labor Day Sketch Book 1947. Los Angeles CIO Council. Unpaginated (ca. 32 pp.) presentation of proposed designs, drawn by Sally, for floats, banners, costumes, and other accoutrements for a union-oriented progressive Labor Day parade. Oblong large 4to. Orig. printed wrpps. Los Angeles (CIO Council) 1947. (47538) In the spring of 1947, The […]

Weltkrieg: German Artists Respond to the Great War.

Thumbnail image for Weltkrieg: German Artists Respond to the Great War. February 15, 2013

Collection of 14 World War I Print Portfolios by German Artists.  Including works by René Beeh, Emma Frenberg, Karl Bober, Bruno Kraustopf, Ursla Stolte, Paul Hartmann, Elsa Weigandt, Erich Dietrich, Hilde Schindler, Georg Mathen, Editha Quaas, Joshua Bampp, Paul Winkler, Josef Eberz, Fritz Gärtner, Erich Gruner, Willi Geiger, Carl Christoph Hartig, Luigi Kasimir, Hermann Struck, […]

Conjuring Pan: Julius Meier-Graefe’s darkly beautiful paean to the new currents of art in Europe, 1895-1899.

Pan. Cover detail. March 22, 2012

Pan.  Years I-V (all published). Edited by Julius Meier-Graefe and Otto Julius Bierbaum.  A complete run of all five years, bound in 21 parts as issued  (altogether 347, 351, 266, 267, 279 pp.)  Sm. folio.  Orig. wrpps., a few chips and tears at edges, some covers professionally repaired.  Berlin (Genossenschaft Pan) 1895-1899.  (45601) In the […]

The most influential graphic arts blog of late-1920s Tokyo: Gendai Shogyo Bijutsu Zenshu.

Thumbnail image for The most influential graphic arts blog of late-1920s Tokyo: <i>Gendai Shogyo Bijutsu Zenshu.</i> October 3, 2011

Kitazawa Yoshio, Hamada Masuji, Wantanabe Soshu, Tatsuke Yoichiro, et al. Gendai Shogyo Bijutsu Zenshu.  (“The Complete Commercial Artist”). 24-volume-illustrated series (each vol. approx. 100-150 pp. including plates).  4to.  Wrpps.  Tokyo (Ars) 1927-1930.  (46209) Over the past five years or so, a loose cadre of visual data miners at blogs including BibliOdyssey, 50 Watts, but does […]

“Sem au Bois” Update: The Jockey Club de Paris, ca. 1908.

Thumbnail image for “Sem au Bois” Update: The Jockey Club de Paris, ca. 1908. June 7, 2011

“And if you happen to be an historian of Belle Epoque Paris (clever you) and recognize anyone among the caricatures, please let us know in the comments field…”

— UPDATE, May 2011:

When first I wrote about Georges “Sem” Goursat’s 1910 leporello Sem au Bois about a year ago, I ended the post with an invitation, asking readers to share any insights they might have as to the real-world identities of the faces caricatured in Sem’s well-heeled crowd of Boulogne woods revelers.

Last week, Pablo Medrano Bigas, Associate Professor of Design and Image of the imatge de diagramacióFaculty of Fine Arts at Universitat de Barcelona answered the call. Clever him, indeed. And lucky us — not only has he positively identified several of the processional’s key figures, he’s also supplied a wealth of historical background information to further our understanding the illustration’s form and content.

“Le degré de perfection des productions de l’imprimerie d’un pays est une des marques de son degré de civilisation.” Printing in Japan, ca. 1915.

Thumbnail image for “Le degré de perfection des productions de l’imprimerie d’un pays est une des marques de son degré de civilisation.” Printing in Japan, ca. 1915. April 4, 2011

Sawada, Yozo. Insatsu Taikan (Great Atlas of Printing).  Unpaginated album.  Sm. folio.  Silk-covered boards, tie-bound.  Osaka (Nihon Insatsu Kaisha) 1915.  [46467] Following the death of his father, the Meiji Emperor, on July 30, 1912, Crown Prince Yoshihito ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan to become the Taishō Emperor. After three years of Imperial preparations, […]

“What Power is This?” Shinjuku Playmap & Tokyo Graphic Design, ca. 1970.

What Power is This? February 23, 2011

Teruhiko Yumura, et al.-. Shinjuku Playmap.  Nos. 1 (July 1969) through 30 (December 1971) (all published in the first series).  8vo.  Wrpps., covers illustrated by Teruhiko Yumura (also known as King Terry and Terry Johnson).  Tokyo 1969-1971.  [46471] What power is this, indeed? The global tidal wave of youth culture rebellion and experimentation of the […]

Lucien Vogel’s Le Style Parisien

Le Style Parisien January 7, 2010

Le Style Parisien.  Numbers 1 (July 1915) through 7 (February 1916) (all published; lacking 8 pp. text). Paris (Librairie Centrale des Beaux-Arts) 1915-1916.  [45884] It may not have been the most avant-garde publication of its time, but Le Style Parisien served as an important bridge between the emerging capitals of  European fashion — chiefly Paris […]