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Suit System:IT
Recommended Name:  the Belgian Tarot.

This pattern was originally classified as IT-3.
Although French-suited Tarot packs were later made in Belgium (e.g. FT-1.1), no confusion is likely to result from using the term "Belgian Tarot" for this pattern.


Produced exclusively in Belgium, this is the only standard Italian-suited Tarot pattern ever employed outside Italy other than the Tarot de Marseille (IT-1) and its variant the Tarot de Besançon (IT-1.4). Its period of use seems to have been limited to the 18th century. It has affinities both with IT-1 and IT-1.4 and with the Tarocco Bolognese (IT-2), as well as numerous features peculiar to itself; it also has several points of resemblance with the early 17th-century French Tarot pack in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (Kh 34 res (1), fol.5-20). Versions by different cardmakers agree particularly closely in details of design. It presumably represents an original design by whichever Belgian cardmaker first produced Tarot packs, perhaps one familiar with IT-2, and thereafter closely copied by others. For some reason, the cards are usually designated "Cartes de Suisse" on the wrapper or the ace of Coins.


The pack is the usual 78-card Italian-suited Tarot pack; the order of the trumps, which bear roman numerals, is as in the Tarot de Marseille. The trumps and court cards, but not the aces, are inscribed with their names; numeral cards of Batons and Swords often bear arabic numerals. The designs of the court cards differ from those of other patterns; the queens are standing, as in IT-1.4. The numeral cards of Batons resemble those of IT-2. The principal special features are as follows. The Popess (II) is replaced by L'ESPAGNOL CAPITANO ERACASSE. This shows the Spanish Captain, who is properly called Fracasse, of the Commedia dell'Arte, in a design taken from an engraving by Michel Lasne. The Pope (V) is replaced by BACUS (Bacchus), seated astride a barrel. The Hanged Man (XII) is inverted, so that the figure is head up. Temperance (XIIII) has a scroll saying FAMA SOL. The Devil (XV) is seen in left profile. XVI shows no tower, but a man beneath a tree being struck by lightning, and is inscribed LA FOUDRE (the lightning), as is trump XVI in the Bibliothèque Nationale pack; compare the name "la Saetta" for the corresponding card in IT-2. The Star (XVII) shows a church tower and a man with compasses. The Moon (XVIII) shows a woman with a distaff. The Sun (XIX) shows a man on horseback with a banner. The World (XXI) shows a naked woman standing on a globe divided into three parts, one showing the sun, another the moon and stars, and the third the earth with water and buildings; the resemblance to the XXI of the Bibliothèque Nationale pack is very close. The Fool is inscribed LE FOU and numbered XXII. The designs of the XVII, XVIIII and XXI have features in common with the corresponding cards of IT-2. The 2 of Cups always bears the inscription POUR CONOISTRE QUE LA PLUS BASSE DE DENIEZ ET DE COUPES ENPORTE LES PLUS HAUTES QUAND AU FAIT DU JEU, warning the player that in Coins and Cups the lower-numbered cards beat the higher-numbered.


Nicolas Bodet, Brussels (1743-1751);

Jean Galler, Brussels (1738-1760);

Sarton (1756-1767);

Jean Gisaine, Dinant (c.1750);

Martin Dupont, Brussels (1766);

Vandenborre, Brussels (1762-1803).

Belgian Tarot

Illustration 1 of Belgian Tarot  (jpg 700 x 812)
Illustration 2 of Belgian Tarot  (jpg 700 x 812)
Cards from a pack by Jean Galler of Brussels.

The International Playing-Card Society November, 1978

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