Visconti-Sforza Review: The Golden Tarot

Not to be confused with Kat Black’s Golden Tarot (a renaissance collage deck with gilt edges), this Golden Tarot is a redrawing of the Visconti-Sforza deck.
For this review, I will be using the US Games Pierpoint Morgan issue of the Visconti-Sforza tarot as the comparison deck and point of reference as I believe this is the deck the publisher has used as their base for this production.
The creative team for this project is Mary Packard (book) and Rachel Clowes (cards). Surprisingly neither has a tarot or occult background. Surprising because both their individual efforts sit well together and would not be out of place in anyone’s tarot library.

Let’s look at the cards first

They are large, not quite as large as the Pierpoint Morgan version, but close enough. At 16.5 cm x 8.4 cm, they sit surprisingly well in my smallish hands. The card stock quite thick and they shuffle really well. The existing Visconti-Sforza has four cards missing. Luigi Scapini (Medieval Scapini Tarot) redrew the missing cards for the US Games Pierpoint Morgan issue. Clowes has also reproduced these four cards seemingly from using Scapini’s offerings. They have Rider Waite-Smith elements to them, most notably the white horse in the Knight of Coins. Having said that, I much prefer Clowes’ version as I feel they blend into the rest of the deck more naturally than Scapini’s.
The missing cards are:

  • Knight of Coins
  • Three of Swords
  • The Devil
  • The Tower

The new Golden Tarot is on the left while the Visconti-Sforza Pierpoint Morgan is to the right in all the following images. Remember the first four images are Scapini’s redrawings, not the originals.
Knight of Coins from the Golden Tarot /Visconti Sforza Knight of Coins from the Visconti-Sforza Pierpoint Morgan deck
The Knight of Coins

vs-golden-min-sw-03 vs-min-sw-ac
Three of Swords

vs-golden-ma-15 vs-ma-15
The Devil

vs-golden-ma-16 vs-ma-16
The Tower
As the Pierpoint is a facsimile of the originals, it shows the cards as they exist – some of their details have been lost, the colours have faded and are much darker than this new edition. Clowes has breathed new life into this deck, thought it can be seen with some cards, detail has been lost (Ace of Batons/Wands) and with others it has been gained (Ace of Cups).
Some of the delicacy of the leaf work and colour has been lost here though the overall new card is still pleasing
vs-golden-min-cu-ac vs-min-cu-ac
In contrast to the Ace of Batons, the Ace of Cups gains from new detail and has a more gentle feel to it
vs-golden-ma-10 vs-ma-10
Here the Wheel of Fortune is sharper with good colours and detail
vs-golden-ma06 vs-ma-06
This is a good reproduction of the Lovers with a lot of detail added where it is lost from the original

Inside the Box

The Golden Tarot is a kit and comes in a beautiful black box with a jacquard style gloss pattern running over it. I’m a sucker for a nice box and so I’m sold on this. As far as presentation goes, 10 out of 10. Inside the box is a purple reading cloth, satin perhaps. I don’t like it as it doesn’t go with the antiquity of the deck, nor the colours. If you were going to make this your reading deck of choice, then look to any number of tarot bag creators for something more appropriate. See Ania and Tarot Sulis for some superb options.
The book that accompanies the deck is written by Mary Packard. As Clowes seems to effortlessly bring the Visconti-Sforza to life, so Packard provides us with a well researched and knowledgeable book about the history of the deck and occult tarot. It has to be said, this isn’t a detailed historical treatise, but to be fair, it shouldn’t be. If the target market is the beginner or reader looking for an introduction to tarot history, this is a nice place to start. It’s a summary but it’s enough to whet the appetite. That Robert Place helped guide Packard gives credibility to the project and seasoned readers will be more willing to accept Packard’s work on that basis.
Another nod goes to the artistic team for the presentation of the book – it’s full colour including card images. These are presented with their descriptions and other relevant images through the introductory and historical text. The pages are 16.5 cm x 12.5 cm so it’s not a large book and at 143 pages, it’s not long either. When you consider the amount of information Packard presents, it shows her literary skills well. The tarot card meanings are mostly Rider Waite-Smith, which on the one hand is disappointing because they don’t fit with the age of the deck. On the other, seeing as a lot of people learn to read using that deck, it makes the Golden Tarot more accessible and instantly usable.

Reading with the Deck

No review would be complete without a short reading to get a feel for the deck. Prior to this reading, I did a number of readings with Douglas and they were spot on. I insisted we use the definitions in the book, for authenticity, and we were both impressed by the results. We were challenged in some places but we see that as a good thing because it brings a freshness to your reading and another perspective.
The question I asked for this review, a little facetiously, was:

How will my readers and the publisher receive this review?

I drew the King of Batons (Wands) and Temperance.
vs-golden-min-wa-ki vs-golden-ma-14
I’m happy with both of those cards – they were both jumpers and came out of the deck together. The definitions in the book (and not including the card description or history) read as follows:
King of Batons – Confident; mature; successful; combines paternal instincts with an optimistic, generous nature.
Temperance – Nurturing and health; self-control without denial; moderation and balance in all things.
Wow, another reading that was spot on. I have a number of irritations with this kit but decided not to focus on them because on reflection, what does that really bring to the table? For me, reviewing a deck is about how someone will it experience it. So purists and finer points aside, overall, the Golden Tarot is a nice addition to any collector’s library and I would go so far as to suggest this could easily become a regular reading deck.
So the final question remains, would I recommend this deck? Yes, most definitely.


Publisher: Quarto Publishing Group and Race Point Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1-937994-09-9
Available from the publisher and other good online book stores.
The Artist: Rachel Clowes
I could not find a web address for Mary Packard, though I’m sure contact can be made through the publisher should you have any questions.
Pierpoint Morgan Visonti-Sforza Tarrocchi Deck and the Medieval Scapini Tarot are both published by US Games Systems

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