Golden Tarot of Klimt: Deck Review

Klimt Tarot 01 Deck Box

One year in high school I had a spiral bound day planner I bought at a museum gift shop that featured Klimt’s artwork. I carried Klimt around with me everywhere that year and afterward, cut out the full-color prints that appeared in the day planner, framed and placed them around my room. An art poster print of “The Kiss” was hung up in my bedroom through my adolescence and young adulthood. Currently in the halls of my day job office hangs a really nice framed print of “Adele Bloch-Bauer I.” [Also, tell me it isn’t just me– is there or isn’t there something very Nine of Pentacles about that painting.]

Klimt Tarot 19 Card Backs Closeup

Like many artists of his time (Pamela Colman Smith included), Klimt was influenced by Japanese block art. Klimt’s art is bold, sensual, deeply ornate yet symbolic, and iconic of the Art Nouveau and Symbolist Art movements, with mystical tendencies. His art was controversial for its time. Klimt would have been about 50 years old around the time Waite and Smith created their tarot deck.

Klimt Tarot 04 Box and LWB

The Klimt Tarot or Golden Tarot of Klimt by Lo Scarabeo and Llewellyn is one of the most well-done collector’s art deck I’ve seen. There on the box cover you see one of Klimt’s iconic paintings, “Judith I.” The cards are 2.5″ x 4.6″, which fits comfortably in my hands and the smooth texture on the cardstock renders the deck very easy to shuffle and fan for reading purposes. There isn’t much to the Little White Booklet (LWB), as the text in there is short and sweet, and in those few pages, is packed with 6 language translations.

Klimt Tarot 02 Box Side View

On the side of the box pictured above, the top image is from one of my favorite paintings by Klimt, “Medicine (Hygieia),” which so perfectly appears on The Magician card in the deck. While more and more decks are moving to China for printing and manufacturing, these decks are still made in Italy. The box and packaging is finished beautifully and is part of what renders this deck such a rewarding collector’s item. It was first published in 2005 and the brainchild of the Bulgarian-born Atanas Antchev Atanassov.

Klimt Tarot 30 Box Top Flap

A lot of thought and detailing went into putting this deck together. My copy got dinged a bit over on the left corner of the flap, but it’s still a flawless deck.

Klimt Tarot 03 All Contents

Klimt Tarot 06 LWB

The above photo shows pages from the LWB and gives you a sense of the contents (the part in English) and also Key 0: The Fool, with one of Klimt’s sketches, though it looks like it has been rendered in for this deck, and modified with detailing and mosaic patterns signature of Klimt. For the LWB, as you can see, there isn’t a lot in terms of card meanings, but I am totally okay with that. I know these days more and more tarot readers seem to expect LWBs to be thick and comprehensive, but we’re not using the LWB to learn tarot here, so this particular LWB is a simple, straightforward keyword reference booklet only. What I am bummed about is not including the Klimt painting that each card was sourced from. As a collector’s deck and a deck tailor-made for Klimt admirers, such information would seem essential to include. [Since such information isn’t included in the LWB, I’ll try to include some of the ones I was able to pick out based on my rudimentary knowledge of Klimt’s paintings, and also with the help of this site, The Complete Works of Gustav Klimt. The LWB does contain a very cool spread that I tried out, however, which I will get to later in this review. That part was very cool, and out of the ordinary for typical LWBs that give you a 3-card past, present, future spread and maybe the Celtic Cross.

Klimt Tarot 18 Card Backs

We’ve got reversible backs, so you can read with reversals with this deck, and the spread that the LWB teaches also assumes reading with reversals. The cardback imagery is “Expectation” from a mural at the Palais Stoclet in Brussels done by Klimt, modified to make it reversible.

Klimt Tarot 20 Cool Gold Gilding

Okay, now one of my favorite details of all is the edges. Look at that! (Above and below pics.) Also check out the painting on Key XIX: The Sun, “Hymn to Joy.”

Klimt Tarot 21 Gold Gilidng

The gold-gilded bars on the edges of the card borders form these beautiful strips when you fan the cards out. I love that detailing and I don’t think I’ve seen it in any decks before, or at least it’s an uncommon detail. I love it. Klimt loved drawing big butts, nude women posed in erotic positions, and lots of female genitalia. All that is included in the Klimt Tarot, as it should be, but if that is something that might render the more prude among us queasy, then this may not be the reading deck for you.

Klimt Tarot 07 Majors

Klimt Tarot 08 Majors

One of Klimt’s most famous paintings, “The Kiss” is Key 6: Lovers. Ah, of course. Here, also note the numbering of the keys for the Majors, following the earlier Tarot de Marseille numbering, not the RWS. Here, Key VIII is Justice and Key XI is Strength. I’m surprised by the Klimt piece chosen for Strength, though. You would think “Fable” by Klimt might be a better fit for the typical symbolism we attribute with the Strength card, i.e., woman and lion.

Klimt Tarot 09 Majors

Key XIII: Death is depicted by “Death and Life,” with minor digital alterations. Key XXI: The World is depicted by “Hope I.” Many of these works were difficult for me to identify, and I suspect came from Klimt’s lesser known rough sketches and pencil studies that have been colored in and enhanced for the deck.

Klimt Tarot 10 Chalices

In the Ace of Cups you have the sketch from “Love” digitally enhanced and compiled with other iconic Klimt detailing to form the card imagery. There was a lot of creativity contributed to this deck by Atanassov, so he must definitely be given due credit. This deck wouldn’t be what it is without his artistic hand in the compilation.

Klimt Tarot 11 Chalices

The Ten of Cups features “Junge Frau” with the addition of chalices. The Queen of Chalices appears to be a digital alteration of “Emilie Floge 1902” with her right hand modified to hold up the chalice, though the face on “Emilie Floge” compared to the face on the Queen of Chalices seem to differ, so I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s from another one of Klimt’s works that happens to be strikingly similar to “Emilie Flogie.” In the above photograph of the King of Chalices, what looks like a big white vertical rectangle is just the glare from my house lights. What’s there is a beautiful gold pillar.

Klimt Tarot 12 Pentacles

The gold gilding on the Klimt Tarot is magnificent. At home, I have the Golden Universal and Golden Botticelli to compare this deck to, and the gold gilding on the Klimt Tarot is far superior to both the Golden Universal and Golden Botticelli. I wasn’t a big fan of how the Pentacles were done in the Golden Universal, for instance, whereas here in the Klimt Tarot, it’s beautifully done. Klimt Tarot 13 Pentacles Each pentacle contains a different signature Klimt mosaic detailing or design. That tiny detail is what really makes the suit stand out in the deck. Klimt Tarot 14 Pentacles Throughout the cards you’ll find the digital inclusion of the mosaic patterns that Klimt is so well known for.

Klimt Tarot 15 Wands

Klimt Tarot 16 Wands

In the Five of Wands, one of the figures comes from Klimt’s untitled sketches, many of which were brilliant, so I’m glad Atanassov brought those pencil sketches to life in this deck. Some of the cards, like the nude figure in the Five of Swords, seem to be enhanced and colored-in sketches from studies that Klimt did of nude figures.

Klimt Tarot 17 Swords

While this is still a pretty easy deck to pick up reading with for an RWS reader, many of the card imagery is inspired by the esoteric decks that predate the RWS. Still, I had no problems reading with this deck. Atanassov did a superb job with the illustrated pips and even when the imagery deviates from typical RWS imagery, the art on this deck is evocative of the interpretive essence for the card.

Klimt Tarot 22 Spread Instructions

Now for the cool spread taught in the LWB. I haven’t come across this spread before, but I like it. It’s the “Circle of Faults and Virtues” spread.

Klimt Tarot 05 LWB

In the photo above you’ll see the layout for the spread. To start, you need to separate the Majors from the Minors and have two piles. You’ll be working with the Arcana separately.

Klimt Tarot 23 Spread Separate Majors Minors

Each pile is shuffled separately. Then, starting at the 12 o’clock position, set the cards down clock-wise, with the card at 12 o’clock being Card 1, at 1 o’clock being Card 2, etc.

Klimt Tarot 24 Spread View

When you have set out 12 Minors in a circle, draw a card from the Majors pile and set that one card in the center.

Klimt Tarot 25 Spread View

For my Major Arcanum, I drew The Empress, reversed, with art on the deck derived from Klimt’s “Pallas Athene 1898.”

Klimt Tarot 26 LWB Spread Instructions

The instructions say that if the Major Arcanum is turned over upright, then you read the circle of cards from right to left, which would be counter-clockwise. If the Major Arcanum is reversed, then read left to right, or clockwise. Then you read the spread in three steps. Since The Empress in my reading appeared in reverse, I was supposed to go clockwise, but I bungled it up and mistakenly went counter-clockwise, so bear with me here. (Also, it’s probably because in my mind and per my practice perspective and general metaphysical approach, upright and right is always associated with clockwise, while reversed, upside-down, and left is always associated with counter-clockwise, so my brain immediately went to “counter-clockwise” when I saw the reversal and as a result, forgot how to read directions.)

Klimt Tarot 27 Spread Read Part 1

So I’ll be reading my spread counter-clockwise, contrary to the LWB directions. The first four cards in the “part 1” that you read (remember, read the circle in 3 distinct parts) represents my current situation, where I am now and what’s going on with me. Had the Major Arcanum, The Empress, been turned over upright, I would be reading the four Minor Arcana cards positively. However, according to the LWB directions, when the Major Arcanum is reversed, the Minors are read negatively.

Klimt Tarot 28 Spread Read Part 2

The next four cards are read, and this “part 2” indicates my current career trajectory or work situation, according to the LWB. Again, the Major Arcanum leads. If it is upright. the Minors in that four-card part are read positively, and if the Major is reversed, the Minors are read negatively.

Klimt Tarot 29 Spread Read Part 3

The final “part 3” and last four cards in the circle represent the seeker’s emotional situation. While the cards as they are aren’t difficult to read as an RWS reader, the Klimt Tarot might not be my deck of choice for a workhorse reading deck in professional practice. It’s definitely more of a collector’s item, but boy, as a collector’s item, deck collectors are going to want this deck. Any enthusiast of the Art Nouveau movement is going to appreciate what Atanassov and Lo Scarabeo/Llewellyn have done here.

Klimt Coffee Table Decor

For me, I like to leave the Klimt Tarot deck along with my copy of the Botticelli Tarot out on a coffee table in my front sitting room for guests to browse. In lieu of oversize full color coffee table books at my house, we have beautiful gold-gilded tarot decks. I admire how, as an artist, Klimt pushed the boundaries of propriety for his time, and heck, many of his works would still be considered provocative and controversial today. That is just how ahead of his time Klimt was. The Klimt Tarot is going to be a favored deck in any tarot collection.


FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received Golden Tarot of Klimt from Llewellyn for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.

27 thoughts on “Golden Tarot of Klimt: Deck Review

  1. Dear Benebell,
    Once again you have selected one of my most favorite decks to review in depth, I also look forward to your blog, you offer so much insight and substance. This deck the ‘Golden Tarot of Klimt’ featuring impressionist’s work, and the recently published ” ‘ Tarot of Delphi’, “A fine art deck illustrated with authentic Victorian and Edwardian art from 1838-1913…”, are two of my most beloved decks, right at the top!
    In a world now filled with mass produced decks filled with cutesy cats and cartoonish pictures on cheap stock, it’s refreshing to find decks featuring works of the Great Masters, and applied so thoughtful to the traditional Tarot.
    Thank you a again for the great review, I look forward to receiving and reading them as published.

    Tarot On,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the review of this beautiful deck. You may know that Helen Mirren is starring in a movie, Woman in Gold in which she portrays a family member of Klimit who has to battle to regain a painting by Klimi stolen from her family by the Nazis in World War II. Thank you for these great reviews!


  3. Lovely review. I am waiting for your book to arrive any day now! I cannot wait to get started. I’m almost finished with “Tarot for Yourself” by Mary Greer, and I’m ready to move on to the next Tarot adventure. I’m so glad I found you and your site!


    1. Greer’s “Tarot for Yourself” is a fantastic book and definitely a worthy read for all tarotists! Thanks for this connection and I hope to connect with you more in the future! Also, thank you for getting my book! So happy to hear that!


  4. If I may Benebell ask you and the readers of your blog a question, recently I had a college student and woman’s rights activist ask me “what’s a good deck for a woman?” While all decks have a feminine essence, I had no idea what to tell her, as I know nothing about this type of deck, and there are several out there of this type..

    Thank in advance folks,


    1. Wow, that is a big question: “what is a good deck for a woman’s rights activist?” I’m not sure how to answer it.

      To avoid heavily patriarchal motifs, any of the contemporary decks with animal imagery would work, such as the Wild Unknown. I’m also liking the Prisma Visions. Both are good if you like the borderless aesthetic. If you like borders, look into Mystic Dreamer or the Chrysalis Tarot, which I’ve been playing with lately.

      I grew up on The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr, and that one is fantastic for working with feminine and feminist energy and still get the best of the worlds of RWS and Thoth. I’m liking the energy of the Witches Tarot, especially if pagan themes resonate with your student.

      The Voyager Tarot, albeit a very modern deck that really is its own unique divinatory system (and even has its own certification program) is another good one for those with feminist sensitivities. The Tarot Illuminati is another good one, especially if you want to stick close to RWS symbolism. For the more esoteric-minded, perhaps take a look at the Haindl Tarot, which also incorporates the I Ching hexagrams.

      Aeclectic has a complete listing of feminist themed decks that’s worth looking into. I’m only speaking to the decks I’ve worked closely with here. I know off the top of my head there are plenty of others, such as the Motherpeace, but since I haven’t worked with them, I don’t have any personal insight to offer.

      Hope this helps.


      1. Thank you for the great response, I’m familiar with the “masculine” and the gay decks but nothing like she is looking for. I feel the same way, Tarot should be universal, but some choose these niche decks, if that s what you would call them.
        Bright Blessings,


  5. Deborah Drake

    I was looking at this deck on Amazon today and am also a lover of this artist. Although I am not well versed in his paintings as you, I also had “the Kiss” hanging on my bedroom wall. It was after I had gotten divorced and had moved into a “lesser” apartment. I painted my bedroom stark white with white bedding and the stark blackness of the painting’s background was perfect. It was a time of renewal for me. Later I added a second print of a woman curled in a fetal like position. I had long red hair and I started taking middle-eastern dance and she reminded me of myself (including the lack of a flat belly). You probably know the painting name. I don’t but feel that buying the deck is destiny. Thank you so much for this review.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Deborah Drake

        Thank you. I ordered both the deck and your book….although the size of your book scares me a bit. I just have to remember that no matter the size, I will only be reading a page at a time!


      1. When I first started using Golden Tarot, it didn’t appeal to me at all, as I wasn’t into collage art, but eventually, I found this deck really draws me in, and I get flashes of special insight. Some interesting reads too….
        Yesterday, after a well cut and shuffled deck, I drew 2W, 3W & 8W in a 3 card read, exactly in that order, and I drew from a fan spread too.
        I was speechless…


  6. jacquieds: I *LOVE* Kat Black’s Golden Tarot. Usually I’m not a fan of digital collage art on tarot decks, but I hardly noticed with Kat Black’s work. The Golden Tarot is great, and it reads surprisingly well for me, as it appears to be doing for you, too! I get the same experiences as you– eerily accurate results and/or eerie synchronicities.

    It’s so hard to choose between the three. As an all-purpose general go-to reading deck for someone reading with RWS, Kat Black’s is the one I’d recommend. You’ll get more mileage out of it. The Botticelli and Klimt feel more like collector’s decks, and I wouldn’t want the public handling them in readings. =P This Klimt deck, though, is fabulous. I’m loving it so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Tarot Mucha Deck Review | benebell wen

  8. Pingback: The Golden Botticelli Tarot by Lo Scarabeo – benebell wen

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