First, Eugene Vinitski and Elsa Khapatnukovski took us to Venice of Italia with the Golden Venetian Lenormand and now to Spain with the Spanish Lenormand. This is a Petit Lenormand Oracle based on Johann Kaspar Hechtel’s Game of Hope, circa the late 18th century. The deck consists of 36 cards-symbols expressed through brilliant Pyrenean colors and cast with the mystery and magic of Iberian witches–las brujas (Iberia being the Land of Rivers).
What’s most standout about this deck is the art. Note how Vinitski adds a lot of texture to his work, a la the Post-Impressionist painters of continental Europe. You get the sense that the artist is a Romantic at heart. As I go through these illustrations, the call to my mind early Modernists such as Marc Chagall (1887 – 1985) and stylistic traces of Jean Metzinger (1883 – 1956).
Striking use of color, the subtle use of color blocking, and geometric texturing from Byzantine legacies define the style of Vinitski and Khapatnukovski’s Spanish Lenormand. This deck is a heartfelt tribute to La Piel de Toro, The Bull Skin., a beloved nickname for Spain.
Let’s start with some production value notes and the card back design.
I am loving the reversible card backs, and the bold red and gold, reminiscent of the red and yellow flag of Spain. The red is symbolic of strength and valor, and the blood spilled from bull-fighting. The yellow is generosity of spirit and the sun.
The deck is edged with a bright ruby red, and when you fan the cards out you see the bands of red and yellow — it’s thoroughly cool. The cards have a high-gloss finish that fans and shuffles with effortless slip.
As a collectible, the Spanish Lenormand is a wonder, and I’m grateful for the companion guidebook that details each image. Let’s walk through some of these cards, guidebook in hand, to demonstrate just how many layers of thought went into rendering this oracle. We start with Card 1. The Rider is atop an Andalusian steed, returning after a race across the coasts of the port city Cádiz.
The Clover card is El Cid’s victorious gallop in the fields of Castilla where the fallen soldiers’ brave hearts flash in the scarlet poppies– red poppies are a symbol of remembrance.
The ship in Card 3 flies the flag of the Spanish Royal Navy, sailing along the Sargasso Sea. The Cloud card is the somber sky over Toledo looking like a foreboding of the wars that the famous Toledo swords were forged for.
The Snake card tells the story of tangled palace intrigue at the Court of Madrid, and the Coffin card features a hearse carriage heading toward the San Amaro Cemetery. Meanwhile the Birds take us to the plains of Consuegra.
The Scythe card is a scene from a small provincial town in La Rioja, and, noting the close-up view above, exemplifies that Post-Impressionist style that Vinitski has adopted for this deck. The color blocking here adds a dynamic force to the image.
Continuing on with this walkthrough of the cards, the Child depicts a pastoral scene of peasant life in Leon. The Fox takes us to Granada. Card 15, traditionally featuring a Bear, is the image of a Bull, an incarnation of vital strength and the unofficial national symbol of Spain.
Ooh, dunno why but the headless woman in The Child card freaks me out. =) Reading the card description for this card from the guidebook, I also love the added layer of exploring social class dynamics.
Card 17, The Stork, features a cartwheel amidst a field of troops. There’s a tense balance here between war and peace. Also, here again you see the simulation of distinct, expressive brush strokes, and subtle nods to geometric patterns iconic of the Post-Impressionist style.
That Card 20, The Garden, is stunning. It features a royal card, inspired by Alcazar, Cordoba, Seville, and Madrid. The Mountain is a scene from northeastern Spain in Catalonia. The deck in totality presents a beautiful balance of cool blue tones of night and the warm tones of day.
The Gentleman and the Lady cards are dancers of the passionate flamenco. The Gentleman represents the “blazing energy of Spain and of the whole world” while The Lady, with her “eyes shining like daggers,” is the eternal and enigmatic dance of beauty. She embodies the “unrestrained pursuit of happiness.” Card 30, The Lilies, is a portrait of a the maiden and mother, the harlot and Madonna, the nun and the witch, all incorporated into one.
It’s truly the minds and talent behind TarotMania that make their decks so mangical. Vinitski is a beloved tarot deck artist and creative mind behind some of our community’s favorite decks– the Venetian Tarot, Kabbalistic Tarot, Tarot of Magical Correspondences, Magic Tarot of the New Aeon, Tarot of Forbidden Dreams, just to name a few.
Khapatnyukovski, who wrote the companion guidebook, is an art historian, scholar of ancient prediction systems, and seasoned tarot practitioner who has collaborated with Vinitski on many of his tarot and oracle projects, such as Tarot of Chateau Avenieres, Madhouse Tarot, and the Seals of Solomon Magic Cards (click on any of the hyperlinks for my deck review).
Totally random, but it’s a sudden thought prompted by the above photo– Card 34, The Fish reminds me of those 18th and 19th century still life paintings of food….and fish. Doesn’t it? Exhibit A – “Fish (Still Life”) circa 1864 by Édouard Manet. Heck, google “still life with fish painting” andyou’ll see what I mean. =)
Majestic, sublime, and grandiose– that’s how I’d describe the Spanish Lenormand.
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