Sola-Busca Tarot (privately commissioned deck)

Sola-Busca tarot. Privately commissioned, Italy. Full tarot deck, Mediterranean suited, 78 single-headed cards. Size: 82mm x 150mm approx. (but opinions vary).

Deck make-up:
Trumps: 0-21.
Coins, clubs, cups, swords: A, 2-10, foot jack, mounted jack, queen, king.

The Sola-Busca deck comprises 78 cards including 22 trumps and 56 pip cards. It is the earliest known tarot deck to be structured this way, a structure which most contemporary divinatory tarot decks emulate, including the Rider-Waite-Smith and Thoth decks (see links at end of page). It is also the earliest known tarot deck in which the trump cards are named and numbered, and the earliest known deck to include rich artwork for all 56 pip cards.

The deck is named after the Milanese family, Sola-Busca, who originally owned the complete set that is now in the Brera Museum in Milan (though a number of incomplete sets also exist in other collections). The deck was created in the late 15th century, and was engraved onto metal and coloured with tempera and gold. Based on the resemblance with other works, the cards have been attributed to Ancona-born painter Nicola di Maestro Antonio. It seems that the background colouring was possibly added by Marin Sanudo, a Venetian humanist and historian.

The characters depicted in the Sola-Busca cards include Nebuchadnezzar and Gaius Marius, the uncle of Julius Caesar. The trumps loosely follow the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, but also include members of the Roman Pantheon such as Bacchus.

The similarity between some of the artwork of the ubiquitous Rider-Waite-Smith deck of 1909 (see links at end of page) and that of the Sola-Busca indicates that the artist of the former, Pamela Colman Smith, drew inspiration from the earlier work. Smith created the art for the Rider deck two years after the exhibition of a set of black-and-white photographs of the Sola-Busca deck by the British Museum. Notable similarities include the 3 of swords card and the 10 of wands card.

Click on any card to explore the design.

(Comments or corrections, please e-mail: Click to see e-mail address.)

Trumps

Coins

Clubs

Cups

Swords

Links to other full tarot and divinatory decks

Ancient Italian Tarot / Tarocchino Milanese (Lo Scarabeo)

Tarot: Sp├ęcial Cercle / Tarot Nouveau / Tarot A Jouer / Jeu De Tarot / Bourgeois Tarot (Grimaud)

The Golden Dawn Tarot (U.S. Games Systems)

Grand Jeu De Mlle Lenormand (Grimaud)

(Petit) Lenormand / "Blue Owl" Lenormand (AGM-Urania)

Grand Etteilla (Tarots Egyptiens / Egyptian gypsies tarot) (Grimaud)

Tarot De Marseilles (Conver-Camoin)

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (Rider)

Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot Deck (AGM-Urania)

The Urban Tarot (U.S. Games Systems)

Minchiate Fiorentine (Baragioli)

Le Tarot Astrologique / The Astrological Tarot (Grimaud)

Learning Tarot Cards (Witchy Cauldron)

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