A Garden’s Major Arcana

The climax of our first full day, however, was the extraordinary ‘giardino dei tarocchi’. Inspired by Gaudi’s parco Guell in Barcelona and the stone monsters inhabiting the park at Bomarzo near Viterbo, the tarot garden was created by a remarkable woman and wife of Tinguely, Niki de Saint Phalle. Started in 1979 it was still incomplete when Niki died in 2002. The twenty-one cards of the major arcana are represented by sculptures of a high plasticity  decorated with glass intarsii and mosaics. Among the sculptures there are various machine-like creations by Tinguely himself.

As one present at Keane’s inauguration of his exhibition of paintings of the major arcana at Barga (see my post on that at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/a-major-arcana-at-barga/ ) I was particularly interested in visiting these gardens which had been on my mind for some time.

As Niki said ‘this garden was made with difficulty, love, wild enthusiasm, obsession, and most of all faith. Nothing could have stopped me.’

She continued ‘as in all fairy tales, before finding the treasure, I met on my path dragons, sorcerers, magician, and the Angel of Temperance.’

We spoke to an artist in Capalbio who described Niki as a sad woman. Perhaps it requires sad people to create places imparting joy and hope. Certainly, we came out of these extraordinary gardens quite exhilarated.

Just to remind you the symbols of the major arcana are the following:

Le Bateleur (The Mountebank, The Juggler, The Magician)

II. La Papesse (The Papess, or The Female Pope)
III. L’Impératrice (The Empress)
IV. L’Empereur (The Emperor)
V. Le Pape (The Pope, or The Hierophant)
VI. L’Amoureux (The Lovers)
VII. Le Chariot (The Chariot)
VIII. La Justice (Justice)
IX. L’Hermite (The Hermit)
X. La Roue de Fortune (The Wheel of Fortune)
XI. La Force (Strength, or Fortitude)

XII. Le Pendu (The Hanged Man)
XIII. [usually left unnamed, but “called” L’Arcane sans nom, La Mort, or Death]
XIV. Tempérance (Temperance)
XV. Le Diable (The Devil)
XVI. La Maison Dieu (The House of God, or The Tower)
XVII. L’Étoile (The Star)
XVIII. La Lune (The Moon)
XIX. Le Soleil (The Sun)
XX. Le Jugement (Judgement)
XXI. Le Monde (The World)
no number. Le Mat (The Fool)

See how many you can recognize in these pictures we took of this amazing garden. Let me remind you that the garden is an overwhelming tactile and visual experience which no photograph can properly capture. It’s also possible to enter inside several sculptures so that one experiences a psychedelic synthesis with subject and object, connecting into a transcendental oneness. Niki, herself, lived in some of these sculptures…

Truly, the giardino dei tarocchi has the extraordinary quality of disturbing, questioning but ultimately enthusing one. I was equally fascinated by the reactions of the visitors there which included all ages together with a healthy variety of pet dogs. The ‘giardino’ does achieve its purpose of uniting humans into wonder, joy and harmony. We need creations like Niki’s to truly bring the world together!

PS The garden is near Capalbio just off the Via Aurelia near the Lazio/Tuscany border.


4 thoughts on “A Garden’s Major Arcana

  1. A truly inspirational playground park for all children and childlike adults as well as adults of all ages. So full of colour and imagination light and sparkle curves and angles apertures and peep holes of all shapes and sizes. It was exhilarating and exciting to wander around a most magnifiscent themed creation unique and naturally a major work of art immersed in a most wonderful natural surrounding of Nature.

  2. I’m so glad to hear this was the highlight for you as well. I moved to Capalbio (Scalo) four years ago and have been to the Tarot Garden 10 times or so. I always feel unique energy there. If it’s sadness, it’s been well gotten rid of by way of creation. And I see that you’ve enjoyed some of my top ten towns around here, such as Pitigliano and Sovana. Truly an extraordinary and varied region. I wish you happy Italy (I don’t know if you live here or was just visiting but in any case).

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