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The Boiardo 15th c Poem
Tarot history in brief

quotations from various people

Functions of Readings
What is Tarot?


Med. on XVIIII

Emily E. Auger

Tarot and Other Meditation Decks

L. Atkinson

Orphalese Software review

S. Arwen

Memory & Instinct

Kathy Berkowitz

Waite's Mystical Tradition (Pt 1)
Waite's Mystical Tradition (Pt 2)
Waite's Mystical Tradition (Pt 3)
Waite's Mystical Tradition (Pt 4)

Nina L. Braden

Tarot in Literature

David Brice

Birth of Tarot

Colin Browne

Square & Compasses Tarot

Lee A. Bursten

Journeys in Tarot Creation
Vachetta review


Review: The Lo Scarabeo Story

Ross G. Caldwell

Tarot History

Bonnie Cehovet

Tarology - Poetics of Tarot
Review: Secret of Tarot
The Mystereum Tarot

N. Chishty-Mujahid

Concerning Ghisi’s Laberinto

Craig Conley

A House of Tarot Cards

A.B. Crowther

Rachel Pollack interview

Jean-Michel David

On Paneurythmy and Tarot
Tarot's expression of the numinous
Yarker, Tarot & Arcane Schools
Waite-Smith Sun card
The Fool as Wandering Jew
Tarot as Christian Art
Education through Tarot
Tarot: the vatical & the sacral
Fortuna, Ass & Monkey
Steiner and Tarot
1701 Dodal restored!
Enc. Tarot vol I-IV: review
Christ, World & Sin
Caveat Emptor:
       Visual Tarot

Tarot & AlefBeit
Review: Jean Payen Tarot
Tarot and Freemasonry
I-Ching and Pip Cards
Whither directing your course?
Tarot & the Tree of Life
Ovid, Egypt and Tarot
When the Devil isn't the Devil
Four elements and the suits
Court Cards & MBTI
Certification & Codes
Jean Dodal Marseille
Conference FAQs
Golden Dawn
Kabalah & Tarot
Golden Tarot review
Annual spread
Iraqi Museum
Two Brief TdM reviews
Meditations on the Tarot

Enrique Enriquez

The Joy of Wordplay
J-C. Flornoy interview
Embodied Tarot
Indirect Suggestions
Whispering to the Eye

Mark Filipas

History of Egyptian Decks
Lexicon Theory

Jean-Claude Flornoy

in memorium
from Oral Tradition

Roxanne Flornoy

Children and Tarot
from Oral Tradition

Mary Greer

Killing the Thoth Deck
On the Tarot of the Four Worlds
Egypt, Tarot and Mystery School Initiations

William Haigwood

The Sixties: Counterculture Tarot

Alissa Hall

Parlour Tricks

Kris Hadar

The Tarot

Claas Hoffmann

Crowley-Harris 'Thoth' deck

Michael J. Hurst

Tarot Symbolism review

K. Frank Jensen

Century with the Waite-Smith

Shane Kendal

A Poetry of Tarot

Ken J. Killeen

The Metaphysical Bible

Barbara Klaser

Language of Tarot

E. Koretaka

Cardinal Virtues

Dovid Krafchow

Kabbalistic Tarot

Lisa Larson

Perceptions of Spirituality

Suzan E. Lemont

Therapeutic Tarot Work

Eric K. Lerner

Diloggun and Tarot

N. Levine

Tarot of Prague review

C. Liknaitzky

Journey in Ceramics

Joep van Loon

Tarot Wheel

Karen Mahony


S.J. Mangan

Fool, Alef & Orion

Robert Mealing

Petrarch’s Triumphs
Jean Noblet Tarot
Hunting the "true" Marseille Tarot
Cary Sheet

Fern Mercier

Playing the Fool

C. de Mellet

Inquiries into Tarot

Sophie Nusslé

Fantastic Menagerie

Robert V. O'Neill

Tarot Symbolism
Tower Iconology

Michael Owen

Xultun Tarot

Dan Pelletier

Magic Manga Tarot
the Blank Spot

Robert M. Place

The Fool's Journey

Debra Rosenthal

Looking at the Jacques Vieville

Mjr Tom Schick

Tarot Lovers Calendar

Inna Semetsky

Counseling Reading for Spouses
Learning the language of images
Re-Symbolization of Self
Tarot (dis)contents

Diana Sobolewska

'Bateleur's tale'

Russell Sturgess

Jesus's New Testament

N. Swift

Sufism & Tarot

Arthur E. Waite

Symbols of Tarot

Beginner’s Eyes: Looking at the Jacques Vieville

by Debra Rosenthal
© 2007

Sometimes the best way to see an image is to just look. Beginner’s mind means trying to stay completely open to the reality before you, and coincidentally not bothering with a lot of tiresome research. A beginner in the eternal "now" can blithely ignore history in order to truly appreciate appearance. You may perhaps penetrate "behind the veil" by taking the images seriously, exactly as they appear. Try it with the Jacques Vieville, a circa 1650 cubist masterpiece.

Many Mysteries


Visually, this deck raises more questions than it answers. What’s on the Bateleur’s table? The objects always seem a bit odd, but surely these are the most confusing-a transparent box? Is that a book over on the left?



The Vieville tarot depicts lots of detailed hands and feet, although most of the hands are oddly drawn, with fingers all wobbly or askew. Yet there are lovely fingernails where fingernails belong, and Strength (somehow number IX) has cute little toenails on her cartoony naked foot which is wrapped by the tail of the lion she’s suspended by the jaw. Is that a ribbon around Strength’s wrist? How did the lion end up in such a state? What’s the little loop down by the lion’s rear end? More mysteries. Note the lion’s elegant claws.


The Fool’s little dog, or maybe his cat, has clearly defined paws and claws, too. This detail is so well-done and yet the poor animal’s face is smooshed up against the fool’s thigh in a most uncomfortable and unrealistic fashion.


Speaking of hands, consider the fingers growing from the shoulders of the Hanged Man. And the hands of the dead below the scythe of Death (a harmoniously proportioned Death, with a nice mix of bone and flesh from the point of view of being creepy but not totally chaotic) are jauntily expressive. Perhaps they yearn for his many-colored cape. Death’s feet are beautifully rendered, especially the back one, although it’s hard to see from the cant of his hips if he’s coming or going.


Anatomical puzzles.


Death shares a "which direction?" problem with the Boy in the Tree Tower card and the Valet of Batons. To see this, start with Death. Which way is he going? Cover the bottom half of the body-he’s coming toward you, run for your life! Then cover the top half. Whoops. The impossible torso is even more pronounced for the Valet of Batons. Then see if the Bateleur, whose table is wonky by tradition, could possibly be standing on those feet of his. The Wheel of Fortune demonstrates Chance in more ways than one, as the image is totally impossible.

And yet, there it is.

What It Is and What It Is Not

The Vieville cards demonstrate the gap that’s developed between the accepted meanings and what the cards actually show. Consider the Sun. Honestly, if you didn’t know it was "supposed" to be a Very Good Card, wouldn’t you think exactly the opposite? Why is the little fella on the horse so happy, with only a banner between him and a scowling world-class grouch?


Today we say: The Star! Oh, joy, hope springs eternal! But the Vieville astrologer, with his compass, hourglass, and a baleful expression, seems cemented to his chair. Presumably he seeks order in the heavens, but perhaps he’s also disoriented by the cattywhompus floor tiles, and what IS all that stuff in the background? Oddly, for a card depicting science and art, this card has the most disturbing treatment of size and perspective.

Where Are You Going?


The Vieville devil rampages the countryside; you can practically hear the thud of his heels and his deep growly grunts. Part of his problem is that he’s got to haul around an entire committee everywhere he goes. His knee and shoulder (and maybe that forward elbow?) seem happy enough to be along for the ride, but the gent in his midsection looks bored with the whole thing: Are we there yet?

Beginners are always "there yet" because beginners are always here, now. In the "old man’s" cards, the Jacques Vieville, here now is sheer delight.

Thanks to the participants in the Aeclectic Tarot Forum for their insights.

1 comment to

Beginner’s Eyes: Looking at the Jacques Vieville

  • Hello, have you got the hermit, strength, judgment and death card images to go with the magician Jacques Vieville tarot cards.
    I would love to put them on my website.
    Kind Regards.

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