The archetypical Tarot of Marseille, made by Nicolas Conver in his Marseille
workshop in the middle of the 18th century, served as a model for the
editors Lequart and Grimaud when they proposed a playing tarot in about
1890. Paul Marteau later based his 1930 symbolic tarot on their work.
Paul Marteau presented himself as a simple restorer, but in aligning
himself with the esotericism of his time he in fact produced an original
version. A comparison with Conver's 1760 Tarot, which Marteau claimed
to reproduce, provides unequivocal proof of this. Edited in several
languages, Marteau's tarot owed its global success as much to the huge
distribution effort of his editor as to the skill of the "restorer".
Today the Marteau remains the best-selling Tarot of Marseille, the one
most employed in divination. This is largely due to its availability
and to the fact that few tarot enthusiasts in our time recognize the
importance of traditional iconography. Marteau has produced a "copy"
of Convers line, but doesn't go so far as to depict the figure in XVII
the Star as pregnant. In reality she is bearing, being well situated
in a creative here and now, the future of traditional knowledge and
its transmission. Marteau does conscientiously reproduce the vague roll
of fabric below her left knee, but surely had no idea that this (leaving
the left knee "unveiled") was one of the traditional signs
of a master.
It is with respect to colours, however, that Marteau most demonstrates
his ignorance of image content: light blue (the colour evoking oceanisation:
the possibility of entering into the fetal mode of perception, in which
we are directly connected to the world surrounding us) no longer exists,
and the position and volume of the remaining shades is considerably
altered. Conver, one of the last to suspect there was something to be
directly apprehended through these images, depicts the young woman kneeling
in the water while pouring more water into it. Arcanum XVII belongs
to the stage of Mastery: this figure can now contribute to the collective
pool without disturbing it. The large amount of light blue testifies
to the strong presence of inspiration. Dark blue is limited to a small
area, expressing the long-acquired ability to come to terms with accumulated
sufferings. When we take these nuances into account, we can see to what
extent Marteau's version is non-sense. This deformed "traditional"
tarot was destined to pollute most of the Marseilles versions which
Times change. Now, at the end of the 20th century, a great need for
authenticity is becoming manifest. Before the incredible multiplicity
of novelty or "adapted" tarots, a return to the source is imperative.
I have re-edited hand-colored versions of the major arcana of both the Noblet and Dodal tarots. An industrial
78-card Noblet deck became available in June, 2007. Respect for the tradition has guided
these realizations: fidelity to the original line is paramount, as is the restitution
of colors which have been degraded over time and reduced in number by the cost-cutting
efforts of successive editors.
Maitre Jacques as pilgrim - Burgos, Spain