The Tarot of Jean Noblet
originals (Paris c. 1650) preserved in the French National Library and restoration
The originality of this extremely elegant tarot resides in its age and its unusually small size. It is the oldest known tarot of the “Marseille” tradition. One of its many particularities is that it dares identify Arcanum XIII, usually unnamed, and frankly call it « death ».
Noblet, even more than Dodal, belongs to a time when traditional knowledge was still being transmitted from master engraver to his apprentice. He is closer to the source than all who follow him: in this resides his greatest interest. Specialists, and all who enjoy significant details, will find plenty of features here worth examining.
I wish, however, to draw your attention to the fact that we see two different gestures at work in the graphics of these arcana. The one, very pure and assured, proof of a great mastery, and the other very “apprentice”! Throughout the year of work on, and daily contemplation of these images, I had the distinct impression that here was the last work of an accomplished master, but one who, through age or illness or both, was unable to produce the entire work himself. Certain images seem to have been completed, or entirely drawn, by someone extremely conscientious and totally exact as far as details are concerned, but nevertheless lacking the graphic talent of his master. I believe the Devil, the World and the Wheel of Fortune fall into this category.