Nicolas Conver Tarot
- 1 History
- 2 Description
- 3 Colour palates and colour schemes
- 4 Other noteworthy differences between the BN and LS models
- 5 Creator(s)
- 6 Modern re-creations
- 7 Publishing details
- 8 Deck creation and/or publication process
- 9 Localisation of original Conver decks
- 10 Reviews
- 11 Sources
- 12 Online Deck Images - links
The Nicolas Conver Tarot, first published circa 1760, is a well-known version of the Type II Marseille Tarot. Older well-known versions are the Jean Noblet Tarot and the Jean Dodal Tarot first published circa 1650 and circa 1701, respectively (but these are Type I Tarot de Marseille).
The Conver deck is arguably the best known historical version of the Marseille Tarot in modern times because of Paul Marteau, at the time owner of the large card-manufacturing Grimaud house, who "drew" his Grimaud Ancien Tarot de Marseille deck based on a model of the Conver deck (and also the Arnoult Lequart and the Arnould Grimaud decks) and published it circa 1930.
Since it has been published during 120 years, several editions do exist. One way of keeping them apart is looking at the different backs. Another clue is given by the degradation of wood blocks used to print the decks.
Typical for the Conver deck is the light blue color.
- Court cards: 'V.T' on the shield of LE CHARIOT
- Pip cards: fleurs-de-lis on the '4 de deniers'; '1760 / Nas Conver' on the '2 de deniers'; fleurs-de-lis and 'G M' on the '2 de coupes'.
- Series of lines near the titles on LAMOUREUX, LA JUSTICE, LA FORCE, LA LUNE, LE SOLEIL, ROY DE BATON, ROY DE COUPE, VALET D'EPEE, REYNE D'EPEE, CAVALIER D'EPEE
Colour palates and colour schemes
The Conver deck was published by Nicolas Conver and his successors between 1760 and 1880. During that period, there were different colour palates and colour schemes used. The original palate of colours used is generally accepted as consisting of the following seven colours:
- black (lines)
- dark blue
- sky blue
Of course, there is also the back of the card which is beige.
With the age, some original Conver’s deck has "lost" their colors : the pink has faded to beige-pink (very similar to the background), the green to very-dark-green, etc. The faces and hands were originally in pink (that faded with times), but it seems that some characters has their hands or faces without colour (beige of the background).
Colors on the trumps, court cards and pips
- most of the trumps use all the seven colors.
- most of the court cards use all the seven colors.
- all the pips (except the aces) use only four colors (black, sky blue, yellow and red)
- all the aces use the same color of the oher pips, plus a fifth color (green)
Bibliothèque nationale model
The colours of the model of the Conver deck that is housed at the Bibliothèque nationale (BN) in Paris have faded and changed due to age, wear and tear. The most significant example is the green that changed to a very-dark-green.
The BN model includes a eighth color (bright-pink) on the faces and hands of the characters, but it seems that it has been added by Héron. So the Héron has the original pink (becoming beige-pink with the ages) AND a bright-pink.
The BN model (including its colour palate and colour scheme) served as
- the basis of the photoreproduction deck published by Héron,
- the basis of Jean-Claude Flornoy's restoration of the Nicolas Conver Tarot, and
- the starting base for the Jodorowsky-Camoin Tarot de Marseille.
Circa 1880 model of the Conver deck
In the 19th century, the Conver printing house printed a version of the Conver deck (the so-called Camoin Conver) using a palette consisting of six colours (being the seven colours of the BN model except gold). As evidenced by a circa 1880 model of the Conver deck (in the custody of the Camoins, descendants of Conver, and later donated to the City of Marseille), the colour scheme used was substantially different from that used in either of the BN or LS models. Although it uses six colours, the colours blue, red and yellow predominate in the 1880 model's colour scheme.
Grimaud Ancien Tarot de Marseille
Inspired by the 1880 model's colour scheme favouring the predominate use of blue, red and yellow, Paul Marteau used the seven colour palette of the BN model but predominately used the colours blue, red and yellow. However, the colour scheme used by Marteau is substantially different from the 1880 model and from either the BN or LS models.
The model used for the Lo Scarabeo photoreproduction
The model (LS model) used for the Lo Scarabeo photoreproduction deck marketed as "Ancient Tarots of Marseilles" appears to be similar to the BN model in terms of colour palette and colour scheme, but with present day differences in hue. The greens and yellows in the LS model in its present day condition are more vibrant, perhaps because of differences in colour fading over the centuries or perhaps because of differences in original hues.
Rather than the seven colours, the LS model appears to use six colours (i.e., the seven colours of the BN model except golden-yellow).
The colours of the LS model do not appear to have been applied by the printer as carefully as they were on the BN model. Quaere whether this suggests that the LS model was a lower-priced version issued by the printer.
Other noteworthy differences between the BN and LS models
While the BN model is complete with 78 cards, the LS model is missing the 6 of Batons. The Lo Scarabeo deck replaces the missing card of the LS model with a 6 of Batons that is a 'doctored' version of the LS model's 7 of Batons.
Nicolas Conver (may be a pseudonym)
Note the initials 'G' and 'M' on the '2 de coupes'. Would those be the initials of the actual carver of the printig wood blocks?
Jean-Claude Flornoy, a French cardmaker painted several trumps based on the Conver Tarot de Marseille.
Igor Barzilai, a French cardmaker painted and created a restoration using old paper techniques.
Christophe Poncet, restored and published a limited edition (500 pcs) of the 22 trump cards.
Kevin Meunier, restored and published his edition in 2010.
Date of Publication
first published circa 1760, last published in 1880.
Conver tarots have been published from 1760 till 1880 by Nicolas Conver, Nicolas Conver's widow and Nicolas Conver's sons.
Deck creation and/or publication process
The wooden moulds used to print the original Conver decks are now part of the collection of the city of Marseille.
Localisation of original Conver decks
A list of original Conver decks in collections by Kenji: 
The oldest originals are probably the 9 cards of the Miike Playing Card Memorial Museum (Omuta, Japan).
To be added
- Thierry Depaulis, Tarot, jeu et magie, (exhibition catalogue), Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, 1984. p. 72 - 73