Decameron Tarot

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Decameron Tarot 2002 edition - The Emperor
Decameron Tarot 1993 edition - Il Re (The Emperor)


Lo Scarabeo's Decameron Tarot (I Tarocchi Del Decamerone) is a sexually explicit deck inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio's "Decameron", a 14th-century allegorical work best known for its bawdy tales of love, appearing in all its possibilities from the erotic to the tragic. However, the deck is not derived directly from the text in any discernible sense. For the most part, the stunning artwork depicts a variety of sexual situations in the medieval/comical/carnal milieu of Boccaccio's characters. The cards were illustrated by Italian illustrator Giacinto Gaudenzi. Gaudenzi also illustrated several other Lo Scarabeo decks, including the Celtic Tarot (Tarocchi Celtici), Enchanted Tarot (Tarots of the Golden Dawn/I Tarocchi del’Alba), Tarot of a Thousand and One Nights (Tarocchi delle Mille e una Notte) and the Tarot of Durer (Tarocchi Durer). The cards feature pencil drawings with watercolor.


Publishing details

ISBN 0738702404 (2002 edition)

Date of Publication


Deck creation and/or publication process

To create this edition, Gaudenzi expanded and revised an earlier trumps-only oversized deck printed in a limited edition of 300.

The Cards

Even the pips reflect the erotic nature of this deck. The Cups are represented by goblets decorated with cowrie shells (a fertility amulet), the stem of which is a nude woman. On the Coins, four entwined phalli are depicted together with a nude woman who exposes her genitalia. The hilts of each Sword are phallic, and each Wand is a carved wooden staff in the shape of a phallus.

For the second edition, only the Major Arcana, the courts and the Aces appear to have been created with traditional meanings in mind. The remaining pips are seemingly chosen at random from several different "story lines" that can be organized according to scenery and characters.

For instance, the following cards all belong to one such storyline, involving a blonde man and a dark-haired woman in scenes ranging from playful to violent:

These cards all center around a dark-haired young girl with three different lovers of three different ages; one young, one middle-aged and one old:

Four of the cards revolve around a woman in a harlequin costume:

These two cards show a farmer approaching his house, then entering:

Only three cards contain no reference to these three storylines or each other:

Despite the erotic nature of the deck, not all of the cards contain sexual imagery. Of the Major Arcana, only The Pope shows no nudity, though the sexual content is implied. Of the Minor Arcana, nine cards show no nudity or sexual content:

Only two cards depict homosexuality: two nude young men are shown on The Sun, and the Queen of Swords shows two women.

As stated above, several of the cards depict violent scenes, a fact which many readers find disturbing. In addition to this, several of the cards, especially when taken out of the context of their individual storylines, seem to show underage girls. This is the case with the Three of Cups. In some cards, due to the positioning of the characters and the way the images are cropped, the age of the characters is difficult to discern. One such card, The Emperor, was changed in the 2002 edition to eliminate this ambiguity.

Each card is numbered and the titles are printed in Italian, English, German, Spanish and French. The pips are called, in English, Wands, Chalices, Swords and Pentacles. The court cards are named King, Queen, Knight & Knave; Knights are shown on horseback and Knaves (Pages) standing. None of the Kings are shown with their respective Queens and none of the Queens are shown with their respective Kings. Part of the artist's name can be seen in relief on the Ace of Coins, which, like the Ace of Chalices, shows a couple. The other two Aces show individual women.

Creator's comments

To be added

Creator's website

To be added


Online Deck Images - links