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Paolo Veronese (1528-88), "The Choice of Hercules"

History and Iconography

Early representations

In the earliest known list of the Trumps (Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis), this card is called L’Amore (Love). The Visconti-Sforza Tarot depicts Love as a couple holding hands, which some believe to be a depiction of Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti, whose marriage took place in 1441. A winged and blindfolded Cupid stands on a fountain and prepares to throw his arrow.

On the Cary Sheet, the card that probably represents the Lovers is only partly preserved. We can see the legs of a man and the long gown of a woman, with a little chair standing close-by. On the Rosenwald Sheet, the figure of Cupid, complete with blindfold, bow and arrow, dominates the scene: below him a man kneels before a woman, declaring his love.

Tarot de Marseille

In the Tarot de Marseille, this card was titled L’Amoureux (The Lover) and deviates from previous representations by the addition of a second female figure: a young man now stands between two woman and seems to be confused and unsure about what to do next. The image can be interpreted as the choice between vice and virtue - the stern woman on the right is crowned with laurel leaves and symbolises the road that leads to victory, while the attractive woman on the left is crowned with flowers to symbolise the road of sensuality. A Cupid hovers above the scene in front of a radiant sun and prepares to shoot his arrow.

The iconography of the Tarot de Marseille Amoreux seems to be connected to a subject that is often found in XVI Century and later painting. The subject is known as "Hercules at the Crossroad", or "The Choice of Hercules". The version painted by Paolo Veronese is close to the TdM image. In such paintings, Virtue is represented by Pallas (wearing a laurel crown) and pleasure by Venus (crown of flowers). In his "Studies in Iconology - Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance" (chapter 2) Erwin Panofsky discusses one such painting by Nicolo' Soggi. Other interesting versions are those painted by Annibale Carracci and Pompeo Batoni. In the paintings, usually Cupid is not represented.

The Lovers from the Fey Tarot

20th-century representations

The Waite-Colman Smith names this card The Lovers, gets rid of the second female figure and instead depicts Adam and Eve nude in the Garden of Eden. Adam stands before the Tree of Life that bears 12 fruits, while Eve stands before the Tree of Knowledge. Cupid has been transformed into an archangel who overlooks the scene and opens his arms in a welcoming gesture.

Suggested Divinatory Meanings

The Lover(s) obviously stands for love and romance, fulfilment and peace, and a harmonious meeting of opposites. However, especially in the tradition of the Tarot de Marseille, the card is often interpreted as denoting choices and a need for guidance; it might indicate that you have to get your priorities straight and have to re-evaluate what you believe in, in order to move forward with renewed confidence. Compare the Waite-Smith (left) and Marseille (right) versions to see how they portray these two different types of meanings:

The Lovers from Waite-Smith and Tarot de Marseilles


These are not accepted outside of those who follow such attributions


Golden Dawn oriented (and derivatives)

Numeral : VI; 6


  • Astrology
    • Type : Zodiac
    • Name : Gemini
    • Symbol : ♊
    • Element : (Air)
  • Alchemy
    • Type : Process
    • Name : Fixation
  • Colour : Orange
  • Yetziratic Intelligence (Golden Dawn Version): Disposing Intelligence
  • Musical Note (Paul Case Version): D Natural
  • Cube of Space position : East-Above
  • Tree of Life position : (3,6) (Binah, Tiphereth)
    • Interpretations :
      • Understanding of Beauty
      • Beauty of Understanding
The Lovers from Robin Ator's International Icon Tarot (in the Waite-Smith tradition)

In other languages

  • Dutch: Geliefden
  • French: L'Amoureux
  • German: Die Liebenden, Die Entscheidung
  • Hungarian: Szeretők, Szerelmesek, Választás
  • Italian: Gli Amanti, L'Innamorato, L'Amore
  • Portuguese: Os Enamorados, Os Namorados, Os Amantes
  • Spanish: El Enamorado