The heart of Milan hides a wonderful gem, a little shop that is a like a museum and an artisan workshop too: Il Meneghello.
Its owner is Osvaldo Menegazzi, an artist whose works are focused on the production of handmade tarot cards and related watercolor paintings.
Don’t mistake his activity for a low-profile one: they are a relevant and historical Publishing House in the international landscape of tarot decks, one of the first exporters of tarots made in Italy, with editions preserved all around the world.
Since almost 50 years of activity, Il Meneghello Edizioni creates original decks and reproduces by hand decks from the XV century to our current times.
We have had the chance to talk to Osvaldo and his daughter Cristina Dorsini – art historian specialized in Italian card games – in a private interview.
We have now the honor to tell with you what they shared with us.
How are your cards made?
You can see what I’m doing right now: I’m making a new weird deck using watercolor.
[Osvaldo is sitting on his desk, drawing a preparatory model for The Devil card of his new deck]
Everything is handmade, a high-level artisan production. The decks are reproductions or originals. Cristina – art historian – asks for permission in museums to let me draw their historical decks. They give us the images of the originals or the originals themselves and then the only mechanical thing is the lithographic print. After this, I cut every sheet by hand and I create the packaging, always by hand.
How is a tarot deck born?
Just like that, by the inspiration of the moment. I do two or three decks a year, but there’s not a definite scheme to do it. They are born suddenly, like the one I’m making right now: it came to me without a reason.
[Cristina adds:] when we want to make specific decks, though, like the Kuniyoshi ones, we study the art and poetics of the author. Then we choose some of their works based on the arcana meanings. Osvaldo chooses them and he draws them.
What was the first card deck you have ever made?
It was the year 1974. We have it here, it was a fun work to do. “The divinatory shells by Osvaldo Menegazzi”. It consists of 22 cards and it had good success.
Great artists like Gottuso make tarot cards deck under commission, but it’s not easy for them to enter into the spirit of the work. The tarot card artist needs to have a true passion. I do it because I have been in this environment for about 70 years. Tarots are not an easy subject.
What is the card you prefer to make?
The Death card is one of my favorites, it’s very interesting. I begin drawing a deck from that one.
Many tarot deck collectors have a passion for that card because it’s about positive changes, great changes in our lives.
Do you read the cards?
I don’t really do readings in the shop, nor in my personal life. That is a whole other job, it’s not easy and even dangerous. You have to approach to card in a simple, almost cheerful way.
Someone says hurtful things. It’s better to be cautious. It’s not a light thing, te capi’?
What is the tarot deck you’re most proud of?
Cristina: the decks from the XV century; the Gumppenberg ones from the XVIII century in Milan; the Visconti decks, because of their history, their meaning and from an artistic point of view: they have a particular symbology.
What does ‘Il Meneghello’ mean?
It’s a word originated from “Milanese”. “Meneghino” is a Milanese dialect and “Meneghello” is an alteration of that. We chose this name not only because we’re the house of the Milanese tarots. Tarot cards were born here in the XV century.
So, this is how the unique tarot cards artisan told us his story.
We hope that this encourages you to look for special tarot realities in your own town. Let us know if you find anything interesting!