The Barbieri Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2015) is not a designed-as-such deck. Instead, the artwork was picked from a pre-existing portfolio, and this rather shows. For one thing, there is not a consistent feel to the art style. For another, the images are sometimes rather a stretch to connect to traditional interpretations, though they have clearly been picked by someone knowledgeable. And the LWB is written by Barbara Moore, whose tarot credentials no-one can question.
And some images are really a propos. For instance, this Moon card has a fey creature sitting on a rock formation that could be a sleeping monster, cadaverous and frightening, and gazing up at a misty full moon. This certainly hints at fears and doubts that spring up in the dark of night, or the dark of our own mind: when the world around us looks bleak and frightening, shadows transforming into monsters.
Barbieri often focuses on human figures, and this works quite well for the Court cards. This Page of Cups is nicely playful, immersed in watery depths with wonders all around. However, the sword that makes up part of her buccaneering costume really doesn’t fit with her suit, confusing the matter.
The Aces are also somewhat variable. The Ace of Wands, shown here, has a dragon rising out of fire, so clear on the elemental attribution of this suit. And a dragon works well for representing energy and the potential for growth. However, the Ace of Swords also has a dragon on it, though admittedly coiled around the hilt of a sword. And when we look to the Ace of Cups. it is just a woman’s face that appears to emerge from the earth (cracked soil at her forehead). She has smeary lipstick, and other than the green colour to one side of her face I can’t really see why she was chosen for this card.
Likewise, this Three of Swords image does not speak to me of heartache, loss, painful thoughts, or any traditional interpretations. Though I guess having a flesh-eating skin condition might make one feel the loss of health and beauty. Still, perhaps it’s her expression she was chosen for: she certainly looks haunted. Though I see more anger than sorrow in her somewhat fierce gaze…
The artwork varies from photo manipulation to images that seem closer to traditional oils, to the more cartoony style shown in the Page above. As is often the case in the fantasy genre, there is a preponderance of pretty, young women, shown in close-up and sometimes rather scantily clad. Male figures are occasionally old, and more often shown at a distance, or in the form of monsters: fiercesome, Chewbaca-type creatures ready to do battle in the Seven of Wands, or tiny knights fighting on the backs of huge dragons for the Six of Wands (one looks like he has the upper hand, so perhaps that is where we can see the idea of victory, and he certainly couldn’t have achieved it without the dragon for support).
And as I mentioned, the art is taken from a pre-existing portfolio. For example, in my unboxing video I commented on the same characters being used for the Lovers and the Three of Cups (the Two of Cups would have been more understandable). Looking at Barbieri’s website, it turns out these two images were created for the covers of two books in the same series.
Altogether, if you’re a huge fantasy fan, and like somewhat non-traditional decks, then this may appeal. However, it is not the strongest of Lo Scarabeo’s offerings.