As in Alice in Wonderland … Thus begins the journey in the historic Bottega del Meneghello in Milan. It seems incredible that this place is located just steps away from Corso Como, the heart of the city of fashion and Piazza Gae Aulenti, the hub of the recent “vertical” transformation, built-up endeavor.
The shop in Via Fara, number 5 seems to not know the noise of the city and its construction sites, almost giving the idea of being there since the dawn of time. Far from any reference of time or space, it is the home of Osvaldo Menegazzi, the “Maestro”, which here creates, paints, collects and shows his works alongside his Muse, Cristina Dorsini, niece and art director at the Il Meneghello publishing house. It is she who accompanies Alice during her journey through the hidden wonders within the atelier and it is she who introduces the theme which has so inspired all the works of Il Meneghello, Tarot cards.
Tarot cards appeared in Italy in the 15th Century, most likely just in Milan in the Visconti Court (Lords of the city from 1277 to 1447), one of the main sites for the spreading of the culture of that period. Generated here were fashions, styles and games which then taken and adapted in all the European courts. Playing with Tarot cards was a way to pass the time but not only. The cards, in fact, had a strong symbolic value, contained religious and philosophical teachings and had images representative of the protagonists of the history of time. Cristina underlines the artistic and historical value of the so-called “Visconti di Modrone” deck, the oldest in which it is possible to note the presence of particular allegorical cards, identified with the name of Triumphs.
Tarot cards are as follows: 56 Minor Arcana (in turn divided into Numbered and Court cards) and 22 Major Arcana (or Triumphs). The latter cards have names such as “The Emperor”, “The Hierophant”, “The Magician”, but also of virtue and other images (“Temperance”, “Judgment”, “The High Priestess”…) which over the centuries have been enhanced with alchemical references important enough to make the Triumphs – from the end of the 18th Century – fundamental tool of the art of divination and synthesis of the esoteric dimension.
But what has drIven Osvaldo Menegazzi to become “the painter of Tarot cards” from that which he was, an antiquarian and metaphysical painter? “My passion came alive during the 1970s, when I came across the first deck of 78 cards, the result of an engraving effort dating back to the 18th Century.” Il Meneghello studied and gave much appreciated worth to this precious deck. In fact, in the cards, art and craftsmanship speak a common language which is transposed by all the senses: touching the prints, observing the color renderings and interpreting the author’s stylistic characteristics. This is the point in which the Maestro decided to embark on a new path and began to devote himself personally to the study and design of the cards. He is fully absorbed by this activity and it has allowed him to express an artistic streak which knows how to wander between the most diverse semantic fields.
The commitment of the Maestro does not stop there. Osvaldo Menegazzi founded the Il Meneghello publishing house to bring life back to ancient decks, giving them new luster and personally takes care of the reprints. The publishing house is soon put in light for the valuable work of giving worth to something old where nothing is left to chance; embossing, paper and colors everything exactly as it should bringing back the historical and artistic value of the Tarot cards. So much so that the museums themselves which preserve the cards have allowed for their printing. One of the most important and certainly one of pride for the Maestro is the “Sola Busca” deck, dating back to the late 15th Century and destined for the Este Court was reprinted in a limited edition in 2013 in occasion of the exhibition dedicated to it at the Pinacoteca di Brera .
In the Il Meneghello bottega, it is possible to breathe in all these experiences, just take a look at the walls, browse among the shelves or chat with Osvaldo and discover the secrets and mysteries of this magical world.
And thus come alive the decks dedicated to insects in which the arcane XVIII “The Moon” is represented by a firefly while the Praying Mantis embodies “The Devil” (XV) and a spider turns into ”The Hanged Man” (XII). From the world of nature, which is traveled far and wide (shells, fish, trees…), we move on to that of art with bouquets inspired by currents and styles as in the case of “The amazing journey of a mannequin by painter in 22 Major Arcana” (return to metaphysical painting) or to the one dedicated to Futurism.
Many are also the references to Eastern symbologies that are found in his paintings and in his artistic compositions: large collages where Tarot cards, drawings and sometimes ideograms as well as images of Indian gods together with various objects chasing each other – just like the characters of Alice’s world – yet to returning each time to a universe of varied and highly evocative symbols .
The ease with which the Maestro has been able to deal with subjects so diverse in the creation of his tarot cards suggests a hidden talent. In the universe of images of the Maestro, we find a rare alchemy of artistic sensibility, artisan skill and love for life.
Each year, the Maestro comes up with a new deck, starting with a sketch, a rough draft and works on it until the idea which guided his hand has not been reached. There are still plenty of worlds to explore and the work of Il Meneghello, in this sense, could go on forever. A niche of collectors and enthusiasts from Italy, but especially from abroad (France, USA and Japan, the countries more receptive to this form of art), renew interest year to year for the work of the Maestro. The limited editions, the careful attention paid to the packaging and all made by hand, the use of sealing wax and other craft materials, add value and uniqueness to each deck, real “Made in Italy” treasures.
Seventy is the number of decks printed so far over the past forty years of business at the shop, and certainly over time the number will increase at the expense of the physical space of the atelier which is shrinking.
At The Trendscendent we believe that every discovery we bring to our readers is a rendezvous with a destiny of excellence, like picking a card from a precious tarot deck of our maestro. Discover your card here , meet your destiny and let the Triumphs guide your path to excellence.