Not far from the fashionable harbor town of Porto Ercole on the Tuscan coast is the little known Giardino dei Tarocchi – The Tarot Garden – where, for an enchanting afternoon, you can experience a whimsical alternative reality. An enchanting modern sculpture garden beckons with a surrealist landscape of twenty-two vibrant, massive, fantastical, multicolored depictions of the Major Arcana depictions of the Major Arcana of the mystical and mythical Tarot cards
The garden is the public art masterwork born of the fertile imagination of self-taught French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle. A vibrant celebration of feminism, the garden represents a beguiling fusion of pop, folk, outsider art and surrealism. A great lover of Italy, de Saint Phalle was granted the land to create her magical world after a chance encounter with Marcella Agnelli, sister of Fiat industrialist Gianni Agnelli. She began work in 1979 and the colossal project consumed nearly two decades of her life.
Fully immersed in personally designing and building the statues (most measuring between 39 and 49 feet tall), de Saint Phalle hand-painted and decorated each with ornately detailed mirrors, mosaics, multi-colored ceramics and Murano glass, creating a kaleidoscope of colors, textures and shapes. The garden’s largest sculpture is of the Empress, symbolizing the great mother archetype as voluptuous woman-sphinx. An enormous hollow shell, its interior served as de Saint Phalle’s home while she worked on the garden. One of the figure’s breasts housed a lavishly-embellished living, dining and kitchen area and the other, a bedroom and bath.
Throughout the project’s lifespan, the artist enlisted a group of skilled collaborators in her “garden of joy.” Chief among those was her husband, Jean Tinguely, whose mechanical skills helped motorize and breathe life into several of the garden’s features and monumental sculptures. But the overall phantasmagorical design could ultimately be the brainchild of only one supremely gifted individual.
In Giardino dei Tarocchi, a visitor can not only admire the art but interact with it, whether climbing the Tower or playing the Wheel of Fortune. Niki de Saint Phalle meant for her Eden-on-earth to be touched and enjoyed by adults and children alike with all their senses . . . an evocation of – but also a brief respite from – the lifelong game of chance that is the story of the tarot.
Tis the season of angels, heavenly music, and nativity scenes!
Christian or not, we all know the Christmas Story, its characters and incidents … but many of us don’t realize that it is, in fact, an amalgamation of only two of the four Gospels which have been cobbled together.
Matthew tells of a nativity full of pageantry and procession with the arrival of the Three Magi — scholars, wise men from far, far away, with their finest gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to pay homage to a newborn King; while Luke shares a story of humble simplicity — of a babe born in a rustic manger surrounded by animals, and of local shepherds who come to adore him. Both gospels prominently feature angels in important roles as messengers who announce the arrival of the baby Jesus.
All of this has resulted in the creation of many a Renaissance masterpiece. Please enjoy this holiday slideshow featuring some of my favorite paintings, by Italian Renaissance masters … naturally. Photos features were either taken by me or sourced from Wiki-Commons and are in the public domain.
Wishing you all Buon Natale and Buon Capodanno as we all look forward to a brighter and more joyous 2021.
Buona Festa del Ringraziamento! It may be “Turkey Day” here in the States . . . but what better time to be grateful for the abbondanza that is Italian cuisine!
A special mille grazia to each of you for your enthusiastic support of Postcards from the Boot and my Italian cultural programs.
May your day, and the year ahead, be filled with abundance and joy.