Tarot world has lost one of its brightest stars. Osvaldo Menegazzi, master craftsman of the tarocchi and the founder of Il Meneghello Edizioni, passed away on December 13th. The news was announced by his niece and Art Director of Il Meneghello, Cristina Dorsini. Anyone, who had the privilege and honour to meet Mr. Menegazzi, will know what an immense loss this is.
I first became aware of Osvaldo and Il Meneghello in 2002, after discovering an online article written by Arnell Ando. The article featured highlights of the Tarot History Tour of Italy, led by the late, great Brian Williams. The timing couldn't have been better: I had just begun my exploration into tarot history. I wrote to Arnell and thanked her for writing the article, hoping we would one day meet in Italy. A year later, my parents decided to travel to Northern Italy for a holiday. They had spent some time in Lake Garda region in the seventies, and wanted to revisit the place. After looking at the map and discovering the relatively short distance between Riva del Garda and Milan, I gladly joined them. I had only one purpose in mind: travel to Milan, find Il Meneghello and meet Osvaldo Menegazzi, and spend every single dime on his cards.
Finding his shop was easy, but to my disappointment the door was shut and bolted. I gave a couple of knocks and waited; nothing. I thought "Just my luck." As I was about to leave, the door suddenly opened, and there stood Osvaldo Menegazzi: "Sì? Ah, piacere!" It was the best day of my tarot life - no contest. As I mentioned in my letter to Arnell after the trip, Osvaldo's laughter, charisma and his heart of 24k gold could melt a glacier. Back then, my Italian wasn't too good (it still isn't), but it didn't matter - we both spoke Tarot. I spent an obscene amount on tarot packs, books, boxes, uncut sheets of cards - anything I could find at the shop - rushing back to catch the bus with three huge bags full of tarot treasures, and memories to cherish forever.
Arnell Ando writes: "Osvaldo Menegazzi created his first deck, 'Le Conchiglie Divinatorie' (Seashell Divination) in 1974. He soon established Il Meneghello publishing house and over the years has dedicated himself to recreating historically significant decks while designing mesmerizing works of art and tarot. Il Meneghello has become a principal publishing house of cards treasured by collectors and museums the world over... The special editions of Il Meneghello are of particular value for their craftsmanship which make them unique in the world."
A self-taught artist, Menegazzi studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brera. He was a creative genius, whose endless imagination produced many original works of tarot (how about Tobacco Tarot for starters?). In 2013 the Ministry of National Heritage and Cultural Activities gave permission to Il Meneghello to reprint the 22 Major Arcana cards of the Sola-Busca Tarot, which the Pinacoteca di Brera had purchased in 2009 for 800,000 euros.
In this world obsessed with anything and everything digital, computerised images and now AI, you carried the tradition of the Quattrocento of hand-made tarots - fatti a mano. A real-life Master Artisan of Tarot, that you most certainly were.
I managed to participate twice on the Tarot Art & History Tours, organised by Arnell Ando together with Michael McAteer and the Italy Team: Morena Poltronieri and Ernesto Fazioli of the Museo dei Tarocchi, and Andrea Artoni, our fantastic driver. The first reunion with the Maestro happened in 2011, eight years after my initial visit. By then, Il Meneghello had moved to a new and bigger space to Via G. Fara. I wasn't sure if Osvaldo would remember me, but he gave me a big hug with his typical "Ciao!" The amount of charm he had... I swear he could've charmed the socks off of a steel cage. Four years later we met again. In 2017, when Osvaldo was 86, Il Meneghello moved to its current, even bigger location - no small feat.
Il Meneghello is every tarot aficionado's dream come true. A Tarot Paradise in central Milan, within walking distance from the Duomo. The place is stacked from floor to ceiling with cards - tarot, tarock, playing cards - sheets, books, Osvaldo's famous "shadow boxes", hand-made card boxes... everywhere you look, there's tarot. Prepare for a shock (albeit a nice one) when entering!
I hope with every cell in my body that Il Meneghello will continue to operate at Corso di Porta Ticinese, 53. It is one of the Lighthouses of Tarot, a completely unique place in the world, pulsating with the living spirit of tarot. You know it when you step in; you're in it.
It breaks the heart to imagine your chair, now empty, in front of the table where you always used to work. Your tools there, no one using them anymore. Your wax seal stamp tool, waiting.
Farewell, Maestro Menegazzi. I hope you're toasting on the other side with Brian Williams, Alberto Milano, Michael Dummett, Vito Arienti, and all your other buddies. We will continue here, doing our best, what we can. But we will all miss you terribly. Ci vediamo, one day.
ArnellArt: Osvaldo's Tarot Frame
Artribune: I Tarocchi fatti a mano di Osvaldo Menegazzi
National Geographic: Explore Tarot's Centuries-old History in Milan
Great Big Story: The Handmade Art of Tarot Cards