Tarot Garden

July 15, 2009 / Places
tarotgarden1Influenced by Gaudí’s work in Barcelona, as well as the garden in Bomarzo, Niki de Saint Phalle was determined to create a monumental sculpture park to reflect women’s position in society. In 1979, she acquired land in Garavicchio, Tuscany, about 70 km north-west of Rome along the coast near the town of Capalbio.

Work on the garden began in 1979, with the main part carried out during the 1980s; it was officially opened to the public in May 1998. During construction, Niki de Saint Phalle lived in the sphinx-like Empress, a mirror-glassed cavern complete with kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Today, visitors can step inside the tiny cave, although children are especially intrigued with the colorful depictions of friendly creatures throughout the garden.

tarotgarden2Called Il Giardino dei Tarocchi in Italian, it contains sculptures of symbols found on Tarot cards. The Tarot Garden is an exploration of the human condition whose medium is mosaic on a monumental scale. These brightly colored buildings and sculptures reflect the metaphysical qualities represented by the 22 main tarot cards. Not concerned with the fortune telling use of cards, she was interested in the elements of life’s experiences, personality and self-knowledge to which they refer.

Although she died in 2003, her shining legacy remains for thousands of visitors to experience each year.

Evanne Brandon-Diner

by Evanne Brandon-Diner

Chronicler of local village life in Northern Lazio, and property restoration and purchasing consultant. www.lavventuraitalia.com

3 Responses to “Tarot Garden”

  1. louise

    Fascinating! Thanks for the history of this very strange place and the great pictures.

  2. Gian Banchero

    Beautiful, beautiful art… I don’t know if it’s exclusively an Italian penchant for constructing rustic art as such but in my once Italian neighborhood here in the Westbrae District of Berkeley, California, we once hosted similar artistic fantasies, be them from mosaics in the front of homes, religious shrines, to gardens that hosted beautiful or delightfully grotesque shaped trees, since there was an Italian immigrant cement sculpture in the community his works were included in our gardens (I still have a few of his works). Sadly as the immigrant population passed on their visual contributions were thrown out.
    I’ve noticed here in the San Francisco Bay Area that there are still a few Italians with fantasy gardens…. From the fellow in Fresno, California who built the underground chambers to Sam Rodia at the Watts Towers it is obvious that there is something in our blood that says “Let ‘er go.” It’s something I can’t escape from myself being that within the last ten years I’ve not only put up a 4′ x 4’ painting on the front fence but also esoteric plants and have allowed the appearance of little stone statues, but it’s nothing compared to Niki’s Tarot Garden.

  3. Stanley Crabb

    I remember the “monsters” at Bomarzo near Rome, most of that in disrepair when I last saw it. But, THIS — we never knew anything about this. We left Italy in 1986 when it was being born, I guess. Great work and the write-up was excellent. Thanks. Stanley Crabb


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