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Published July 12, 2015 Updated January 07, 2023

Tarocco Siciliano

The highly individual Sicilian Tarot has the Italo-Portuguese suit system with straight, interlocking swords and batons, and maids instead of jacks

1960 Italy Portugal Modiano Sicilian Tarot Tarocco Add to Collection

The highly individual “Sicilian Tarot” has the Italo-Portuguese suit system (found also in Minchiate and some early Spanish packs) with straight, interlocking swords and batons, maids instead of jacks in all suits, and suppresses the four aces and lower numeral cards. Several of the 22 trumps have new classicised images replacing the older ones which were seen as offensive (and some are derived from Minchiate). Trump 1 (i Picotti) shows some lads playing. The banner held by trump 4 sometimes reads “La Constanza” which identifies it as one of the ethical virtues. Trump 11, the Hanged Man, shows a man lynched from a tree. Trump 14 shows a ship, trumps 16, 17 & 18 are not the customary scenes. Trump 19 shows Atlas holding the celestial globe and trump 20 shows Jupiter. In early packs the trumps carried roman numerals but from the 19th century arabic numerals are found.

The Fool and Miseria from Tarocco Siciliano No.94 manufactured by Modiano S.p.A., Trieste, c.1960

Above: the Fool is the highest ranking trump and serves to excuse the player from following suit. Miseria is the lowest trump, with no point-value, and ranking below trump 1.

The Court Cards

The cards are of a relatively small size compared to other tarocchi sets. The suits are of the Portuguese type, and the court cards are based on the Archaic South Italian or Portuguese pattern with Maids (Donne) as the lowest court figures of all suits, and intersecting batons and swords on the numeral cards. No aces are used in the game.

Court Cards from Tarocco Siciliano No.94 manufactured by Modiano S.p.A., Trieste, c.1960

Above: Tarocco Siciliano No.94 manufactured by Modiano S.p.A., Trieste, c.1960, 64 cards in box. An ace of coins is included for the purpose of carrying the tax stamp.

Further References

Salvatore Bonaccorsi, Nicola De Giorgio, Emilia Maggio: The origins of the “Portuguese” suit system for playing cards and tarots in Sicily

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


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