Il Giardino dei Tarocchi or The Garden of Tarot is a sculpture garden based on the esoteric tarot created during the late 1970s by Niki de Saint Phalle in Garavicchio, province of Grosseto, Tuscany. Influenced by Gaudí’s Parc Güell in Barcelona, and the garden in Bomarzo, Niki de Saint Phalle decided to make something similar; a monumental sculpture park created by a woman. In 1979, she acquired some land in Garavicchio, about 100 km north-west of Rome along the coast. The garden, called Giardino dei Tarocchi in Italian, contains sculptures of the symbols found on Tarot cards. The garden took many years, and a considerable sum of money, to complete. It opened in 1998, after more than 20 years of work.
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Niki de Saint Phalle
Niki de Saint Phalle, born Catherine-Marie-Agnès Fal de Saint Phalle (29 October 1930 - 21 May 2002) was a French sculptor, painter, and film maker. While in Paris on a modelling assignment, Niki de Saint Phalle was introduced to the American painter, Hugh Weiss, who became both her friend and mentor. He encouraged her to continue painting in her self-taught style. She subsequently moved to Deià, Majorca, Spain, where her son, Philip, was born in May 1955. Gaudí’s influence opened many previously unimagined possibilities for Niki de Saint Phalle, especially with regard to the use of unusual materials and objets-trouvés as structural elements in sculpture and architecture. Saint Phalle continued to paint, particularly after she and her family moved to Paris in the mid-1950s. Her first art exhibition was held in 1956 in Switzerland, where she displayed her naïve style of oil painting. Inspired by the pregnancy of her friend Clarice Rivers, the wife of American artist Larry Rivers, she began to use her artwork to consider archetypal female figures “Nanas” in relation to her thinking on the position of women in society. In 1971, de Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely married.
The garden, with a strong esoteric component, includes the twenty-two major arcana of tarot:
- the Magician (with his hand covered with mirrors, and the inside of his head was painted by the English artist Alan Davie);
- the Great Popess (tribute to the Gardens of Bomarzo). With, in the center of a basin, the Wheel of Fortune and its water jets;
- the Force (female figure dominating the brutal force of a dragon);
- the Sun (a bird placed on an arc);
- the Death, riding a horse;
- the Devil, the World, the Madman;
- the Hanged Man (located inside the tree of life);
- the Justice (female figure);
- the Injustice (machine locked in Justice);
- the Lovers (Adam and Eve on a picnic);
- the Hermit, The Tower;
- the Emperor (pictured inside a castle);
- the Lust (a fountain with women playing in the water);
- the Empress (whose interior is entirely converted into an apartment covered with a mosaic of mirrors - this is where Niki de Saint Phalle lived and worked during the creation of the Garden);
- the Chariot, the Star, the Judgment;
- the Moon and Temperance.