Vlad Dracula and the Tarot?

Believe it or not, there's a connection between the Impaler Prince and the first Tarot deck.


The story begins with the Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, who commissioned a deck of extravagant playing cards from an unknown artist sometime between 1418 and 1425. These cards were for the game Trionfi, as Tarot was called then, and only consisted of 60 cards. Many additional copies of this deck were later made for the Duke and his successors, and they are collectively referred to as the Visconti-Sforza Tarot decks.



Highly prized and extremely valuable, this deck was re-created in modern times in an excellent copy called "I Tarocchi dei Visconti" published by Italian company Dal Negro.


In 1423, Vlad Dracula's father, Vlad Dracul, was a young man serving in the court of the King of Hungary, King Sigismund. He was growing restless and wanted to make his own way in the world. The King was hesitant to let him leave the royal court, however, because Vlad Dracul had a strong claim to the throne of Wallachia, and the King wasn't ready to let him take the reigns of government yet.


Sensing his ward's desire to get out on his own and make something of himself, King Sigismund sent Vlad to Venice as part of an official delegation to receive Byzantine Emperor John VIII. This event happened to coincide perfectly with the creation of the first known Tarot deck by the Duke of Milan. It is entirely possible that Vlad would have been a guest of the Visconti family as there was a close friendship between Milan and Hungary, to such an extent that King Sigismund later sent Vlad's contemporary John Hunyadi to serve as a lieutenant under Visconti.


This is the only known portrait of Vlad Dracul, Vlad the Impaler's father.


Interestingly enough, when Vlad the Impaler died in 1476, the Duke of Milan's envoy in Hungary sent a special dispatch containing details of the event back to his master.


The Visconti-Sforza Tarot deck, whose art has been adapted for all successive Tarot decks, was created for the Duke of Milan about twenty years prior to Vlad Dracula ascending the throne as Voivode of Wallachia. This means the artwork used by the creator of the oldest known Tarot deck would have been contemporary with the story of Vlad the Impaler's life and times. Add to that the fact that Vlad Dracul was actually a guest in the court of the Duke of Milan and could have played the Tarrochi game with his hosts, and you've got as strong a connection as any to Vlad the Impaler and the Tarot.


Okay, so it's a tenuous connection, but an interesting little story! Don't forget to check out the Tarot of Vlad Dracula on Kickstarter!



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