According to the trailer, the new movie Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows features a tarot card reader and an original Oswald Wirth tarot deck. (Thanks to Shelley for the heads-up.) Obviously Wirth and Holmes never meet, but wouldn’t that make a great story!!! For those who were blown away by Noomi Rapace as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish version), she is playing the gypsy fortune teller. I’m looking forward to seeing her in a different role. Check out Oswald Wirth’s tarot spread—a reclaimed classic.
Danish tarot collector and author, K. Frank Jensen shared with me the story of how an original Oswald Wirth deck came to be used in the movie:
“In August 2010, a British woman, Laura Tarrant-Brown, addressed a number of members of the ‘International Playing Card Society’, including me, about buying or hiring ‘the original full set of Tarot cards that Oswald Wirth re-drew for his master, Guaita Stanishas in 1889′. It should be used ‘in a film set in Paris/London 1890’. An alternative could be the 1926/27 version of Wirth’s images. Tarrant-Brown did, of course, not have any response on this enquiry except from me. As far as I know, only two decks are known, one in the possession of a Japanese collector (formerly from the R.C.Bell collection of games); the other belonged to the late Belgian collector, Hans Wesseling, whose widow wanted it sold. Guido Gillabel, likewise Belgian collector, took care of the sale. At the time of Tarrant-Brown’s request Gillabel was preparing listing the decks on ebay. I was aware that the Wirth deck was among them so I asked Gillabel if he wanted to sell the deck directly and at what price? Wesseling’s widow wanted EUR 1200.- for it. I would have liked to buy it myself, but don’t just have EUR 1200.- available here and now, and Tarrant-Brown didn’t hesitate. That’s how the deck ended up in the film, and I have been annoyed ever after that I didn’t just buy the deck.
“Tarrant-Brown couldn’t really accept that the 22 cards were a full set, even if I told her so twice. She wanted to search further for ‘the missing 56 cards’, likely mislead by the so-called “Oswald Wirth Tarot – The Original and only authorized Oswald Wirth Tarot Deck” published by USGS (1976). Wirth worked only with the majors, and USGS’s deck has nothing whatsoever to do with the original Wirth illustrations. (The 22 Major Arcana cards of the USGS edition are illustrated by a Michél Simeon. The booklet that comes with the deck states however, that the majors are “as designed by Wirth” while the minors are “newly created”.)
“Tarrant-Brown was not very communicative and later she told me that the film was a Sherlock Holmes production but didn’t answer my question whether Wirth and Guaita are characters in the film. She likewise never answered my question of what would happen to the deck once the film was finished.
“Now I am at it: I’ve been working on a handcoloured Wirth deck. The line art are redrawings of Wirth’s illustrations by a probably German artist, the colours are based upon the pack in the Japanese collection. It will be a very limited edition. Three decks are finished and disposed of. Further 6 or 7 copies are in work. There won’t be more than those due to the time-consuming work.” (Below: extremely limited edition, K. Frank Jensen hand-colored 1889 Oswald Wirth deck.)