2021 is a special year in the history of the Kazanlar Tarot Deck, not only because of the new edition, but also because during June and July, the original set of paintings created between 1988 and 1994, alongside with other works of the artist, were exhibited in the renown Budapest Art Gallery (Műcsarnok) in Hungary, the home country of the artist. See below how the exhibitions curator, Ms Gréta Garami explains the place of the Kazanlar Tarot in art history and in the world of esoterica.

(English translation of the extracts and of the brief history of the deck by Sarkady-Hart Krisztina)

„The art of Emil Kazanlár is direly at variance with both Hungarian and Western European painting tradition and as such is a unique colour on the palette of Hungarian fine art with its blending of the most diverse cultures, religions and the tales of One Thousand and One Nights with ancient Hungarian mythology. Like in Persian and Islamic art in general, tradition is dominant in his art too along with the belief that ideas formed about the world can be much better expressed with visual symbols, i.e. the tools of visual language, than with words and linguistic concepts. His exhibition at the Műcsarnok presents Emil Kazanlár’s large Tarot series, rich in symbols and intended as objects of meditation as well as his works in the genre of traditional Persian miniature painting.

What makes the Kazanlár Tarot unique – besides its richly coloured, meticulously detailed and illustrative character – is the way in which it combined the pictorial worlds of Christianity and Islam, while also containing Egyptian, Persian and Hindu elements as well as figures from Hungarian legends and history, such as Saint Stephen, Prince Csaba, Margaret of Hungary, Toldi and even Maria Theresa and Franz Joseph.

The Kazanlár Tarot series creates an entirely new context for the imagery of Tarot cards, typically known as cards used for divination and included in the realm of esotericism. Kazanlár, as a young man, discovered a kinship between the Persian studies in form, he mastered from the Iranian miniature painter Hossein Behzad, Manichaeist miniature painting, Sufism and the Tarot. […] Besides the traditional style, technique and Persian literary themes, Behzad also introduced Kazanlár to the symbolic system of the Islamic mysticism of Sufism.

The Tarot captivated the imagination of numerous artists in the 20th century. The most in-depth publication on this subject – Tarot. The Library of Esotericadiscusses the Kazanlár Tarot alongside works with a similar theme by such great artists as André Breton, Salvador Dalí and Niki de Saint Phalle, who viewed the Tarot not only as an object of cartomancy or a theme of painting but primarily as a creative method of self-knowledge, manifest in which is mankind’s universal desire to connect with the divine.


In its origins, the Tarot harks back all the way to Egyptian hieroglyphs but the number of cards (22 Major Arcana) chimes with the number of Hebrew letters in the Kabbalah. A Tarot deck is divided into two parts: the Major Arcana, which consists of 21+1 cards, and the Minor Arcana, which has 56 cards just like a deck of French-suited playing cards. Kazanlár painted the Major Arcana on 70×50 cm wooden boards adopting the tradition of Persian miniature painting.”

Source: Fate, the Great Player – Miniature Painter Emil Ámin Kazanlár, Exhibition booklet, Műcsarnok, 2021


The brief history of the Kazanlar Tarot Deck

In 1988, Dr Emil Áminollah Kazanlár has devoted himself completely to esoteric painting, the Tarot and teaching. It was in the late 1980s that he absorbed himself in painting his first Tarot series. He had felt an affinity for the art of divination from his youth. It was then, in Tehran, Iran that Kazanlár’s imagination was captured by a deck of cards painted on wooden boards, which was used by an Armenian diviner. The naive miniature painter created this deck in a way that it would work with white magic: the cards of the Major Arcana were framed with quotations from the Koran to drive away the devil. Later on, Kazanlár did his utmost to find this deck but for him, it was lost forever. Then, after thirty years of study, he spent a decade “repainting” the cards from memory.

His Tarot series came to the notice of the Swiss card publisher AGM-Urania at an exhibition in Switzerland, and following the finissage the pictures were immediately transported to Neuhausen am Rheinfall for pre-press. Originally, dubbed Ecumenical Tarot by the publisher, Kazanlár finally opted for the more authentic-sounding Kazanlár Tarot on the advice of H. R. Gieger, the visual designer of the Alien films, who happened to live next door. His series earned itself world fame under this name.


Emil Kazanlár has been teaching the art of the Tarot using his own unique method for over thirty years. He believes that the detailed explanation of the rich symbolism, tales and mythology, as well as stories of history and legend conveyed by the cards has a therapeutic effect itself during divination. In addition to this, he taught esoteric painting for years. Numerous exhibitions have been organised from his works both in Hungary and abroad, including Budapest, Esztergom, Szeged and Tata in Hungary, Crissay-sur-Manse in France as well as Austria, Switzerland and Prague.

More information: www.kazanlar.hu