The Falconnier design of the Egyptian Tarot

#1
Hi all,

contrary to the rather well researched designer/artist pairs like Waite/Smith, Crowley/Harris there was another one at the same time in Paris: René Falconnier and Maurice Otto Wegener.

Falconnier was an actor and a member of the Comédie Française which can be verified by digging into the web, he played there up until the 1920s. About Wegener I could not find anything at all. The name Wegener is a German one, so he could have been an Alsacian, but that is only my speculation.

Falconnier published the design in a small booklet dedicated to Alexandre Dumas fils in 1896, Les XXII lames hermétiques du tarot divinatoire, b/w cards attached. Ross found a link to it at http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k5 ... tte.langFR.

Now, Falconnier seems to have been influenced by Jean Baptiste Pitois (1811-1877), a disciple or colleague of Charles Nodier at the Arsenal library where one had tried to sort out the remainders of the French revolution.

I found the following quote interesting, but the web site is long gone, and it could also well be that everything mentioned there was concocted:
Paris. In 1833, Jean Baptiste Pitois, Charles Nodier's former disciple at the Arsenal Library, was an official in the ministry of public education. Pitois, as librarian to the Ministry of Public Education, was given the task of sorting through all the books from the monasteries and provincial libraries brought to Paris. He and Charles Nodier pored over them and claimed to have made interesting discoveries daily. In that year the Ministry undertook an ambitious project -- to publish all hitherto suppressed documents pertinent to the history of France. Two committees were formed to preside over the enterprise. These committees included, among others, Victor Hugo, Jules Michelet, and an authority on the Crusades, Baron Emmanuel Rey. Among the works subsequently published under the auspices of the ministry of public education was Michelet's Le Proces des Templiers -- an exhaustive compilation of Inquisition records dealing with the trials of the Knights Templar. Under the same auspices Baron Rey published a number of works dealing with the Crusades and the Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem. In these works there appeared in print for the first time original charters pertaining to the Prieure de Sion.
http://web.archive.org/web/200606180859 ... ix-012.htm

Pitois published a novel in 1863 under the pen name Paul Christian: L'homme rouge des Tuileries (Red Man of the Tuileries). The novel contains descriptions of the tarot which obviously served as some kind of guideline for Falconnier's direction.

After the 1896 publication the design was re-used without quoting the author by Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont who wrote under the pseudonym of Comte C. de Saint Germain. The latter was a journalist for the Chicago Times, and, according to The Internet, accused to be a fraud.
Catching up from there, there had been several modifications of the design, all made by occultists in USA.

Most of the designs going back to Chritian are summarized at the Russian site "Early Occultist Tarots" at http://green-door.narod.ru/tarotocc.html. The later developments like the Egipcios Kier or the Ibis Tarot can be found in Kaplan.

So, what can I say so far? It looks like the design was conceived in Paris, by a men somehow involved in or at least influenced by French esoteric circles, but shortly after the design jumped over to the Americas and remained there ever since with a few exceptions like the Apologia del Libro de Thot Tarot. For a while the design seems to have been quite popular in South America. But when jumping over to the new world it also lost its roots.

Does anyone know anything about the beginnings, who Maurice Otto Wegener was, what the interaction between Falconnier and Wegener was, what whose contribution was, and how they came up with the design details at all?

Eberhard

Re: The Falconnier design of the Egyptian Tarot

#2
I wonder if this is our Maurice Otto Wegener, died following combat (?) in the first World War -

"M. le Président envoie également l'expression de ses regrets à notre collègue, M. Otto Wegener, qui vient de perdre son fils, M. Maurice Otto Wegener, notre collègue, décédé à quarante- trois ans à la suite de fatigues dues à la guerre."

[The President also sends his condolences to our colleague, M. Otto Wegener, who lost his son, M. Maurice Otto Wegener, our colleague, dying at the age of forty-three following exhaustion caused by the war."

Bulletin de la Socitété nationale d'acclimatation de France, 65 (1918) p. 246

http://www.archive.org/details/bulletindelasoci65soci

Our Wegener would then have been 21 or 22 in 1896.
Image

Re: The Falconnier design of the Egyptian Tarot

#3
thanks for the link, Ross.

It could well have been the graphic artist M. O. Wegener, I guess the name is not so frequent.

> Our Wegener would then have been 21 or 22 in 1896.
Falconnier was 39 in that year according to the following web page which depicts his tomb and his profile "Le comédien René FALCONNIER (1857-1930), pensionnaire de la Comédie Française. Il repose sous un médaillon en bronze de profil par Jeanne Itasse." http://www.landrucimetieres.fr/spip/spi ... rticle1508

Even though Falconnier seems to have been a celebrity as an actor not everybody was happy with his design, for ex., Waite makes a pretty derogatory statement in the bibliographical appendix of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot:

XX ... This production has been hailed by French occultists as presenting the Tarot in its perfection, but the same has been said of the designs of Oswald Wirth, which are quite unlike and not Egyptian at all. To be frank, these kinds of foolery may be as much as can be expected from the Sanctuary of the Comédie-Française, to which the author belongs, and it should be reserved thereto.


Eberhard

Re: The Falconnier design of the Egyptian Tarot

#4
Eberhard wrote: Even though Falconnier seems to have been a celebrity as an actor not everybody was happy with his design, for ex., Waite makes a pretty derogatory statement in the bibliographical appendix of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot:

XX ... This production has been hailed by French occultists as presenting the Tarot in its perfection, but the same has been said of the designs of Oswald Wirth, which are quite unlike and not Egyptian at all. To be frank, these kinds of foolery may be as much as can be expected from the Sanctuary of the Comédie-Française, to which the author belongs, and it should be reserved thereto.


Eberhard
Thanks for that Eberhard.

Indeed, Waite had no business judging Falocnnier's designs - and by implication his artist, Wegener. They are quite ... beautiful - spartan, essential.

In my romantic mode I would like to imagine that Falconnier had the same relation with the younger Wegener that Waite had with Smith, and Crowley had with Harris - a spiritual romance, which resulted in the birth of a spiritual child.

There is no need to speculate any further on the degree of the romance - in fact if it had been physically consummated - or at least, after a brief encounter, wallowed in -, the Tarot may never have appeared.
Image

Re: The Falconnier design of the Egyptian Tarot

#5
Nothing to add about your original query but thought I would post additional information.

Kaplan Vol 1 Page 189/190- Fatidic Egyptian Tarot- these designs appear in a book called Practical Astrology by Comte.C.Saint Germain, published in 1901 are apparently those of Falconnier.
Now I was under the impression that those cards called the Falconnier were by a guy called Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont who was a theosophist with Madame Blavatsky.

~Lorredan
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: The Falconnier design of the Egyptian Tarot

#6
Hi Lorredan,

no contradiction here: Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont who indeed was in India with Mme. Blavatsky published "Practical Astrology" under the pseudonym Comte C. Saint Germain. He took the Majors of Falconnier & Wegener (nowadays one perhaps would say he bootlegged them) and added the Minors of his own design.

Based on this completed 78 cards deck, further adaption were made by C. C. Zain, Fatham, Dequer, The Church of Light (at least 3 revisions), etc. up to Josef Machynka's 1991 Ibis tarot.


Hi Ross,

nothing to add here -- but certainly a bit early to confirm the liaison :-)

I read a bit more about the Egyptian undercurrent. To me it looks like a fantasy weaved by many, repeated so often until it became sort of an urban myth, emphasized by Napoleon's Egyptian adventure, etc.

The main influence regarding the descriptions visualised by Falconnier / Wegener came from Jean-Baptiste Pitois a.k.a. Paul Christian. This is the only picture of the man I ever encountered:
Jean-Baptiste Pitois.jpg
Jean-Baptiste Pitois
Jean-Baptiste Pitois.jpg (30.76 KiB) Viewed 6715 times
Pitois built on what earlier was set up by well known source like Court de Gebelin and Aliette=Étteilla, but he also took from the earlier, then very popular Sethos series of novels/sagas written by Jean Terrasson in 1731. The English translation is available at Google books as "The Life of Sethos"
http://books.google.com/books?id=CT0uAAAAYAAJ
From there he took the ideas of the subterranean temple, the fear of dead driven inititations, etc.

What happened there was not so different from what happened in our time with Superman, the Matrix trilogy, or the latest one, Avatar. Egypt then was a meme that infected everyone.


Eberhard

Re: The Falconnier design of the Egyptian Tarot

#7
Ross quoted:

M. le Président envoie également l'expression de ses regrets à notre collègue, M. Otto Wegener, qui vient de perdre son fils, M. Maurice Otto Wegener, notre collègue, décédé à quarante-trois ans à la suite de fatigues dues à la guerre. From the Journal of the predecessor of the French Environmental Protection Society, Société Nationale d'Acclimatation de France, 1918

> I wonder if this is our Maurice Otto Wegener, died following combat (?) in the first World War

I found this interesting additional bit of information:

Otto Wegener, Paris. 1849-1922
4359223.jpg
Otto Wegener
4359223.jpg (20.92 KiB) Viewed 6150 times
from: http://rittsel.weebly.com/otto-wegener.html

Just looking at the time frames, it could be that Maurice Otto Wegener was the son of Otto Wegener, a famous celebrity photographer during the time of Falconnier, however, I haven't found any hard proof of it yet.

1857 - 1930 René Falconnier
1849 - 1922 Otto Wegener: Otto Wegener was in the same age group as Falconnier, both lived in Paris

1918 - 43 = 1875: birth year of Maurice Otto Wegener
1875 - 1849 = 26: age of Otto Wegener when Maurice Otto Wegener was born

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