The 10 of Pentacles is a card of affluence, luxury, stability, and conformity. Represented as a large extended family business in the Rider-Waite, and entitled “Wealth” in the Thoth, the 10 of Pentacles is the final numbered card of the Minor Arcana of the Tarot, and therefore instantiates a completion unto itself. It is staid, safe, and secure; the final manifestation of generations of hard work.
Dali’s rendition is wonderfully nuanced. Utilizing the six Neoclassical harem women from the foreground of Ingres’ Le Bain Turc, he has given them a new background of rich, supple red robes — at once labial and womb-like. Butterfly wings cover up much of their original nudity while still leaving their breasts exposed, and dainty dabs of white paint encircle them. The circular frame preferred by the elderly Ingres has been guarded by Dali, and the lush crimson is quickly smudged into a cold, matte white. Six pentacles in rectangular formation occupy the white above the women, and four pentacles in triangular formation occupy the space below. A hint of a final vermilion frame seems to encircle them further, starting and ending with the upper pentacles and exiting the frame of the card itself.
Are these women prisoners of luxury? Or of desire? Is this not a gilt cage or a too comfy womb? What could they possibly know of the world outside their many frames? The image itself seems to require that we ask these questions.
Dali uses Ingres quite a bit in this deck and we’ve already seen some of his work in the 3 of Swords. However, his choice for the 10 of Pentacles couldn’t be more adept. Le Bain Turc was one of Ingres’ final tableaux: the summation of his many odalisques. Pulling pieces and parts from his many past paintings (most overtly his Baigneuse de Valpinçon), Ingres didn’t paint this tableau using any natural references. And on this count, he gloated lecherously… What more could one expect from an aged master?
Generally speaking, the 10 of Pentacles is a relentlessly positive card indicating wealth, lineage, and stability. However, that positivity is also relentlessly framed. It’s very good within its genre, within its prescribed forms. But like Le Bain Turc, it’s constrained by its past constructs. If freedom and originality are what you’re looking for, look elsewhere. The 10 of Pentacles represents the final aggregate of a long tradition. But if security and success are what you’re after, you couldn’t pull a finer card.
**While all manner of comments are welcomed, any further information pertaining to art history, symbolism, myth, cultural reverberations, and Tarot card meanings that traverse decks or lend especial light to the Universal Dali deck, specifically, are actively sought and encouraged. I’m not using a book for these descriptions, so I may miss a reference that bears mention in relation to a card. If you know something, please share it!
Conversely, I actively negate the astrological significations of the Trump cards within the Universal Dali deck in favor of the more traditional Thoth. My plan is to tackle the astrological significations of the Universal Dali Trumps and their overt divergence from all norms in one article… after having described each card. That’s a ways off. ;)
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