Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand (1772–1843) was a professional fortune-teller during the era of Napoleon, who claimed to have served as personal adviser to such luminaries as Empress Josephine and Czar Alexander. She was also said to have served as cartomancer (card reader) to some of the most famous personalities of the French Revolution, such as Robespierre and Marat. Her famous cards, however, were not of her own design; they were, in fact, the work of a German businessman and parlor games designer, Johann Kaspar Hechtel (1771-1799). His creation became known as the Petit Lenormand deck, after its most famous user.
Since Lenormand’s time, her fortune telling system has continued to live on, although it’s much less known than the tarot system. Decks continue to be designed and produced, with publishers often claiming theirs to be closer to Mlle. Lenormand’s original deck, thereby allowing the cartomancer to offer more “authentic” readings. Others offer complete re-designs based on their own interests and contemporary readers and collectors. Most, however, consist of 36 cards (unlike a tarot deck’s 78), and always employ a very specific image, pointing to a specific prediction for the reader, (unlike a tarot deck’s imagery, which offers a myriad of possibilities within the symbolism of each card, and vary greatly from deck to deck).
These eight images are part of an ongoing project: Design for Divination/Petit Lenormand Still Lifes, that will eventually consist of 36 works, exploring all of the imagery of the original Lenormand deck. I have combined the symbolism of the original game with some of the more contemporary translations of the cards’ meanings.