Generally, 'The Emperor' is depicted as the archetypal 'wise old ruler'. In Marseille Tarot he is shown as a white haired man, crowned, leaning casually against his throne, holding aloft a sceptre, with his shield by his side. The imagery is littered with symbols of power and rule. In the Rider-Waite deck the imagery is largely similar to ancient examples, with any additions bringing a little more grandeur and authority to the scene. Such as barren mountains, an Ankh representing life, and armour demonstrating strength and war.
I wanted my Emperor to emanate authority, wisdom and experience. When working on my initial sketches I quickly decided to take the same approach as with the Empress, to have him erupting from the very earth, made of the stuff of mountains, reflecting his solid strength and deep roots within his land. His robe and the mountains cannot be differentiated, suggesting that he is at one with the world. This relationship is reaffirmed as he holds the Earth in the palm of his hand, showing his strength and importance in the grand scheme of things. His thrones arched shape echoes the harsh peaks of the distant mountains. It is hewn from living rock, a bright white stone high in his lofty place of power. Carved rams and rubies adorn the throne, a connection with the sign of Aries which he represents. The three eyed Ram also adorns his shield, which represents defense and protection. The sword partly obscured by the mountain/his robes symbolises the Emperors past as a conqueror, and his time in the battlefield. His time on the front line has now passed as he rules from on high, yet he is not afraid to rule with might, or return to the ways of war to protect his land.
The spilling of blood is signified by the blood red sky and his throne. Power, glory and lives have afforded the Emperor his position, and while he does not take it for granted, he believes it is his right.
His expression is stern, representing his hard line approach to life and his hair is showing signs of greying, representing the wisdom of his years and the experiences behind him. I thought often of Théoden King when working on my depiction of 'The Emperor' as this was in many ways the type of character I was attempting to portray.
In many ways my depiction of 'The Emperor' has numerous elements originating back to those of early Tarot. I approached this card in quite a traditional way, with a few added twists and elements which I thought would emphasise the message of the card in the desired way. I'm reasonably happy that I managed to get across the figure I imagined the Emperor to be, as Conan said of his great god Crom; 'Strong in his Mountain.' who knows only too well the Riddle of Steel.