Re: Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-c.1437) & the Rothschild cards

I wrote about this issue at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1005&start=10#p14984. Then, besides the penetration of "Spanish cards" (which "Andy's cards" thinks were soon made in Germany for export primarily to Aragon but also northern Italy, at least as far as Bologna), there was the influence of Gherardo Starnina, long active in Valencia before returning to Florence. Fiorini says that Starmina was "il principale maestro di Giovanni di Marco", i.e. dal Ponte. Starnina may well have brought such cards from Valencia, or if not could interpret designs on such cards that appeared in Florence, and could say what the characteristic shield depicted.

The essay "Lo sviluppo (altalenante) dello stile di Giovanni dal Ponte", by Lorenzo Sbaraglio, in the Nov. 2016 catalog, has much to say about Starnina's influence on dal Ponte (pp. 13-14).
La situazione per Giovanni, e per tanti altri artisti fiorentini e toscani, cambiò di li a breve col ritorno di Gherardo Starnina dalla Spagna, probabilmente non molto dopo il luglio 1401, quando è ricordato per l’ultima volta a Valencia. Nelle sue primissime opere Giovanni dal Ponte sembra innestare su una solida base trecentesca lo stile di Starnina (fig. 3): le lumeggiature ottenute sinteticamente con pochi tocchi di pennello, i colori accesi, una certa insistenza grafica sui tratti principali del viso, che delimitano incarnati modulati dolcemente. Giovanni riprende anche dei veri e propri “tic” tipici dello Starnina, quali la maniera di lumeggiare la canna del naso con una dritta linea bianca che si addensa sulla punta, o i dentiche talvolta emergono tra le labbra schiuse per rafforzare, l’espressione dei volti (fig. 5); elementi che Giovanni [start 14] riprende in maniera tanto fedele da lasciar sospettare che il contatto col pittore tornato dalla Spagna potesse essere stato assai stretto. Dell'arte di Starnina, più in generale, il pittore dovette apprezzare lo spirito vitale, colorato, accostante, giocoso e profano, caratteristiche che in Giovanni si trasformano progressivamente in uno stile più drammatico e concitato, energico e corsivo.

[The situation for Giovanni, and for many other Florentine and Tuscan artists, changed shortly after the return of Gherardo Starnina from Spain, probably not long after July 1401, when he is recorded for the last time in Valencia. In his first few works Giovanni dal Ponte seems to graft the style of Starnina onto a solid trecento basis (fig. 3): the highlights synthetically obtained with a few brush strokes, bright colors, some graphic insistence on key facial features that delimit embodied softly modulated. Giovanni also incorporates a real "tick" typical of Starnina in such manner highlighting the nose rod with a straight white line that thickens at the tip, or the teeth that sometimes emerge between lips parted for strengthening the expression of the faces (fig. 5); elements that John [start 14] resumes in a manner so faithful as to allow one to suspect that the contact with the painter returned from Spain could have been very tight. From the art of Starnina, more generally, the painter had to appreciate his vital spirit, colorful, pulled together, playful and profane, characteristics that in Giovanni are turned into a more dramatic and agitated style energetic and cursive.]
I didn't make jpgs of figs. 3-5 (two Madonna and Childs plus some musician angels. Maybe tomorrow. Figs. 6-7 give some of the idea. These are pre-1415, before he developed his own unique style (which is what is reflected in the cards)

Re: Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-c.1437) & the Rothschild cards

I was thinking rather that St George and the defeated Grenadien/Saracen suggests not so much appropriation or influence of a style but a definite Aragonese theme, more a question of subject matter than a stroke of white paint on the nose -- who in Florence (or Ferrara?) would such a theme appeal to or be created for?

I'm not convinced of the Ponte designation nor Florentine location for the cards - and would look for an Aragonese interest at a later date, around Florence or Ferrara ---
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-c.1437) & the Rothschild card

I would be interested in a concise summary of any of your thoughts of the material of this now longish thread. Why X date for which decks?

And not to go backwards, but:
mikeh wrote: On another topic, what the Encyclopedia says on p. 204 is also of interest, as to the social context for cassoni:
The symbol of the turtle is full of meanings, mostly of a positive character. In the ancient world, for example, the animal was considered a symbol of fertility and therefore sacred to Aphrodite; at the same time, with the long duration of its life, it was also considered a symbol of health, vitality and immortality. According to Plutarch it represented the model of feminine confidence, while according to Aesop it symbolized constancy. Given the numerous references to feminine virtues, the tortoise could indicate that the recipient of the cards was a woman, perhaps a young bride, given the custom, in fifteenth-century aristocratic society, to commission such precious Tarot decks as wedding gifts. The turtle, in this case, summarizes the wish that the woman would become the generatrix of numerous offspring (symbolizing fertility) and is a warning to guard the virtues of reserve, prudence and constancy that befit a good wife.
...were tortoises or tortoise shells in fact associated with marriage in Florence? Did they decorate cassoni and other known marriage gifts? I am not familiar with any.

It seems to me that since the tortoise shells do have the symbolic meanings she ascribes to them, that is enough to define a function for them, both on the card and for their owners. The Knight of Swords has two tortoise shells over him, while he himself is keeling over in his saddle ( Yet the tortoise shells are there protecting him. They might then serve a kind of talisman for protection of its owner or his/her spouse. In the case of the King and Queen of Batons, they suggest their fertility and protection, and could be a talisman of fertility and protection to the owner, even if not given at the owner's marriage, just as the Botticelli La Primavera is thought to have hung in the couple's bedroom as a fertility talisman (although it probably was a marriage gift).
One possibility left out is Mercury making Apollo his lyre out of a tortoise shell, but I can't find any Quattrocento images of that nor does Boccaccio mention it among his diverse sources. The relevance would be Apollo and his muses providing some sort of 'protection' (from the evils of life) via his music.

Regarding the turtle as an ancient fertility symbol of Venus - and the love theme most certainly shoots through all Florentine media - there is this paper: Bevan, Elinor, "Ancient Deities and Tortoise-Representations in Sanctuaries". The Annual of the British School at Athens. 1988, 83: 1–6. ... b_contents

But again, where is the Quattrocento recognition of this symbol? Perhaps its merely textual via translation of Greek texts or a medieval compiler.

Finally, if you're going to push these texts back that far, are there any similarities to the Marziano/Michelino project? His description of each god is fruitless, but he does allow Mercury the creation of "the Cithar, conceded to Apollo, was invented by him." Boccaccio too mentions that but never the 'cithar' as derived from a tortoise.

That leaves us the word 'turtle' actually in the Italian of 'turtledove'? Does that mean anything? Marziano:
Thus to the rank of virtues, the Eagle; of riches, the Phoenix; of continence, the Turtledove; of pleasure, the Dove. And each one obeys its own king. However, the order of these Birds is, although none of their type has right over another, yet this arrangement they have alternately – Eagles and Turtledoves lead from many to few: that is to say it goes better for us when many cultivate virtue and continence; but for Phoenices and Doves, the few rule over the many, which is to say that, the more the followers of riches and pleasure are visible, the more they lead to the deterioration of our station. (Ross, as usual: ... -16-heroum

PS A little poetry from Echo and the Bunnymen ('80s band I like) to celebrate the enigma (I take the lyrics to refer to the severed singing head of Orpheus, which sang to the same instrument of Apollo):

Seven seas
Swimming them so well
Glad to see
My face among them
Kissing the tortoise shell

Re: Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-c.1437) & the Rothschild cards

I think the shield is a representation of a shield, a particular type of shield, the Spanish/Moor Adarga - it has nothing to do with the symbolism of a Tortoise, but is simply a type of shield, one particularly associated with Spain and the Moors -

Ponte I think is too early --

St George was the patron Saint of Ferrara (as he was of Aragon too), and appears on some of the coins of Ferrara, but at the time of Ercole and also of his son Alfonso - so they are perhaps too late?


quote wiki:
Throughout the province of Ferrara the cult of Saint George is remarkable for a medieval belief that the dragon Saint George defeated inhabited the Po. Actually the dragon has to be considered as a metaphor for the fear of Po river frequent floods that threatened to completely destroy Ferrara and the small hamlets next to it. The former cathedral and the newer 12th-century basilique cathedral of the city (Ferrara Cathedral) are both dedicated to the legendary Saint.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot
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Re: Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-c.1437) & the Rothschild cards

Phaeded: tortoise = testuggine. Turtle = tartaruga. Turtledove = tortora. No "turtle" in "turtledove".

Steve: the quote from the catalog essay was merely to show the relationship between the two painters, probably extending to the personal level, one of whom had lived in Valencia. St. George is the patron saint of Catalonia (, which adds, "Saint Goerge is the patron Saint of 15 European countries), but the Catalans have been drawn by the story to a higher degree than in most other places."

Say why you think dal Ponte is too early.

Re: Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-c.1437) & the Rothschild cards

As patron Saint of both the Kingdom of Aragon and the City of Ferrara, Saint George was a good reference to them both and their joint concerns?

"In 1444 Ercole would have witnessed the wedding festivities of Leonello and Maria dAragona, celebrated in greaty style with a hunt of wild animals, jousts with an oak forest constructed in the Piazza, and a display of St George slaying the dragon"

(Ercole, at age fourteen, was sent to the court of Naples to be educated, and stayed at the Aragonese court until he was nearly thirty)

It was at the celebrations of the Feast of St George that Ferraro held its famous palio races (such as painted on Borso's fresco's)

If the cards are from Florence, why do the have a St George like figure, Patron Saint of Ferrara?

(There is the Florentine Florin to consider, but that was an international coin - a King of Coins against which others were evaluated and exchanged - "Named after its home city of Florence, “Firenze,” it became the main medium for the return of coins made from gold. Few coins before the advent of a globalized economy would share its level of impact.... It was of too high a value for daily use, and seems always to have been destined for use in international trade." )
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-c.1437) & the Rothschild cards

Perhaps the most confusing St. George is the one on an Apollonio cassone showing the Persian king Darius setting out for the battle of Issus, a surprisingly common motif. The standard elements are on four separate parade carts: Darius' mother and wife, following behind Darius himself, who usually has a golden sun god before him (clearly depicted as Apollo, perhaps meant as the Zoroastrian deity Mithras?) and then a fiery altar before the god, which often looks like cupid's ball of flames. In the detail example below (private collection, plate 187 in Callmann), Apollo has inexplicably been replaced by what must be St. George, as the figure is fully armored and the curved neck of a dragon bites up at his downward plunging lance seems clear enough:
Darius setting out for battle, detail of St. George in gold nimbus.jpg
Darius setting out for battle, detail of St. George in gold nimbus.jpg (55.16 KiB) Viewed 390 times
Overall cassone painting:
Darius cassone, private col..jpg
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I was wondering if there were any countries that didn't claim St. George, as it seems like they all do - just an exaggeration on my part, per Wiki:

5.1 England
5.2 Georgia
5.3 Malta and Gozo
5.4 Portugal
5.5 Romania
5.6 Aragon
5.7 Catalonia

But keep in mind that for our time period you can significantly connect that saint to Florence and Milan, in the sense that the Florentine flag of the popolo was St. George's red cross on white field flag (and of course there is Donatello's famous sculpture for the armorers); and for Milan, under Galeazzo (at least) the troops paraded on St.George's Day from the Castle to the Cathedral to have their standards blessed; Galeazzo even paid for a fresco plan for a new hall in the castle celebrating the same St. George's Day event (see Evelyn S. Welch, Art and Authority in Renaissance Milan, 1995: 197).

Three standards showing the arms of the People, Commune and City of Florence:


Re: Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-c.1437) & the Rothschild cards

Yes, not to mention the St. George painted by dal Ponte, c. 1415-1425, now in South Carolina ( ... hen-george), so similar to the Rothschild Knight of Batons, as Bellosi rather convincingly showed. The Columbia Museum says it "was probably installed in a family chapel in a Florentine church." St. George is surely a red herring. But the shields aren't; they are simply too distinctive.

Wikipedia does say that dal Ponte spent time in Asissi and Rome, citing a Dutch art history site; what they cite is difficult for me to figure out, but it does not seem to be anything recent. I have found nothing suggesting either place elsewhere. Some of his work did end up in collections in Rome, but surely that doesn't mean anything. He doesn't seem to have been anywhere except Florence.

Re: Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-c.1437) & the Rothschild cards

Franco has clarified for me why the Antonio di Dino of the 1927 and 1433 Catastos should be considered dal Ponte's "garzone", as Horne put it. The verb "stette" here means "stayed" or "lived", not "worked". So for the 1927:
Antonio di Dino stette col detto Nanni fiorini 20
Antonio di Dino, who worked with the said Nanni, 20 florins
is incorrect. It should be
'Antonio di Dino, who stayed [or lived] with the said Nanni, 20 florins.'
Then in 1433,
Antonio di Dino stette mecho ò fare ragione co 'llui circha fiorini 28
Franco tells me:
The money was due to pay the service, as from an initial contract involving rent and nourishment. Ò fare ragione co ‘llui– I have to balance with him, I still have to pay him. (Less likely, he has to pay me, this should be deduced from the context, which I have not examined.)
So it is clear that Antonio is an apprentice, and that "said Nanni", since no other "Nanni" was mentioned earlier, is Giovanni dal Ponte. Antonio either lived in his house or in the workshop, Franco says.

Since Antonio later, after dal Ponte's retirement or death, c. 1437, starts showing up in his own name in 1439, it is very likely that the later one is the same as the earlier, and also the one who shows up as a card maker; Franco thinks 99% likely.

Whether he learned card making from dal Ponte is not clear. To what degree Antonio di Dino's artistic style resembled dal Ponte's of 1425 is also not clear. I would think that he would have followed the style that was popular in his own time. Whether he did the cards in c. 1425 as part of dal Ponte's workshop is also not clear. Perhaps tha art historians' putting a question mark regarding the artist but not the dating reflects these concerns. He would have been under dal Ponte's supervision then and part of his workshop. And since there is no work we can positively say was Antonio di Dino's so as to compare styles, there the issue remains. It does not matter that dal Ponte is not mentioned in any documents as a card maker. These were luxury cards and may well, as Fiorini suggests, have been done in conjunction with a contract to make cassoni but simply not valued in the same order of magnitude as them, or were an afterthought, and so not mentioned.

Re: Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-c.1437) & the Rothschild cards

Well we can dismiss England, Malta et al as being out of the purview of our survey: to list a whole bunch of places outside the remit of our search for whom St George was patron is hardly a serious objection: most significant for our search in such a list are Aragon and Catalonio (because of a possible connection strengthened by use of Spanish/Moor shields), and North Italian city states (but primarily Ferrara and Florence, as these are the two that most would agree the cards likely derive from) : besides being the saint of armourers there is no great emphasis on St George in Florence, nor beside Donatello (on behalf of the armourers) much in the way of Florentine patronage for images of St George -- he is a sort of 'secondary' Saint of Milan and certainly there is a stronger claim there - but not as strong as the connection with Ferrara where it is the primary patron Saint --

The popularity of St George as being too popular is not an issue, as we are limited in our search to locations of interest and the interest of known patrons of cards - St George as Patron of Ferrara and Aragon takes on a role circa post-1444 through the joint interests of the d'Este and court of Aragon - and is celebrated with a performance of St George and the Dragon at the marriage of Leonello to Mary d'Aragona, and in the coins of Ercole following his marriage and of Alfonso d'Este --

As for the similarity with the Ponte St George, beside the backward stance I tend to agree with Ross that it is clearly be a different artist, as with his comparison of different faces appear to show also -- though I am open to the possibility of a once apprentice of Ponte, who at a later date can be shown to have become a maker of playing cards (Antonio Dino) - a Ferrara patron does not preclude a Florentine maker - c- latter half of 40's, early 50's?

I think it more likely that it was a tarocchi along the lines of the CVI given the similarity of the Emperors, and think the dates are too early for tarocchi -- it could be imperatii type deck, but I think that a possibility driven more by wishful thinking than probability -- (to which add - Antonio di Dino, if we should think him the possible maker, is only ever listed as maker of Charte or Naibi di Triomphi - never imperatori) -

Far from being a red herring I think it is significant, especially in relation with the Adarga in relation to pointing to a shared Spanish connection _ I think Aragon in relation to the legend of St George in the Aragonese victory over the saracens and conquest of Valenci at the Battle of Puigi - the model for the depiction of Alfonso's victory over the pagans in his Book of Hours, a subject of early Spanish playing cards re: knight of swords? One repeated in our deck under discussion

Playing Card Saracen and Alfonso Book of Hours:

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

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