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

I recently found time to read Christina Fiorini's essay on the Rothschild-Bergamo cards ("I tarocchi della Collezione Rothschild al Louvre: nuove proposte di lettura [The Tarot Cards of the Rothschild Collection in the Louvre: New Hypotheses], The Playing-Card 35:1 (Sept. 2006), pp. 52-63 and Ross's reply in the same journal exactly one year later, 36:1, pp. 51-62. It seems to me that the issues Fiorini's essay raises are worth pursuing further, in a format that (unlike the journal) allows us to look at the artwork and documents in as much detail as we need.

I do not want to discuss the Florentine origin of the cards. In that regard Ross was in full agreement with her points, and so am I. I want to make it clear that I do not wish to defend either Ross or Fiorini, but rather to pursue that elusive quarry, the Truth. I will also be going over some material that Huck posted about da Ponte.

Here are the issues I want to discuss.

1. Are these cards really part of a tarot deck, or perhaps for some other game, notably Emperors?

2. How do the cards compare with the dal Ponte cassoni paintings of which we have record?

3. How does the Knight of Batons relate to the dal Ponte "St. George" of a similar design? This is a point of dispute between Fiorini and Ross.

4. How do the faces in da Ponte paintings compare with the faces on the cards? This is another issue raised by Ross.

5. Can the style of the cards be dated specifically to the 1420s as opposed to the 1450s-1460s? Fiorini tries to deal with this issue first, but without actual images it is difficult to discuss. I put it last because by then we will have seen at least a few of his works and those of others.

In this post I am only going to deal with points 1 and 2, because they go together and I think that it will be is enough for one post. I am not going to give a full discussion of question 2, But just assemble some data and images relative to cassoni and cardmakers, and discussone cassone panel, the Triumph of Fame.

1. The Ferrara note on the game of Emperors is at It specifies
one pack of cards of VIII Emperors gilded, which was brought from Florence for Milady Marchesana which Zoesi servant of said Lady had; priced 7 florins, new, and for expenses (of the transport) from Florence to Ferrara 6 Bolognese soldi; in all valued….. L. XIIII.VI. Bolognese
The "gilded" part fits the Rothschild cards. The date and place is consistent with Fiorini. Further investigation is needed. Perhaps considerations in points 2-5 will be relevant to this point 1.

2. On his cassoni, I will start with documentation. There is more than one might expect, because he was frequently in trouble with his creditors. There are several dated lists of debts and credits, with descriptions of the goods, names, ages, etc. documented in English by Horne in "Giovanni da Ponte", Burlington Magazine 9:41 (Aug. 1906), pp. 332-337, available in Jstor, including many cassoni, around ten, I think. As far as the number that are still extant, it is difficult to say, because in most cases the panels have been separated. I will either show or give links to eight separated panels and one complete cassone (in a private collection) that I have found so far. None of these lists mention cards of any sort.


In March of 1422 he is paid 25 florins for two forzieri, chests, done for Ilarione de' Bardi on the occasion of her niece Constanza's marriage to Bartolommeo di Ugo degli Alessandri (p. 334). This had been documented earlier by Gamba (Rassegna d'Arte vol. iv p. 186). Fiorini makes much of this pair of cassoni. But there were others. three of which, 1427-1433, Horne found himself in the Florence archives. He says the documents will be published soon in the Italian journal.

In 1424 he is put in prison for 8 months for non-payment of debts, after which he works out an agreement with his creditors to pay them off over 5 years.

In 1427, there is owed to him (p.335) :
Giovannozzo and Paolo Biliotti, for the forzieri [or wedding chests],of their sister whom they married to one of the Gondis,.30 florins.
This time dal Ponte is mentions a wife. Monna Caterina; he also has an older subsidiary partner, Smeraldo di Giovanni (born 1366 (vs. 1385 for dal Ponte), who gets less of the profits but has "no obligation to pay rent". He has a shop with residence above at the Piazza of Santo Stefano a Ponte (hence his trade name, Giovanni da Santo Stefano a Ponte).

This Smeraldo has his own "denuncia" statement, in which he says (p. 337):
Matteo degli Strozzi owes us for the balance on a pair of forzieri, or chests, which he had from us on the 6th May, 14 florins or thereabouts; and Zanobi di Bartolommeo Banchebi owes us 22 florins for the balance on a pair of forzieri.
In 1430, da Ponte states (p. 336):
we are making for Bardo di Francesco de' Bardi, a pair of forzieri or chests; what is executed amounts to 50 florins.
Moreover, we have begun to re-cover with gosso [preparatory for the painting] forzieri, or chests, which are the property of Luca di Matteo and Antonio di Martino.[what is executed amounts to] 4 florins.
Horne identifies this Luca as Luca di Matteo Firidolfi da Panzano, because a 1449 inventory of his furniture included "Uno forziere dorato bello".

Also they are owed the balance on chests from
"Zanobi di Gherardo Cortigiano and his brothers, for the balance of forzieri.
There is also an entry stating they are owed from:
Antonio di Dino, who worked with the said Nanni, 20 florins.

I have no idea who "Nanni" is. It would appear, given that it occurs with the item about the chests, that Antonio owes da Ponte the 20 florins. Horne adds:
This 'garzone' of Giovanni's was born in 1402 and after became a "maestro di tavoli di gesso". His name occurs in the old roll of the Campagna di San Luca, fol. 3 tergo, thus: Antonio didino dipintore mccccxxxxi.
That's 1441, I think. For the same year, there follows a list of 3 painters, among others, who owe him money and others whom he owes, including one "Salvestro di Dino, forzerinaio." (A chest-maker?)

After that, I don't see mention of any more cassoni or Dinos, just churches (which also were in evidence in 1430). That makes sense. He has come up in the world, at least in prestige. Art in churches is seen by more people, and in those days is likely to endure longer, than art for people's private use. The last "denuncia" is 1435. On November 19, 1437, dal Ponte "executes a codicil to his will". About this Horne adds (p. 337):
Milanese in his notes to Vasari, ed. Sansoni, vol. 1, p. 633 note states that Giovanni died in 1437. This statement appears to be founded on a conjecture drawn from the document last cited. If Vasari's statement, that the painter died in his fifty-ninth year, then Giovanni would have survived till 1444. It would seem, however, that he was already dead in 1442.
The reason for this is that from 1427 (or perhaps 1430) through 1435 the "denuncias" were joint ones, concerning both Giovanni and his partner. In 1442 there is one for the partner alone, in which he says he has sold everything and no longer works. Now 76 years old, he lives on the income of a person whom he had assisted in the past who is now returning the obligation.

In relation to persons mentioned in the 1430 "denuncia", I see from Huck (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=858&p=13292&hilit=Dino#p13292):
It was a suspicion, that Filippo di Marco might be a brother to Giovanni di Marco (= Giovanni dal Ponte), but it couldn't be confirmed.
It was another suspicion, that an Antonio di Dino, who owed money to Giovanni dal Ponte in 1428, was the cardmaker Antonio di Dino, who worked for the silk dealers in Florence, but this was definitely another "Antonio di Dino".
So none progress with the question "Was Giovanni dal Ponte a cardmaker or not".
I'd like to know how it is determined that this Antonio di Dino is a different person from the cardmaker Antonio di Dino that comes up in Franco's studies, starting in 1441 and making triumph decks in 1452. I don't see that being called a "maestro di tavoli di gesso" (a plasterer?) excludes him from being a cardmaker. We are not dealing with medieval trades here, just medieval guilds. So if an engraver is a member of the goldsmith's guild, why can't a wall-decorator--someone who paints decoration, perhaps considered their version of wallpaper--be a member of the plasterer's guild? Also, he is called "dipintore" in 1441. Da Ponte had had a similar entry himself in 1408, in the same Compagna: "Giovannj dimarcho dipentore mccccviij". The date was subsequently altered to "mccccxii", but, Horne says, "the earlier year was probably that of the painter's entry into the company".

Also, does "garzone" ("boy") here mean son, apprentice, or what?

Then there is this Filippo di Marco, same last name as our dal Ponte (which is his trade name, for where his shop was), as well as 2 decks in 1434 I didn't know about. Franco (or is it Huck?) observes:
In Filippo di Marco's productions the number of decks is not clear. So it isn't part of of the calculation. Two records refer to Florentine productions, which were sold to Ferrara (Imperatori cards in 1423, 2 other decks in 1434). These are not considered, cause they fit more with the generally expensive handling at the Ferrrarese court.
I'd like to know more about the 2 decks in 1434, too. Where, when, who, what?


Now I will turn to the cassone paintings. Of these the most important for our purposes is a "Triumph of Fame", whereabouts unknown but for which there is a black and white photo. If you see diagonal lines, I apologize; I scanned it at too low a resolution, and now the book is long gone back wherever it came from via Interlibrary Loan. I get this from Callman, Apollonio di Giovanni (it is also in an Italian essay by Malke). Callman says that it is "1420s or 1430s" (p. 12).

Fiorini observes:
Si notino, in particolare, le somiglianze fra l'Imperatore Rothschild e l'Imperatrice Rosenwald e quelle fra il Re di Bastoni Rothschild e Imperatore della serie americana (questi ultimi tra l'altro molto simili alla figura della Fama dipinta da Giovanni di Marco sul cassone raffigurante il Trionfo di quella Virtù.

(Notice, in particular, the similarities between the Rothschild Emperor and the Rosenwald Empress, and those between the Rothschild King of Batons and the Emperor of the American series (the latter of which is quite similar to the figure of Fame painted by Giovanni di Marco on the chest depicting the Triumph of that Virtue.)
I see no similarity between the Rosenwald Emperor and the figure of Fame. She probably meant to compare the Rosenwald Empress and the figure of Fame (or else I mistranslated). Here are all four Rosenwald "papi", followed by a detail from the Triumph of Fame:



For further comparison, here is the Rothschild Emperor. The image comes from Berti and Vitali, Tarocchi: Arte e Magica, p. 27:


I see some similarity between this figure, as well as the two smaller figures at his feet, and the bearded figure immediately to Fame's left and above the man with the papal tiara. These all could be the same artist, it seems to me, but I am no expert. They could also have been done by someone later who had worked for da Ponte and took over his sketches. Such a person would not likely have had access to the cassone itself, being for a lady's private use

There is also another similarity, that between Fame, with her two grooms, and the Catania/Allesandro Sforza Charioteer and similarly positioned grooms. The faces, while both somewhat ambiguous in gender, are different. I suspect that a wider face is thought of as more masculine. Also, the horses are pointing differently, looking at each other, as in the case of the Cary-Yale, but like the Catania they are symmetrical with each other. The Catania Charioteer--as well the Rosenwald Empress--might be descended from the cassone painting. Since cassoni were private, this might have been difficult unless there were a more public version, such as a playing card or a sketch.


Also speaking in favor of da Ponte's having done triumphs, as opposed to other sorts of decks, are the general themes that dal Ponte took up for his cassoni: the seven virtues, Petrarch, Dante, a triumph. These are themes of the tarot as well. "Giovanni dal Ponte was interested in subjects of an allegorical sort," one writer has observed (Edward Kennard Rand, on p. 31 of "Dante and Petrarch in a Painting by Giovanni Dal Ponte", in Notes (Fogg Art Museum), 1:3, (Jan. 1923), pp. 25-33; in Jstor).

Rand's example is three panels that he thinks might have all been part of one cassone at one time. One part has the theme of the seven virtues, each with a patron and an angel. In a unclear image, it is at ... /33110.jpg.

Another part is the "seven liberal arts" (image from ... -1500.html).

And then on one end Rand puts this painting of Dante and Petrarch (from wikimedia commons)::


Rand suggests for this last the theme of sacred vs. secular poetry. That also separates the four cardinal from the three theological virtues. Rand has a nice analysis of who the figures are accompanying which liberal art in the other panel, and similarly for the virtues, if anyone is interested.

The Fondazione Federico Zeri has a nice list of 77 of dal Ponte's works of all types, most with pictures, at: ... lizzazione. Here are links to other cassone paintings they show.

"Giardino d'Amore" at the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris, viewable at ... 39%3bamore.

"Corte Nuziale", ... eo+nuziale

"Scena di duello, Scena di caccia," ... +di+caccia

"Scene da una leggenda"; this is the sole undivided cassone attributed to dal Ponte (by Christies, at least), in a collection in La Spezia and known to us by its auction photo: ... a+leggenda

Finally, from either a cassone or a "spalliera" (wall panel): "A Nobleman and a Lady" at ... AB9DE6BF12.

Re: Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-c. 1437) and the Rothschild car

mikeh wrote: I'd like to know how it is determined that this Antonio di Dino is a different person from the cardmaker Antonio di Dino that comes up in Franco's studies, starting in 1441 and making triumph decks in 1452.

Franco Pratesi agreed, that "Antonio di Dino" should be "Antonio di Dino Canacci".
The name form "Antonio di Dino" isn't so rare. In the web might be 4 (or 3) different Antonio di Dino at a comparable time.
One is the engraver, 1428 and 1441, apparently not a rich man.
Another one is part of a sodomy case, around 1437, if I remember correctly.

One is a banker, who works for the Medici (maybe since 1457). This could be identical to Antonio di Dino, the producer of playing cards, but also abacus boards (according Franco's documents, which he commented:
"The case of Antonio di Dino is somewhat particular, because the first time that we find him in book 12792 he did not supply cards. He was then mentioned as a maker and supplier of abaci, or counting frames (l. 2r – April 1442). Later on, we find him indicated on one occasion as a "tavolacciaio", maker of tables (12793, 25r – 1449)).
Apparently, his production corresponded to an intermediate level, not as expensive as the cards produced by Antonio di Simone, but not as cheap as those of Niccolò di Calvello, listed below.).
... ).
In the web there is Antonio di Dino Canacci, who owns an Abacus school and he's rather active with it (already around 1442, if I remember correctly). The Canacci family is not poor. It seems, that Antonio is a major heir, maybe around the 1450s. It might be, that Antonio di Dino leaves some time after this the playing card industry and becomes the banker.

Palazzo Canacci .... "Nel 1455 Dino di Antonio Canacci acquistò l’immobile di Antonio de’ Bardi ... " ... a-Baldocci

In short, there's some doubt, if "Antonio di Dino" had been an engraver or cardmaker at all, but might be just a business man, who (also) dealt with cards and also dealt with abacus boards and "tables" and also organized the abacus school.

What we have from the silk dealers, is, that their Antonio di Dino appears first at 1439-09-11 together with Piero, a cardmaker. Then an "Antonio" appears and together with the already known Piero he dominates the supplier function for the silk dealers in 1439 and 1440 (as far we can see this).

Around the time, when Antonio di Simone appears in the silk dealer business 1442-05-02 "Antonio" disappears and "Antonio di Dino" comes back - in the lists. But possibly he was all the time present as "Antonio".
The new use of "Antonio di Dino" as name instead of "Antonio" might explain from the condition, that with "Antonio di Simone" it became necessary to differentiate between the both Antonio.

Cardmaker "Piero" disappears with 1440, but curiously reappears in 1451, after 11 years, with Antonio di Dino being present all the time till 1453.

Likely one has to interpret, that Antonio di Dino had been all time the business man, and Piero had been his cardmaker all the time, working for Dino, who just managed the sales as part of his greater business .

Antonio di Dino appears twice as the maker of "expensive decks" (totally 5 decks in the early Trionfi deck time of 1441), Grande cards with gold, 24 soldi.

In 1445-01-21 "Antonio" and "Antonio di Dino" appear both in a document, which is not clear (something looks as if it is remarked as "not true"). The document contains also a Trionfi deck for 25 soldi. That's 5th oldest Trionfi deck note we have.

But usually Antonio di Dino delivered decks for 5 soldi and Antonio di Simone delivered the more qualified decks for 9 soldi and Matteo Ballerini delivered the cheap decks (1-2 soldi), sold in dozens. This state was very normal till the begin of the 1450s.

In 1452 Antonio de Dino appears as a "sure" Trionfi card producer, as the second name, that we have from Florence, after "Giovanni di Domenico" in 1449.

Also, does "garzone" ("boy") here mean son, apprentice, or what?
Apprentice, I would think.

Then there is this Filippo di Marco, same last name as our dal Ponte (which is his trade name, for where his shop was), as well as 2 decks in 1434 I didn't know about. Franco (or is it Huck?) observes:
In Filippo di Marco's productions the number of decks is not clear. So it isn't part of of the calculation. Two records refer to Florentine productions, which were sold to Ferrara (Imperatori cards in 1423, 2 other decks in 1434). These are not considered, cause they fit more with the generally expensive handling at the Ferrrarese court.
I'd like to know more about the 2 decks in 1434, too. Where, when, who, what?
That's my consideration. "2 (expensive) decks" went to Ferrara in 1434, and we don't know, who made them. These (again) might have been done by "Antonio di Dino" (the time difference from 1434 to 1439, when Antonio di Dino made playing cards, and to 1441, when he made "expensive playing cards", isn't so big).

Another expensive deck went to Ferrara and it was made ...

1437-11-02 - 4 decks (20 Soldi) by Simone di Ser Antonio Fazi

... and this Simone di Ser Antonio Fazi might have been well the father of "Antonio di Simone", who started in 1442 to supply the silk dealers with the 9-soldi cards category.


Re: Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-c. 1437) and the Rothschild car

Well, sometimes the web improves ...



The Building of Renaissance Florence: An Economic and Social History
Richard A. Goldthwaite
JHU Press, Oct 1, 1982 - Business & Economics - 459 pages ... ci&f=false

... and ..


... which seems to say, that just in the year 1438 Antonio di Dino Canacci had a "more important role" than usually. That's the year of the council in Ferrara.

If one assumes, that the 1434 decks were from Antonio di Dino, then we might expect business connections to Ferrara for him.
For the silk dealer lists we have him "active with playing cards" since September 1439, short after the council of Florence. But the silk dealer are very humble in the playing card trade, we cannot expect their books to mirror the full activity of Antonio di Dino with his greater ideas.

The astonishing thing about Antonio being prior in 1438, is, that nearly all other members of his family had many "terms" and seldom "prior-function", but Antonio has no terms at all and becomes immediately prior. And actually we have, that Dino had left the business of his father, as told before.
This seems to say, that Dino was extremely useful just in the year 1438, and this might be natural, if we assume, that Dino had the best business relations in Ferrara - at least better than those of other members of the guild.

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

Very interesting, Huck. There is more information on the Canacci at this time, in "A Carpenter's Catasto with Information on Masaccio, Giovanni dal Ponte, Antonio diDomenico, and Others", by Charles R. Mack, in []Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz[/i], 24. Bd., H. 3 (1980), pp. 366-369. He is writing about the tax declaration made in July 1427 by a certain Zanobi di Michele Canacci, age 23, of a family of carpenters. The interesting items are those pertaining to debts still owed to his late father, Michele, carpenter. One is by Masaccio, 6 lire. Mack speculates that it might be for a panel or a scaffold.
Giovanni di Marco, the painter, appears as another debtor to Zanobi's father, owing the master carpenter almost forty-five lire for some unspecified work or material (doc 19). Giovanni di Marco, better-known as Giovanni dal Ponte, was active as a painter of altarpieces and frescoes in Florence during the 1420's and 1430's.3 Curtis Shell has described this master as being " the most gifted and fascinating of Masaccio's lesser contemporaries ". 4 Giovanni dal Ponte was in financial difficulties during the 1420's and actually was jailed for indebtedness in 1424.5 He was released after he had arranged to settle his accounts with his creditors within a five year period. The entry in Zanobi di Michele Canacci's tax statement of 1427 probably refers to part of that debt.6 It is possible that the debt was for a wedding chest made by Michele Canacci and sold to Giovanni for him to decorate and resell. Giovanni dal Ponte's own tax declarations mention a number of wedding chests painted by him for a variety of patrons.7 He also gilded and painted two pairs of wooden candle sticks for the Oratory of the Company of the Bigallo.8 Michele could even have carved these candle sticks; the officials of the Bigallo, in fact, are listed among his debtors in Zanobi's catasto (doc. 22).
3. For information on Giovanni di Marco, called dal Ponte, see C. Gamba, Giovanni dal Ponte, in: Rassegna d'Arte 4, 1904, p. 177 ff, and idem, Ancora di Giovanni dal Ponte, in: Riv. d'Arte 6, 1906, p. 167 ff; H. Horne, Giovanni dal Ponte, in: Burl. Mag. 9, 1906, p. 332 ff, and idem, Appendice di documenti su Giovanni dal Ponte, in: Riv. d'Arte 6, 1906, p. 169 ff; R. Salvini, Lo sviluppo stilistico di Giovanni dal Ponte, in : Atti e Memorie della R. Accademia Petrarca di Lettere, Arti e Scienze 16/17, (Arezzo) 1934, p. 1 ff; F. Guidi, Per una nuova cronologia di Giovanni di Marco, in: Paragone 19, 1968, no. 223, p. 27 ff, and idem, in: Paragone 21, 1970, no. 239, p. 11 ff; C. Shell, Two Triptychs by Giovanni dal Ponte, in: Art Bull. 54, 1972, p. 41 ff.
4. Shell (see n. 3), p. 41.
5. Horne (see n. 3), Burl. Mag. p. 334.
6. Giovanni dal Ponte's tax statement for 1427 (ASF, Catasto 27, Quartiere S. Croce, Gonfalone Carro, c 464 v, published by Horne [see n. 3], Riv. d'Arte p. 172) lists Michele Canacci as a creditor in the amount of 40 lire and 18 soldi. An additional 15 lire was owed to a Paolo Canacci. Neither Zanobi Canacci's declaration of 1430 (ASF, Catasto 366, Quartiere S. Maria Novella, Gonfalone Leone Rosso, cc 734-737 v) nor that of Giovanni dal Ponte for the same year (ASF, Catasto 348, Quartiere S. Croce, Gonfalone Carro, published by Horne, ibid., pp. 173-75) show the debt, so it, evidently, had been settled by that time.
7. Horne (see n. 3), Burl. Mag. p. 334 f.
8. Ibid. p. 335.
It might be of interest to see da Ponte's 1927 tax statement, which I don't think Horne refers to in his Burlington Magazine article. That would be p. 172 of Appendice di documenti su Giovanni dal Ponte, in: Riv. d'Arte 6, 1906, p. 169 ff.

Another artist mentioned, in relation to Zanobi himself (the son), is Bicci di Lorenzo, who Mack says (n. 13) "is undoubtedly the well-known painter, son of the painter Lorenzo di Bicci and father of another painter Neri di Bicci."

Here are all the items having to do with Michele Canacci as creditor. Our artist is 19. Masaccio is 21.
12. Questi sono i debitori di michele chanacci chef une lengnaiuolo sono rimasi a me zanobi che fu
suo figliuolo e debitori sono questi:
13. Antonio di domenicho allaparte guelfa d(e)ve dare. L. 34 s. o d. o
14. Giuliano di piero dello ischanbrilla maestro d(e)ve dare. L. 4 s. o d. o
15. Bertino del maestro francescho chomandatore, d(e)ve dare. L. 30 s. o d. o
16. papi di chorso lastraiuolo i(n) porta rosa falleto d(e)ve dare. L. 4 s. 2 d. 1
17. Ugholino del maestro giovanni Bandini d(e)ve dare. L. 4 s. o d. o
18. Bartolommeo di salvestro del maestro Benvenuto lenaiuolo d(e)ve dare ... L. 4 s. 2 d. o
19. Giovanni di marcho dipintore d(e)ve dare. L. 44 s. 18 d. 7
20. Andrea del granata maestro d(e)ve dare. L. 7 s. o d. o
21. Maso di s(er) giovanni dipintore d(e)ve dare. L. 6 s. o d. o
c. 877 v
22. dalla chonpagnia del bighallo d(e)ve dare.L. 40 s. o d. o
23. nicholo di guido lengnaiuolo d(e)ve dare.L. 19 s. o d. o
24. io Zanobi di michele Chanacci e fatto questa e scritta di mio p(r)op(io) mano og(g)i questo di 10
di luglio 1427.

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

I think, that only the Antonio di Dino line of the Canacci should be interesting for playing card production (and it was not his only business; Abacus teaching might be his greater project for some time, at least till c. 1450).

Florence Catasto for 1427 (data-base) ... used for "Canacci" ... c&limit=60

You should know how to use this data-base.

According the Catasto of 1427 Antonio di Dino had been then 35 years old, so born c. 1392. The "garzone" of Giovanni dal Ponte was born 1402 ... so that's not the same man.

It was common for the Canacci to be involved in wood-business and building work. If they got some money, they likely got it from this business mostly. There had been a lot of building work in Florence during 15th century.

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

Thanks for the Catasto link, Huck; I found where it gave Antonio Dino's age as 35. But how did you tell it what year to look in? Also, da Ponte's "denuncias" have inconsistent information for his age from one year to the next. In 1427 he states he is 42 years old, i.e. born 1385. In 1430-1431 he states he is 54, i.e. born 1376-1377. In 1433 he states he is 48. So we throw the odd one out. So, too, for Antonio, we'd probably have to look at several years with some time in between.

I want to add a few things about dal Ponte and cassoni. I have been reading the Grove Encyclopedia of the Decorative Arts, Vol. 2, ed. Gorden Campbell, entry on "cassone" ( ... ne&f=false).

Here I learn that there was another style of cassoni in the period in question besides the painted kind, namely, the "pastiglia" (p. 205). This was fine plaster molded into relief-like shapes and then gilded. It occurs to me that maybe in calling Antonio di Dino a "maestro di tavoli di gesso", as well as a "dipintore" they might have meant someone who made pastiglia as well as painted.

On another topic, what the Encyclopedia says on p. 204 is also of interest, as to the social context for cassoni:
The Late Gothic courtly style, introduced into Florence during the first decade of the 15th century, quickly made itself felt in the sphere of cassoni and continued to dominate the market for cassoni through the 1430s because its romanticism was ideally suited to marriage celebrations. The most common subjects were the Garden of Love and illustrations of novellas, such as Boccaccio's Cacchia di Diana (Florentine, late 14th century, Mus. Stibbert) and Ninfale fiesolano (Brunswick, ME, Bowdoin College Mus. of A.); others are tales of Classical heroines, such as Lucretia.
This of course is what da Ponte's cassoni were for. It is merely a good lead-in to a long quotation from Fiorini regarding the Rothschild cards. My translation into English follows the Italian. Here (from are the cards she is tallking about: ... 000756.jpg ... 000752.jpg
Ma per quale occasione venne ideata la preziosa serie del Louvre?

Un interessante spunto di riflessione potrebbe essere offerto dai gusci a forma ditestuggine raffigurati sulle spalle del Re e della Donna di Bastoni, da interpretare non tanto in chiave araldica quanto allegorica.

Il simbolo della tartaruga è pregno di significati, per lo più di carattere positivo. Nel mondo antico, per esempio, l'animale era considerato simbolo di fecondità e perciò sacro ad Afrodite; al tempo stesso, per la lunga durata della sua vita, esso era anche considerato simbolo di salute, vitalità e immortalità. Secondo Plutarco rappresentava il modello della riservatezza femminile, mentre secondo Esopo simboleggiava la costanza. Dati i numerosiriferimenti a virtù femminili, la testuggine potrebbe indicare che destinatario delle carte fosse una donna, forse una giovane sposa, data l'usanza, nella società nobiliare quattrocentesca, di commissionare preziosi mazzi di tarocchi quali doni di nozze. La
tartaruga, in questo caso, riassumerebbe in sé sia l'augurio alla donna di diventare generatrice di numerosa prole (simboleggiando la fecondità) sia il monito di custodire le virtù della riservatezza, della prudenza e della costanza che si addicono a una buona moglie.

Ora, tra i più importanti matrimoni celebrati a Firenze nei primissimi decenni del XV secolo, le fonti ricordano in particolare quello tra Cosimo de' Medici e Contessina de' Bardi (1415 ca) e quello tra Bartolomeo d'Ugho degli Alessandri e Costanza de' Bardi (1422). È su quest'ultimo matrimonio che vorrei in particolare concentrare l'attenzione: non solo perché lo stile delle carte sembra orientato, come già osservato in precedenza, agli anni venti del secolo, ma soprattutto perché lo zio di Costanza, Ilarione de' Bardi, viene ricordato in un documento per avere commissionato a Giovanni di Marco, proprio in occasione di queste nozze, due forzieri dipinti". La notizia è di estremo interesse, dal momento che si potrebbe a questo punto supporre che Giovanni, artista stimato dalla famiglia Bardi, sia stato interpellato non solo per la decorazione dei due cassoni nuziali, ma anche per l'esecuzione del mazzo di tarocchi. In questo modo, anche la presenza del fiorino d'oro raffigurato tra le mani dell'Imperatore acquisterebbe un preciso significato celebrativo della famiglia de' Bardi, una delle più ricche famiglie di banchieri di Firenze.

(But for what occasion was the valuable series in the Louvre conceived?

An interesting insight could be offered in the form of the tortoise shells depicted on the shoulders of the King and Queen of Batons, to be interpreted not so much a heraldic as an allegorical key.

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.

Now, of the most important marriages in Florence in the early decades of the fifteenth century, the sources noted in particular that between Cosimo de' Medici and the Countess de' Bardi (ca 1415) and that between Bartolomeo d’Ugho Alessandri and Constance de' Bardi (1422). It is on this last wedding I would like to focus particular attention, not only because the style of the cards seems oriented, as noted earlier, to the twenties of the century, but especially since the uncle of Constance, Hilarion de' Bardi, is mentioned in a document as having commissioned from Giovanni di Marco, on the occasion of this marriage, two painted chests. The information is of extreme interest, since it may at this point support thatGiovanni, an artist esteemed by the Bardi family, has been asked not only for the decoration of the two wedding chests, but also for the execution of the tarot deck. In this way, even the presence of the gold florin depicted between the hands of the Emperor acquires a precise celebratory meaning in the de' Bardi family, one of the richest banking families in Florence.
Skipping for the moment her earlier claim as to the dating of the cards, a problem here is her assumption that tarot decks were a customary marriage present in 15th century Florence. What is her evidence? Were even illuminated manuscripts. as is likely with the Visconti in Milan, given as marriage presents in Florence? If so, cards might be seen as a reasonable extension, and in fact in the case of the Cary-Yale have been, by me at least. But are there such cases in Florence? Also, 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).

I think that the green gloves, sleeves, or leggings on some of the PMB cards (all the Baton courts, the Empress, the lady in the Love card, the Hanged Man) have a similar meaning.

Otherwise, what is of interest in Fiorini's remarks is her delineation of the social circle that bought da Ponte's work: the richest banking families in Florence, to which, later, the Canacci family, carpenters to dal Ponte and other artists, also ascended, Huck says, and which have some association to the painted trionfi of a later time.

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

mikeh wrote:Thanks for the Catasto link, Huck; I found where it gave Antonio Dino's age as 35. But how did you tell it what year to look in? Also, da Ponte's "denuncias" have inconsistent information for his age from one year to the next. In 1427 he states he is 42 years old, i.e. born 1385. In 1430-1431 he states he is 54, i.e. born 1376-1377. In 1433 he states he is 48. So we throw the odd one out. So, too, for Antonio, we'd probably have to look at several years with some time in between.
As far I understood the system, it's only about 1427. The catasto existed only 3 years, as far I'm informed. Perhaps they needed 3 years to get all the data together?
1427 (42 years old) and 1433 (48 years) is in harmony to each other, so something with 1430-31 (54 years) should be wrong. Either the "wrong age" or "totally the wrong man". Or the other both are "the wrong man", but that looks not plausible. It's difficult with these documents ... a lot of people have the same name and they've writing errors and different names for the same person.

Maybe - in the case of Antonio di Dino - the silk dealers had contact to two different persons with the same name, Antonio di Dino (pupil of Giovanni dal Ponte) and the abacus Antonio di Dino and reported about both in their book ... Franco in his research might have been cheated by concluding, that it would be the same man. Then the otherwise correct conclusion, that the card producer would be part of the Canacci family, would be wrong, too ... naturally.

Some insecurity is always there.


Image ... /ulivi.pdf
There are other places, in which a relation between Abacus and Antonio di Dino is given.


I looked again for the banker Antonio di Dino, who worked for the Medici. He's called Antonio di Dino dal Canto, so it shouldn't be the Antonio di Dino Canacci. But, who knows, if this is sure? Perhaps "dal Canto" is a nick name, which formed around 1455?
"Dino di Antonio" (the son) bought the Palazzo Canacci 1455, which would make sense, if Antonio di Dino had died c. 1455 (as the playing card activities at this time stopped, this seems plausible). However, the report about the guilds states something about "40 years after 1427" in the context of Antonio di Dino, which would mean, that Antonio di Dino was still living in 1467 (well, already 75 years old).
I' remember of an activity of an older honorable Antonio di Dino in the mid of the 1470s (the banker? or our Antonio di Dino?)

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

Thanks for continuing the discussion of Antonio's relatives on another thread, viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1006. People interested in that can go there. Meanwhile I want to continue focusing on dal Ponte and the Rothschild cards.

I want to get onto my third issue, that of the Knight of Batons and the dal Ponte St. George on Horseback.

I will start by quoting from the next paragraph of the Grove Encyclopedia article linked to previously, still p. 204. I have put the part I want to talk about in bold:
Leading artists of the Late Gothic style painted cassoni, including Rossello di Jacobo Franchi (1377-1456), Lorenzo di Niccolo (fl. 1392-1412), and the Master of the Bambino Vispo (believed by some to be Gherardo Starnina, c. 1360-1413), who painted the Battle of Saracens (Altenburg, Staatl. Lindenau-Mus.). In the 1420s Francesco d'Antonio (before 1393-after 1433) and Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-1437/8) all produced cassoni; the cassoni that can be attributed to Giovanni dal Ponte all date from the 1430s, when, despite a preference for gold backgrounds, he had largely abandoned the Late Gothic style. A favorite subject of his was that of the allegorical figures of the Seven Virtues, with, on the pendant chest, the Seven Arts, each accompanied by one of its most famous exponents--Hercules with Fortitude, Tubalcain with Music etc.(e.g. Madrid, Prado).
In the 1440s the cassoni assumed a new painting style (Renaissance instead of Gothic), a new structure and new subject matter...

The Veneto. In North Italy cassoni were rarely produced, except briefly in the Veneto, c.1490-1520...
I added the part about North Italy to make it clear that cassoni were definitely not marriage presents there in the time in question. In Milan they must have given other things.

I omitted from the quote the details of the Renaissance style as characterized by this author: he or she says it used the structures of classical architecture and the themes of classical literature, occasionally supplemented by the Old Testament. I myself do not think that is all it did; the innovations of Masaccio and Brunelleschi are not only those of classicizing, but also of creating a sense of three dimensional space and volume through increased use of shading, different use of perspective, and an overall emphasis on making things look more natural. (For example, compare the St. George with the 1421 St. Catherine ( ... herine.jpg), with its flat figures, except for the folds in fabric, and what I think is "inverse perspective" where the vanishing point is in the viewer.) In all these ways it seems true to say that in general there is a clear differentiation between 1420s and 1440s cassoni and visual art generally, even though old styles did linger on.

How does this apply to dal Ponte? There is something of a contradiction in the above quote, in that it says both that he did cassoni in the 1420s and that they were all in the 1430s. I assume that what is meant, in the part above in bold about him, is that those cassoni of his known to be extant were all produced in the 1430s and were not Late Gothic; in the 1420s those he produced were Late Gothic. I cannot see how anyone could say that the Triumph of Fame, current whereabouts unknown, is anything but Late Gothic. He is saying that in the 1430s da Ponte was quick to adopt the new aesthetic of Massaccio and Bruneleschi. Even then, if you look at the links I gave previously, I think his 1430s style is transitional, with elements of both. Also, I am not sure that it is true that these cassoni are all 1430s, because in the "denuncias" all the cassoni mentioned are 1422-1431, and none mentioned after that.

I turn now to the Rothschild Knight of Batons, artist and date unknown, and the da Ponte "St. George on horseback", dated to 1434. This is the one that Ross says Bellosi made much of, comparing it favorably to the Rothschild Knight of Batons. (I have not yet been able to obtain a copy of the relevant pages of Bellosi's argument.) Ross, in reply, says:
The two figures share a striking similarity in that St. George is turned backwards. But in the manner of execution and compositional details, it seems evident even in the image as displayed on the internet that it is not the same draughtsman. Also, it surely can be argued that the narrow format of both the cards and the triptych caused their respective artists to economize space in this way.
When I compare the two, I see a similar narrow head, fat neck, and short forelegs on the horse. Compared to other horses in art of the period, it is not very realistic.


There are differences between the triptych and the card, to be sure. 1434 was a different era in art than even 7 or 8 years before, due to Masaccio's ground-breaking work and Brunelleschi's theories. Naturalism was the goal in art now, using Masaccio's shading techniques and single-point perspective. So the floral designs on the Knight's courtly outfit are gone, as well as his footwear. In contrast, the horse in the triptych has a more three-dimensional bulk than on the card; and the air pushing back the cape behind him is almost palpable. The triptych would seem to be of a later period than the design on the card.

I can't tell whether the Knight of Batons is a different draughtsman or not, as opposed to a different aesthetic. In any case, da Ponte probably had assistants, maybe even a partner.

As for the narrow format causing the artists to "economize space" in the same way, if you put the keywords "St. George 15th century" into Google Images, you will see that the space da Ponte had to work with in the triptych was not that uncommon, and nobody else working in such a frame arranged the action in the way that da Ponte did. It certainly looks as if the triptich's design followed that of the card, from years earlier.

That does not mean that the card itself is years earlier. There was a watercolor. Fiorini quotes Vasari (my translation follows):
«Nel nostro libro de' disegni di diversi, antichi e moderni, è un disegno d'acquerello di mano di Giovanni, dov'è un San Giorgio a cavallo che occide il serpente et un'ossatura di morto che fanno fede del modo e maniera, che aveva costui nel disegnare» 31.
31. G Vasari, Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori et architettori 1550-1567, II, Roma, 1991, pp. 223-224.

("In our book of drawings by diverse ancients and moderns there is a drawing in watercolor by the hand of Giovanni, wherein is a S. George on horseback who is slaying the serpent, and a skeleton, which bear witness to the method and manner that he had in drawing.")
31. G. Vasari, The lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors and architects 1550-1567, II, Rome, 1991, pp. 223-224.
The standard translation of Vasari has "Dragon" as the translation of "serpente" here; but the Italian word did not mean "dragon" that I can determine. It seems to me that on the card, likewise, what is depicted is a serpent rather than a dragon. If he was not trying to depict precisely St. George--hence the courtly attire--but rather a knight similar to St. George but killing a snake, then the watercolor could well have been a study for the card. (I don't understand the bit about the skeleton, the "ossatura di morte".) I suppose the watercolor could have been a study for the triptych (which also has no skeleton), but the less narrow space there, I think, would have more likely led to something more conventional. It is the quite narrow space of the card that would seem to dictate the unique design. Again it would seem that the card is prior to the triptych.

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

we have meanwhile a lot of card producer names from Florence, and Giovanni dal Ponte wasn't between them. "Filippo di Marco" had been a chance, but there was nothing to get with "Giovanni di Marco" as a possible relative.

If there's a connection between the cards and dal Ponte's St. George, the most logical assumption might be, that a minor playing card artist imitated the public St. George.
I think, that Adam+Eve of Masaccio was imitated for the Florentine card "Tower or lightning". That's a logical way.

I would think, that any artist, if he had a lucrative commission of a church, would avoid to have it looking like a possible far spread playing card.

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

Huck wrote
we have meanwhile a lot of card producer names from Florence, and Giovanni dal Ponte wasn't between them. "Filippo di Marco" had been a chance, but there was nothing to get with "Giovanni di Marco" as a possible relative.

As far as names of card producers in Florence, how many do you have for the 1420s and early 1430s? If you have several producers of expensive decks, not specifically tarot, and dal Ponte is not among them, you have a point.
Huck wrote,
If there's a connection between the cards and dal Ponte's St. George, the most logical assumption might be, that a minor playing card artist imitated the public St. George.
I think, that Adam+Eve of Masaccio was imitated for the Florentine card "Tower or lightning". That's a logical way.
The card is narrower than the triptych space, and so had more need of an inventive design. Anyway, dal Ponte did do a watercolor of St. George killing a snake; it was in Vasari's book of drawings; if it was based on the triptych, it was still pretty early, before 1437. Also, if what you say is true, the cardmaker didn't just copy the church panel, but converted it to the antiquated style of 1410-1428. This isn't Milan, where Visconti strives to keep things the way they were. It's the nouveau riche in mercantile Florence. They wouldn't have liked that.

Huck wrote,
I would think, that any artist, if he had a lucrative commission of a church, would avoid to have it looking like a possible far spread playing card.
Well, that didn't stop people later from using designs that they could later turn into frescoes or altarpieces, i.e. the virtues or the angel. The theme of St. George killing the dragon was well enough established that itsuse on a card may have been unimportant. and the design admired by church officials as attention-getting and innovative. He might even have presented a couple of alternative designs for them to choose between. Also, I do not assume that the deck was widespread. I assume it was done for the private use of a wealthy family or a few such, discreetly, for parents and children to play together. It probably was meant to suggest St. George even as a card, a little instruction. It is like in the case of the duchess of Ferrara, who orders Imperator decks in 1423. He may have made a few, but for the same class of people.

But I will continue to think about your points. Thanks.

Now I am ready for my fourth issue, Ross's comparison of faces between the Rothschild and da Ponte's work.

Here are Ross's heads and initial observations, from ... stcount=23
I shared these thoughts first with Michael Hurst, and he looked too; then he looked more precisely at some of what was available of Giovanni on the web, and the Rothschild cards, and came up with this collage of facial comparisons:


The top nine images are from the Rothschild cards; the bottom fourteen are from three works of Giovanni -


Reading them as the numbers above, they are -

1 and 9: Two evangelists, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, SK-A-3979 and 3980 (35x14cm), dated 1410-1435

2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8: Ascension of St. John the Evangelist, National Gallery, London, NG580 (triptych, 207x250 cm), dated 1410-1420.

10, 11, 12, 13, 14: Coronation of the Virgin, Galleria dell'Accademia, Firenze (couldn't find the catalogue number or size), no date found.

Giovanni's facial proportions and style remains consistent from large to small works, and across time.

Comparing with the card's faces and heads, it doesn't seem to be the same style. Particularly noteworthy are the presence of well-formed ears in Giovanni's paintings, whereas in the cards there are few and they are little more than circles.

Also, the faces are squat, and the noses are not long in the cards, whereas all of Giovanni's faces have very long noses.

The particular way of indicating curls in beards and hair isn't so similar between the two in this side-by-side comparison.
There are no women's heads in the selection from Giovanni: they are all bearded men. When I look up dal Ponte's works on the Internet, it seems to me that women's heads are more elongated, just as in the cards, e.g. at ... roject.jpg, a work from 1410-1419. St. Catherine's is, too, along with the female angels, at ... herine.jpg. But the older woman in the middle has a rounder face. That's the Late Gothic style: young women are portrayed with lean, oval faces, and high foreheads; men and older women are portrayed rounder. You will see the same in Michelino and other Late Gothic artists. Younger, clean shaven men will be portrayed somewhere in the middle.

Ross contrasts the consistency of Bembo's heads in his pack (I assume the PMB) and all the rest of his work with the inconsistency of the Rothschild. To me that is a sign that the Rothschild is considerably earlier than the PMB. If you look at the Cary-Yale, you will see all sorts of heads.

It is an example of Late Gothic, which lasted longer in Milan than it did in Florence. All the same, by the time of the PMB, painting had become a science in the tradition of Alberti's "On Painting", as well as an art: hence the greater consistency of the PMB.

About the long noses, I don't see many "very long" ones in da Ponte, although admittedly most are not short. In the Truimph of Fame, the noses aren't long at all:

Also, some of the faces on the cards have longer noses, too, e.g. the Emperor. I really don't see much difference.

Finally, there are the manner of drawing ears and beards. One is the Queen of Batons, ... 000752.jpg. But it may be that this is only the bottom of her ear, the rest covered by hair. Dal Ponte does that some of the time in his paintings. In the King of Coins, it looks like part of the ear is covered by his hat, ... 000755.jpg. But the Jack of Coins' ear is indeed rather weak ( If you notice, the Cary-Yale court cards don't have prominent ears either. They perhaps were considered inelegant in a courtly, secular setting.

As far as the beards, some of the Rothschild cards have white squiggles down them, unlike the paintings. Late Gothic art has a playful side, like the outlandish hats that are sometimes shown, especially on men, in say Pisanello ( ... -falcon-by). The cards are for entertainment. You're supposed to enjoy the tortoise shell shields and the lacy outfits and tight tights on the young men. The squiggles on the beards fall in that category, and they complement the strong lines of the clothing.

On Fieroni's side there is also a fallback position: da Ponte may have had an assistant doing much of the work, working from da Ponte's sketches and creating the details himself. If both cassoni and the deck were for the same wedding, he may have been too busy painting cassoni.

In other words, the differences in the faces (whoever the artist) tend only to show that the cards are solidly Late Gothic, the style in Florence up to the late 1420s, which gradually transitioned to Renaissance style by 1440. It is a style that dal Ponte himself had largely abandoned by the early 1430s.

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