There are 9 Rothschild/Bassono cards. The "VIII Imperatori" can't refer to the number of cards in the deck. More likely, it refers to the number of "Imperatori", that is, Emperors and Empresses, 2 per suit, of which only one has survived, that of Coins. (It is not a King of Coins with imperial attributes, because the King of Coins has survived.)
I'd stated, that the "VIII Imperatori" cards were expensive, not, that they were the Rosenthal cards. I'd written about a phenomenon of the prices. In the case of the Imperatori cards we have the document ...
1423, on the day 9 October Giovanni Bianchini to have for one pack of cards of VIII Emperors gilded, which was brought from Florence for Milady Marchesana (Parisina d'Este), which Zoesi * (name of the servant) 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
I Giovanni Bianchini wrote it on the above-written day.
7 Florins for "VIII Imperatori" cards ... which makes 7/8 Florin for ONE card ... that is in Florentine money 70 soldi.
If I assume for the Gabella deck (40 ducats, unknown number of cards) 56-80 cards, then in any case the Imperatori cards are even more expensive than the Gabella cards (4x20x40/56 and 4x20x40/80 = 57 and 40 Soldi for ONE single card).
Beside the Michelino deck cards the VIII Imperatori cards are the most expensive cards, that we know of. One would get for 7 Florins 1.56 Malatesta decks from September 1440.
Well, we have the situation, that "VIII Imperatori" cards are not much enough to make a game. But the 8 cards are in the single price for a cards comparable to the Gabella cards (relation 70 to 40/57), possibly around 23% - 75% more expensive.
The most easy explanation would be, that the 8 Imperatori cards would be an addition to the Gabella cards, more expensive than the other cards, cause they were the most noble parts of the (complete) deck: Trionfi cards in the sense, that they were the trumps in the play, but not called Trionfi, but "Imperatori".
The content of the Imperatori cards is naturally not clear.
Sigismondo as the new Roman king had been in Italy in the preparation of the council of Constance. He might have made Italian nobility acquainted with an Imperial way to play with cards at this opportunity, possibly with "8 trumps" ... whatever these cards presented in their motifs. This might have had the effect, that trumps were called "Imperatori cards".
We have the factual result, that 1427 Karnöffel was mentioned as a card play ...
a. later rule information make it plausible, that there were possibly 8 "special cards".
b. later name information make it plausible, that the game Keyserspiel (meaning game of Imperatori) was related to the Karnöffel, possibly identical
c. for the use of the name "Imperatori cards" we have, that we have the name is only documented for the Ferrarese court (and once in Würzburg, Germany)
Well, your suggestion, that there were "4 emperors + 4 empresses" is a fantasy filling, to which I can add others, for instance ...
a. 8 of the 9 hero rulers, who filled the castle of Manta
b. the 7 electors (inclusive the emperor) + pope
c. 7 electors + emperor
d. Emperor + Pope + 2x3 figures for both
e. figures, as they appear in Karnöffel game (
f. figures, as they appear in the Ringmann education game
g. figures, as they appear in the Ingold game
h. actually anything, which could replace the 8 court cards at Unter and Ober position
i. figures comparable to the 7 first trumps of Tarot + the Fool
... and possibly some more.
Actually one should assume, that there were various experiments with this "Imperatori-style" decks.
May this, as it was. But I pointed in my argument to the price phenomenon. Why did it happen between 1418-1425 only? At least, as far we know about the prices.
The highest known Trionfi card prices are in the time of Borso, precisely the 2 decks of 1457, higher than the decks for Leonello or Malatesta. That's' the period, when Borso was able to prepare the most expensive production of a bible. And after the peace of Lodi ...
Well, 1424/25 was a height of economical income for Milan and Venice. The long wars between Venice and Milan hadn't started and Filippo Maria had developed from a very difficult beginning to a successful position. Perhaps that's a major part of the explanation.
The date of the Michelino deck isn't precisely known. The Ferrarese dates are precisely 1423 ... and 1423 is the date of the Alfonso festivity in Naples. Accidental coincidence or just determinated by some logic? If Alfonso made up the fashion of golden background at playing cards in Italy around the time, than it has some logic, that also the court of Ferrara wanted one.
Similar the coincidence of the triumphal operations. Alfonso made an unusual festivity in Naples in May 1423, Filippo Maria followed in June 1425 with a personal Trionfo, possibly (also) related to the birth of a daughter (Bianca Maria).
Alberti writes his theatre play in 1424, in which Trionfi are also topic.
I find it unlikely that the Rothschild cards were done in Spain. The depictions on the Emperor card are just too close to that of the Charles VI Emperor and even more to the Palermo Empress, which is part of the Catania deck (the posture and the two little figures on the bottom). Also, the "cursive" style (squiggles for beards and broad curving strokes for hair) is not part of what Starnina brought back from Valencia; that and several other features are likely dal Ponte's own. It is not certain, to be sure, but much more likely than that they were produced outside of Florence. The "Moorish" cards, which probably can be traced to Catalonia, are quite crude and we have no examples of or documents about luxury cards there.
Thanks for the links. For the "battle of the oriental knights" their dating of 1400-1405 seems about right, except it is probably 1401-1405, since Starnina didn't get back to Florence until 1401. So one of his earliest post-Valencia works.
We're not in the situation, that we can judge the quality of Aragon playing card products in this period. Alfonso had a lot of power and a lot of money ... a document of 1421 (once - earlier - discussed) in Southern Italy indicates, that possibly woodcut technology was used for playing cards. Possibly also related to Aragon influence.