Ambrogio vs. Bonifacio Bembo

In the Cremona Museo Civico, I discovered to my surprise,there is a whole floor devoted mainly to the work of Ambrogio Bembo, brother of the more well known Bonifacio Bembo. It is a small floor and easily missed, but still... I took hasty snapshots of everything. Also, the book (in "Quelle carte de triumphi che se fanno a Cremona": I Tarocchi dei Bembo, by Sandra Bandera and Marco Tanzi, 2013, has good reproductions of some of them. His known probable work is restricted to one series of frescoes done for the Casa Meli in Cremona, fortunately preserved when the house they decorated was being remodeled in the late 19th century, plus a drawing. The style is different enough from Bonifacio's known work to not be his, and very close in style to a sketch done in a ledger book recording payment to Ambrogio Bembo. This work is worth seeing and comparing to the Bembo cards, i.e. the Cary-Yale (CY), Brera-Brambilla (BB), and Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo (PMB). It is also worth comparing to the "Lancelot" drawings, which have a similar style to the Bembo cards. Almost none of Ambrogio Bembo's work is currently on the Web.

In this post I am going to review the information, mostly already posted elsewhere on THF, about the ledger drawing associated with the name "Ambroxo Bembo". Here is the drawing, from Maria Grazia Tolfo at

Of this Tolfo writes:
Nel 1450 si incaricarono di eseguire il Privilegio del Consorzio di Sant’Omobono di Cremona, al quale i Bembo appartenevano. Questo Privilegio è servito recentemente per portare un po’ d’ordine fra le mani dei vari fratelli Bembo: un bozzetto a penna del Privilegio è finito sul Libro mastro del Consorzio, che alla data 1450 segnala il pagamento al “magistro Ambroxo de Bembi” per aver dipinto Sant’Omobono sul Privilegio del Consorzio stesso. Il bozzetto era in funzione del Privilegio? Si pensa di sì, e allora ecco che Ambrogio Bembo per perizia “calligrafica” diventa l’autore dell’Historia di Lancillotto e quindi dei Tarocchi che erano assegnati allo stesso maestro dell’Historia. Ma la chiarezza è durata poco, perché dopo il ritrovamento di altre “prove” il povero Ambrogio è già scalzato a favore del fratello Lazzaro.

(In 1450 they took charge of running the Privilegio of the Consortium of Saint Omobono [Good Man) of Cremona, to which the Bembo belonged. This Privilegio was used recently to bring a little 'order among the hands of the various brothers Bembo: a pen sketch of the Privilegio is completed on the ledger of the Consortium, which, dated 1450, indicates payment to "magistro Ambroxo de Bembi" for having painted Saint Omobono on the Privilege of the Consortium. Was the sketch based on the Privilegio? It is thought so, and thus Ambrogio Bembo for his "calligraphic" expertise becomes the author of the History of Lancelot and the Tarot cards assigned to the same master of the History. But clarity is short-lived, because after the discovery of other "evidence", poor Ambrogio is already ousted in favor of his brother Lazzaro.
I will ignore this last remark, about Lazzaro. He deserves a thread of his own; in any case his style, to the extent it has been identified (by Bendera and Tanzi (2013), is somewhat different from that of the cards.

The Consortium of Saint Omobono seems to have been a charitable organization, named for a charitable merchant (
In addition to being the patron saint of Cremona, Omobono Tucenghi is the protector of merchants, weavers and tailors. He himself, in fact, was a textile merchant esteemed in the city. He was good in business and rich. But money - in his conception of wealth, seen not as an end in itself - was for the poor. His action led him to be an authoritative witness in times of conflict between municipalities and the Empire (Cremona was with the emperor). When he died suddenly on 13 November 1197, during Mass, the fame of his holiness quickly spread. Innocent III elevated him to the altar two years later. Buried in the cathedral of Cremona. (Avvenire)

Patronage: Cremona, merchants, textile workers, Tailors

Roman Martyrology: In Cremona, St. Omobono, a merchant moved by charity for the poor, who has shone in collecting and educating abandoned children and restore peace in families.
Loredan on another thread (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=932&p=13657&hilit=Ambrogio#p13660) said the organization was started in 1334 and also had the job of combatting heresy. It is not clear what exactly they did in this area. Loredan came to the conclusion, if I understand her, that this was added in order to discourage wandering preachers of dubious credentials and doctrines from taking advantage of the charity. In the 14th century there were apparently quite a few.

Francesco and Bianca Maria were benefactors, Loredan said a couple of posts later, citing Gli organgi assembeari e Collegiali del comune di Cremona Nell'eta Visconti-Sforzesca (Milan :Giuffe 1978)"), apparently from the start of their marriage. Being a benefactor also allows one a certain measure of control over an organization. On other threads I have defended the view that one meaning of the card is, for the Sforza family, a certain heretic and would-be "Popess" in the Visconti family. I see no contradiction between the Bembos' portraying, probably unknowingly, a heretic Popess, and their membership in this organization. As far as the Bembos and the public were concerned, she would represent the Faith and Wisdom associated with the Church, and the brown habit is that of the Poor Clares. The question of why there were two tarot figures representing the Church, the other being the Pope, need not have arisen.

It was the Dominicans who really combated "heresy" in Lombardy, via their control of the Lombard Inquisition. In 1474 they managed to prosecute 5 "witches" in Cremona, according to Lea in History of the Medieval Inquisition, vol. 3 p. 518. One alleged witch even had the name Guglielmina. But of course that is simply the feminine form of "William", the name of many saints. And 1474 is past the time of Francesco and Bianca Maria. During their time, such folk apparently went unmolested.

Re: Ambrogio Bembo

I have changed the title of the thread to reflect better what comes next.

Here I will begin with a little more of Ambrogio Bembo's work, something he (with a question mark) did for the Casa Meli. Bandera and Tanzi, 2013, do not include this scene in their selection of "tavole" (panels) to reproduce, but they were all done by the same artist in the same style on the same themes. This one is called "Giuseppe toglie la tazza d'oro", Joseph removes the gold cup. It is also in Kaplan vol. 2, but even my bad photo is better than what he has. Bandera and Tanzi, like the Museo in Cremona, haves the question mark after Ambrogio's name; the attribution is not certain. The Museo has "meta dei XV secolo"; Bandera and Tanzi have "1445-1450 circa". I apologize for the photo, but the light was turned low and I'm lucky to have gotten anything.

Now compare that to a scene out of "Lancelot", published 1446, which Bandera and Tanzi attribute to Ambrogio and Bonifacio together:

On the one hand, there is an obvious affinity, both in the general design and particular details. On the other hand, the "Lancelot" is more expressive.

Here is something else that relates to the PMB, a scene from the Casa Meli. I am not sure what Bible scene is being depicted. What interests me is the shape of the table legs:

Then, from the Bagatella's table:

And from "Lancelot":

But why assume their collaboration, as opposed to one or the other? I am not sure. I will quote what Tanzi says, with my translation (Bandera and Tanzi, p.p. 58-59):
Nel frattempo, in una lunga scheda, Mario Marubbi (in La Pinacoteca 2004, pp. 142-159, n. 40) tenta di chiarire le vicende materiali del ciclo e si attesta sui l'etichetta “Bottega dei Bembo (Ambrogio Bembo?)”, con una cronologia intorno o poco prima della metà del Quattrocento (cfr. anche Castellini 2003, p. 110; 2005, p. 279). Esclude le dieci di Torcello e coglie nella serie, “senza voler parlare di diversi pittori”, due diverse tendenze: "una più sintetica e attenta a risolvere le figure in verticale, caratterizzata da posture più statiche che predilige una disposizione simmetrica, da un segno sottile ed elegante e che ricorre a pochissimi tocchi di colore liquido quasi acquerellato, e una tendenza (o una mano) più distesa, che articola il racconto in maniera più complessa, conferendo movimento e profondità alla scena, oltre a ricorrere più generosamente al colore temperato, contraddistinta da un segno più marcato”.

Roberta Aglio (2008, pp. 16-24), infine, si occupa delle fonti iconografiche e visive del ciclo, in diretto rapporto con gli affreschi nelle volte del transetto del Duomo di Cremona, sulla scorta di quanto già intravisto da Monika Dachs (1989, pp. 116-117).

La serie dì casa Meli è una delle realizzazioni più tìpiche e suggestive di questa specifica specializzazione della bottega bembesca: le analogie di carattere grafico con ii disegno del 1450 con Sant'Omobono, con le illustrazioni del Lancillotto, 1446, e con le altre opere del quinto decennio, fanno pensare a una datazione contigua. Negli anni quaranta-cinquanta le affinità stilistiche tra Bonifacio e Ambrogio sono tangibili, nel segno della declinazione più cortese del gotico, con un compiacimento calligrafico più marcato in Ambrogio. Sono dei 1452 e del 1453 i pagamenti da parte degli ospitalieri cremonesi di Sant’Antonio Abate a un "Magister Bonifatius pictor” e a un "Magìster Ambroxius pictor” per un salterio e otto miniature “ex penello et auro” per un breviario, che rafforzano la convinzione di una collaborazione piuttosto intensa tra i due fratelli, che va intesa come partecipazione comune a imprese di varia natura, sia in pit- [end of 58] tura, con dipinti murali e da cavalletto, sia nelle "arti congeneri", miniature, tarocchi, cassoni nuziali, tavolette da soffitto.

Credo che ad Ambrogio siano da riferire tanto il disegno a penna con SanfOmobono e devoti sulla copertina del Libro mastro del Consorzio di Sarit’Omobono dell’Archivio dì Stato dì Cremona (reg. 381), pagatogli il 10 aprile 1450, quanto l'altro del registro 380, che si legano, come ha riconosciuto per primo Boskovìts, alle Illustrazioni - più raffinate e finite, ma indubbiamente della stessa mano - del Lancillotto fiorentino; alle tavolette e ai mazzi di tarocchi Visconti dì Modrane e Colleonì-Baglioni, I personaggi delle tavolette hanno una verticalità più slanciata rispetto a quelli del Lancillotto: I disegni fiorentini hanno una maggiore finitezza, dovuta alla diversa funzione, ma entrambe le imprese escono dal medesimo ramo della bottega. La distinzione di mano tra Bonifacio e Ambrogio è percepibile con un certo agio grazie ai confronti tra queste opere e le miniature dì Bonifacio alla Mirandola e a Rimini. Il corpus di Ambrogio, così formato, dovrebbe comprendere dipinti come l'affresco con la Madonna con II Bambino tra i Santi Cosma e Damiano, datata 1448, della Pinacoteca di Cremona (inv. 17), che già Puerari avvicinava ai due Santi Harris ora a Leicester (New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, inv. L.F25.1950.0.0, LF26.1950.-0.0), e, credo, il trittichetto di Avignone (inv. Calvet 22810), sempre sul finire degli anni quaranta. Entrano a pieno diritto nella discussione anche parte degli affreschi nella cappelletta della Rocca di Monticelli d’Ongina, eseguiti per Carlo Pallavicino dopo l’elezione a vescovo di Lodi nel 1456 (e, verosìmilmente, la presa di possesso dell’edificio, nel 1458): le Storie di San Bassiano, i Profeti, le lunette con San Giorgio e la principessa, la Crocifissione e la Deposizione. (Marco Tanzì)

(Meanwhile, in a long discussion, Mario Marubbi (in La Pinacoteca 2004, pp. 142-159, n. 40) attempts to clarify the recent material on the cycle and stands by the label "Bembo Workshop (Ambrogio Bembo?)", with a chronology around or just before the middle of the fifteenth century (cfr. also Castellini 2003, p. 110; 2005, p. 279). He excludes the ten of Torchello and grasps in the series, "without wanting to talk about different painters", two different trends: "a more concise and careful to resolve the figures in vertical, characterized by more static postures that prefers a symmetrical arrangement, by a sign slim and stylish and in which recurs a few touches of liquid color, almost watercolor, and a trend (or hand) more relaxed, that articulates the story in a more complex way, giving movement and depth to the scene, as well as more generous use of tempered color, characterized by a stronger design."

Roberta Aglio ([Le tavolette da soffito bembesche con storie della Genesi dei Museo Civico di Cremona. Alcune considerazioni iconografiche, in "Arte Lombarda", 152, pp. 16024) 2008, pp. 16-24), finally, deals with the iconographic sources and the visual cycle, in direct relation to the frescoes in the vaults of the transept of the Cathedral of Cremona, on the basis of what has already been glimpsed by Monika Dachs (Ene Cremoneser "tavoletta da soffitto" im Besitz des OberoesterreichischerLandesmuseums in Linz, in "Jahrbuch des Oberoesterreichisher Musealverein", 134, pp. 113-131] 1989, pp. 116-117).

The series at the Meli house is one of the most typical achievements, suggestive of this specific specialization of the Bembo workshop: the similarities in character with the graphic design in 1450 of Sant'Omobono, with illustrations of Lancelot, 1446, and other works of the fifth decade, suggest a contiguous dating. In the forties-fifties, stylistic affinities between Bonifacio and Ambrogio are tangible, in the more courteous sign of declination of the Gothic, with a more pronounced calligraphic complacency in Ambrogio. There are the 1452 and 1453 payments by the Hospitallers of Saint Anthony of Cremona to a “Magister Bonifatius Pictor" and a "Magister Ambroxius Pictor" for a psalter and eight miniatures "ex penello et auro" for a breviary, reinforcing the conviction of a rather intense collaboration between the two brothers, that should be understood as joint participation in productions of various kinds, both in paintings [58] , painting in murals and easel, and in the "arti congeneri": miniatures , tarot cards, wedding chests, ceiling panels.

I believe that to Ambrogio are to be referred both the drawing in pen with Sant’Omobono and devotees on the cover of the ledger of the Consortium of Saint Omobono of the Archives of Cremona (reg. 381), paid on April 10, 1450, as well as the other register 380, which connect, as Boskovits first recognized, to the Illustrations - finer and more finished, but undoubtedly by the same hand - of the Florentine Lancelot; the panels, and the Visconti of Madrone and Colleoni-Baglioni Tarot decks. The characters of the panels have a more slender verticality than those of Lancelot: The Florentine drawings have a greater finitude, due to their different function, but both bear the impress of the same branch of the shop. The distinction of the hand between Bonifacio and Ambrogio is perceived with a certain ease thanks to the comparisons between these works and the miniatures of Bonifacio at Mirandola and Rimini. The corpus of Ambrogio, thus formed, should include paintings such as the fresco of the Madonna and Child between Saints Cosmas and Damian, dated 1448, Pinacoteca di Cremona (cat. 17), which already Puerari advanced, with the two Harris Saints now at Leicester (New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, inv. L.F25.1950.0.0, LF26.1950.-0.0), and, I believe, the triptych of Avignon (inv. Calvet 22810), all in the late forties. With full rights in the discussion come also part of the frescoes in the chapel of the Rocca dif Monticelli d'Ongina, executed for Carlo Pallavicino after his election as Bishop of Lodi in 1456 (and, presumably, his taking possession of the building in 1458): the Stories of San Bassiano, the Prophets, the lunettes with Saint George and the Princess, the Crucifixion and the Deposition. (Marco Tanzì))
This last list must have been meant to include everything that Ambrogio participated in, with or without Bonifacio. But it seems, from the captions to the reproductions in the book, that Tanzi attributes the triptych in Avignon to Ambrogio alone ( ... age-48.JPG), as well as, with a question mark, a c. 1468 San Giorgio ( ... age-16.JPG; Kaplan, p. 134, calls this San Alexis). As for the saints at Leicester, which he attributes to Ambrogio, a comparison of them with two other saints in Milan and attributed to Bonifacio might be one way to see the differences between the two painters:

The ones he attributes to Ambrogio are in black and white. The others certainly have more life, if nothing else.

And here are examples of the miniatures that Tanzi attributes to Bonifacio Bembo:

I have not located a 1448 fresco of "Madonna and Child between Saints Cosmas and Damian". It is not in my photos taken at Cremona, nor can I find a "cat. 17" in the book, nor is it in Kaplan.

Looking at the Meli panels that Tanzi reproduces, I suppose I can see what he means by "verticality":
(a) expulsion of Adam and Eve: ... age-17.JPG
(b) Joseph sold by his brothers: ... age-20.JPG (an example where the "verticality" is not present)
(c) Joseph before Pharoah: ... age-18.JPG
(d) Arrest of Benjamin: ... age-19.JPG

There is a similar "verticality" in some of the Cary-Yale and PMB figures, e.g. the attendants on the Emperor and Empress cards; but these are invariably children, who would be expected to be thinner.

I have an additional observation not mentioned by the experts. It may not be worth anything. I'd say that Ambrogio might not do animals well. At the Casa Meli he has a scene of Adam naming the animals.

He doesn't seem to know what size a unicorn is, much less a lion. Either that or these were done for children to look at, and he wanted the animals to look like pets. But I don't know of any other such examples. (Incidentally, Bonifacio's Adam at Sant'Agostino (reproduced in Tanzi's 2011 book) shows, by comparison Ambrogio's "slender verticality": ... age-26.JPG

For comparison of animals, here is a scene from "Lancelot" with a unicorn done the correct size, just as lovable, and some other animals. I think they are done better than in the Casa Meli panels.

In the tarot decks, there aren't many animals. The dog in the CY Love card seems to me pretty lifelike. The lion in the CY Fortitude card is strange, but at least its head is the right size ( ... 5d5ea2.jpg. The lion in the corresponding card of the PMB ( ... rength.jpg) is absurdly small, like that in "Adam Naming the Animals". In contrast Bonifacio's lion in the fresco of St. Mark and St.Gregory ( ... age-52.JPG) is fairly realistic.

Bandera and Tanzi do produce documentation that the two painters collaborated. Tanzi writes (p. 25). That is mentioned in the long passage I quoted before. It refers back to another discussion which gives the reference in the literature (p. 25):
In quest'ottica non sottovaluto i pagamenti del 1452 per le miniature di un Uffiziolo per i frati Ospitalieri di Sant’Antonio a Cremona a un “Magistro Bonifatìo pictori" e a un "Magistro Ambroxio pictori” {Novati 1885, p. 53): sono documenti che rafforzano la convinzione di una collaborazione piuttosto intensa tra i due fratelli negli anni quaranta-cinquanta.

(With this in mind I do not underestimate the payments of 1452 for the miniatures of an Uffiziolo for the Hospitaller Brothers of St. Anthony in Cremona to a "Magistro Bonifatìo pictori" and a "Magistro Ambroxio pictori" (Novati 1885 [P. Novati, Scrittori e miniatori cremonese del secolo XV, "Il Bibliofilio" VI, pp. 49-53], p. 53); these are documents that reinforce the conviction of a rather intense collaboration between the two brothers in the forties-fifties.
This is Tanzi writing, but the volume is edited by both Bandera and him, with attributions not credited to either in particular. She is a leading authority on the cards, and Tanzi the same on the Bembos.

I have underexposed and more or less blurry photos of about a dozen more of the Casa Meli panels, if anyone needs to see more. There is also one more in Kaplan vol. 2, p. 135. And there are many more scenes from "Lancelot" in Bandera and Tanzi's 2013 catalog besides those here and in Kaplan.

Re: Ambrogio vs. Bonifacio Bembo

It might be worthwhile to compare "Adoration of the Magi" scenes from the two artists, Ambrogio and Bonifacio Bembo, from around the same time period, which Bandera and Tanzi estimate as 1445-1450 for Ambrogio and 1440-1445 for Bonifacio. Here is Ambrogio, in my poor photo:

And the lower two-thirds of the Bonifacio (in a private collection):

Comparing the middle Magus in both, Ambrogio's is definitely more "vertical", and also less like any of the cards, than Bonifacio's.

Notice also the shepherd in the upper left, with a club similar to that held by the PMB Matto, no doubt to deal with wolves such as the one at the right:

The kneeling shepherd is looking at an angel, while the other is oblivious, more concerned with his sheep. The full painting is at ... age-25.JPG, scanned from Bandera and Tanzi, p. 13.

These details favor Bonifacio as the artist of the early cards. Others, except for lacking the "verticality", could be Ambrogio. Perhaps the Bagatella table legs are a sign of Ambrogio, I don't know. I wish Tanzi had extended his analysis of the differences between the two painters to specific details in the cards, but he doesn't, that I can find. It is Bandera who writes the essays on the cards. I will get to her arguments in favor of Ambrogio in another post.

Re: Ambrogio vs. Bonifacio Bembo

Bandera agrees with Tanzi that Ambrogio was involved in the PMB. On whether he was involved in the CY, she expresses no opinion. However her argument would seem to count against it. Tanzi, in contrast, saw his hand even there, in the "Visconti di Madrone", as he calls it--although without any specifics. Perhaps they are in Boskovitz, whom he says precedes him in this view.

Bandera's argument regarding the PMB is as follows. First it is necessary to establish when they were done:
Rispetto agli altri due mazzi bembeschi, in quello Colleoni-Baglioni si riscontra un’impostazione delie figure nello spazio più salda e monumentale, l’uso di architetture non più gotiche, e un deciso allontanamento dai canoni di eleganza filiforme e allungata messi in opera soprattutto nel mazzo Brambilla, memori dei modelli di Gentile da Fabriano. Questo elemento stilistico denuncia una cronologia più avanzata, in lìnea con l’attività del sesto decennio dei Bembo, che è ben rappresentata da un notevole affresco eseguito da Bonifacio, rinvenuto nei 2003 nel coro della chiesa cremonese di Sant'Omobono (fig. 3, p. 15). Rappresenta, con una visione frontale simiie alla Regina di Lance del nostro mazzo, la Madonna con il Bambino in trono, un santo cavaliere, Sant'Omobono e un donatore (Tanzi 2011, tav. 24), ed è databile intorno al 1455: è un’opera nella quale si riconosce - pur in un’impostazione compositiva ancora goticheggiante - un’apertura spaziale innovativa rispetto alle prove precedenti.

Compared to the other two Bembo decks, the Colleoni-Baglioni constructs a firmer, more monumental setting of the figures in space, no long with use of Gothic architecture, and a marked departure from the standards of elongated and threadlike elegance put in place especially in the Brambilla deck, mindful of the models of Gentile da Fabriano. This stylistic element announces a Bembo chronology that is more advanced, in line with the activities of the sixth decade, which is represented well in a remarkable fresco by Bonifacio, found in 2003 in the choir of the Cremonese church of Sant' Omobono (fig. 3, p. 15). It depicts, in a frontal view similar to the Queen of Lances of our deck, the Virgin and Child Enthroned, a holy knight, Sain Omobono and a donor (Tanzi 2011, pl. 24), and is dated around 1455: it is a work in which is recognized - still in a setting of Gothic-like composition - an innovative spatial opening compared to previous trials.
Here is that fig. 3 (higher resolution at ... age-29.JPG), along with the Queen of Lances:


A couple of paragraphs later Bandera compares the deck, in regard to its "three-dimensionality and the discovery of a new relationship between figure and space", to a 1458 Polyptych in the church of Sant' Agustino in Bergamo, some panels of which are preserved in the Accedemia Carrera; they can be seen in F. Rossi, Presenze lombarde, in I pittore bergamaschi del XIII al XIX secolo. Il Quatrocento, II, Bergamo 1994, pp. 49-97, figures 76-78. Both works serve to situate the PMB in the period 1455-1460, she says.

In that context she then discusses the relationship to Ambrogio:
Va sottolineato che queste carte, per quanto non prive di verve aneddottica, sicurezza di tratto e freschezza di motivi, presentano un’esecuzione più corsiva rispetto al mazzo Brambilla, simile ai disegni del codice Palatino 556 (cat. 2) dove, accanto a Bonifacio, sembra di poter riconoscere anche la mano dei fratello Ambrogio. La più assidua presenza di Ambrogio al fianco di Bonifacio nell’atelier cremonese trova conferma dagli archivi, che, per quanto riguarda Bonifacio, denunciano in questo periodo un incremento di spostamenti fuori Cremona. Dopo le iniziali, prestigiose committenze legate ai CavaIcabò e agli Eremitani della chiesa cittadina di Sant’Agostino (cat. 6 e 7), Bonifacio, fautore del partito filo-sforzesco, estende i! raggio delle sue imprese, tanto da meritare nel 1455, in Cremona, l'attestazione di artista “cuius fama fere tote Italie vulgatissima est” (Bandera Bistoletti 1987, p. 160). In particolare nel sesto decennio è documentato tra Parma e Reggio (Bandera Bistoletti 1987, p. 160; Buganza 2006, p. 38; cfr. cat. 2), e nei castello di Pavia, dove, come pittore ducale, esegue tra il 1456 e il 1458 ingenti opere oggi perdute (Bandera 1977, p. 161). Questo induce a pensare che, sebbene nate sotto il segno dì Bonifacio e verosimilmente impostate dal titolare della bottega, queste carte possano essere state portate a termine da Ambrogio, alla cui tecnica più corsiva sembra ascrivibile anche l'esecuzione dei semi. Sono infatti da rimarcare alcune forti analogie con altre opere bembesche che costituiscono il catalogo, ancora in via di formazione, di Ambrogio Bembo, dalle Storie di San Bassiano nella rocca di Monticelli d’Ongina, affrescate a date più o meno coincidenti a quelle del mazzo, al San Giuliano (?) (o San Giorgio (?), figg. p. 80) del Musée Jacquemart-André dì Châalis (inv. MJAC. P. 15; cfr. cat. 9).

It should be emphasized that these cards, though not without anecdotal verve, secure stroke and freshness of conception, are executed more cursively than the Brambilla pack, similar to the designs of codex Palatino 556 (cat. 2) where, next to Bonifacio, one seems to be able to recognize the hand of his brother Ambrogio. The most steadfast presence of Ambrose alongside Bonifacio in the Cremonese atelier is confirmed by the archives, which, as regards Bonifacio, announce in this period an increased repositioning outside Cremona. After the initial prestigious commissions related to Cavacabò and the Eremetani of the city's church of Sant'Agostino (cat. 6 and 7), Bonifacio, a proponent of the pro-Sforza party, extended the radius of his businesses, deserving in 1455, in Cremona, the attestation of being an artist "cuius fama fere tote Italie vulgatissima est" (Bandera Bistoletti 1987, p. 160). In particular in the sixth decade he is documented in Parma and Reggio (Bandera Bistoletti 1987, p. 160; Buganza 2006, p. 38; see Cat. 2), and in the castle of Pavia, where, as a ducal painter he executed between 1456 and 1458 significant works now lost (Bandera 1977, p. 161). This suggests that, although born under the mark of Bonifacio, who was probably set up as the owner of the shop, these cards may have been completed by Ambrogio, to whose more cursive technique also seems ascribable the execution of the suits. In fact there are observed some strong similarities to other Bembo works that constitute the catalog, still in the making, of Ambrogio Bembo, from the stories of San Bassiano in the fortress of Monticelli, frescoed at a date more or less in parallel to those of the pack, to Saint Giuliano (?) (or Saint Giorgio (?), figs. p. 80) of the Musée Jacquemart-André at Châalis (inv. MJAC. P. 15; cfr. cat. 9).
I have already posted the Saint Giuliano or Giorgio (or Kaplan's "Alexis"), at ... age-16.JPG. I am not sure what she means by a more "cursive" style; but there is a very obvious difference between the number cards on the one hand and the courts and triumphs on the other, namely, the former are painted on white backgrounds, whereas the latter have brown backgrounds on which intricate patterns seem to be etched. In the earlier CY and BB even the number cards had brown backgrounds. It is a reasonable hypothesis that Ambrogio did at least the number cards. He might also have done some work on other cards. I have to say, however, that the PMB Knights' horses look much more realistic than the Casa Meli horses (e.g. ... age-19.JPG, whose legs look more like a deer's).

Bandera briefly discusses the six PMB cards by the second artist. She has no trouble affirming that they were done by Antonio Cigognara, a judgment that apparently does not merit further discussion. Bandera says:
Il mazzo comprende anche alcuni Trionfi rappresentanti Stella, Luna, Mondo (Bergamo, Accademia Carrara), Sole, Fortezza e Temperanza (New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library), che risultano palesemente eseguiti in un momento più avanzato del Quattrocento, da una mano influenzata dalla cultura ferrarese. Riferiti correttamente già dal Toesca (1912, p. 527) ad Antonio Cicognara, furono dipinti probabilmente per integrare carte mancanti, perdute o rovinate con l’uso, visto che presentano sia lo stesso rapporto tra figura e sfondo sia le medesime scelte cromatiche del resto del mazzo (M.L. Ferrari, in Arte lombarda 1958, pp. 84-85; Algeri 1987, pp. 28-29, 42-43; Dachs 1992, pp. 175-178; Bandera 1999, p. 64). A parte i dispareri di Michael Dummett (2007, p. 22), l'attribuzione di queste carte al Cicogna ra è generalmente accettata (si veda G. Valagussa, in Lombard reneszànsz 2009, p. 40; Rinascimento 2010, p. 4; Renaissance 2011, p. 87).

The deck also includes some Triumphs representing Star, Moon, World (Bergamo, Accademia Carrara), Sun, Fortitude and Temperance (New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library), which are clearly executed at a more advanced time of the fifteenth century, by a hand influenced by the culture of Ferrara. Referred properly since Toesca (1912, p. 527) to Antonio Cigognara, they were probably painted to integrate cards missing, lost or damaged with use, since both have the same relationship between figure and background and the same color choices as the rest of the deck (ML Ferrari, Lombard art in 1958, pp. 84-85; Algeri 1987 [Un Giogo per le corti: I Tarocchi miniati, in Le carte di corte. I tarocchi, Gioco e magia alla corte degli Estensi, catalogo della mostra, a cura di G. Berti, Bologna 1987, pp. 21-43], pp. 28-29, 42-43; Dachs 1992 Antonio Cigognara als "Restaurator". Die Überarbeitung der Colleaoni-Tarcchi aus dem Atelier der Cremoneser Malerfamilie Bembo, in "Pantheon" L], pp. 175-178; Bandera 1999 Introduzione: i tarocchi come testionianza di un'epoca, in I tarocchi. di caso e la fortune. Bonfacio Bembo e la cultura cortese tardogotica, catalogo della mostra, a cura di S. Bandera, Milano, pp. 11-33)], p. 64). Aside from the disagreements of Michael Dummett (2007, p. 22), the attribution of these cards to Cigognara is generally accepted (see G. Valagussa, in Lombard Reneszànsz 2009, p. 40; Rinascimento 2010 p. 4; Renaissance 2011, p. 87).
So Bandera and Tanzi date these cards to the 1480s; Cigognara's career started in about 1480. I looked for paintings by Cigognara in Italian museums. There was one in Cremona.


There is also an issue of whether Cigognara, or someone, retouched some of the first artist cards. Bandera alludes to this idea in her concluding paragraph (highlighting mine):
Al di là - e al di sotto - di un'alterazione cromatica dovuta alia presenza di numerosi ritocchi alterati (alcuni dei quali, secondo l'interessante proposta di Monika Dachs - 1992, pp. 175-178 - spetterebbero a un intervento sulle carte bembesche ascrivibile ad Antonio Cicognara, soprattutto sulla Papessa, sulla Giustizia, sul Fante di Denari, sul Tempo e sul Fante di Lance), è indubbio che i personaggi di questo mazzo rappresentino una novità nelle vicende bembesche, con il deciso interesse per la resa dei volumi, della tridimensionalità e la scoperta di un nuovo rapporto tra figura e spazio, in linea con i primi dichiarati sviluppi in Lombardia del Rinascimento; quasi in parallelo con quanto avviene, nel 1458, ai-fautore di un importante polìttico per la chiesa di Sant'Agostìno a Bergamo, del quale l’Accademia Carrara conserva alcuni pannelli (Rossi 1994, pp. 65-66, figg. 76-78), (Sandrina Bandera)

Beyond - and below - chromatic alteration due to the presence of numerous altering retouches (some of which, according to the interesting proposal of Monika Dachs - 1992, pp. 175-178 - would be given to an intervention on the Bembo cards attributed to Antonio Cicognara, especially on the Popess, Justice, the Page of Coins, Time and the Page of Lances), there is no doubt that the characters in this deck represent a new thing in the Bembo sequence of evens, with decisive interest of the rendering of volume, the three-dimensionality and the discovery of a new relationship between figure and space, in line with the first declared developments in the Lombard Renaissance, almost in parallel with the event, in 1458, of the championing of a major Polyptych for the church of Sant'Agostino in Bergamo, of which the Accademia Carrara preserves some panels (Rossi 1994, pp. 65-66, figs. 76-78).
What is new to us is the idea that Cigognara made changes in certain cards. What is different about them? Bandera merely refers us to Dachs. Perhaps these cards have in common the lack of a certain style of design on the clothing of the figures compared with comparable other figures, e.g. the Empress, the Emperor, the Pope, the Chariot-lady, and instead an interest in rendering the folds of the garments in a three-dimensional way similar to the six added cards. Perhaps I or someone can get Dachs' essay for more clarification. It is Antonio Cigognara als "Restaurator". Die Überarbeitung der Colleoni-Tarocchi aus dem Atelier der Cremoneser Malerfamilie Bembo, in "Pantheon" L, 1992, pp. 175-178.

Re: Ambrogio vs. Bonifacio Bembo

I notice now some voices in dissent recently from attributing the Brera-Brambilla, at least, to the Bembo workshop. There had always been the contention that the Zavatarri did the cards, but I thought that attribution had been set to rest.

The exhibition catalog Arte Lombarda dai Visconti agli Sforza, Milano 2015, has for the BB cards it was exhibiting: "Bottega dei Bembo (?)". It notes on p. 233, in the entry for the BB by Roberta Delmoro, that there have been two recent studies re-attributing the Brera-Brambilla cards to the Zavatarri. One is S. Buganza, "Tarocchi viscontei", in Oro ai Visconti agli Sforza. Smalti e oreficeria nal Ducato di Milano, catalogo della mostra, a cura di P. Venturelli (Milano, Museo Diocesano, 30 settembre 2011-29 gennao 2012), Cinisello Balsamo 2011, p. 148. The other is M. Marubbi, "La Barca Bianca, i persici di Cremona e frate Nebridio", in Studi in onore di Maria Grazia Albertini Ottolenghi Milano 2013 , p. 56, note 6.

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