Literary source for the trumps: Dante’s Paradiso

Please refer to this schemtic of my view of the genesis of tarot (14 trumps of the Florentine Anghiari deck, closely followed by the nearly identical CY deck) and its secondary development into the final format of tarot we know (the PMB, 21 + Fool), for the ensuing discussion:

As abridged as this explanation is (only a monograph could do it proper justice – and I’ve certainly no time for that at the moment), it is overly lengthy for a message board post, so it is broken up into three major parts (this will run over into multiple posts due to length, so “replies” to myself): First, the Structure of Dante’s poem and its relationship to the Anghiari/Cary Yale (CY) “ur-tarot” and the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo (PMB) decks. Secondly, the pivotal role of the humanist Francesco Filelfo; and thirdly, explication of Individual Trumps (some of these will come later and but for the subset I have deemed as controversial – the planets – I will provide 7 individual responses covering each of those separately). Unless noted otherwise, all translations of Dante are from Robert and Jean Hollander, Paradiso, 2007.

The earliest surviving tarot decks, one now held in the Cary Yale Library (hereafter CY) and another partially in the Pierpont Morgan Library and in Bergamo’s Accademia Carrara (jointly and hereafter PMB), and brief mentioning the ducal records of Ferrara placed the search for tarot’s origins in those two cities. In February 2012, however, Thierry DePaulis came across a mention of tarot, naibi dei trionfi (cards with triumphs), in the September 16, 1440 entry in the diary of a notary, Giusti Giusto, from Anghiari, in the 2002 publication of the same (Nerida Newbigin, ed., "I "Giornali" di ser Giusto Giusti d'Anghiari (1437-1482)" in Letteratura Italiana Antica, III, 2002, pp. 41-246, 66). Giusti’s hometown is the eponymous name of the battle on June 29, 1440, between the victorious Florentine-Papal army and the Milanese army, and thus his entry follows less than three months later. Coupled with the fact that Giusti explicitly states that he commissioned said deck in Florence (which has not survived) seems to provide the historical circumstances in which trionfi emerged. Unless an earlier reference to trionfi can be found, the conception and development of tarot is necessarily to be found in Florence in light of its relations with Milan and Ferrara in the decade of 1440-1450. The emphasis here is on development as the oldest surviving deck, the CY (and a much more fragmentary, contemporary deck presumed to be nearly identical, the Brambilla, held in Milan), in that it differs from the nearly complete PMB deck in having theological virtues – something no other tarot deck possesses. Furthermore, if the CY was to celebrate the condotte between the Duke of Milan, Filippo Visconti, and the condottiere Francesco Sforza via the marriage to his only daughter, Bianca (albeit illegitimate) along with the dowry of the towns of Cremona and Pontremoli, then proximity in time is quite close between Giusti’s Anghiari deck (procured in September 1440) and the wedding of Bianca and Sforza (October 1441) , of about a year. Therefore the assumption is that regime-specific interpretations of certain trump themes aside, the nominal subjects remained the same between the Giusti-Anghiari deck and the CY. Another assumption is that the Anghiari inception of trumps did not deviate from the existing 14 card suits (Swords, Coins, Cups and Staves – the last shown variously as staffs or arrows) - 10 ordinal pip cards followed by a Page, Knight, Queen and King - of normal playing cards. There simply was not enough time to innovate an entirely new, meaningful series in so short a time.

However, the CY deck does contain an anomaly – 6 court cards instead of the 4, so that each of suits has 16 cards instead of the expected 14. This can be explained, I believe, because of the variation of the controversial CY Love trump. The Petrarch-esque Love theme remained the same from the Anghiari deck, so it is proposed, but not how it was depicted. The CY Love trump is controversial because a man and women are clasping hands, evidentially in regard to a matrimonial-related event - the not so subtle conjugal bed that would allow the rightful consummation of the marriage, lies immediately behind them, beneath a pavilion on which are pennants displaying the Visconti biscone and the controversial red pennant quartered by a white cross, interpreted as either the flag of Savoy or of Pavia. The groom’s cape is decorated with the Sforza device of the fountain which is also found on all of the court cards in the suit of staves; in fact the 4 suits are split evenly amongst Visconti and Sforza devices – the other Sforza device of the pomegranate is on the Swords court persons’ dress while the Visconti radiate dove and palm frond/ducal crown device on the Coins and Cups, respectively. The deck then is a “merger” of sorts between two houses, equally represented. If the bridal figure was associated with Savoy surely that country’s symbols (or at least those of France, with which it was closely associated) would have been shown on two of the suits, instead of being limited to just the love card.

So why would the disputed flag be Pavia, the university town and Visconti-favoured court palace, with renowned library (where royal Visconti children were raised), located just south of Milan? Before Filippo became duke he was the Count of Pavia and thus that title could be viewed as that of the “crown prince,” much as the Prince of Wales is for the British throne. The answer then is all too simple: Filippo was expecting an heir from this union. Presumably his daughter Bianca would act as regent should Filippo die before the child was of age, and indeed he did, just six years later (a child was born in 1444, so only three at the time of Filippo’s death). This theory finds its confirmation of sorts when after claiming the Duchy of Milan for himself, Sforza has this very child proclaimed Count of Pavia (Cecilia Ady, A History of Milan Under the Sforza, 1907: 65). So much for the CY – but it would have displaced the particulars of the Florentine Anghiari deck, whose Love trump featured what?
Florence was not ruled by a titular sovereign, such as the Duchy of Milan, and would not have engaged in marrying daughters off to fellow sovereigns; ergo, the CY Love card is particularly inappropriate for Florence, especially in 1440 when the illusion of Cosimo in an official “first among equals” platitude was still being promoted as commensurate with Florence’s Republican liberty. Now that the so-called King Charles VI tarot deck is now identified as Florentine, and thus the oldest surviving from that city, that deck’s love card should point us in the right direction in regard to what the Love theme would look in that city –a crowd of people (3 dancing couples in the case of the CVI card) driven before the god of Love, such as we find in any number depictions of Petrarch’s Triumph of Love. Most noteworthy is that Anghiari happened immediately after the annual June festival of San Giovanni, not only the only location for baptisms in Florence but also the time of year when the majority of those unions that resulted in children to be baptized occurred - marriages: “If, as one preacher said, marriages would not last six months without the sacramental solemnities, Florentines obviously thought they would last longer if performed on June 24. This is behind Dati’s remark Istoria 127] that pending marital links were postponed until St. John’s ‘to honor the feast.’” (Richard Trexler, Public Life in Renaissance Florence, 1980: 265).
The events the lead to Dante’s own exile in 1302 were precipitated by Florentine internecine strife during the Saint John procession:
On May 1300…the by-then traditional dress of upper-class women were disrupted when two festive brigates of the competing families of the Cerchi and Donati collided with each other while watching their virgins and matrons dance…On St. John’s vigil less than two months later, guild consuls marching in front of their organizations were attacked by a group of grandi who resented the increased prominence of civil organizations, and the demise of honorable men. The grandi too wanted to be part of the parade, and [next page] as they pummeled these representatives of the civic order, they screamed: ‘we are the ones who gained victory at Campaldino, and you have removed us from the offices and honors of the city!” ‘The city’ was no longer simply its magnates. This St. John’s procession, and all those in years to come, were fundamental statements about the nature of political order.” (ibid, 281-219).
So we have the St. John’s Feast occurring less than a week before the Florentine Anghiari – surely they prayed to their patron saint for victory and surely the triumphal celebrations took a few symbolic nods toward the close proximity of the two events. The Lovers card, such as we find in the CVI, with 6 couples would be such a “nod.” The CVI lover’s card of three couples is closely related to the theme of couples stepping lively in Scheggia’s Admiari cassone painting: ... l_crop.jpg
The museum in which it is housed thusly describes it: “Their slow steps may be those of a wedding dance known as the chiarenzana to music played by the pifferi, a Florentine civic ensemble.” Baxandall’s fundamental work, Painting and Experience in 15th century Italy (1972), notes the link between the groupings of people in paintings and dance but also comments on the Bassa danza, “the slow pacing dance that became popular in Italy during the first half of the century” (77). A specific dance cannot be securely identified in either the cassone or card, but rather it is some version of the Bassa danza. The earliest known dances in treatises that appeared in the 1440s had names like ‘Cupido’ and ‘Jealousy’, the latter featuring three men and three women (78), just as in our CVI card. Just as suggestively as ‘Cupido’, Lorenzo Magnifico even wrote a Basssa danza called ‘Venus.’ There is little doubt what the Florentine CVI lovers card represents: “love” drawn to and resulting from the ritual of the dance. Most tellingly, Baldini’s engraved series of planets features a dancing couple below Eros: ... nusFin.jpg.Dance signified the well-governed state, just as it did a hundred years earlier in the Sienese fresco of “the Effects of Good Government on City Life”. After Anghiari, in which the Milanese enemy was aided by an exiled Florentine faction led by the Albizzi, the civic unity displayed in the St. John’s celebrations was the perfect way to gloss over the issue of civic strife. The bellicose element has been exiled and defeated – long live Florence (or some such sentiment).

The Planetary Structure of the Paradiso

Instead of randomly picking trump themes throughout the Commedia (Seabury, 1949) or Convivio (Berti, 2001, although admittedly this is a creative work of art and not a “theory”: ... _dante.htm), or both (Campbell, 1987) the very structure of Dante’s Paradiso is adhered to – Dante himself pursues an eschatological journey via the planetary model of Macrobius’ commentary on Scipio’s Dream. To each of the 7 planetary spheres, Dante added one of the 7 Virtues and then peopled each sphere with exempli with whom he speaks, people who illuminate the exemplary theme of the given planet/virtue. Et voila: 3X7 – 7 planets, 7 virtues, 7 exempli or antitype, for a total of 21 trumps (I will argue the Fool was tacked on with the creation of the PMB and is not derived from the Paradiso ). The last category, exemplar or antitype, represents a special problem in that there is a larger set of options than the Planets and Virtues, the latter two categories being set in stone). That the fool is not present in the ur-tarot and was tacked on as a concern relevant at the time of the PMB’s creation is a supposition maintained by the evidence of the 1457 Ferrarese archival reference to a trionfi deck of 70 cards ( that testifies to the lingering presence of the original 14 trumps, without a Fool (14 card suits x 4 = 56 + 14 trumps = 70 ). The earlier Ferrarese reference in 1441 to the 14 images painted for Bianca Visconti in 1441 also alludes, in my opinion, to this newly introduced fifth suit” of trumps to card-playing decks - a series so new the name trionfi had not become a commonplace yet (even the phrase Giusti uses naibi a trionfi in regard to purchasing a Anghiari deck in 1440 is completely unique, a hapax, and no equivalent term for trionfi cards predates this earliest reference; also not that Ferrara was not celebrating a triumph on 1/1/1441). Again, I will discuss my reasons for the Fool and 7 planets below in depth in individual replies to this lead post.

One naturally objects here at the insistence on structure when it is well known that the Commedia’s structure is a numerical pattern of 9 plus 1: 9 circles of the Inferno, followed by Lucifer at its bottom; 9 rings of Mount Purgatory, followed by the Garden of Eden at the summit; and the 9 celestial bodies of Paradiso, followed by the Empyrean/God. But within this Christian eschatology are located the three groups of Christians not already consigned to hell (the condemned are no longer part of the Church proper): the Church Penitent (or Expectant, who are in Purgatory) for whom one can only pray for indulgences, the living of the Church Militant, and the Church Triumphant (the Holy Family, Apostles and Saints in heaven who can be petitioned as intercessors with God Himself). Obviously the deck was addressed to the living Church Militant who could actually benefit from the lessons of trionfi. So while the Paradiso takes place in the realm of the Church Triumphant it is experienced by a still living pilgrim from the Church Militant, Dante, in a vision of sorts and his lessons are our lessons. But if the Paradiso] is the material of our lesson, why leave out the top three spheres of the Fixed Stars, Primum Mobile and Empyrean? Because after the last planetary sphere, Saturn, one climbs a ladder to the Fixed Spheres, where Dante encounters Church Triumphant proper, but the ladder figuratively demarcates the 7 planetary spheres below from the 3 ineffable spheres above. As Dante leaves Saturn, his expectations stated in that sphere’s last canto are to meet the ‘triunfale’ (XXIII.131; the Triumphant) in the next sphere. The eschatological goal of joining the Church Triumphant is retained in the very name of tarot – trionfo. There is no arcane meaning here – no Cathars nor Kabbalah – in fact the meaning was writ large in an earlier pictorial program on the walls of the Spanish Chapel in S. Maria Novella in Florence, where Pope Eugene IV was staying during the events of Anghiari: a fresco of the Church Militant marching upwards to the Church Triumphant. ... iuto_8.JPG

As for a “smoking gun” linking the Florentine triumph of Anghiari (and the presumed original creation of – trionfi – the “ur-tarot”) to Dante’s symbol of the Church Triumphant, see the poem of Anselmo Calderoni, the Florentine herald, on the occasion of the Anghiari triumphal celebration:
“O Lord, we praise you, all of us singing, / together with your Mother the glorious Virgin, / and praising all the apostles / and especially the great Baptist /with all the court of heaven / portrayed in the form of a white rose, / since it is the day when he who opens the portals / of Paradise admits the Florentine people, / who were victorious by just Fortune / against the evil Niccolo Piccinino / and his followers…. (translation in Dale V. Kent, Cosimo de' Medici and the Florentine Renaissance: the patron's oeuvre, 2000: 280).
The White Rose is course Dante’s metaphor for the Church Triumphant in the Empyrean (the souls Dante meets in the lower spheres have ventured downward from their place in the Rose), literally depicted as such, for example, in Giovanni di Paolo’s illuminated manuscript of the Commedia, c. 1450, for King Alphonso of Naples (Yates Thompson 36): ... 807-05.jpg
Now that we have limited our scope of the trionfi program to the planetary spheres’ portion of the Paradiso, two additional structural questions immediately arise: why did the ur-tarot deck of the Anghiari/CY not include the planets and why did the PMB include them (expanding from 2X7 to 3x7+fool) and at the same time why did the PMB replace the Theologicals? In both cases the answer is the same: the commissioning party’s political relationship to the Papacy.

The Ur-Tarot (Anghiari/CY) Lack of Planets

Anghiari was won by a “holy alliance” of the Church and Florence. If I had to pick a Florentine humanist behind the celebratory trionfi deck (whose only known exemplar was that of Giusti’s for Malatesta) it would be the humanist chancellor Leonardo Bruni. Given Bruni’s official position he would have been aware of any triumphal celebration in Florence and it’s hard to imagine the renowned author of The History of Florentine People not weighing in on such a triumph. His supplemental Memoirs added to the History as a means to update events through his own day, proudly proclaims his additional role on the Dieci during the culminating event of the victory at Anghiari:
Thus after turbulent times when I was chosen [as a member of the Dieci/Ten of War], a prosperous and joyful period finally emerged and the city was raised to great glory” (Leonardo Bruni, The History of Florentine People, Vol 3, Books IX-XII / Memoirs, Ed. And tr. James Hankins with D. Bradley, 2007: 397)
Of the utmost relevance is Bruni’s elevation of Prudence to the highest virtue, something we find throughout his writings, but especially his History (e.g., James Hankins, “Teaching Civil Prudence in Leonardo Bruni’s History of the Florentine People.” In Ebbersmeyer S., Kessler E., Ethik – Wissenschaft oder Lebenskunst? Modelle de Normenbegründung von der Antike bis zur Frühen Neuzeit. Berlin: Lit Verlag; 2007. p. 143-157). The tell-tale attribute of the tarot World trump is the circular earth, sometimes show as a vignette of the political domain in question, and in this regard competes with Justice for this highest attribute (the circular world is held by Justice in Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico for instance). However we find Prudence with the circular world in Ferrara, where the Church Union Council met in 1438 before relocating to Florence, in a Giotto-inspired series of the Virtues which parallels Dante’s own use of the Virtues (Prudence-as-world in Palazzo Minerbi in Ferrara: ... 21.jpg.jpg. The issue of prudentiais at the heart of Bruni’s Life of Dante, contrasted with a Life of Petrarch in the same work: “Petrarch possessed to a supreme degree the prudentiathat Dante so desperately lacked….Dante’s story begins with his political commitment and ends in exile. Petrarch’s begins with exile and ends with the general recognition by all the princes of Italy.” (Gary Ianziti, “From Praise to Prose: Leonardo Bruni's Lives of the Poets”, I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance, Vol. 10, 2005: 138; 127-148).

The seven virtues decorate numerous religious spaces throughout Florence (including the campanile next to the Duomo) but also dominates the most politically-charged space of the Piazza della Signoria, in the form of the large bas reliefs within trefoils carved below the parapet (by Agnolo Gaddi, c. 1385) of the so-called Loggia dei Lanzi from where public proclamations were read out. The four Cardinal virtues look out from the façade of the Loggia over the piazza while the three Theological Virtues face the Palazzo della Signoria (aka, “Vecchio” today) from across a narrow street (see my photo from a Palazzo window looking out at five of the virtues here - two of the Theologicals are out of frame to the download/file.php?id=1541). But note that Charity is singled out as the highest virtue by being placed above the cornice the others are beneath and protected by a canopy (photo from the ground looking up/west at the Theologicals: download/file.php?id=1543. Perhaps this was a nod to Florence’s strong ties to the papacy, but obviously Bruni sought to elevate Prudence instead.

The seven virtues remained symbolically central to Florentine public life throughout the Quattrocento as evidenced by the major commission of the Mercanzia for large paintings of the seven virtues over the tribunal seats there ( ... aiuolo.jpg (see Alison Wright, The Pollaiuolo Brothers: The Arts of Florence and Rome, 2005, 228f, especially 240 for the discussion of the seven virtues hung over the judges’ seats) as well as in more minor works such as Pesellino’s virtues with classical/biblical exempli below them on a cassone ( ... irtues.jpg. The seven Virtues and exemplars would have been a natural way to celebrate a victory with the Church, but the planets – and the theologically dubious practice of astrology that had been preached against in Florence where the Pope was still resident – not so much (see Nirit Ben-Aryeh Debby, Renaissance Florence in the Rhetoric of Two Popular Preachers: Giovanni Dominici (1356-1419) and Bernardino Da Siena (1380-1444), 2001: 102f). The Milanese CY, quickly following on the heels of the Anghiari deck some 13 months later, simply did not have time for any innovations besides Visconti-friendly variations of the trump themes and the comingling of stemmi that celebrated a newly strengthened relationship – Visconti swaying Sforza away from the “Holy Alliance” of Florence and the Papacy. In short, there was a presumed Anghiari deck to Sforza (not just one for the junior condottiere, Malatesta, who was also part of the league) and Visconti one-upped that gift celebrating a Florentine condotte by issuing one himself, with his impresa, to advertise his own renewed contract with that condottiere, seemingly made permanent with the betrothal of his daughter.

Inclusion of the planets in the PMB and replacement of the Theological Virtues

Moving forward to the PMB: Sforza needs to celebrate himself in regard to taking the Duchy of Milan in 1450 via all available media, inclusive of trionfi, of which, to reiterate, he has already been a recipient (definitely the CY). But after finding the novel deck of the Michelino deck the year before in 1449, there is an impetus among his cultural advisors to create something anew for himself to advertise both his ingegno and right to the Duchy. The idea of the classical gods of the Michelino deck is connected to Dante’s original scheme easily enough since certain of the Roman gods are also planetary deities. There is the Visconti fresco cycle of the planets in their zodiacal signs at their castle at Angera, tied to the narrative frescoes below of Ottone Visconti’s triumphal entry into Milan in 1280 – a clear precedent for Sforza’s own fabled entry in March of 1450 (My photo of Saturn over Ottone Visconti’s pardoning of Napo della Torre before he enters Milan: download/file.php?id=1063). These events were recounted in Stefanardo da Vimercate’s Liber de gestis civitate mediolanensi that provides the inscriptions for the frescoes (Anne Dunlop, Painted Palaces: The Rise of Secular Art in Early Renaissance Italy, 2009: 168). A descendent, Gaspar Vimercate, of this Milanese clan would play the decisive role in getting the Ambrosian Republic to capitulate to Sforza in early 1450 ; earlier he had served both Visconti and then Sforza as a military captain, serving with the latter at the decisive defeat of Venice at Caravaggio in 1448. (Diana Robins, Francesco Filelfo Odes, 2009: 374-5; see also Ode II.10, p. 139f, dedicated to Vimercate “for liberating Milan from Tyranny”, i.e., the Republic).
But again, why are the three theological virtues replaced? Twofold: 1. Dante himself provides a rationale - the theological virtues are in fact not perfected in their respective planetary spheres but are found again perfected in the 8th sphere of the fixed star (on this point, see in particular Frank Ordiway, “In the Earth's Shadow: The Theological Virtues Marred,” Dante Studies 100 (1982): 77-92). And 2. Unlike his old friend Cosimo in 1440, Sforza is not politically aligned with the Papacy in 1450. To advertise the theological virtues, closely associated with the popes (see Donatello’s papal tomb in the Florentine baptistery, for example), would have been beyond the pale (unacceptable to friends and foe alike to have claimed those virtues for oneself, especially when one just took a city as a conquering condottiere). Cognates and/or anti-types necessarily then replace the Theologicals in the PMB. The precarious historical situation of Sforza in c. 1450 largely dictates what the replacement themes must be but even here Dante provides rationales for each choice.

Replacement of Faith by the “Papess” Faith is in the sphere of the moon where the first soul that Dante encounters is the nun Piccarda, and it is she who must represent this virtue. Piccarda was a Franciscan Clare (before she was forcibly pulled out of her convent of Santa Chiara at Monticelli near Florence) and thus the much-debated PMB “Papess” card suddenly loses it mystery when we see this card for what it is: a Franciscan nun upon which is set the symbolic three-crowned tiara (Church Penitent-Militant-Triumphant), making her represent the collective Faith of the Church. The lack of the black wimple on the nun indicates she is a Franciscan tertiary, thus an emphasis on the inclusiveness of this trump to represent not just the Order proper but indeed the entire Church, lay persons included (e.g. Tertiaries; it is also important to remember that St. Francis was figuratively married to Lady Poverty which this trump also speaks to). For images of a Franciscan tertiary nun that match the PMB “Papess” see the Franciscan tertiary patron kneeling behind St. Francis at the foot of the Cross/Tree of Life in the Gaddi fresco in the Franciscan convent of Santa Croce in Florence (for additional images of Franciscan tertiaries as art patrons see plates 297, 313, and 314 [the S. Croce fresco] and especially the discussion of the same on pp. 261-65 of Catherine King, “Women as patrons: nuns, widows and rulers”, in Siena, Florence and Padua: art, Society and Religion 1280-1400, Vol II: Case Studies. Ed. Diana Norman, 1995: 243-266). Germane to Sforza’s political needs in 1450 was to at least keep the new pope neutral (Sforza was often at war with the previous pope over his former possessions in the Marche), Nicholas V, who had already involved himself with the Franciscan order at the outset of his papacy:
Almost immediately upon becoming Pope Nicholas V, he issued the Franciscan targeted Bulla Pastoralis officii (July 20, 1447) which had the aim of responding to the requests of the “friars of the Third Order living in Italy”, by giving them the right to possess “houses, oratories, and other places” (domus, oratoria atque loca), together with the right to found other houses “with the permission of the diocesan bishop” .… Since the first Regular Tertiaries seem to have been hermits, Nicholas V
invited them to adopt a habit which would distinguish them from simple hermits, and at
the same time from other religious Orders (from this link: )
To put to bed any lingering doubts about this identification of the “Papess”, the conditions in Milan at the time the PMB produced explain the need for a Franciscan Tertiary in light of the one popular communal project that extended from the Visconti to the Sforza era: hospital reform. The movement to reform Milan’s corrupt charities took on momentum in earnest in under the leadership of Martino della Gazzada, a wealthy banker and merchant and member of Misercordia; after St. Francis’s visit to Milan in 1441, della Gazzada became a Franciscan Tertiary under the newly formed Observant monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Following della Gazzada’s example, by December 1442, 19 new male members from the city’s merchant class had joined the Tertiaries and in 1447 the community had more than doubled in size (Evelyn S. Welch, Art and authority in Renaissance Milan, 1995: 133). Upon the death of Visconti in 1447 the new Ambrosian Republic moved quickly to form a committee to continue the hospital reform, the Deputati sopra le Provvisioni dei Poveri, with della Gazzada taking a lead role in what proved to be one of the most popular initiatives of the Republic (ibid). When Sforza took over in 1450 his plan was not to just sanction a process already in place but closely associate his regime with it so as to take the credit for its final realization in the form of the enormous Ca’ Grande hospital, built on Bernarbo Visconti’s old palace in Porta Romana that Sforza donated for the project (ibid, 136). Although prominent Republicans such as della Gazzada were excluded and Sforza’s own secretary inserted as a lead deputy, Cicco Simonetta, the connection to the Franciscan Tertiaries was maintained, via Simonetta’s own representative who tended to day to day activities, Giovanni Caimi, a ducal courier whose “family had been closely connected to her Franciscan Tertiaries in the 1440s, and in 1446 Giovanni was charged with the administration of the Ospedale deo Poveri in Bianca Maria’s dower town of Cremona”(ibid, 141). Two Ciami women donations ensured the commencement of the Ca Grande’s construction in 1456. Thus a popular communal movement that became closely aligned with Franciscan Tertiaries that had preceded the arrival of Sforza was nevertheless coopted into an expression of his own piety. Although the hospital (1456) post-dated the PMB (c.1451), the religious sentiments of the Milanese patriciate, as well as the lower classes that formed the backbone of the Tertiary Order, would have been the apt symbol of popular piety at the time of Sforza’s investiture and thus an apt symbol of the Church in Milan. Sforza primarily courted the Milanese patriciate and Welch notes that while most wealthy Milanese men and women did not the Franciscan Tertiaries many were buried in the Tertiaries’ habits (ibid, 133).

Dante himself had a pronounced interest in the Franciscans that was reciprocated by that order; for example, in Inferno XVI and XVII the monstrous Geryon, depicted with the traits of a draconopede found as an iconographic type as tempter and Antichrist in Franciscan Spiritual prophecy, is brought to the surface from the deep by means of Virgil taking the cord around Dante’s waist and casting it into the abyss like a fishing line; the corda is depicted as a Franciscan friar’s cord (like we find on the PMB “Papess”)in a number of fourteenth and fifteenth illustrations of the Commedia (John Block Friedman, “Antichrist and the Iconography of Dante's Geryon” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 35, 1972: 118; 108-122).

Before moving on to the Hope and Charity replacements, note that Dante has Piccarda tell the tale of Empress Costanza (Constance), mother of Frederick II, of whom Dante believed the myth that she also became a nun. Thus the exemplary theme of this trump is this story of the Empress Constance (and a palatable theme for the ur-tarot in Florence in terms of the Papacy’s friction with the Holy Roman Empire, as she lay dying she selected Pope Innocent III as Frederick's guardian, thus implicitly placing the Empire under the Papacy – otherwise Florence would have absolutely no interest in the figure of the empress). And there is no other medieval series of moral allegories where I can find an Empress playing a significant role as a “stock figure”, and yet we all look as the inclusion of the Empress into the trumps as somehow naturally balancing the Emperor. But it is Dante that gives the reason for why the Empress is there at all. This also illustrates the method by which the PMB trionfi proceeds - three associated trumps within the same sphere: the “Planetary” Moon / the Virtue of Faith-Nun-Church (Piccarda in Dante) / the exemplary theme represented by the Empress (Constance). Repeat six more times for each of the other planetary spheres.

Replacement of Hope by the Hanged Man: the latter’s meaning is clear as traitor to the state (or even to the state’s financial viability in the case of defaulting debtors) and this indeed occurred right after Anghiari with the Albizzi faction painted in infamy on the walls of the Palazzo del Podesta (known today as the ‘Bargello’) by Andrea Castagno degli impiccati. This series of ten hanged men is an argument against why the hanged man would not appear in the ur-tarot of the Anghiari as it existed in its own right as a separate work of art, on Florence’s triumphal procession route to the Duomo (passing by said Palazzo; for the public proclamation and inscriptions to be painted under each of the hanged see Appendix 4 in John Spencer’s Andrea del Castagno and His Patrons, 1991: 141-147). However for the Sforzan PMB, in 1450 Sforza is initially denied entry into Milan by the noble faction led by Trivulziano and has to subsequently pardon or punish various factions in the city who had been against him (“The figures who offered their homage to Francesco in 1450 (almost all of whom had founded the original Ambrosian Republic) had little trust in their new lord; he had little faith in their long-term loyalty” (, Welch, 46; see also Ady, 52-53 and Ianziti, 1988: 23-26). Punishment of traitors was extremely topical as the very leaders of the Ambrosian Republic that had desecrated the Visconti possessions were, as a group, committing an act of sedition in Sforza’s mind. Giotto’s vice of Despair is paired with Hope in the Scrovegni chapel and thus provides a visual precedent for replacing Hope with a hanged man (albeit not upside down), but Dante also provides numerous examples of traitors to the Roman state in this sphere of Mercury/Hope. The primary exemplar here is Emperor Justinian, [thus the Emperor trump, not paired with an empress in Dante] who details the line of Imperial Roman emperors (which oddly extends backwards in time to the Republic up through Christian monarchs such as Charlemagne); their enemies include “Arabs”/Carthaginians, Juba, Ptolemy of Egypt (who killed Pompey), and notably Brutus and Cassius (VI. 74) who are infamously consigned to the bottom tier of hell along with Judas (who of course hung himself). Of relevance is the inscription of Juda Tradit[or](?) on the robe of the king under the virtue of Hope on the CY deck, clearly alluding to Giotto’s pairings (thanks to Ross here for pointing out barely discernible CY text here: viewtopic.php?f=12&t=980&p=14413&hilit=CY+Judas#p14407). Dante’s theme of the imperial destruction of enemies in this canto is even extended to that of meting out “the glory of the vengeance for His Wrath” for the crucifixion (VI.90, p. 139).

Replacement of Charity by the Pope. This is perhaps the most curious replacement of all as the Pope could seemingly be linked with any of the theological virtues. But in Par. IX, the sphere of Venus/Charity, ends its decrying of popes and cardinals corrupted by decretals and money, with a prophecy of a righteous correction in Rome (which of course would be flattering to Nicholas V as such a righteous pope): “To it the pope and his cardinals devote themselves without a single thought for Nazareth, / where Gabriel spread out his wings. / But Vatican hill and other chosen Roman palaces / that became the burial-ground / for the soldiery that followed Peter / will soon be free of this adultery” (136-142, p. 213). And “soldiery” of course leads us back to the Church Militant-aiming-for-Triumphant theme.
Whence the Planets?

A Church Militant-Triumphant theme was tailor-made for a newly made condottiere-prince for whom astrology was a given practice for initiating wars, sieges, etc. Astrology, the stars aiding mortals as God’s Providence, is the special providence of rulers. The earliest “children of the planets” scheme by Christine di Pizan, born in Venice but raised at the court of King Charles V of France as her father had been enticed there as physician and astrologer to Charles V starting in 1368. Pizan’s Othea (c. 1400), was written expressly for such a courtly audience:
By stressing the theme of wisdom, the cycle alters the very notion that lies behind the ‘children of the planets’….the sum of the ‘children of the planets’ represents a kind of astrological macrocosm of a world in which all dispositions and occupations have a place. For Christine, who was addressing a special, limited public, only certain dispositions and occupations were relevant. When we reflect on what the patronage of the manuscripts and the meaning of the text suggest about the identity of that public – and that it was a royal one on the French court – it should come as no surprise to find that friars, farmers, joiners and cobblers are not among the ‘children’ in the Epistre. When we consider further the emphasis on wisdom at the very beginning of the Epistre in the figure of Othea, it should also come as no surprise that to encounter wisdom again as a virtue here. Early in the Epistre Christine makes clear her belief that wisdom can be acquired through the reading of good books, of which her manuscript containing Othea’s letter was an example. With this in mind, we can point to the importance of her characterization of Mercury, in whom the subcycle of the planets culminates; Mercury governs only rhetoric among the liberal arts. What Christine communicates again she brings to a close the cycle of the seven planets is her hope that her public will heed the words, the rhetoric, contained in her book.” (Sandra Hindman, Christine de Pizan's "Epistre Othéa": Painting and Politics at the Court of Charles VI, 1986: 88-89)
It should be noted that lower orders are added in the PMB in the form of the peasantry (Fool), artisan or notarial classes (Bagatto) and even the “Hermit” who has a decidedly friar/mendicant quality, were all avoided by Pizan but included in the PMB. Why? The Ambrosian Republic that had claimed the Duchy of Milan and just reclaimed by Sforza for Visconti as his rightful heir had to openly denigrate that republic as not having “good right” to rule. At the end it was led by a trio of minor guild and tradesmen – a weaver, baker and notary – who had lead the proscriptions and beheadings of various members of the noble faction as the Republic fell apart. The crucial triumph - the second, formal ingress into Milan - that provide the real world event that would give the PMB its distinctive hues and ultimately the popular acclaim and acceding of the Duchy that would form the basis of Sforza’s right to rule:
…the Szora and their followers were met by civic dignitaries, in parade that carefully defined the city’s social, political and economic divisions. Clerics were followed by the civic elite, the nobiles. Then came the two ducal councils, the Consiglio secreto and Consiglio de Giustizia, accompanies by the municipal authorities, the podesta’, the Vicar and the Twelve of Provision. Profesional groups with rights and privledges of association, such as corporations of lawyers, doctors and notaries and merchants, all appointed representatives follow behind. The minor arti, or guilds, came next while the popolo brough up the rear. The procession was an assurance that the disorder of the Ambrosian republic was over. The popolo, which had once threatened to take control, now came last; the nobility and the magistrates returned to take the lead (Evelyn Welch, Art and authority in Renaissance Milan, 1995: 46)
Francesco Sforza’s was unabashedly for astrology, as were all condottieri as a practical means planning campaigns and identifiying auspicisous days for battle. Villani’s Lives of the famous Florentines details how the count of Forli was victorious over Bologna by consulting with the most Guido Bonatti, renowned astrologer of the age along with the late Michael Scot, of whom both Dante ungenerously placed in his Inferno (XXVII); Villani also notably lectured on Dante in Florence (Talbot R. Selby, “Filippo Villani and his Vita of Guido Bonatti”, Renaissance News, Vol. 11, No. 4, Winter, 1958: 247; 243-248). Under Filippo Visconti the art had evidently undergone a decline, perhaps a result of him wanting it’s practice limited to his court, but one of his own astrologers opened his prediction for the 1430-31 with a lament of the lack of students for astronomy (Lynn Thorndike, “Three Astrological Predictions”, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol 26, no 3/4, 1963: 344). Evidence of its full-fledged revivasl under Sforza is him receiving even unsolicited astrological advice from allied courts such as the Mantuan astrologer Antonio de Camera who gave the planetary specifics of Sforza’s own horoscope as well as the day of his accession:
Retracing the history of Milan from the end of the Visconti dynasty to the rise and fall of the Ambrosian Republic and Francesco’s elevation to the duchy, da Camera connected the rise of powerful historical figures to God’s will and celestial dispositions….Francesco’s nativity, he said, was ruled principally by Mars, and then by the Sun and Jupiter ‘all signifying rule, richness and victory against the enemy.’ Comparing Francesco’s nativity with his election to the duchy, moreover, da Camera was able to establish that his rise to power was particularly momentous for the history of Italy, since at the time of his election the fixed sign of Leo was ascending, and its lord (the Sun) was with Jupiter in Jupiter’s mansion (Sagittarius). Thanks to the favorable placement of the Sun, Jupiter, Mars and Venus, the astrologer predicted that the Duke of Milan would be successful against his enemies. The enemy in question was certainly Venice, against which Francesco had rallied his allies, Mantua and Florence. (Azzolini, 67)
Da Camera even gives propitious days for commencing war (e.g., midday on March 30; ibid).

The health of the Duke and his family was also addressed by astrologers. The court doctor Antonio Bernareggi, ducal physician since before 1440 and personal physician to Agnese and Bianca, held chairs of medicine and astrology at Pavia from 1425-1433 and 1439-1440 (see Monica Azzolini, The Duke and the Stars: Astrology and Politics in Renaissance Milan, 2013: 85-86).

In addition to war and health, astrology was of course used to help ensure that most previous of all concerns - dysnastic succession - in the form of the horoscopes of the ruler’s offspring, and here we have the evidence of Raffaele Vimercati's 1461 presentation copy of his Liber iudiciorum (Biblioteca Trivulziana Ms.1329) – a horoscope of Sforza’s son, Galeazzo Maria (named as such per the request of Filippo Visconti), whose miniature presents the kneeling author offering his text to Sforza. Vimercate image: ... variou.jpg.
A highpoint of sorts in this astrological revival in Milan was reached in the form of the lavishly illuminated manuscript of Johannes de Sacrobosco's Tractatus de Sphaera produced c.1470 (Ms. lat. 209, Biblioteca Estense, Modena), which we will eximaine in more detail in the discussion of the planetary trumps, especially Mars.

The key problem here is that the art of illumination of miniatures, which is essentially what our trionfi is, in regard to the planets, a subject that had not yet undergone the classicizing revival that we witness in the second half of the Quattrocento (particularly in the hands of Duerer). Instead the available copybooks used to illustrate the likes of Aratea and Michael Scot’s Liber Introductorius were still being used in the production of illumination of those astrological works. We can’t assume the artist(s) in Cremona knew any better, no matter how detailed the direction by the humanist programmer laid out the plans for the PMB – but there is every reason to believe these trumps would have been tailored to express the specific social milieu of c. 1450, thus further obfuscating the planets as “planetary children” specific to Milan at that time (e.g., the lowest trumps of the Fool and Bagatto as those classes of people marching at the rear of the triumphal procession). The instructive source on this issue is of course the Warburg School (their online Iconographic Database here: ) particularly Seznec’s still relevant summary of their findings in his The Survival of the Pagan Gods; ( translated into English in 1953):
From the fourteenth century on, the planets are not only found more frequently in manuscript paintings, but they are revived in Italy in monumental cycles as well. In Venice, they appear on the Gothic capitals of the Doge's Palace; in Padua, among the grisailles frescoed by Guariento in the choir of the Eremitani; in Florence, on the Campanile of Santa Maria del Fiore, where they occupy the second zone of bas-reliefs, just above the legendary heroes, inventors of the arts, whom we studied in the preceding chapter. Also, in Santa Maria Novella we see them ornamenting the backs of the thrones occupied by the allegorical figures of the arts in the Cappella degli Spagnuoli. And in the first years of the fifteenth century, Taddeo di Bartolo represents, in the vault leading to the Chapel of the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, four mythological divinities, among them Apollo, Mars, and Jupiter. It must be admitted that in these great cycles, as well as in the contemporary miniatures, the gods often take on unwonted aspects so strange, indeed, that there has sometimes been hesitation in identifying them. They are unmistakably themselves, however, even in the most unexpected disguises, and they are once more beginning to exercise their powerful patronage over humanity. It is they who determine the humors, the aptitudes, the activities of those born under their influence and this idea, also, receives visual expression. Each planetary divinity presides, so to speak, over an assemblage of persons disposed beneath it in series or groups. These are its ''children," whose vocations it has determined.(1959: 70)
The “children of the planets” could be related to the seven ages of man, to professions related to traits of a given planet, and to the above we have already added the Visconti fresco cycle at Angera, where we see the planets in their zodiacal signs and associated with the peculiar “children” order in regard to the seven ages of man (and were laid out in a series conforming to the days of the week). None of these three types of “chiIdren” are recognizable as associated with a planet. In the PMB,however, there is no denying the influence of the Eremitani’s depiction of Venus as that deck’s “Star” which stretches a hand upwards to a star, thus making that card at least explicit. It is also clear that the nearby Giotto’s Scrovegni chapel was also a direct influence (the Fool and Justice trumps); there is every reason to link these two innovative programs together:
Since at least the tenth century in Italy, the dado in many churches marked a break between the world of the profane and sacred realities. It is a commonplace in the literature to compare the dado cycle of the Eremitani with that painted by Giotto in the Arena [Scrovegni] Chapel, as they share a similar use of grisaille technique, with both artists portraying personified figures set before a fictive marble wainscoting. (Catherine Harding, “Time, History and the Cosmos: the Dado in the Apse of the Church of the Eremitani, Padua”, in Eds. Louise Bourdua, Anne Dunlop, Art and the Augustinian order in early Renaissance Italy, 2007: 127-142, 133)
Obviously whoever laid out the program for the PMB was intimately familiar with Padua, where both of these frescoes are located (only the convent of the Eremitani, now a museum, separates the Eremitani church from the Scrovegni chapel).

Perhaps the humanist behind the PMB would have even been familiar with the various genres of depicting the “children of the planets” – ages of man, occupations and even the medieval guises under which the planets themselves continued to appear (e.g., Mercury occasionally as a Bishop), but there is no reason he would have redirected their depictions to a clarifying, classical series. Perhaps the closest source at hand, the Visconti Hours, depicts the planets in a series in manner consistent with the earliest medieval illustrations but would have been unrecognizable to the 16th century: download/file.php?id=1038. The mid-century Quattrocento, the period for the creation of the PMB - was on the cusp of significant stylistic changes that would be made through the end of that century.

Case in point of the problem before us is a Florentine depiction of the planetary deities of the whole, heretofore not identified as such due to the problems outlined above. The engraving I have in mind is not even overtly about the planets – they are incidental to the primary subject of a Triumph of Love derived from Petrarch and attributed to Baldini; image here: ... orence.jpg
Baldini’s engraving is explicitly bisected by the vertical ornament on which Cupid stands and the perfectly vertical spoke of the chariot’s wheel, cleaving the image into two equal horizointal halves. In the right half, behind Cupid is an amorphous mass of people, but on the left Baldini has singled out seven persons to go before this triumphal cart. The literary source for this number, Petrarch, has seven gods driven before Eros – three goddeses (Venus, Proserpina, Juno) and four gods (Mars, Pluto, Apollo and Jupiter); but now Baldini has shifted the gender split to two women and five men. Why? This is precisely the gender split of the planets: Luna and Venus, and the five males – Apollo, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Mercuy. But is there any reason to believe Baldini would have replaced Petrarch’s seven deities (Petrarch only mentions Varro as his source) with the canonical planetary seven? Baldini’s well-known series “Children of the Planets” has an associated calendar that is datable to 1464 or 1465, close if not the same year as this Triumph of Love (1464), also attributed to Baldini (if possibly after a design by Finiguerra); not only that but specific engraved details link the two:
the seeming difference between the second Planets and the Triumphs is due to a different origin of design. Their engraving technique is fundamentally the same, as revealed by comparison of the handling of the ornament of the chariot in the Triumph of Love with that of similar details from the Planet Jupiter. (John G. Phillips, Early Florentine Designers and Engravers: Maso Finiguerra, Baccio Baldini, Antonio Pollaiuola, Sandro Botticelli, Francesco Rosseli : a Comparative Analysis of Early Florentine Nielli, Intarsias, Drawings, and Copperplate Engravings, , Harvard, 1955: 58)
But without obvious planetary attributes, can each god and goddess be identified? I believe so:

Jupiter: the figure wearing an elaborate Byzantine robe and headdress (known since the days of the East-West Union Council in Florence in 1439) is obviously chief among the group and thus Jupiter.

Mercury: the figure preceding Jupiter, wearing the hat of a merchant or artisan (germane to Mercury’s “children”) and cut in half by the edge of the left plate edge, would be Jupiter’s messenger/herald – Mercury.

Apollo: on first glance there is little to choose between the two armored figures, but Petrarch provides the key here: 'l biondo Apollo / che solea disprezzar l'etate e l'arco / che gli diede in Tessaglia poi tal crollo.(“…the blond Apollo, / who once scorned the youthful bow / That dealt him such a wound in Thessaly”). Apollo is cupping a hand to his mouth and yelling up to taunt Cupid per the Ovid story of Daphne, where Cupid repays his taunt by inflicting an insane lust in Apollo for Daphne. In medieval depictions Apollo as often shown robed as a magistrate (such in the planetary series on Florence’s campanile), and we find an abbreviated version of that here in the form
of the mantle about him.

Mars: Mars is always shown armored with a helmet that is usually winged, such as in the illuminated Crivelli Sphaera, just as he is here.

Venus: of the two women it’s not difficult to guess why one of them was granted the favor of riding upon Cupid’s chariot – his mother, Venus.

Moon: Bespeaking to the bovine horns the lunar goddess sometimes wears, the woman who wears the two-horned hennin headdress is Luna.

Saturn: this planet was associated with old age, such as in the Guariento series in the Eremitani in Padua, and sure enough we have an extremely full beard on the male at the top of the frame. But also note the curious, elaborate hat he wears, perhaps also Byzantine; I have looked everywhere for a match of the PMB’s “Hermit”/Saturn’s hat (see the upper right hand corner of this webpage’s screen for that ever-present detail) and have only found it here…in a grouping of the seven planetary gods. Baldini and the Bembo studio must have been referring to commonly-derived pattern books with similar plantary god images, presumably lost (few working source books have come down to us).

The point here is even as late as 1464 we can encounter the planets in a terrestrial setting, a Florentine procession in this case, and because the plantary gods themselves are cast in iconographic terms related to their “children”, exempli that are contemporary in dress (perhaps with an attempt at a classicizing touch - e.g., Mars and Apollo’s armor), they are not obviously recognizable to us.

Re: Literary source for trumps: Dante’s Paradiso


The Role of Francesco Filelfo

All of this would of course require a humanist all too familiar with not only Padua, the idiosyncrasies in Dante (e.g. the Theological Virtues “marred”), but a pronounced interest in astrology. Enter Filelfo. Filelfo attended university in Padua so he would have been very familiar with both Guarentino’s work and the Scrovegni chapel (as well as Giotto’s related astrological work in the Palazzo Ragione).

Moreso than most early humanists, he was particularly interested in astrology and cast Dante himself as sublimissimo matematico (“most subtle astrologer”, in Simon Gilson, Dante and Renaissance Florence, 2005: 100). Dante also lectured on Aratus (Robins, Odes, p. x), perhaps as a means of elucidating the astrology in Dante, but there was a general interest in astrology on the part the general public. Filelfo was conversant enough with the most astrologically flavored of Plato’s works, the Epinomis (attribution to Plato is disputed today), to parody its number theory (990C) in a letter from 1428 to a fellow student from his days at Padua (Diana Robins, Filelfo in Milan: Writings 1451-1477, 1991: 49). His own poetry is littered with astrology ; to wit, in an Ode written to his old friend Inigo d’Avalos, counselor to King Alfonso of Naples, bemoaning the impending war between Naples and Milan as folly without understanding the influence of the baleful planets, Filelfo writes: “Why should we always tremble before fierce Mars, uncertain Phoebe, and that cold and sorrowful old man? May kindly Apollo, Jupiter, and Venus return. Why do dire stars threaten these lands with so much lightning. Does not divine Alfonso see the restless storm-winds in the Alps” [i.e., the possible ruinous involvement of France]” (Odes IV.10. 13-21, p. 281).

Undoubtedly paralleling at least one reason why Sforza’s regime would want the planets added to the tarot, Filelfo has Alfonso himself mutter the following in another Ode, while deliberating on whether to join Venice in their war on Sforza:
Alfonso speaks: ‘No unified will holds the Venetians together, and the hearts of the Milanese are held together by the Fury [Erinys – a symbol Filelfo uses for the Ambrosian Republic]. But the Florentines follow you, Sforza – for long experience has honed their spirits and made them wise. What great delay detains us any longer? The stars threaten death to all who initiate wars against you..” (Ode V.9.209-213, p. 343)
However it is an overlooked work in his oeuvre that would allow Filelfo to stake his claim to an understanding of one of the earliest Greek writers on astrology, Empedocles (in fact, it was a spurious work attributed to him but believed to be genuine in the Renaissance), and perhaps also reveals his own awareness and understanding of the proto-tarot deck painted by Michelino, designed to the specifications of previous humanist advisor to Filippo, Marziano da Tortona (for my speculations on whether the Michelino was a gift for Visconti’s beloved Agnese Maino, the mother of Bianca Visconti, at the onset of their love affair in 1418, see: viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1029&p=15291&hilit ... ino#p15291

The work in question is, oddly enough, simply a commentary on the first 136 poems of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, in compliance with a request of the ailing Filippo Visconti (the duke would die two years later). What is of interest is this: “In ten cases he adds to his comment on a particular Petrarchan poem material derived from some classic poem; and in each case his additional comment contains one or more translations or paraphrases, in terza rima, of a passage or passages in the classic poem concerned” (Ernest Wilkins, “‘Empedocles’ et alii in Filelfo's Terza Rima”, Speculum, Vol. 38, No. 2, Apr., 1963: 318-323. 318). Filelfo inserts into his commentary selections from Dante once (Inferno), Juvenal once, Virgil four times (all Aeneid except for the Georgics)

Filelfo cannot just be classified as a Milanese humanist, perhaps aware of the Marziano deck and playing a guiding hand in the CY and PMB decks, for he was the in Florence before the Anghiari ur-tarot was produced and in fact played a leading role in the factionalism that culminated in Anghiari, thereafter fleeing to Siena, Bologna and then Milan.

Before this Florentine factionalism came to a head, Filelfo was invited to lecture at the Florentine studio as a partisan-neutral scholar in 1429 by Medici and Albizzi factions alike. Bruni was instrumental in bringing him there and they shared many ideals, including that of placing Prudence at the head of the virtues. Already in the year before in a letter to one who was a fellow student of his at Padua Filelfo emphasizes a hierarchy of virtues in the way one practices virtuous living; taken straight from Siena, Wisdom [sapientia] lording over the other virtues:
For like some queen or empress who is content in herself, after she has rid herself of all cares concerning nugatory and fleeting matters, Wisdom alone is the one who, so that she may direct herself toward the light of that one supreme and everlasting good and so that she may fix her gaze on it unguarded, places Prudence in charge over all the rest of the moral virtues, and she (as though she were their provider) assigns tasks to each individual virtue according to its own particular duties. (Eps. 9 Dec. 1428 fols. 7-7v, quoted in Robins, 1991: 48)
Bruni, however, was not the problem. Filelfo took sides against the Medici favorites of Niccolo Niccoli and Ambrogio Traversari with backing from the wealthy Palla Strozzi in adapting his teachings against the Medici faction. In addition to his university duties, Filelfo was allowed to lecture on Dante in Florence’s Duomo (while Brunelleschi’s dome was being completed), and used Dante to condemn Cosimo and his party via those lectures – something that lead to a Medici assassination attempt of Filelfo in Florence in May of 1433 (the assassin’s legal fees were paid for by Cosimo’s brother, Lorenzo). The attempt left Filelfo permanently scarred for life with a gash across his left cheek. Just months later on 29 September1433, the Albizzi faction orchestrated the exile of the prominent Medici: Cosimo was banished from Florence for ten years in Padua (moving from there quickly to Venice but would have seen the same famous art works there by his countryman, Giotto), his cousin Averred to Naples and his brother Lorenzo to Venice for five years (Curt S. Gutkind, Cosimo de’Medici, Pater Patriae, 1389–1464. 1938: 77–86).

This highly confrontational period, focusing on the role that Filelfo’s use of Dante played, is well covered in Simon Gilson’s Dante and Renaissance Florence, (2005: 103f.). Providing an apt commentary and quoting Filelfo’s own incendiary lecture notes, Gilson remarks:
[Filelfo:]‘Now is the time, worthy citizens, now is the time for us, in defending the homeland, to join together not only our wealth but our very selves, until death if need be.’ “The enemy, of course, is within and Filelfo’s attack is directed at the family whom the ruling oligarchy views as threatening to assume power to the detriment of the city’s freedom and its best political traditions. Dante has, in short, become a Republican rally-cry in a manipulation of his name which is, on Filelfo’s part, an especially a cynical one. An outsider, professional rhetorician, and astringent controversialist, who is clientistically linked to the anti-Medici faction, he seizes on the opportunity to make use of Dante as a politically-charged symbol at a time of tumultuous factional rivalry (103)

To get a sense of how incendiary Filelfo’s words were, actually calling for factional violence, one can turn to a 1432 oration by a student follower, holding up Dante as the model for revolt against the Medici:
O liberator of your most ample republic…you alone incurred the infinite persecutions of men for the defense of the patria. You bore the cruel envies of many scoundrels for the defense of the patria.. Finally you were sent into exile for the defense of the patria.. And I will say something even more worthy of recollection – that Dante, finding himself in exile, always praised his patria, always exulted it, and always defended it. So you see then, most prudent citizens [prudentissimi cittadini], how many dangers Dante bore for the defense of the patria. Now what should you do, Florentine citizens? (Deborah Parker,Commentary and Ideology: Dante in the Renaissance, 1993: 54)
The Medici orchestrated their own return the next year in 1434, and had the Albizzi exiled and forcing Filelfo out as well by 1435, condemned with the appropriate sentence - as the mouthpiece of the Albizzi - of having his tongue cut out if he should return. Filelfo would move on to a similar position in Siena, a bitter enemy of Florence (and whom, ironically, Dante despised as a good Florentine).

The “anti-Dante” position (favouring Latin over the volgare) that was led by Niccoli ceased with Niccoli’s death. It is notable therefore that Bruni’s biography of Dante comes out in 1436, following Filelfo’s expulsion of the year before.
Indeed, it may be possible that a further motivation for the [Bruni’s] Vita is one that the Medici were themselves keen to endorse – the desire to promote Florence externally, at a time when the first attempts were being made for the city to be the venue of the Council of the Church. In this light, the Vita can be viewed as a potent example of how the evocative force of Dante’s name and its value for maximizing the ‘gloria della citta’ help to [p. 124] overturn ideologized cultural preferences that had previously militated against him. (Gilson, 2005:, 123-124).
Bruni was not alone in the Dante revival in the period after the Medici return in 1434. Matteo Palmieri's Vita civile, from the same time period right after Filelfo’s exile (released c. 1435-1440), is a work that focuses on the role that the Virtues play in guiding the active life, but ends with an attempt at emulating Cicero's "Somnium Scipionis", with Charlemagne appearing in the role of Scipio the elder and Dante in that of Scipio the younger (a near death experience on the battlefield of Campaldino with a glimpse of the afterlife). But it is Bruni’s use of Dante that is most pointedly direct in regard to Filelfo’s earlier use of Dante.

Ianziti has fully explored the implications of Bruni’s role in the rehabilitation of Dante in Florence, both for himself and for Filelfo, particularly in light of Bruni’s previously wholly positive view of Dante: “The question is especially urgent because in the Lives Bruni appears to have made several significant changes to the account of Dante’s exile contained in the History, despite his claim to be merely transferring detail from that earlier version to his biography” (Gary Ianziti, “From Praise to Prose: Leonardo Bruni's Lives of the Poets”, I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance, Vol. 10, 2005: 127-148, 135). Instead of focusing on Dante’s positive civic role model as a good soldier in the Florentine victory over Siena at Campaldino, he finds a major character flaw expressed during Dante’s exile:
The most notable change concerns the description of Dante’s behavior during the descent into Italy of the Emperor Henry VII in 1313. In the History Bruni notes Dante’s Epistle VI, written a diatribe against Florence at the moment when Henry seemed on the verge of bringing his wayward Florentine subjects to heel. Bruni describes the harsh tone of this letter not to ‘frivolity or malignity’ on Dante’s part, but to historical circumstance, which deluded the exiles into gloating over an imminent victory that subsequently failed to materialize. Things stand very differently in the Life, where Bruni reports Dante’s outburst with unmitigated disapproval: ‘Dante could not maintain his resolve to wait for favor, but rose up in proud spirit and began to speak ill of those who were ruling the land, calling them villainous and evil and menacing them with their due punishment through the power of the emperor.’ (ibid, 141-142)
[Continuing in this vein]
Exile thus looms as the central theme of the Lives. Nor is the fact of the work’s composition in 1436 without significance. Recent studies have suggested how traumatic the events of the early 1430s were for Bruni [Field’s study]. As Chancellor of the Florentine Republic, he could hardly have avoided involvement in the struggles taking place between the ruling Albizzi oligarchy and the Medici faction that opposed it. Where Bruni stood in relation to these power struggles is still debated. No doubt the situation required him to call upon his own [i[prudentia[/i]l in dealing with the contending parties. As is well-known of course, the struggle led in 1433 to the exile of Cosimo de’ Medici and his leading supporters. One year later, however, Cosimo and his followers returned, and it was now the leaders of the oligarchy – many of whom were old and close friends of Bruni – who were banished, as it turned out, for good. As a result, Bruni lost a number of his closest friends, including Palla di Nofri Strozzi and later, the promising young humanist and Bruni devotee Francesco Filelfo (143)…. No doubt the ultimate lesson of 1434 was one Bruni had long been careful to practice: the lesson of [i[prudentia[/i], in this case of avoiding too obvious an attachment to one of the other of the Florentine factions. Such attachment had been the downfall of the young hothead Filelfo. One hundred and thirty-odd years earlier, it had ruined Dante. Bruni was not about to fall into the same trap. (143-144)
It is not speculative at all to flatly state that Filelfo’s brandishing of Dante as some club over the heads of the Medici has been turned against him, and the cherished virtue shared between Filelfo and Bruni, prudence, has been held up to the former as a mirror to show that he has failed to practice it.

Filelfo’s response? He too turns his pen to the theme of exile by placing his primary patron, Palla Strozzi, exiled in Padua (with the Albizzi exiled across northern Italy), in one of the earliest Platonic dialogues in the Renaissance, appropriately entitled On Exile. But the setting is back in Florence at the time of the Medici exile, and we find that even Bruni is imagined as one of the speakers….speaking ill of none other than Cosimo Medici with his own humanists (Poggio Bracciolini):
Leonardo [Bruni]: An object of wonder indeed, Poggio, as you say seeing that he is a vulgar, lowborn, miserable thief who has entrenched himself using the city’s lowest and filthiest manure – a vile and shameful sort of trade - ; who has enrolled on his side all the destitute and the beggars; who has held worthy of his intimate society whomever he knows to have mastered the arts of sprinkling poison and brandishing a dagger; and who has drawn to himself all worthless criminals, not so much by gifts as by boundless hope and his promises of base wickedness. This inexperienced and lazy band of impoverished and forsaken weaklings is easily stirred up by Cosimo de’ Medici, a man practiced in evil ways through all sorts of tainted activity….” (Filelfo,On Exile, Book 3.60-63, tr. W. Scott Blanchard, 2013: 355)

And so on, ad nauseam. One can only imagine Bruni’s response to these words placed in his mouth, still chancellor of Florence and beholden to Cosimo as the real power broker. But this came right after Anghiari had already sealed Strozzi, Albizzi, et al.’s fate. Just before that, when there was still hope of a final victory over Cosimo that flickered out at Anghiari, Filelfo was writing directly about and to Cosimo, in such poetic works as his Satyrae:
Satire 4.1 examines the contrasting figures of Palla [Strozzi] and Cosimo from an imagined point in time when Cosimo, after a brief incarceration in Florence, had just left the city to spend his eleven months in exile in Venice and Padua. Beginning as a poem addressed to Cosimo--who is addressed as "Mundus," punning by way of Latin on the Greek term kosmos--the satire takes up the Stoic theme of the wise man who rules himself and his passions, in contrast to the foolish man whose impulses are unconstrained. Despite Cosimo's use of money to win friends and influence people, the poem notes that during his time of greatest need Cosimo's friends have deserted him. Filelfo makes many of the same points in a taunting letter to Cosimo composed in 1440 on the eve of the battle of Anghiari, a letter that mocks Cosimo's "egalitarianism," that is, his demagoguery in seeking the "people's" support, even as he refuses to allow himself to be constrained by the same laws that bind the citizens of Florence. (W. Scott Blanchard, “Patrician Sages and the Humanist Cynic: Francesco Filelfo and the Ethics of World Citizenship”, Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 4, 2007: 1107-1169, 1141)
Given the fact that Dante was at the heart of Filelfo’s attack on the Medici party and the first known production of trionfi cards immediately follows upon Anghiari, a deck whose trumps themes are arguably the same as those 14 images painted for Bianca Visconti in Ferrara some three months after Giusti’s deck was completed for Malatesta, as well as the Milanese CY deck some ten months after Giusti’s deck, I will argue that the Dantean schema was common to all as evidenced in the surviving CY Deck’s trumps, albeit based on the Florentine “Anghiari ur-tarot”. In fact, one is almost forced to muse that it was not just Bruni’s Vita di Dante that has taken Filelfo’s weapon and used it against that humanist, even now resident in Milan and working as the mouthpiece for Visconti and the rebel Albizzi faction, but the Giusti/Anghiari deck has achieved the same objective in a pictorial format. If his old friend Bruni was behind the Anghiari deck, that must have specifically stung – but considering Bruni’s own allegiance might have been suspect at the time by the Medici (see Arthur Field, "Leonardi Bruni, Florentine traitor? Bruni, the Medici, and an Aretine conspiracy of 1437", Renaissance Quarterly 51 (1998): 1109-50) he had no option but to do their bidding. The CY, assuming it follows the same trumps as the Anghiari, did not necessarily need a humanist behind its creation but certainly Filelfo was available for any Visconti tweaking and would have understood it the “Anghiari ur-tarot” all too well. He had been in Milan since 1439 and may have been looking for such a project to involve himself in order to make his mark there.
Fast forward to 1450.

Filelfo’s circumstances in 1450-51 at the time of the PMB’s creation were very different than the academic and court climates of leisure that produced his previous writings and artistic collaborations. Like everyone else who has suffered through Sforza’s encircling siege meant to starve the inhabitants into submission, Filelfo is impoverished and hungry. In post-siege Milan, where the plague would soon be raging kill tens of thousands, Filelfo is begging for work. Many of his Odes are written from an eyewitness perspective during the Ambrosian Republic, Sforza’s siege and aftermath; “More in the manner of a diarist, Filelfo seemed in the Odes to be sketching the street scenes he saw as they unfolded” (Robins, 1991:97). Quotes from Ode 2.258-63). Individual Odes feverishly begging for work are dedicated to Sforza’s secretary in charge of his ducal chancery, Cicco Simonetta (Ode IV.2)and even Sforza’s wife, Bianca (Ode IV.1), whom he knew well through his former patron and her father, the late Filippo Visconti; relevant excerpts:
The ungrateful plebs are punished because they failed to honor the deserving shade of the sublime and celebrated Duke Filippo with funeral rites. But should Filelfo suffer for the sins of the Milanese…. (l.29-30, p. 223)….It is yours to ward off evil so that the poet may avoid death by fiery lightning. Let him depart from the city since lightning does not know how to check its wandering missiles (l.61-65, p. 225).…O warrior maiden, celebrated with the honors of an unblemished life, will you not provide assistance to the deserving poet who has exalted you to the stars? “This man of yours alone dared, amid the fiery passions of an angry plebs in a crowded temple and the flooding fury of the people, to smash the tyrants with his oratory. (l.74-76, p. 225)….Therefore if anything I have done is helpful to your father, if anything pleases your husband Sforza, and if anything helps you to live a learned and elegant life, look to the interests of your bard. The bristling plague and famine have equally oppressed him, and hemmed in by these twin dangers, he needs money, so that those harsh enemies may withdraw on both fronts (l. 110-117, p. 227).
The trionfi project would be quick and easy (but nothing he’d be proud of, versus, say the translation of a Greek poem into Latin or even Italian). Complicating matters, in the extreme, is that the new ruler of Milan is quite friendly with Cosimo, the latter having bankrolled Sforza’s adventures to date. That was obviously a problem for Filelfo. But by 1450 he had essentially given up on the cause of the Florentine exiles and would even earnestly seek to rehabilitate himself with the Medici via Cosimo’s son, Piero (only Lorenzo Magnifico would invite him back to Florence and even pay for Filelfo’s burial there, as the aged humanist soon expired are arriving there in 1481). Likely knowing of the proto-tarot Marziano deck, undoubtedly aware of the CY deck produced in Milan while he was a humanist to Filippo, he could now better the Florentine-created ur-tarot, whose historical grounds point to it being an affront to Filelfo’s own use of Dante, ur-tarot by filling in the lacuna of the missing planets that are central to the structure of Dante’sParadiso.

But why was the trionfi project, that we now call the PMB, necessary? All available means of persuading public opinion to both enemies within Milan and without, were desperately utilized by Sforza for what had just done was usurped an Imperial Duchy without the blessing of the Emperor. The scholarly work on which I have heavily leaned on to explore Sforza’s fragile status is Gary Ianziti’s Humanistic Historiography under the Sforzas: Politics and Propaganda in Fifteenth-Century Milan . (Oxford, I988). The basis problem was thus:
There can be little doubt that Francesco Sforza, in his precarious position, was counting heavily upon the imperial investiture. It alone could have assuaged beyond all question the rightfulness of the Sforza claim to the Visconti possessions. Without the imperial privilege, Sforza lay open to the accusation actually advanced by his enemies of being a tyrannus ex defectu tituli. The legality of his acts could be questioned, his infeudation policy crippled. The absence of the investiture automatically lent greater weight to the claims of the rival pretenders to the duchy, whose credentials might be thought to be in better order than Sforza. (27)
Sforza’s initially used two primary arguments: he had legally inherited the duchy via his father-in-law’s will, the donation inter vivos (hereafter “donation”) and the transaltio (hereafter “translation”) of full powers to Sforza by the Milanese popolo. The donation was forged by the Sforza chancery in 1448 when he switched from being the Ambrosian Republic’s victorious general to that of the of the invading Venetians via the Peace of Rivoltella in which Venice agreed to help Sforza master of Milan in exchange for some westerly cities, particularly Crema. This Peace Treaty, I believe, is the only item that adequately explains the highest court card of the PMB, the King of Swords, who holds a shield on which is Venice’s Lion of St. Mark? The meaning is at once ironic (i.e., why was Venice at war Sforza if they had recognized the donation in 1448 and agreed to help make him duke?) and a cautionary tale to Sforza’s lieutenants who might defect to Venice (as in fact his ablest general, Bartolommeo Colleoni, did in 1451 – the message would have been: why trust Venice if I recently held their baton and they are now at war with me?). The translation was based on powers once invested in the independent Commune of Milan in the thirteenth century. Both, however, were scoffed at by the Emperor, whose position was entirely legal and irrefutable:
…the elevation of Milan to the status of duchy had canceled the privileges granted to the Lombard communes at the peace of Constance. In the eyes of the law, Sforza was a usurper; the duchy was officially vacant and should devolve to the Empire.(29) (Ianziti adds) The Emperor soon began to show signs of irritation at the mere mention of the donation and translation, acts which themselves had no legal validity. Sforza thus instructed his ambassadors to avoid mentioning them, and to concentrate instead on his deeds alone as the fundamental basis for his claim to the investiture. (31)
Therefore the reasons for the translation, why Milan granted the duchy to Sforza, becomes central to the arguments made by Sforza’s chancery and they are fourfold: 1. Filippo’s donation (recognized as a forgery and thus drops out altogether as a rationale); 2. the fame and glory of his house in the person of his father Muzio degli Attendoli; 3. His wife Bianca Visconti, the only issue of Filippo Visconti; 4. Sforza’s virtus: “This final point occupies more space than all of the rest put together, and is obviously the most important.” (ibid, 30). It came down to “might makes right” and who could question Sforza’s might? He was virtually undefeated on the field of battle and had inflicted devastating losses on Venice, especially at Caravaggio in 1448 (before defecting to the Venetians). In regard to point three, his wife Bianca, it is notable that a medal struck by the same artist (Pisanello) also struck a medal for Visconti, apparently in the same year (c. 1440), right before the marriage to Bianca. Appearing on this medal is the Latinized name of Visconti, Vicomes; in fact, on all of the official correspondence issued by Sforza before his official entry into Milan gives this very title, implying that he is Visconti.

Sforza then, unlike true hereditary princes, is in a peculiar position requiring him to be proactive in “selling” his ducal title to friends and foes alike. How he goes about this is an abject lesson in realpolitik. He insists not only of his invincibility in the field (and there should be no doubt that his siege and brutal sacking of Piacenza, was a lesson for all) but also a consensus in Milan demanding him as their ruler. On 25 February 1450, the day before the informal first entrance into Milan, two envoys from each urban gate met Sforza in Lodi to discuss the terms with which he could take the city – the speaker for the delegation was Filelfo, who suggested the victory ought to be marked by the celebration of a triumph in imitation of classical models (Rudolf George Adam, Francesco Filelfo At The Court Of Milan (1439-1481): A Contribution to the Study of Humanism in Northern Italy, unpublished dissertation, Oxford, 1974: 24-25). Central to the ensuing propaganda is a Milanese noble by the name of Lodrisio Crivelli, a protégé of Filelfo, who provides an oration to Sforza on behalf of the Milanese nobles. In published form it became known as the Panegiricus dictus Francesco Sfortie vicecomiti Mediolanensium duc quarto a Leodrisio Cribello and was read in the Duomo in later years on the anniversary of Sforza’s first entry into Milan on 26 February (ibid, 34). This oration was really just a poetic version of the translation, itself the result of negotiations between the Milanese nobles and Sforza from 11 March to a city north of Milan where Sforza had withdrawn after his initial entry into the city so that terms could be agreed to by which he would rule (ibid, 36). The oration made on 15 March, which survives in four different manuscripts, speaks of Sforza as Invictissime Princeps who will renovate the urbs despoiled by the Ambrosian mob, cast as domesticas seditions (ibid, 36-37, fn 42), but it merely gives poetic form to what had been agreed to four days before:
While at Monza, [Sforza] received various delegations of Milanese citizens eager to make amends and to win the graces of their soon to be ruler. Crivelli’s oration must first of all be placed in this context: it is one of many composed with an eye to effecting reconciliation with the new lord. Beyond these immediate circumstances, however, the work seems to have been used by Sforza to publicize the reasons for his takeover of Milan, as well as to present a picture of the full recognition of these by the Milanese nobility, formerly so hostile to his cause (ibid, 35).
In addition to the Oration, Crivelli also writes a Series triumphi Francisci Sfortiae: “The circulation of these two opusculi together as a function of Sforza propaganda is proven by the Vatican MS, where they are preceded by a dedicatory letter, 16 Nov. 1450….” (Ibid, fn 40). This Series trumphi is precursor to our PMB, bolstering the name derived from Dante’s own appropriation of the Church Triumphant in the Paradiso, and pointing to what the PMB aspired – a series of vignettes, whenever the trump in question was pliable enough, recounting the recent the rise of Sforza to the Dukedom and his pivotal, second entry into Milan on 22 March, 1450. In the poetic Series, our Filelfo is an actor within the unfolding events, as the mouthpiece of the welcoming Milanese nobility, extoling Sforza’s virtues and his right to rule the Duchy:
The Series begins by recapitulating the reasons for the acceptance of Sforza in Milan, as already delineated in the oration. The deeds which constitute the condottiere’s worthiness are presented in the form of a laudatory oration by Filelfo, Crivielli’s master, contained within the description of the events leading up to and surrounding the installment of Sforza. There follows the narration of the second entry into Milan with all its ceremonial fanfare: the triumphal procession, the consignment by the new duke of milites. Throughout, the stress falls on the universal acclaim with which the city greeted the new ruler…In fact there, the conditions under which the condottiere was to take charge of the city had been the subject of heated debate and controversy amongst various elements of the city's nobility. There existed a die-hard faction headed by Ambrogio Trivulziano which hoped to impose upon Sforza a series of special conditions which would in effect limit his powers and reserve to the city certain prerogatives. There can be little doubt that Crivelli’s Series, written from the Sforza point of view shortly after the fact, was calculated to erase at one stroke any impressions of disunity which might have been created by such discussions. By shifting the focus to the ceremony, with all its external splendor, by stressing the unanimity of the act Crivelli was creating an overwhelming consensus, an impression which does not coincide with the facts as we know the today. (ibid, 38-39).
The PMB then as a pictorial complement to the Series triumphi, achieves in its own medium what the Series does by words, bluntly pointing to Sforza’s right by might: “What is new is the emphasis on politico-historical fact … By conjuring up precise historical situations, it created an emphasis on fact which acted almost automatically as a counterweight against more traditional sources of authority, including the Empire and its legal framework” (ibid, 40).

The PMB is of course no continuous Bayeux Tapestry, but rather must adapt itself to the 3x7 structure of the Paradiso, warping those Virtues, Planets and exemplary Themes, wherever possible, to the task at hand: testifying to the virtus of Sforza as the natural successor of Visconti, if not continuing that dynastic line through his wife Bianca Visconti – himself, to reiterate, adopting the family name, Vicecomes, himself. I will go so far to say that there are court cards and trumps so idiosyncratic to the PMB - attributes never again repeated in any subsequent tarot deck not directly derived from the PMB (Kaplan has identified a dozen or so 15th century hand painted remnants of “Visconti-Sforza” decks that are obvious copies of the PMB, some with significant variations but clearly containing Sforza-Visconti stemmi) - that they can only be explained by this very “warping” of inherited iconography top suit the politico-historical needs of Sforza in 1450-51. Two examine just a handful of these idiosyncrasies…

Two of the Cardinal virtues, Justice and Fortitude covered in Visconti livery, appear in a monumental equestrian statue of Bernarbo Visconti (1354-85), a founder of the dynasty who also expanded the territorial limits, that originally was covered in gilt and sat on the altar of S. Giovanni in Conca: download/file.php?id=1548
A contemporary (Pietro Azario of Novara – a city made subject to Milan by Bernarbo) described the virtues, “and supporting the sides were sculpted two virgins, that is Justice and Fortitude, and this was because he adhered to these virtues when exercising his domain” (Welch, 23). As the most war-like Visconti, Sforza naturally would have seen him as a role-model and have himself modeled accordingly as especially tied to these virtues.
In the PMB, Justice has an armored knight on horseback, not unlike the Bernarbo statue, galloping behind a standard figure of Justice, the latter being derived from Giotto’s Scrovegni chapel. The knight, unique to the PMB among tarot decks, evidently portrays Sforza as the man of action, the victorious condottiere. The large, tooled trefoil portal behind Justice could easily stand in for the portal of the duomo in Milan, in front of which Sforza was formally invested with the Duchy by the people of Milan on 22 March…but not on horseback. During Sforza’s first ingress into Milan, however, on 26 February, with his soldiers distributing loaves of bread to the starving and now grateful populace (a famine they had caused by blockading the city), Sforza was brought to the duomo on that initial entry as well: “Horse and rider were swept along by the multitude, not only to the door of the Cathedral but into the building itself, where still seated on his horse, Francesco was hailed on all sides as Duke.” (Ady, 60). Political-historical fact-cum-trump.

The PMB Fortitude, a man striking a lion (again, unique to the PMB), has been brilliantly nailed down as derived from the astrological tradition developed in the previous century, this time the work of Pietro d’Abano. Saxl discovered Pietro d’Abano’s Astrolabium planum is derived from illustrations in a manuscript from Albumazar, cod. Vat. Reg. 1283 (Seznec, p. 74, n. 119); Ross in turn found a later 15th century illustration of the decans, particularly:
“the 26th degree of Libra as ‘Victor Belli’, The Victor in War. The translations and original works of Petrus de Abano (1250-1316), are considered the sources of the astrological imagery in the Palazzo della Ragione in Padua and the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara. Angelus' depiction of the symbol for 26 Libra is remarkably similar to the VS [PMB] card, both in the overall simplicity of its design and in such details as the shape of the man's garments and the lion's tail between its legs. Like the Viscontis before him and as mentioned above, Francesco Sforza and many of his contemporaries relied on astrologers to help them plan their major activities. In Sforza’s case, unlike the area of Trojan romances, where all the manuscripts pre-dated his rule, astrology was one area of the Pavian library to which he added - in particular a highly illustrated volume of Iohannes de Sacrobosco’s De Sphaera, treating allegorically of the influence of the planets on human life. While Hercules alone would certainly be an appropriate subject for the triumph of Force, invoking both the Sforzas’ reputation for strength and their acquired name, the astrological subject of Victory in War seems to add another dimension to the card, both in its iconography and in the Sforza's ultimate military aims. Finally, Cornelius Agrippa, around 1530 citing Petrus de Abano and Hyginus, says that Hercules represents Victory in War (Three Books of Occult Philosophy II,37). We have a perfect match” (online here with images:
The fly in the ointment here is that the lion is a not a perfect match - rather than simply standing there with uplifted head, as in the case of the decan illustration, the PMB lion’s head is flat to the ground upon its prone front paws, in what can only be described as an act of obeisance. Given the politico-historical context, the lion is obviously a stand-in for that of the Lion of St. Mark that adorned Venice’s war banners. Naturally the classicizing figure cast as a Roman imperator brandishing the club is Sforza, portrayed exactly as Filelfo’s speech in Crivelli’s Series triumphi would have him, antiqua iam Romanorum exempla (Adam, 212).

But I’d like to take Ross’s discovery to its natural conclusion by noting that astrology, particularly such things as a horoscope or a decan, was concerned with specific dates (i.e., I don’t think the designer of the PMB strength card went rummaging through d’Abano for an appropriate description, but rather looked up a historical date important to Sforza, and its related decan). Assigning Libra to a “month” of 30 days and zodiacal months end on the 20th day of each solar month. Given the 26th decan or degree (out of 30 for the zodiacal sign, again, converted to a 12th of the year) we can then back up 4+ days (360 degrees does not perfectly fit 365 solar days of the year) for an approximate annual date of September 15 or 16 for the 26th decan of Libra. Sforza’s greatest victory, Caravaggio, was his Austerlitz, if you will, and is prominently featured in Filelfo’s speech in Crivelli’s Series. Caravaggio resulted in the total destruction of the Venetian force sent against Sforza, and is traditionally given as September 15, 1448 (Jim Bradbury, The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare, 2004: 232), but battles were usually not one day affairs – the deciding events often in the pursuit and capture of key enemy combatants or towns. But the date surely aligns with Sforza’s greatest campaign and the iconography – Sforza as illustrious great, on a par with Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great (see image here of Vimercate’s portal to his house in Milan (the rest of the house is rebuilt in neoclassical manner, facing the famous La Scala opera house across a narrow side street) showing Sforza at the apex of the arch, flanked by those very generals: download/file.php?id=1547with%20the%20s ... 20posture.

Another trump attribute unique to the PMB, the winged horses pulling the chariot, has simply dumbfounded most commentators (e.g. “…her chariot is drawn by winged horses. Some definite allusion may have been intended, but I do not know” M. Dummet, Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards, 1986: 116). Filelfo provides the key, not as an actor in Crivelli’s work, but in his Odes in which he describes Sforza’s enty into Milan in terms that are quite frankly mythical (on the other hand, there is an element of reportage to these works as Robins notes: “More in the manner of a diarist, Fileflo seemed in the Odes to be sketching the street scenes he saw as they unfolded.” 1991: 97). Robins gives the Ode, 2.3, the following explanatory title: “To Francesco Sforza – The city of Milan narrates the fall of the Republic and the triumph of Sforza.” The Republic is described as a mad “pillaging flow through the city” (l.72, p. 109), mytho-poetically cast as the rabid fury, Megaera (l.75). Filelfo returns to this theme in Ode 3.4, “A hymn for Sforza’s triumphal entry into Milan”, again damns Megaera (l. 48) but ends this Ode by calling upon Muses to accompany the virtuous Sforza wiping away the rabble by invoking “the Medusa-born steed (l. 74),” that is, Pegasus. The contrast of Pegasus and rabble controlled by Megaera is further explained by Robins:
[C]entral to the second half of the poem is a gory icon: Pegasus’s birth from the blood of the severed head of the Medusa. Only through the mutilation and murder of this figure of primoridial terror, surely here a double for snaky-haired Megaera, Filelfo’s favorite emblem for the republic, can the Muses emerge. With the tap of Pegasus’s hoof the waters of Mt. Helcicon are set free from their dungeon, and the Muses and poetic inspritation come to life. It is from the demonic, then, that art is born. Thus, Filelfo’s painting of the triumph ends with the duke leading the Milanese people in rounds of joyous songs and dancing” (Robins, 1991: 103).
The person on the chariot must be Bianca, one of the four pillars on Sforza’s claim to the Duchy rested. The PMB Chariot can also be juxtaposed with the very symbol of the Ambrosian Republic devised by his humanist nemesis in Milan, Pier Candido Decembrio, who associated himself with the plebian faction of the Republic that had hung a ‘Libertas’ banner hung on the cathedral (an insult to Visconti, to Filelfo’s mind). Decembrio himself “supervised construction of a new republican battle-cart, the Milanese carraccio” (Welch, 45). Filelfo never held back his disdain for the plebian faction as evidenced in Ode 2.2, “To Jupiter: An invective against false liberty” “no tyranny is more vile than that of the feckless plebs and angry rabble” (2.21-2, p. 102). The slain gorgon-like Megaera of the mob is thus transformed into the chariot pulled by Pegasus-like horses, that must refer more to the Muses than Perseus’s mount (and a pair is used in conformance with the original CY chariot the focuses on Bianca’s chastity). The chariot bears the victorious and returning Bianca, a sure patroness of the Muses. In the Praefatio to his Odes, Filelfo waxes his poetic arts to their maximum on Bianca: “Radiant among all her women, Bianca is preeminent, as the moon glows among the stars, since its globe emits more light. This is a woman warrior of such dazzling beauty that Hera would have faced Pandora to bow before her. She would endeavor to suprass Diana in chastity, and in the fineness of her intellect, she would outstrip you, O Athena”(1.119-125, p. 9).

Bianca as a ‘woman warrior’ is a reference to when she donned armor to fight the Venetians when they invaded her dowry city of Cremona in 1448:
…the Venetian fleet [on the Po River] under Andrea Quirini was making a determined effort ahsints trhe bridge at Cremina. When some of the enenmy contrived to plant the banner of St. Mark on the bridge, it seemed that both it and Cremona itself must be taken. They were saved by the promptitude of Bianca Sforza who acted on that occasion ‘not like a woman but like a bold captain.’ Sending post-haste for reinforcements which she knew to be in the neighbourhood, she repulsed the enemy with their aid (Ady, 44-45).
Filelfo would go on to devote the entiety of his Book Five of his (never finished) epic Sphorziad to Bianca’s defense of Cremona.

Not a trump but certainly significant within the PMB deck, is the Queen of Swords which features a woman in a long white gown, holding a sword with her shoulders clad in gold epaulettes with chain mail extending down to steel brassards and gauntlets on her arms. If the highest court card, the King of Swords, is necessarily Sforza then the Queen of Swords is of course his wife Bianca, commemorating her with the armor donned during her famous defense of Cremona (and for those who would argue for a Savoy pennant on the Love card, why would a Savoy princess have ever worn armor?). The white gown testitifes to her own role in the investiture: “the floor length white silk vestment that the dukes of Milan had worn for generatinons on the assumption of the signory” (Robins, 1991: 102). All of this is explained by the recent politico-historical facts whose promulgation, as Ianziti has shown, was so critical to the cause of the new regime’s legitimacy.

One last trump unique to the PMB, before moving on to what are sure to be contentious discussions about the planet trumps, the penultimate World card. Given that the final victory was the taking of a large city it is no surprise here the normal vignette of a contado or earth itself is not shown, but rather an idealized city. A pair of cupids on either side of this stemma-like image are a stock device, but Filelfo does hail Galeazzo Maria and Ippolita in the Preface to his Odes (l. 126-139, p. 9-11). Putti are always depicted as male, but there was a second male born in 1449, named after Bianca’s father, Filippo Maria, but he is seldom heard from in the records so perhaps was sickly and not considered a viable heir. The children would present before the city as dynastic heirs (Galeazzo would of course become Duke of Milan and Ippolita a diplomatic pawn in pacifying the hostile state of Naples via her marriage to Alphonso II). As for its tie-in to World-as-Prudence, the hexagonal city within the central tondo matches the lavishly illuminated Visconti Hours, retrieved for Bianca from the madness of the Republic. The illumination of LF129v shows the apt encirclement of a city (Jericho; Kaplan reproduces it his Tarot II) and the city itself is surrounded by the four Cardinal Virtues in Visconti livery. Over the central oval medallion holding the city of Jericho is Prudence, holding an oval mirror, literally mirroring the larger oval below within which is the city. Just as the planetary frescoes in Angera showing the conquest of Milan by Ottone Visconti could be referenced for the current cause in 1450, so to would a reference to this treasured book of Visconti be of the utmost relevance. The LF129v and the PMB World:


One final remark on the 7 trumps I associate with the planets – Bagatto, Devil, Tower, Hermit, Star, Moon and Sun: if they were only added with the creation of the PMB deck, then obviously none of these trumps can appear in the CY deck. They don’t. Fortune must have been exceedingly kind to that “coincidence.”

In closing, on this 565th anniversary of Sforza’s triumphal entry into Milan, I encourage anyone to question how any of the PMB trumps fit the Filelfo-Sforza circumstances of creation, c. 1451. As the well-worn phrase goes: Pick a card, any card…


Re: Literary source for trumps: Dante’s Paradiso

Well, that's a lot ...
Phaeded wrote: As abridged as this explanation is (only a monograph could do it proper justice – and I’ve certainly no time for that at the moment), it is overly lengthy for a message board post, so it is broken up into three major parts ...
You could just add the link:
... or write instead of "img-/img" the command largeimg-/largeimg (all in brackets)

Re: Literary source for trumps: Dante’s Paradiso

Huck wrote:Well, that's a lot ...
Phaeded wrote: As abridged as this explanation is (only a monograph could do it proper justice – and I’ve certainly no time for that at the moment), it is overly lengthy for a message board post, so it is broken up into three major parts ...
You could just add the link:
... or write instead of "img-/img" the command largeimg-/largeimg (all in brackets)
Fixed the image of my "matrix" (reduced the size so its not cut off). Most images are URLs so more space is not taken up. I'll try to create a pdf version with the images in so its easier to read and upload that. Lord knows it was a pain to write this withe BBCode messages boards use....

Re: Literary source for trumps: Dante’s Paradiso

Phaeded wrote:
Fixed the image of my "matrix" (reduced the size so its not cut off). Most images are URLs so more space is not takne up. I'll try to create a pdf version with the images in so its easier to read and upload that. Lord knows it was a pain to right this withe BBCode messages boards use....
yes, I understand ...

I started just reading, and asked myself, if I had ever pointed you to ...
... actually I thought, I had.
... in matters of a 5x16-deck

Re: Literary source for trumps: Dante’s Paradiso

Huck wrote:
Phaeded wrote:
Fixed the image of my "matrix" (reduced the size so its not cut off). Most images are URLs so more space is not takne up. I'll try to create a pdf version with the images in so its easier to read and upload that. Lord knows it was a pain to right this withe BBCode messages boards use....
yes, I understand ...

I started just reading, and asked myself, if I had ever pointed you to ...
... actually I thought, I had.
... in matters of a 5x16-deck
I'm so burned out I see I can't even spell anymore. But yes, I've read most everything on your Trionfi webpage. Where we part on the 5X14 is I see only 3 cards missing (in the CY), all easily explainable: the two missing Cardinal virtures complete the virtue sequence and Brambilla shows the Wheel of Fortune was already in play so there is no need to guess at any of the trumps here (certainly not the awkward 23 or more trumps idea that pops up from time to time that tries to explain the CY as an "aberation"). Actually I'm not sure what 14 trumps you presuppose but the 14 I'm looking at are all explicit in Dante: 7 virtues which are paired with 7 exempli in each planetary sphere (and the 7 planets get properly added in with the PMB). And I've said before, using the 16 remaining trumps of the PMB not painted by the second hand does not form any kind of coherent series - they are just a random subset reflecting nothing else than some cards wee replaced for whatever reason and/or the division of work within the Bembo studio (as Dummet hypothesized). I'm quite confident in the 14 original trumps getting expanded to the 21+Fool - its all there in Dante, whom I have shown was in fact the burning issue of the day when the Anghairi was created. Phaeded

Re: Literary source for trumps: Dante’s Paradiso

I'm so burned out I see I can't even spell anymore. But yes, I've read most everything on your Trionfi webpage. Where we part on the 5X14 is I see only 3 cards missing (in the CY), all easily explainable: the two missing Cardinal virtures complete the virtue sequence and Brambilla shows the Wheel of Fortune was already in play so there is no need to guess at any of the trumps here (certainly not the awkward 23 or more trumps idea that pops up from time to time that tries to explain the CY as an "aberation"). Actually I'm not sure what 14 trumps you presuppose but the 14 I'm looking at are all explicit in Dante: 7 virtues which are paired with 7 exempli in each planetary sphere (and the 7 planets get properly added in with the PMB). And I've said before, using the 16 remaining trumps of the PMB not painted by the second hand does not form any kind of coherent series - they are just a random subset reflecting nothing else than some cards wee replaced for whatever reason and/or the division of work within the Bembo studio (as Dummet hypothesized). I'm quite confident in the 14 original trumps getting expanded to the 21+Fool - its all there in Dante, whom I have shown was in fact the burning issue of the day when the Anghairi was created. Phaeded
Well, recover a little bit.
Likely you've to repair a few things, I saw a not working link to a picture

There were 16 trumps in the Michelino.
16 figures in this Visconti text of c. 1350 (between them 7 virtues).
Geomancy had 16 figures and also used 7 planets in its astrology.

16 figures in Cary-Yale wouldn't be a large step, especially as Visconti made 16 cards for each suit.
Dante I don't know so well ...
For the 7 ladies in Boccaccio's Decamerone I assume 7 virtues (and also others do this).
And naturally I don't know for sure, that there were 16 figures, I just take them as plausible.

Anyway, it reads interesting.

Re: Literary source for the trumps: Dante’s Paradiso

Phaeded ...
Moving forward to the PMB: Sforza needs to celebrate himself in regard to taking the Duchy of Milan in 1450 via all available media, inclusive of trionfi, of which, to reiterate, he has already been a recipient (definitely the CY). But after finding the novel deck of the Michelino deck the year before in 1449, there is an impetus among his cultural advisors to create something anew for himself to advertise both his ingegno and right to the Duchy.
For this ...
Document 04

With this Sagramoro appears again after a pause of 8 years in 1450 as painter of Trionfi cards. It becomes a maior occupation to him for the next 6 years. The interests for Imperatori-decks in Ferrara died around this time, they are not produced after 1452 (as far we know). Perhaps they were similar to Trionfi cards (but with less special cards) and the motifs "merged" in the Trionfi deck.
Compare our chapter about the Imperatori cards and the gathered documents to this form of deck in Ferrara and other places.

Preliminary translation: (by Ross Gregory Caldwell)
Maestro Jacomo called Sagramoro, painter, having the 16th day of March for the making and expense of painting, at his expense, three packs of triumph cards, painting the backs of two packs of green called azure… black with oil, and the back of one pack of brazil… of that called brazilwood, checkered in black with oil. Requesting the said Master Jacomo 1 lire, 10 soldi marchesane per pack, and Galeoto taking tax 1 lire marchesane per pack…………………………………. L. III.
This was of March 16 in 1450 in Ferrara. The deck was unusually cheap for Ferrarese conditions.
Sforza had taken Milan end of February, the triumphal festivities in Milan were around March 25. Leonello was present in Milan at this occasion (I forgot, where I've seen this note).
It seems likely, that these decks were meant as a present in Milan, Leonello hadn't shown interest in Trionfi decks long years, an accidental meeting of both events (triumphal festivity in Milan and card production) looks not probable.
We had this earlier. Nowadays we know, that a "revival" production of Trionfi cards were done in December 1449 by Giovanni di Domenico in Florence (6 decks were acquired by silk dealers, 11 Soldi each), and that a similar production pause (with one exception) is observable on the lists of the silk dealers.
The silk dealers were then active ...
1450-01-22 ... sale of 2 Trionfi decks (12 Soldi, possibly of the decks, which they acquired in December)
1450-04-04 ... they acquired 3 other decks
... then again a pause, which restarts after the official allowance of the Trionfi game in December
Totally 5 decks were acquired in 1451 in January, May and August

That's still a rather quiet business, at least from the perspective of the both silk dealers. It becomes more vivid in the next 3 years.

The letters of Sforza in December 1450 sound, as if he had difficulties to get Trionfi cards.


You follow the above quote with ...
The idea of the classical gods of the Michelino deck is connected to Dante’s original scheme easily enough since certain of the Roman gods are also planetary deities. There is the Visconti fresco cycle of the planets in their zodiacal signs at their castle at Angera, tied to the narrative frescoes below of Ottone Visconti’s triumphal entry into Milan in 1280 – a clear precedent for Sforza’s own fabled entry in March of 1450 (My photo of Saturn over Ottone Visconti’s pardoning of Napo della Torre before he enters Milan
Well, the Michelino deck has NO SATURN, so a connection to the traditional astrological model is not given. The 16 gods of Evrart de Conty in his chess book clearly relate to the 7 planets and also the Chaldean row: 1 Saturn - 2 Jupiter - 3 Mars - 4 Apollo - 5 Venus - 6 Mercury - 7 Diana or Luna with an 8th figure of Minerva.
The Michelino deck system instead jumps from 1 Jupiter, 4 Venus, 5 Apollo, 7 Diana, 9 Mercury and 10 Mars.

The Michelino deck clearly uses the 12 Olympian gods, and the idea might have come from the recently discovered Manilius text. But the Michelino deck used Bacchus and dropped Vulcanus (which is part of the Manilius system, presenting Libra, in opposition to Minerva=Aries, with whom he is mythologically connected). The Manilius used these mythological "pairs":

Aries-Minerva + Libra-Vulcanus
Taurus-Venus + Scorpio-Mars
Gemini-Apollo + Sagittarius-Diana
Cancer-Mercury + Capricorn-Vesta
Leo-Jupiter + Aquarius-Juno
Virgo-Ceres + Pisces-Neptun

These are 3 different systems. I doubt, that Dante changes that.

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 39 guests