Pratesi on birthtrays, cassoni, Petr. mss. & parades (now 2)

This post last updated Dec. 8, 2016.

This thread is devoted to translations a series of notes by Franco Pratesi written originally in Italian, most beginning with "Ca. 1450: triumphs and ..." and focusing on Florence (although there is now one on Siena 1438).

The first, immediately below in this post, is on birth trays. The second, on p. 2 of this thread (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1092&start=10#p17628), is on marriage chests (cassoni). The third is on manuscripts of Petrarch's Triumphi, on p. 3 of the thread (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1092&start=20#p17714). Then a fourth, on the top of p. 4 of the thread viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1092&start=30#p17993, on civic processions. And now, a fifth, further down p. 4 (, is a kind of appendix to that one, on the lead float in a parade in Siena, for the Paolo, a horse race among teams representing the various districts of the city; it is at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1092&start=30#p18280.

They all try to be concerned with the period before 1440-1450, looking for triumphal themes and forms in some way suggestive of the tarot triumphs, sometimes inferred from what is documented after 1440. After each note posted here there is some discussion by forum participants, usually beginning with me; new comments are always welcome pertaining to any of the series. In each case, words in brackets are mine, for explanatory purposes, and the little numbers on the left above text are page numbers in Franco's original pdfs.

On THF, among the minor arts related to the early triumph cards, we have mostly focused on cassoni and illuminations, leaving out birth trays (except for two, a "Triumph of Venus", c. 1400, that Vitali called attention to in his essay on the World card,, and of course the "Triumph of Fame" for Lorenzo Il Magnifico's birth in 1449), so it is good to have this essay for discussion and reference. It is dated 13 May 2016, with the original online at

Words in brackets are mine, mostly to give the original Italian for certain words and phrases that he either uses along with other words for the same thing (e.g. naibi vs. carte, meaning cards) or, in the case of long phrases, that I wasn't sure I translated right. I will add further comments of mine in a later post.

Ca. 1450: Florence - Triumphs and birth trays


This study returns to the field of research on card games in Florence, and the part discussed here corresponds to the appearance among naibi [playing cards] of the variant of triumphs [trionfi]. As often happens with games, the information so far collected on the introduction into Florence of both naibi and triumphs is incomplete. The dates now known, of 1377 for naibi, 1440 for triumphs, are of extreme interest because much of the evidence for the oldest dates found so far typically appears quite uncertain and unreliable. For naibi, all historians in this area agree that they arrived in Florence from the Islamic world (without being able to pinpoint the exact path); for triumphs, it is uncertain if the birth could be right in Florence (needing also to take into account in some way the unusual Milan pack of Marziano 1), but no one doubts that the origin was Italian.

If there are discussions among experts with conflicting views, these relate to the composition of the triumph pack. The game of triumphs could even be done, at least in principle, with the naibi themselves, attributing the "triumphal character" which means in practice trumping, to some of the deck or an entire suit; particularly old and recorded in the chronicles is the Hispanic triumph, just that kind, and it seems that even some of the first reports from France were references to a game of the same genre. But as regards the case of the triumphs reported in Florence, experts agree that it was a pack of naibi containing a special series of added "triumphal" cards. On the number and depiction of those special cards at the time of their first introduction into the deck of naibi, we have no information from Florence and other cities. There are clues, from Ferrara and Bologna, which could be of a kind of added fifth suit, with the cards having the function of trumps; the composition of a pack of this kind would most plausibly total 70 cards, but also 60 or 80 appears possible. Other historians instead see in this added series already something very similar, if not identical, to what we know later

as the 22 triumphal cards of the "standard" tarot of 78 cards, that is, a sequence independent of the four suits, and also formed of a larger number of cards.

What draws the attention of all concerned is the triumphal nature of these additional cards, which, especially in Florence, are found in the midst of so many other contemporary uses of triumphal motifs in art and literature. It happened to me to search frantically for traces of the tarot sequence in Florentine artistic and literary products, but without success 2. It is much easier to look for a connection with various triumphal motifs present in different ways in shorter series, in other events and popular items, from processions to poems to paintings. In this study the focus is only on birth trays, which were objects whose production and trade in Florence extended widely in the middle of the 15th century, even using richly decorated triumphal motifs.

Giovanni di ser Giovanni

I have chanced several times in the past onto 15th century birth trays, round or polygonal wooden trays of 50-70 cm in diameter, and in particular those produced by Scheggia, Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, brother of Masaccio. His output was varied, ranging from frescos to paintings, to inlays, to marriage chests, and in all kinds of his products triumphal motifs abounded 3. I did not find documents on his production of triumph-like playing cards, but common playing cards of his production are found for the first time recorded in the account books of a sewing shop 4. If you think of a Florentine artist definitely qualified for a production of triumph cards "naibi a trionfi” at a high quantitative and qualitative level it is easy to arrive at him. But now I want to focus on the birth tray, starting with the section on birth trays in Ref. 3, copied here below from an Italian version 5.
It is known that the production of birth trays had a significant diffusion from the mid-fourteenth century, just after the Black Death, when the population
2. F. Pratesi, The Playing-Card, Vol. 41, No. 2 (2012) 95-114.
5. F. Pratesi, Giochi di carte nella repubblica fiorentina [Card games in the Florentine Republic]. Ariccia 2016

of Florence was disastrously reduced by more than half. More than ever, the birth of a new child became a welcome event and more care was paid to both the mother and the infant, to save their lives.

These objects had a polygonal or circular shape and were used by pregnant women so they could eat lying in bed. After this specific utilization, the same objects were often used simply as trays or even as works of art that could be hung on the walls as decorations. Experts still debate whether these objects also were included among wedding presents, as an omen of an impending pregnancy; personally I have never found them in the numerous lists of Florentine trouseaus that I have read. Usually, birth tray manufacturers had several specimens almost ready for sale, and each time one was ordered, they could easily finish it, adding some specific feature of the recipient, typically their coat of arms painted on the back of the tray.

A different issue, but perhaps very relevant for our field of playing card history, is that of when triumphal images began to be used in the decoration of these objects. In this case, the Scheggia production, we find excellent examples of precisely such objects, decorated with triumphal motifs; simply draw your attention to the tray with the Triumph of Fame commissioned for nothing less than the birth of Lorenzo the Magnificent (Fig. 1). The panel shows a beautiful image of the Triumph of Fame, and it must be considered that other similar trays by Giovanni are known, of the Triumph of Love and so on. The fact that Giovanni got commissions from the Medici family, and others of a high social level, is clear proof that his reputation was well established in the Florentine environment.
I have allowed myself not only to reproduce here something already published, but also to mark one sentence in bold, which is precisely the one that motivated the present study. The development was different from expectations: it was not at all necessary to make further archival research, as I imagined; it was enough to study a bit better the existing literature on the subject. Much of the principal information, also useful for possible links with our field of playing cards, can already be gotten from a few monographs dedicated entirely to birth trays, recalled in what follows.

We are now examining the triumphal motifs in birth tray decorations, but we already knew that Florence, and to a lesser extent other cities at the time, were at the center of a kind of fashion present in many works of art, major and minor. Already by looking into Scheggia’s artistic production, it was easy to report the appearance of triumphal motifs in almost all the categories of products that came from his workshop. However, it was lacking an important part of the

historical reconstruction: figuring out when that trend began. The most important question, and at the same time most uncertain, is whether the spread of triumphal motifs began simultaneously in its various manifestations, or if between one sector and another several years, if not decades, could elapse. Of course, if the true dates of the beginning in the various sectors were known, it would become easy to follow the diffusion path up towards the source and figure out which artistic product served as the original example and which might be considered the copy transferred to a different area, including, for us especially interesting, that of playing cards.

Monographs and catalogs

The production of birth trays was very limited: as regards to its then current locations, only Siena paralleled, to a lesser degree and with some differences, the typical Florentine production; as regards to the time period, it came to little more than a century, because the wooden birth trays were soon replaced by particular services [? serviti] of decorated pottery. Despite the concentration of production in a few locations and for a limited time, the study of these objects is now hampered by the fact that the trays preserved are dispersed in many cities on more continents. For an art historian who is interested in the sector, it is not easy to document and complete the study by examining a fairly full set of works of art of this kind. Therefore extensive research dedicated just to birth trays and exclusively to those objects becomes essential; the preliminary selection of dozens of pieces from public and private collections around the world on which to conduct a comprehensive study obviously allows analysis and comparison which are otherwise difficult or impossible. The comments that I intend to move forward on the subject, with reference to playing cards, then not surprisingly are based on two major recent monographs; I will use the especially important contributions by Cecilia De Carli 6, and Claudia Däubler-Hauschke 7; they are two above-average sized books; the first is 254 pages and contains a catalog of 77 examples; the second has 388 pages, and describes 62 and
6. C. De Carli, I deschi da parto e la pittura del primo Rinascimento toscano [Birth trays and the paintaing of the early Tuscan Renaissance]. Torino 1997.
7. C. Däubler-Hauschke, Geburt und Memoria [Birth and Memoria]. München 2003.

then another 23 in the appendix. I clearly have profited from the opportunity that these two works offer us the ability to examine rich catalogs of these works, discussed individually and also inserting it comprehensively in the context of the period.

I have leafed through several other studies on birth trays, usually articles published in art history journals, and I found some useful information, limited, however, to the involvement of Petrarch's Triumphs, in studies by Alexandra Ortner presented in an article 8 and in a book related to his thesis 9.

Decorations of chivalry cycles

The first attestations of birth trays date back to the years around 1383, known today both by the first secure documents and the most ancient trays preserved; However, a previous existence, yet undocumented, seems possible. It cannot be easy to find the real startinh date for the production of birth trays, also because of similar wooden tables that may have been produced and used for different purposes. Without wanting to go back to the real origins, the Black Death is often mentioned in this regard; not directly, but the subsequent need to increase the city's population, decimated by the plague, hence after the middle of the fourteenth century. At that time the attention given to babies and mothers became understandably more. Probably the first phase of production of trays and extraordinary decorative care did not correspond; It is limited to the functionality of the object, especially appreciated for the convenience it offered. The appearance and subsequent increasingly wide diffusion of decorated birth trays that occurred at the beginning of the fifteenth century allows quite easily a correlation with the socio-political situation that was developing in the city of Florence and is part of a large new flowering and spread of luxury items. The famous revolt of the Ciompi in Florence in 1378 had left deep traces, even if the revolutionary changes were quickly reabsorbed by the restoration of governments permanently controlled by the main urban families. At first glance you might think the previous situation had been restored,
8. A. Ortner, Rivista di storia della miniatura [Journal of the history of miniatures], 4 (1999) 81-96.
9. A. Ortner, Petrarcas "Trionfi" in Malerei, Dichtung und Festkultur [Petrarch’s “Trionfi” in Painting, Poetry and Celebrations], Weimar 1998.

but only then appeared a deeply felt need by the ruling classes to present themselves worthy of the privileged position they occupied. In some manner there became indispensable something that was less common, the exhibition of a superiority over ordinary citizens in the same culture in all aspects of social life, in clothing, in feasts, in gastronomy.

That sort of race to show themselves superior and worthy to command, or otherwise directly influence policy decisions of government bodies, took place not only on a reduced scale by those belonging to the upper class, but on the contrary ignited an extensive phenomenon of imitation, such that even the intermediate social classes began to follow trends adopted by the major urban families. As a secondary aspect of these phenomena we can also mention what interests us here: birth trays began to be embellished with the most varied decorations, and many artists devoted themselves also to this area in their workshops; Also these particular products then became more popular and were purchased, possibly in versions of a lesser quality, by wider layers of the citizenry.

The motifs for these decorations, imposed with increasing frequency, were not, however, the triumphal motifs that interest us. The most typical character was that of love, the pleasure of love, and could express itself in a more or less prominent manner in various subjects. Even if the favored subjects separated into sacred and profane, as is feasible especially later on, one should still take into account what was seen before: even in the early biblical scenes the choice of episodes went to cases where amorous aspects were present. For example, a recurring theme was that of Susanna in the bath, but here the main intention was to show to the eyes of buyers, as well as to those of the Elders, the graces of the chaste Susanna.

The literary sources for these episodes date back to previous centuries and at times also have in addition a Provencal or Burgundian source: the most frequent motifs were in fact love gardens and amorous hunts. The immediate reference was often Boccaccio in his works echoing classical literature, presented, however, with the eyes of his time without going back to the original Latin works but based on recent versions, reduced and modified. There was especially the presence of references to refined courtly civilization and chivalry; However, besides expressing the beauty and valor of the participants at the scene there was always the lure to the recipients, an invitation to reap the fruits of love and the praise

of marital happiness in their most serene and joyful aspects, beginning with frequent references to the nativity and the figures of putti, often present even in the rear faces of the trays.

Decorations with triumphs

Almost at once, in mid-century, the atmosphere and fashion change, and also the subjects depicted on birth trays; not only that, even if a given subject remains similar to the earlier ones, the manner in which it is viewed and depicted by the artist changes. De Carli describes this important change as follows.
Towards the middle of the fifteenth century, the trays showed a change in the cultural situation that departs radically from the romantic idyll of Virtus et voluptas present in the Gardens of Love, in loving hunts, stories of Nymphs of Fiesola or Teseida, whose main reference was Boccaccio. In its place we find Virgil, Homer, Petrarch, whose triumphs unfold the soul's progress from love to chastity, fame, plotting, in a sense, the new trays’ and chests’ iconography, whose authors are the professionals Scheggia, brother of Masaccio, and Apollonio di Giovanni, with their respective workshops.
So we arrive at the point of our specific interest, birth trays decorated on the main face with figures of triumphs; as in the earlier case, the rear face can have the family crest or other images requested by the purchaser, or even be left at a minimum with small decorations; we can neglect them and devote our attention exclusively to the decorative motifs of the main face and especially to the triumphal ones. It cannot be by chance if the same families who now were competing to see who purchased the trays with the most beautiful images of triumphs were the same that in mid-century were competing to obtain valuable codices of Petrarch's Trionfi, only then richly decorated with miniatures made by the best specialists.

The transformation of the subjects and, above all, that of the atmosphere, becoming more engaged and philologically correct, is not similarly reported by the different researchers; if the focus is simply on the grounds chosen for the decoration, without taking into account any differences in approach and vision, the transformation shown can easily

escape a first examination. In particular, the most recent book of the two taken here as the main references similarly describes an extensive catalog of birth trays, but the reconstruction of the context and the historical evolution of the motifs adopted by preference is less defined. Initially it even says that various themes were adopted in parallel, so that a temporal distinction would only be possible broadly. However, when in the following the most common themes are briefly presented, the various cases are described, albeit approximately, with limits in time and of different places (including some suitable lag for Siena, the only other city with a significant diffusion of birth trays) [my translation follows Franco's quotation of the German].
Eine zeitlich bedingte Präferenz für bestimmte Sujets läßt sich nur in äußerst groben Zügen festmachen, da viele Darstellungen parallel verwendet wurden. So kommen die wenigen alttestamentarischen Szenen zusammen mit den Gerechtigkeitsbildern im ganzen 15. Jahrhundert vor. Geburtsszenen finden sich sowohl in der ersten Hälfte des Quattrocento als auch hundert Jahre später. Im weiteren spiegelt sich exemplarisch die Entwicklung profaner italienischer Bildthemen wider: Höfische Liebesallegorien und Boccaccio-Illustrationen treten vom Ende des Trecento bis in die ersten Jahrzehnte des Quattrocento auf. Trionfi entsprechen vor allem einer Vorliebe von ca. 1450-1470, während mythologische Themen erstmals in Florenz gegen Ende des Trecento, aber hauptsächlich bei den Sieneser deschi da parto des frühen Cinquecento zu verzeichnen sind.

[A temporally determined preference for certain subjects can be permitted only in very broad terms, as many representations were used in parallel. So the few attested Old Testament scenes occur together with images of Justice throughout the 15th century. Birth scenes can be found in the first half of the Quattrocento and also hundred years later. In another is reflected exemplarily the development of secular Italian picture subjects again: Courtly Love-allegories and Boccaccio illustrations occur from the end of the fourteenth century to the first decades of the Quattrocento. Trionfi correspond especially to a preference of about 1450-1470, while mythological themes can be reported first in Florence toward the end of the Trecento, while for the Siennese birth trays are documented mainly in the early Cinquecento.]
What interests us especially is the theme of triumphs; and for that here too the 1450-1470 period is expressly stated, again later than what we wanted in order to associate it to the first introduction of of triumphal cards into the pack of naibi.


As stated at the beginning, this study is part of an extensive investigation on the initial diffusion in Florence first of cards [naibi] and then of triumph cards [naibi a trionfi], or simply triumphs [trionfi]; in this case it involves particularly how triumphal motifs present in the decorations of playing cards and birth trays could be connected. The two different products had a considerable circulation among the Florentine citizenry, also in the same years; However, it would be important to understand which of the two cases could give rise to the other, directly or, more likely,

indirectly, with the involvement of additional products or events. Well, to the best of our current knowledge about the two different types of products, it must be concluded that triumphal motifs appeared in playing cards before in birth trays. If the period of trays with triumphal motifs is the two decades 1450-1470, it certainly could not have significant influence on the introduction of triumphal motifs in playing cards, which already was occurring for years.

This finding is found to proceed in the opposite direction to that assumed by other historical reconstructions: the most common assumption is that the triumphal motifs that had been adopted in many Florentine handicraft products had finally been adopted also by playing card manufacturers. It would of course be even more difficult to believe in an influence on other artistic products, which precisely from the manufacture of playing cards would have taken its origin [che proprio dai fabbricanti delle carte da gioco prendesse la sua origine].

Our aim, always present, is the reconstruction of the inclusion of triumphal motifs in playing cards. Today the first known documentation on triumph cards [naibi a trionfi] is in Florence in 1440, but it is not excluded that we need to anticipate the discovery of new documents; we know that only in 1450 was the game of triumphs explicitly allowed by Florentine laws. The most plausible assumption is that the adoption of the deck with the additions triumphal cards would have occurred following a fashion diffused into a variety of popular products, including the birth trays under consideration here. In short, everything would suggest that the triumphal motifs should be in birth trays around 1430 or before. It is therefore surprising how much we learn from the above studies: a remarkable set of examples leads to the conclusion that triumphal motifs were adopted into birth trays only from the middle of the century. The famous birth tray of Scheggia commissioned for the birth of Lorenzo the Magnificent was not, as one might have thought, the fruit of particular work now mature, continuing a series of similar products prepared for several years. It can however be concluded that the tray was one of the first, and belonged to the first years of production of that kind.

At this point, the careful examination of many examples of birth trays, by which we were prepared to better understand the triumphs in playing cards, becomes less interesting; when these trays were produced, triumph packs [naibi a trionfi] were already in long circulation.


The triumphal motifs that appeared in playing cards before 1440 were already imposed or were then emerging in various other fields of artistic and literary production [I motivi trionfali che comparvero nelle carte da gioco prima del 1440 si erano già imposti o si stavano allora affermando in vari altri settori della produzione artistica e letteraria] and formed a kind of fashion at the city level, [in Florence] more than in any other city, to our knowledge. In this study we have followed the historical development that occurred in the decoration of birth trays, which also at one point in their distribution were characterized by the presence of triumphal motifs. It might be thought that this fashion would be presented earlier in birth trays and later in playing cards; however, from what has been reconstructed so far, which has been summarized in this note, it appears that the fashion of triumphal motifs was introduced into birth trays only in the middle of the century, while triumphal cards had been around for at least a decade.

Franco Pratesi – 13.05.2016

Re: Pratesi on birth trays

I want to raise a few questions.

(1) What triumphal motifs are we talking about, in common between birth trays and cards? Franco mentions “triumph of fame” and “triumph of love”. Are there others? Given the nature of birth trays, reflecting either the mother or the child, I can’t imagine anything else, but it would be good to know the facts. Also, what different ways of expressing these motifs were there?

(2) Given the two examples of love and fame, there would seem to be a considerable overlap with bible scenes and love scenes, the previous motifs. So we have a so-called "triumph of Venus" in c. 1400 and a very triumphal looking David in c. 1440. The Old Testament is full of triumphant figures. Added later: Also, I see on Wikipedia ( that there was one of Diana and Acteon, and the lady with the scales and sword on the reverse, c. 1400. The recto then could be a Triumph of Chastity.

(3) Isn’t it somewhat misleading to say that the birth tray for Lorenzo in 1449 is one of the first of its kind? That is because while it may be one of the first times this theme is on a birth tray, it had already been, with very similar elements, in manuscript illuminations before that date, decades before in fact, and also at least one cassone, perhaps from the 1420s or 1430s, sometimes attributed to a suspected card maker (VIII Emperors?), da Ponte. I posted an image of the cassone at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1005#p14964. And while he did do "garden of love" type cassone, he also did "the seven virtues" and "the seven liberal arts", separated by Dante and Petrarch (shown at that link). The virtues, at least, are not foreign to the tarot.

(4) The sources say that birth trays were done for the upper class first and then imitated by those just below. is this evidence that can be generlized to cards? Illuminations of Petrarch's poem are by nature (in books) very expensive. The fashion for them (starting 1440) precedes birth trays by a decade. Triumphal imagery in pictorial art generally seems to be a fashion going from the top of society down. Is the same likely to be true in the case of cards?

(5) In the Conclusion, Franco says that ‘the triumphal motifs that appeared in playing cards before 1440 were already imposed or were then emerging in other literary and artistic productions” (I motivi trionfali che comparvero nelle carte da gioco prima del 1440 si erano già imposti o si stavano allora affermando in vari altri settori della produzione artistica e letteraria). Since Franco only addressed the issue of birth trays, which he says do not fit the quoted generalization, it would be nice to know some examples, besides Petrarch’s poem.

(6) Wood is a rather perishable item, and unlike laws and violators of the law are not preserved for posterity if judged unimportant by heirs. Also, it burns individually in fires, unlike items in an archive. Illuminated manuscripts, being judged valuable by all, are better preserved, so it is not surprising that the flood of triumphal motifs--still not very large-starts in around 1440, 10 years before the birth trays. In each case we are probably dealing with changes in motifs that start out less popular and become fashionable over time. Might we merely be seeing the flood that follows the trickle, so to speak, and in fact the changing motifs occur in parallel, better preserved in archives than in libraries, and in libraries than in collections and museums of popular culture (a category that Dummett says in Il Mondo e L'Angelo hardly existed before the 18th century)?

Well, I will try to get the books mentioned by Franco from Interlibrary Loan. They might answer my questions. I doubt very much I can get the ph.d. thesis, unfortunately.

Re: Pratesi on birth trays

This one has the Triumph of Chastity (workshop of Appolonio di Giovanni)


Some non-triumphal motifs on birth trays have some motifs with similarities to (albeit later) tarot imagery, for example (with some similarities to Tarot de Marseille imagery), wrestling boys:


and the choice of hercules:


the triumph of venus in that she is presented in a mandorla:


a 14th century birth tray with justice:


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

Re: Pratesi on birth trays

Steve. some of your examples could use artists, dates and places. The Triumph of Venus is given to "circa 1400, Florence, Master of Charles of Durazzo", per, based on an exhibition at the Metropolitan in New York. The Choice of Hercules is Girolamo di Benvenuto (September 1470 - June 1524) c. 1500 Siena. The Game of Civettino, with the wrestling boys on the other side, as Huck points out, is c. 1450, Scheggia, per Wikipedia ( Thanks for the "14th century "Justice". Per, it is the reverse of the Diana and Acteon, and is given to Lorenzo di Niccoli, ca. 1380-1400. Wikipedia says it was " painted about 1400", and that he was "a Florentine painter who was active from 1391-1412". Wikipedia, besides confirming the two sides (though without pictures) also gives two sources, both publications of the San Francisco Legion of Honor. Perhaps they have more details. It is nice to see what I take to be two triumphal scenes (though not Petrarchan) on one desco, and so early.

I could not find the lady standing on the globe in my casual search on Google Images.

Re: Pratesi on birth trays

I'll take this as pointing towards tarot's genesis in 1440 following Anghiari:
Pratesi wrote: In short, everything would suggest that the triumphal motifs should be in birth trays around 1430 or before. It is therefore surprising how much we learn from the above studies: a remarkable set of examples leads to the conclusion that triumphal motifs were adopted into birth trays only from the middle of the century. The famous birth tray of Scheggia commissioned for the birth of Lorenzo the Magnificent was not, as one might have thought, the fruit of particular work now mature, continuing a series of similar products prepared for several years. It can however be concluded that the tray was one of the first, and belonged to the first years of production of that kind.
The question is what relation does Lorenzo's Fame birthtray have to the lost ur-tarot deck's highest trump. There are definite affinities with the CY "World/Fame" card...

Re: Pratesi on birth trays

Mikeh ...
I could not find the lady standing on the globe in my casual search on Google Images.
A rather common type of Fortune (as "good opportunity", "Occasio") often used by German printers as personal signet.


The back of the head is shaved, so that one can't capture the girl, when the opportunity has passed.

Phaeded ...
The question is what relation does Lorenzo's Fame birthtray have to the lost ur-tarot deck's highest trump. There are definite affinities with the CY "World/Fame" card...
It's just a painting influenced by Petrarca's "Trionfi" and some Tarot card motifs are formed by the same influence.

Re: Pratesi on birth trays

Hi, Huck,
Huck wrote:
The question is what relation does Lorenzo's Fame birthtray have to the lost ur-tarot deck's highest trump. There are definite affinities with the CY "World/Fame" card...
It's just a painting influenced by Petrarca's "Trionfi" and some Tarot card motifs are formed by the same influence.

Triumphalism, always explicitly or implicitly alluding to that most famous example, was a pervasive theme in the 15th century and it continued for centuries after that. The seminal iconographic source has been discussed in detail, starting with Giotto, Boccaccio's Amorosa Visione, and Petrarch's De Viris Illustribus in the 14th century. Illustrated copies of the Trionfi were the iconic example of this pop-culture phenomenon. The Triumph of Fame on Lorenzo's famous birth tray traces directly back to that Giotto-Boccaccio-Viris Illustribus tradition.

Petrarch's Triumphs ... s_triumphs
How Petrarch Became Famous

As both allegory and homage, art, royal entries, pageants, and so on referred to this ubiquitous theme. To the extent that some Tarot decks (carte da trionfi) incorporated a Triumph of Fame motif, it follows this same tradition.

Precursors to that tradition have also been discussed at length in many places and, of course, entire books have been written on the subject. I'll just note a couple of my own posts:

Ancient Triumphs (1 of 5) ... -of-5.html
Medieval Triumphs (2 of 5) ... -of-5.html

Best regards,
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

Re: Pratesi on birth trays

Huck and Hurst,

The problem with connecting the “World” trump to Gloria Mundi/Fama is that the earliest exemplar, indeed, the only “World” exemplar that has an attribute that can be solely attributed to Fame - that of the CY Visconti-Sforza deck - is this: the winged trumpet. There is nothing else in the CY “World” that allows one to posit a connection to Fame, as there are not heroes – there is a singular hero (which would make this the fame of a person and not Fame as an abstraction). Since no other “World” trump has the winged trumpet all other renditions of the “World” thereby rely on the CY’s trump’s connection to Gloria Mundi/Fama for one to posit an enduring Petrarchan theme. Furthermore, no one claims the CY “World” is simply Gloria Mundi/Fama – ergo, the CY “World” appropriated an attribute of Gloria Mundi/Fama for another purpose (however closely related) – what was it?

I’ve already pointed out the answer by simply describing the CY “World” – it is about a singular hero, his fame, not Fama in general. This singular hero even proceeds through a triumphal arch at the top of which is the embodiment of his fama - the chaste Bianca Visconti of course (who we already met on the “Chariot”), holding out not a generic laurel wreath for heroes but specifically the ducal crown that we find depicted through the CY deck. The CY court suits are split evenly into two suits each showing the Visconti fronds/ducal crowns and radiate doves, paired with the Sforza fountain and pomegranates in the two other suits. So properly speaking the fama is of this united pair; their union is depicted in the CY Love trump, not unlike the famous diptych of Montefeltro and Battista Sforza, carried on chariots of the Virtues with the landscape of their realm behind them; the inscription under each profiled bust on the “obverse”/outer doors makes my thesis explicit: Him: “He that the perennial fame of virtues…”; Her: “….she that kept her modesty in favorable circumstances” (i.e, the Chastity aspects of the CY Chariot).

The landscape of their realm behind Montefeltro/Sforza is a related example of how the Tarot “World” deviated from Gloria Mundi/Fama’s standard iconography of a circular world (as called for in Boccaccio) . While there are plenty of examples of Late Medieval/Renaissance Rulers identifying with the heroes of Antiquity as described by Boccaccio and Petrarch, there was an equal need to concretely connect oneself with one’s actual dominion, as it was usually the case that one just came to power in said dominion (or it was contested in some way). Thus the “World” loses its global character and takes on the aspects of a specific landscape. As I have argued elsewhere, the CY “World” certainly can represent the dowry city of Cremona on the left, Ravenna in the distance on the sea (recently acquired by Venice to the dissatisfaction of F. Visconti), with Sforza arriving from his feudal holding (at that time) south/right of Ravenna – the Marche of Ancona (however one wants to interpret this landscape vignette, it is most certainly not the globe encircled by Oceanus one sees on Gloria Mundi/Fama exempli).
So let’s return to my original proposition regarding the Lorenzo birth plate’s shared characteristics with the ur-tarot’s “World” and the rebuttals:
Huck wrote:
It's just a painting influenced by Petrarca's "Trionfi" and some Tarot card motifs are formed by the same influence.
Mjhurst wrote:
The Triumph of Fame on Lorenzo's famous birth tray traces directly back to that Giotto-Boccaccio-Viris Illustribus tradition.
Of course it’s derived from the Gloria Mundi/Fama exempli, but with the last discrepancy just discussed writ large: although the frame is a tondo there is a no attempt to depict an encompassing world. If anything it represents Florence’s decade’s old obsession with having a seaport (the idealized, mountainous landscape need not be either Livorno or Pisa, but the idea that the Florentine domain’s greatness relies on access to the sea; just as Sienna was obsessed with her little seaport of Talamone, to which Lorenzetti’s famous fresco “Effects of Good Government” terminates to the far right of that fresco).

On the other hand, the flip side of my argument is wholly absent – clearly heroes, plural, are represented, and not a singular hero. Yet there is an obvious reason for that – the hero was just born. One needs to literally flip the birth tray over to see the two family coats of arms whose union has produced an heir to the fledgling Medici dynasty (only established as early as 1434 but definitively in 1440 with the defeat of the Albizzi; Lorenzo was born less than 9 years later). The coastal contado of Florence on the “obverse”, a city founded by Rome (hence the special appropriateness of the classical heroes in this instance), was considered the New Rome via her poets’ panegyrics and especially so under Cosimo; but this New Rome was to be lead in the future by this just born scion of the house of Medici. Its not “just a painting” of Petrarch’s Triumph of Fama. The uniquely themed birth tray for Lorenzo (no other birth tray attempts a Fama because no other family was in control) betray precisely these seigniorial hopes (however couched in Commune/Republican dress) for the senior grandson of the family.

We’ll never know what the Florentine ur-Tarot was, but the oldest surviving Florentine tarot deck, assuming you accept the “CVI” deck as Florentine, shows a “World” not with an encompassing ocean but just a landscape dotted with hilltop towns, such as one finds in Tuscany. If my thesis is correct and the “World” is a dominion, then we would expect a corresponding representation of ‘Florentia’ on the Chariot somehow tied to the Medici (e.g., palle on the Chariot’s skirting). We perhaps have a relevant version of that in the form of the medal issued when Cosimo died:
On the reverse is a female figure symbolizing Florence (Florentia); she is wearing an antique-style peplos and is veiled as a sign of mourning for Cosimo. She bears in her hand an olive branch ending in three shoots, which recalls the device of the three feathers [Piero's, which is on the “reverse” of Lorenzo’s birth tray]. In the other hand, stretching forward, she is instead holding a globe (or an apple? [what Boccaccio called for]) which recalls the heraldic emblem of the bezant, featured on the Medici crest. The folding seat of Florentia rests upon a yoke on the ground, symbol of the obedience that Cosimo offered to his city….the orb in Florentia’s other hand is a more generic symbol. Usually associated with universality and authority, and a mainstay of imperial and Christian iconography, the orb also possessed a particular reference to Cosimo’s name; in poetry and the visual arts, Cosimo was often associated with the ‘cosmos’ (both ‘Cosimo’ and the Italian cosmo were ‘Latinized’ in the fifteenth century as cosmus). The globe in Florentia’s hand, therefore, was both a punning reference to Cosimo and a symbol, of his authority. On the medal, Florentia makes a pointed gesture with the orb: she retains, and yet offers, her sphere of influence. The intended recipient cannot but have been Cosimo. The woman is the embodiment of the patria of which Cosimo was the pater. (Adrian W. B. Randolph, Engaging Symbols: Gender, Politics, and Public Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence, 2002: 92)
Would the Medici regime have been so bold in 1440? The classical allusions present in Florentia would have appealed to many, and of course she would not have been veiled – perhaps she would have simply been portrayed as a Marian bust (common in most Florentine households), holding the winged trumpet and orb to declare Florence’s greatness (something retained in the CY, albeit the ducal crown replacing the orb?)?

At all events, there is a telling development in representations of Gloria Mundi/Fama that reveals the reverse influence of Tarot on that of the Boccaccio/Petrarch theme – one that also underscores the close relationship between tarot’s Chariot and “World” trumps (the latter as dominion and the former as the ruler of said dominion). In a 1480 version of Gloria Mundi/Fama by Sanvito, the female abstraction of Fama has taken on armor and a masculine bearing (only her long hair is feminine), and behind her an urban vignette of a dominion/city. This painting was contemporary with the “CVI” Chariot, of which it is not only a fair approximation in its frontal depiction of an armored person, but, ironically enough, the “CVI” Chariot, as the representation of a “ruler”, would be none other than Lorenzo:
1480 Fame-CVI Chariot.jpg
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The Cary-Yale World card

Phaeded wrote:...the CY “World” appropriated an attribute of Gloria Mundi/Fama for another purpose (however closely related) – what was it?
This conflation of related conventional motifs into an unconventional image is common. In context, the Cary-Yale World card is not mysterious. So what is the immediate context of the Cary-Yale World card?

As the highest card in a Tarot trump sequence, the World triumphs over all the ranks of man and circumstances of life. It triumphs over Death and the Devil and the End Times, including Resurrection to Final Judgment (surgite ad judicium). That last part is important -- it triumphs over the Last Judgment. Any rational interpretation must take that context into account: what comes after the Last Judgment? What kind of "world" comes next... let's say, in Revelation 21:1?

Cary-Yale Angel
Cary-Yale World

In the case of the Cary-Yale World card, we see a stylized "world" on the bottom half of the card and an allegorical figure on the top half. Between the two registers, literally "crowning" the world, is a large golden crown. This announces that it is the New World of Revelation. The figure above holds another golden crown in one hand and a winged trumpet in the other. This is the Crown of Life, which is bestowed upon faithful Christians, (i.e., the reward which comes after judgment). A winged trumpet alludes to Fama, but in context here it suggests eternal glory rather than mere worldly renown, the transient gloria mundi, vainglory.

As for the details of the world scene, there is little doubt that the rider with his banner, the boat, and the fisherman were intended to convey some secondary meaning. This might have been something general/allegorical or perhaps something specific/quotidian, a topical reference to some particular person or event. In either case, figuring out the reference will add a bit to our understanding of the creator's purpose but just a bit. Overall, we know what the card represents in the context of the overall cycle.

We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

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