At the risk of losing the preceding discussion (which I hope continues), I present, for more information, Franco's "1450ca: Trionfi e Triumphi", http://www.naibi.net/A/521-PETRAR-Z.pdf
, in English translation. Comments in brackets are mine. I have not discussed it with Franco, so revisions may follow. I have a few more of my own comments to add, chiefly related to my own proposal cited by Franco, but they will come in another post.
Ca. 1450: Triumphs and Triumphi
Petrarch's poem Triumphi
["Triumphi" in Latin, "I Trionfi" in Italian, "The Triumphs" in English] was composed over several decades and remained unfinished at his death in 1374. The triumphs, chosen so that the next succeeds in surpassing the previous one, are known as the following six: Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time, and Eternity. We are interested in their possible connection with the triumphal tarot cards. With reference to playing cards, precisely Francesco Petrarch is often quoted, but for another reason: as evidence that the cards had not yet been introduced in Europe by 1366, when he finished the De remediis utriusque fortunae
; In fact, the cards do not appear in this work that indeed considers many games. The first documented information on cards is a few years later, in Florence of1377. Afterwards, the triumphs were also introduced, as the special playing cards, better known later as trionfi [tarots]; the first attestation of trionfi
known today is that of 1440 in Florence.
Playing cards and card games have never, or almost never, been the subject of academic study, and most of the contributions in this regard are by collectors or amateur historians. If anyone wants to find out about any particular topic and does not find texts on an academic level, reading the writings of amateurs or discussions on the web becomes the only way to learn more about them.
The case of the Triumphi
is different from the usual, because it concerns a field that in academia has developed in depth, albeit without explicit references to card games. Among amateurs, we observe some interest in this subject; one thinks he has discovered an unknown detail, and yet he could find the information - even quite easily with current literature-search techniques - in dozens of previous publications of scholars of literature or art history at the professional level. It then happens inevitably that, speaking of the Triumphi
at an amateur level, albeit for possible
links with playing cards, often to sensitive ears echoes the classic: et ultra crepidam!
Here the sources are there, it is only to know how to look for them. Then, while belonging to the amateur category, I tried to make myself informed about the results of university research, and I can report a few things about them, including some fundamental contributions to the subject.
I had studied the Triumphi
already thirty years ago, but I had not arrived at a sufficiently defined vision. Taking up the matter again, I found of my interest a catalog with contributions by various authors (1), because it is recent, this fact is reflected in the utility of its bibliography: taking its cue from work of the past with later times it becomes less likely that fundamental studies on the subject will escape our attention. The contribution by Loredana Chines, "I 'Trionfi' di Petrarca", on pp. 17-20 of the work cited, would be of interest in itself, but I was particularly struck with the way in which in this regard the works of Marcello Ciccuto are cited, whom I did not know.
On the importance of the antecedents of the Giotto cycles of Castelnuovo (paintings for Robert of Anjou) and Milan (for Azzone Visconti) for the illustres viri of Petrarch and the relationship between the Petrarchan text and iconographic texts, see the fundamental contributions of M. Ciccuto, “Trionfi” e “Uomini illustri” fra Roberto e Renato d’Angiò, in «Studi sul Boccaccio», XVII, 1988, pp. 343-402; the same, Figure di Petrarca (Giotto, Simone Martini, Franco Bolognese), Naples 1991, in particular pp. 5-77; the same, Per l’origine dei Trionfi, in «Quaderni d’Italianistica», XII, n. 1, 1991, pp. 7-20.
This is not of one citation, but of three publications that are indicated as resolving an issue that concerns us closely, the relationship between the text and the images; the first study was published in an Italian academic collection, the second in a book by the same author, and the third in an Italian journal printed in Toronto. I could not give up the search without reading these contributions, presented as fundamental, although finding two of them was not a simple
1. S. Cavicchioli, M. Rossi (ed.), Trionfi
. Carpi 2014
task, because they are works not present in many libraries, and because they demand the same reading. Fortunately, reading all three fundamental contributions has at least the reward of being able to note that these contributions are not three, but one. The text published in Canada is a broad summary, while the differences between that in the Italian journal and in the book are undetectable. In short, even as the author warns us that he revised his text for publication in the book, it is recommended not to look at the two journals and read the monograph only.
Reading this part of the book (which contains later another couple of contributions of no interest to the matter) is highly recommended to any amateur who wishes to take the floor on the triumphs, both of cards and especially on Petrarca. Actually I do not know how many readers will be able to be convinced of the validity of this author’s work, in addition to Chines, but it is easy to see that at least the author was really convinced, seeing as he has made it public.
If, as is known, academic books of a "scientific" type distinguish themselves by notes, filling the bottoms of pages with smaller fonts and smaller distance between the lines, this work deserves a fair recognition in its environment, such as others do not receive. In his book, I could find no page without notes; 17 notes out of 73 are whole pages filled with reduced characters; and of pages in which the upper part of the text is more extensive than the bottom, with notes stuffed with bibliographic references, I counted only two. Arriving at Note 43, which alone takes up two pages, I thought I had identified the longest, but I had not yet met note 46 which by itself takes care of nine pages. How does any amateur put his mouth [keyboard?] to the subject, after this exhibition of scientific superiority? To compete in the scientific field one should have recourse, as a minimum, to partial differential equation.
As for me, I had the book on loan for a month, but I did not put it in the usual place on the bedside table; I did not want to ascertain its influence on my sleep, unsure if I would reconciled or if it would keep me awake and agitated for a long time. I am a little disappointed because many details have escaped me, perhaps important ones. I realized, however, that this contribution is not what I was looking for. I was interested mainly in the difference between the known broad circulation
of the Triumphi
in Florence in illuminated manuscripts of the second half of the fifteenth century and those manuscripts of the previous half century, less known, less attended, without illustrations, also looking for elements of a discussion regarding the triumphs following in hierarchical order.
Here the Florentine environment is not seen any longer; going back in time, the setting is much broader and instead emphasizes the fundamental contributions of other cities such as Milan, Naples, Padua and beyond; understandably, going back to the beginning of the triumphal personages, Giotto often appears in the discourse, as far as could be seen or expressed, in fact, in Milan, Padua and Naples. It is not possible to assess whether the net weight of the Ciccuto contribution was really decisive. Among other things, I have not found any particular comment on the sequence of the Triumphi
, such that each element prevails over the previous one; it may be that it is spoken of in some other widely known note, but it seems to me that this feature is not discussed in the previous examples.
Then I prefer to look for other high-level studies. In particular, I like to point to that of Ida Giovanna Rao (2), which has two unusual advantages: on the one hand it is as short, clear and as complete as required; on the other, it takes great responsibility, the kind you would want to meet more often: she has the courage to give us a list of publications on the same subject. So far it seems the least we can find in any serious study, but the selection proposed is explicitly suggested as a list of works that have brought an original contribution.
In the Bibliography, in itself very abundant, is reported only those that gradually over time have proven very significant or innovative than previous ones, as well as reporting the most recent contributions on the codices provided on the occasions of the exhibitions of the last decade.
If only the long bibliographies of these scholars could melt down so as to adopt the same policy! I prefer not to copy here the list in question only because it focuses, as indeed does the whole book, especially on the manuscript of the Triumphi
under examination, Laurentian Strozzi 174, and does not pretend to cover the sector in general.
2. I. G. Rao (ed.), Francesco Petrarca, i Trionfi.
Castelvetro di Modena 2012.
3. Discussions by scholars
Despite the huge amount of publications on the Triumphi
and more or less accurate editions of the text, a real critical edition has not yet appeared (unless it was printed in the last few days without my knowledge). It is said in several publications that for many years Emilio Pasquini is preparing one. In the meantime, a study by Gemma Guerrini surveys of over four hundred codicologically preserved Italian manuscripts (3); the merit of this work goes beyond the task of cataloging the many copies, which would already be difficult, and is a serious attempt to compare them, sort them and group them depending on their finer features, obtainable especially from the script, but not only that. Several major studies have been on the other hand dedicated to the fortune of the Triumphi
among the incunabula and the sixteenth century; However, the introduction of printing took place after the period of our interest; for the Triumphi
in printed books, it is enough to cite one of the most significant studies. (4)
All or most academic studies understandably turn great attention to the possible sources of Petrarch, both for the whole of his triumphs, and especially for the detailed description of each. It seems to me that the two references from the past with the greatest interest are those that put the work in connection with the other two greats that lie at the basis of Italian literature, Dante and Boccaccio.
As for Dante, they rarely discuss parallel content, although sometimes they recall also some of the Dantesque visions of the Paradiso
or other works. More than anything else Dante becomes involved for his style, beginning with the adoption in the Triumphi
of the same tercet of the Commedia,
anything but common in previous productions of Petrarch. From Dante, Petrarch, however, resumed here in part the common speech. Often it is said that Petrarch wrote for the princely courts and Dante to the people; only Petrarch could discipline his verses, so long and so deeply, with countless corrections over the years, so much so that his thematic and stylistic refinement was imitated for centuries; compared to him Dante was almost an improviser
3. G. Guerrini, Scrittura e civiltà
, 10 (1986) 121-197.
4. C. Dionisotti, Italia medioevale e umanistica
, 17 (1974) 61-113.
who composed for quite ignorant readers (and listeners, probably even more numerous). Well, technically speaking, Petrarch in his later years adopted a style that, if it was not exactly Dante’s, surely approached his much more than all his previous poetry.
If the contact with Dante was indirect and questionable, that with Boccaccio was real and repeated. Most frequently mentioned is the Amorosa Visione
and the meetings that the two great writers had in person. The discussion among scholars today mainly concerns the details and the precise extent to the Amorosa Visione
and the Triumphi
influenced each other, until eventually in the first poem is found the origin of the second. For literature these problems are very important, but the repercussions for our question of the origin of the triumphs-cards is poor: it is true that to pass from just six triumphs of Petrarch to the number of those extractable from Boccaccio's poem can facilitate the attainment of the fateful number of twenty-two triumphal tarots, but in fact the figures described clearly in the Amorosa Visione
are actually fewer than the six of Petrarch and all the other factors determining - virtually at will - the many supporting characters.
Although this is a well known fact mentioned by all the commentators, I have not found studies that are dedicated in particular to the structure of Triumphi
as elements that surpass, and even more generally to the study of what had precede them - except for some vague references to the Psychomachia
of Prudentius - and what were later imitations, not of individual examples, but the complete set (perhaps with the same extensions that would be useful for our particular purposes).
4. Discussions by art historians
Also in the treatises, monographs and periodicals of art history, you can find thousands of contributions on the individual triumphs introduced by Petrarch and the manner of depicting them. The thing can become very useful for those who are attracted by the tarots, because some of the figures coincide. We admit that one, perhaps for some the only one discernible, is the Triumph of Death
. Well, it will certainly be useful to find high-level scientific studies on that figure, its origin, its variants, on the success it had at the time
and also later. Of the sources to be examined for an investigation of this type there is no limit.
Before - and in my case instead of - going into the details of the individual depictions, we immediately meet a serious problem that involves all of the figures of Petrarch's triumphs, or at least all but the first, the Triumph of Love
. This surprising fact can be seen as the result of two unexpected observations: the figures that illustrate the Triumphi
do not match their description in the poet’s verses; also the choice of how to complete the illustration is not left from time to time to the painter's imagination but follows virtually a fixed pattern.
That the figures are not drawn according to the text is seen at first glance, even without placing one’s attention on the many details that would confirm that conclusion, by the very fact that all the triumphs are presented with triumphal carts pulled by pairs of animals, while in the poems only the first triumph is described that way. That the scheme of pictorial representations is shown repeatedly without significant changes can go to confirm a hypothesis that was advanced in the first study that seriously addressed the problem: all known miniature cycles would be derived from a prototype now missing.
A second hypothesis, put forward shortly after, instead saw the Triumphi
as derived from triumphal processions (6). The question is not a minor one and has been discussed at length; for those wishing to reconstruct the essential features I find nothing better than to go back to a book already mentioned. This time the contribution is by Ada Labriola in her study that already shows itself of interest from its title (7). The contribution is devoted primarily to the already mentioned Laurentian manuscript, with its beautiful miniatures by Apollonio di Giovanni, but also examines the background and general context, in a concise, dry style, very rare among historians. For the question now recalled, the suggestion is as follows.
In the vast bibliography on these issues, the following studies should be at least mentioned: Carandente 1963; Salmi 1976, pp. 23-47; Malke 1977 pp. 236-261 (which considers a lost fresco-prototype); Trapp 1992-1993, pp. 11-73; Ortner 1998 and 1999, pp. 81-96; Battaglia Ricci 1999, pp. 255-295; Banzato,
5. V. M. Essling, E. Müntz, Pétrarque, ses études d’art, son influence sur les artistes, ses portraits et ceux de Laure
. Paris 1902.
6. W. Weisbach, Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft
, 26 (1903/04) 226-287.
7. A. Labriola, Da Padova a Firenze: l’illustrazione dei Trionfi
. Ref. 2, pp. 59-115
Limentani Virdis 2006, pp. 107-123; Prieto Gilday 2007; Malquori 2010, pp. 79-87.
There can also be indicated in this regard a brief contribution by Esther Nyholm, summarizing the issues well (8). They may seem as numerous as the studies on the subject, but they are no more than a small part of the bibliography, and finding them already selected as essential can be of considerable help.
5. interdisciplinary level discussions
The contributions of the historians of art and literature can, and indeed must, be combined, at least in this case; there may also be contributions from other disciplines. The most interesting work in this direction that I know is the thesis of Alexandra Ortner (9); it is a beautiful collection that brings together nearly five hundred pages of results that would otherwise require the consultation of works from numerous disciplines. The main merit of this author, briefly, is to combine, in triumph after triumph, what is known separately from authors who are interested in literature, art historians (ranging from illuminations to marriage chests [cassoni] and birth trays), and even historians of the theater, public events and ceremonies of the time.
For our particular purpose of tracing the series of twenty-two triumphal cards, already the combination of all six Petrarchan triumphs appears very limited; at the least an overview of the combination of the whole group would be useful, in so far as it then remains insufficient. It is true that many devotees of the tarot are deeply interested in the deeper meaning of each of the "major arcana", but for my part I find more interesting problems that concern the whole series, however reduced.
We would, in short, want another step forward, extending Ortner’s approach to all the elements, seen, however, not statically but in dynamic way. I mean to say that (at least for us amateur
8. K. Eisenbichler, A.A. Iannucci (Editors), Petrarch’s Triumphs. Allegory and Spectacle
. Ottawa 1990.
9. A. Ortner, Petrarcas “Trionfi” in Malerei, Dichtung und Festkultur
. Weimar 1998.
historians of playing cards) it is essential to reconstruct in context the movement of the personages, one exiting while another takes over; there is necessarily a precise order to be respected. It ends up explaining very well why the majority of authors have put the Triumphi
in relation with processions, and in particular with triumphal parades of floats.
It would be enough to find a parade in which the carts were dedicated precisely to the six Petrarchan triumphs, and an excellent candidate would be identified for the inspiration of both the Triumphi
and, similarly, our triumphs-cards. This logical hypothetical step, which is also suggested repeatedly in the literature, appears contrary to reality (as often happens for the reconstructions based on the logical distance of centuries): it may happen to find traces of parades inspired by the Triumphi,
and even by tarot cards, but not vice versa.
6. Petrarch and Triumphi in Florence in the early fifteenth century
Several studies have found that in the first half of the fifteenth century the spread of manuscripts of Petrarch's works among the Florentine citizenship was rather marginal in comparison to the works of Dante and Boccaccio, after which the works of Petrarch, starting precisely with the Triumphi,
were to take over. In this regard, of particular interest are the findings of Christiana Bec’s studies on the libraries of the families of merchants, with a clear distinction between the two halves of the century (10).
In the Florence of the Medici, the teachings of contemporary history and the humanists brought profound consequences. The merchants and the upper middle class [alti borgesi] have given up some of their "civic" inspiration readings and both renewed and enriched their libraries, showing a strong interest for works of classical authors, for Petrarch and and for modern writers. Therefore, if the Florentine public of the early fifteenth century opens itself, as we have attempted to show elsewhere, the cultural renewal of his time and determines it to a certain extent, the rich merchants of the second half of the century participate directly in literary humanism and interest themselves in contemporary book production. Florentine writers and humanists of the fifteenth century enjoy a wider audience than the medieval thinkers in that they are "intended"
10. Ch. Bec, Cultura e società a Firenze nell'età della Rinascenza
. Rome 1981, p. 18.
not only for professional scholars but for "honnêtes gens" [honest people]. In the Quatrocento [15th century], in short, culture comes out of the cloisters and the university to enter the shops and merchants’ palaces.
More recent studies have reassessed the importance of Petrarch also for the previous period, toward the conclusion that some of his writings had a considerable dissemination in the mercantile environment even before the development of humanism (11).
... A political interpretation of certain texts of Petrarch, as witnessed in manuscripts for the most part only by the fifteenth century, probably also occurred in Florence in the late fourteenth century, at least in the circle that revolves around Luigi Marsili; this Florence, however, is not yet the Florence of the humanists, but just that of the merchants.
Also, knowledge in Florence of the Triumphi
in particular advanced quickly, but only in the narrow circles of the early humanists and their friends, including merchants. This type of diffusion among a few experts on the matter persisted, even for decades, after the poet's death. The manuscript copies that circulated were unpretentious and without illustrations, often personally copied by humanists and some merchants, without the involvement of scribes, much less illuminators. It was the rule of the miscellanies, where the Triumphi
could be seen with other writings on various subjects. For decades, the text of the poem is separated from the cycle of illustrations, which then will accompany it. In the study just cited this change is taken into account, described as follows.
Thanks to the use of the tercet and its mythological and allegorical content, which lends itself well to a moral interpretation, the Triumphi enjoy some fortune not only among the humanists, but also among the merchants. According to the studies of Guerrini, the work is copied by merchants throughout the fifteenth century, especially in Tuscany, Veneto and Emilia (the oldest dated merchant’s codex, Ricc. 1127, dates back to 1417); subscripts also show that almost always copying is not by commission, but by private agreement. Rather bare from the viewpoint of decoration, these codcices leave wide margins around the text, evidently intended for corrections and reading notes. In most cases the work is accompanied by extensive poetry anthologies, with texts by Dante and Petrarch, Boccaccio more rarely, and minor
11. S. Brambilla, Verbum. Analecta neolatina,
VII/I (2005) 185-219.
authors; in others, the Triumphi are united with religious texts, moral or devotional, traditionally close to the interests of the merchants; in still others of didactic texts, prayers and vernacular letters, sometimes about politics, which we will see in part accompanied by at least one other work of Petrarch, the Fam. XII 2, in the vernacular. Going forward to the second half of the century, however, codices contain only written Petrarchian writings or those related to Petrarch, like the Life by Leonardo Bruni. They are modeled on similar examples of luxury codices, humanistic monographs, and at least in part testify to the influence of the most advanced culture also on products destined for a different audience.
Indeed, as also recognized in the citation, great credit needs to be to given to the previous studies by Gemma Guerrini, which are based on the meticulous examination of many of the fifteenth-century manuscripts of the Triumphi
. In addition to the more extensive one already mentioned, another article cannot be forgotten, in which she presents the question from several points of view, bringing the analysis to a conclusion that, although not defined as final, certainly does not appear rushed (12).
... The presence of the texts examined above along with the Triumphi, in exemplars of merchants’ manuscripts, appears to constitute a very significant presence if not as regards the social and economic class of the users of these miscellanees, certainly for their culture and approaching that of type in which they had as subjects the Triumphi of Petrarch. ... It can be said in the meantime, and with all certainty, that the Triumphi in the fifteenth century were read and also enjoyed by those not belonging to the culturally hegemonic classes, aswritings in merchants’ copies; Individuals belonging, therefore, to a median section of society, among the oral culture of the illiterate and that belonging to the culture of dominant classes transmitted through writing. As indicated by the manuscripts studied, the writers in the merchants’ libraries tend toward conscious assimilation of the type of book and text used by the humanistic culture, conceived in fact as "the" culture. ... Another group of manuscripts in those of the merchants have, instead, both texts contemporary to the manuscripts and older ones, mostly compilations and vulgarizations dating back to the 1200s and the 1300s. The analysis of these miscellanies and affinities among the texts included there with the text of the Triumphi, made possible and documented the reading that Petrarch's work was being done, a use with care now to moral content, now to devotion, now teaching, now consolation; such enjoyment of the work of Petrarch, united with a subordinate graphic typology and other elements presented by the manuscripts (misunderstandings of the text, ignorance of Latin, the rough or archaic style decorations), does not provide support beyond certain limits of the influence of humanistic culture on the production of the latter, so if the comparison between the texts together with exemplars of Triumphi explain the
12. G. Guerrini, Accademie e biblioteche d’Italia
, 54 n. IV (1986) 12.-33.
"why" of the use of the work, a reading of the latter conducted according to suitable methodology also allows us to understand "how" this use was implemented
These two works of Guerrini have given rise to a considerable change of perspective in the association between the Florentine merchants and the Triumphi
, anticipating by decades the observation of their frequent dissemination and the continuation of popular compilations even when the most exclusive manuscripts appeared.
Although it may seem far from immediate, the fact of the appearance of illuminated manuscripts alongside the continuing production of those ordinary manuscripts already present in the first half of the century, appears as a modification of the "editorial" form of the environment of the main readers. The emergence of the Triumphi
, recognized as a literary work of the greatest importance deserving to be compiled individually in an exclusive manuscript, happened, however, at a later time, when in Florence there came the extraordinary flowering of those precious manuscripts, which we can discuss again separately.
7. Dissemination of illuminated manuscripts
The importance of the first phase of the spread of the writings of Petrarch in Florence is still a bit uncertain, with some gaps in the information we have today; but that of the second phase, beginning with the Triumphi
, is recognized by all, before similar phenomena were repeated in other cities and other countries. To reconstruct how the first copies of the Triumphi
passed from hand to hand is very difficult, but it is clear that the illuminated manuscripts had an extraordinary diffusion in the city; there appeared many copies of richly illustrated Triumphi
, with very similar illuminations among them, not very faithful to the written text. Now there was no need to involve other works in this: the illuminated Triumphi
represented already a complete work, much sought after. Today also the studies on manuscripts of the Triumphi
concern especially these richly illustrated works, if only because of course they are the only ones studied by art historians. It was decades before this fashion crosses the Alps, but at
least in central and northern Europe in the following centuries the fashion lasted longer; overall the Triumphi
can be considered one of the works that have enjoyed the greatest spread throughout Europe, both in literature and pictorial art.
Probably the reason for this popularity in Florence is mostly social. The writings of Petrarch were much appreciated in the courts and it can be said that - unlike Dante - the poet meant to write precisely to, and only to, the highest levels of the society of his time. Thus if in an Italian court a duke commissioned a fine edition of the Triumphi
, none of his subjects would have dreamed of imitating him.
The situation was completely different in Florence: first of all, there was no lord of the city yet, and there was a continuous race with no end among families, because none prevailed too much over the others; only subsequent events make us realize that the Medici family was to rule all. After the fears that followed the tumult of the Ciompi in 1378, with the following restoration, it had become necessary for the ruling class to make fully manifest their right to govern the city. To present themselves worthy of their political and social role the higher leading families resurrected traditions fallen into disuse and returned some customs and events current that in the past in Florence, and also at the time in other cities, were used to distinguish the nobility from the people ..
It must be remembered that in Florence the families involved were no longer those of the nobility (kept out of public office according to the Ordinances of Justice
) and around the new prominent families there were many more that approached oligarchic status and aspired to be part of it. In this race of emulations and continual imitations also were also the works of art commissions and, in our case, the illuminated manuscripts of the Triumphi
. The codex reserved for a few people in other Italian cities, and not yet beyond the Alps, was requested in Florence in dozens of copies. Something similar probably happened for the Florentine fashion, almost simultaneously, of the first triumphs-playing cards, but for that it is more difficult to set the starting date.
For the Triumphi,
all authors interested in the phenomenon of the spread of illuminated manuscripts cite a letter by Matteo de’ Pasti to Piero de' Medici (13), which is of great importance. There are no known complete
13. G. Milanesi, Lettere d’artisti italiani dei secoli XIV e XV
. Roma 1869.
cycles of miniatures of the Triumphi
before that time and from that document it is clear that there was still no standard practice in depicting those images. The question that the illuminator puts to the commissoner is not about the depiction of a small detail, for the buyer’s preference, but a group of important aspects of the scene.
In short, for many illuminated Petrarchian codices in Florence in the fifteenth century (some of which are now today in distant libraries) we not only see a fashion flourish, but in practice also its beginning, dating from shortly after 1440, for us a date very close to the notice we have about a parallel fashion in the triumphs of playing cards; in essence also, too close to be able to conclude that in Florence, the illuminated Triumphi
influenced the triumphs [trionfi], as based on the dates that appear it is more likely vice versa, also because it is not known how many could have been in circulation before the new playing cards, of which we lack information on when they started to appear. On the other hand, a similar time-inconsistency has already been found in Florence for the fashion of triumphal motifs in birth trays (14) and wedding chests (15).
8. Amateur Contributions
Commenting on the six triumphs of Petrarch is also not easy at the amateur level. On the one hand it is useless to repeat what everyone knows or can find at once in a thousand publications. On the other hand it is impossible to take account of everything that has already been written; it is difficult to use even one of the fundamental contributions of professionals, as already seen at the beginning.
Allowing me to write something, there is the limited field of our interest, that of studying the Triumphi
in view of the triumphs-tarots [trionfi-tarocchi]; There is also the "advantage" of not having to ask that my contribution be accepted in a serious journal, or considered, perhaps, for viewing in a university competition - in fact, I write for amateurs like me. With these drastic limitations, many important discussions become marginal. For a connection with the cards you end up identifying a most important point, of all the others already mentioned: the
progression of a person who triumphs over the previous year. This is the fundamental character that is required for a scale of values necessary for the simple card game, at least as often as - as happened with the triumphs at the beginning - you do not enter the numbers of the series directly on the cards.
If one considers using six playing cards with representations of Petrarch's triumphs, everyone will know which card captures another. If necessary, one may wonder if we would come to the same conclusion with the same pictures without the intervention of Petrarch, and then eventually back to the sources from which the poet was able to derive his own "scale of values". Sometimes in studies of the Triumphi
of Prudentius is mentioned as the distant origin of an entire genre of literary works and paintings, of which one part would be the works of Petrarch; but there it is mainly about virtues overcoming vices, presented as a different kind of triumphs that, although part of a single setting, follow each other independently. At our level, we can be satisfied with Petrarch's poem without being concerned with any of the above, and from there move forward in our direction.
Our fundamental problem is unfortunately one that has not interested the books with more notes than text, namely that of advancing, suddenly or by degrees, from six triumphs up to twenty-two. Instead of amateur contributions, I know an exceptional whole book, that sees the very origin of the tarot precisely with Petrarch, when he resided in Avignon (16). In my opinion, this is an amateur contribution that is coupled with scientific in quotes: this seems to me the maximum in our field; I can only repeat what I have already written (17):
The origin of the tarot would be connected with Pope John XXII (1249-1334), who was too old and tired to continue reading books. So different authors undertook to provide books reduced to pure and simple sequences of images. Unless I have misunderstood the text (and I am ready to recognize my limited understanding) the authors explain the birth of the tarot sequence as only an extension of the six triumphs celebrated by Petrarch; Also, they go to further extend the set of triumphal cards so as to include, subsequently, the cards of the four suits. As a final result, we obtain that the tarot sequence had already been born, although
16. R. Fusi, R. Pio, Tarocchi un giallo storico: Le carte perdute e ritrovate.
Firenze 2001; reprinted in 2004 with the title: Petrarca, Simone Martini e le carte.
17. F. Pratesi, Giochi di carte nella repubblica fiorentina
. Ariccia 2016, p. 504.
kept in a rather secret form, before the death of Simone Martini (1344), and Petrarch (1374). As for me, I'm always looking to set back the date of the origin of our triumphs, but this is excessive; we can only comment briefly: "You are too kind, Saint Anthony!"
Perhaps the most daring result of that book is that from the Triumphi
would be derived not only the triumphal tarot cards, but the whole pack, including the number and picture cards. It is better to reduce our expectations and limit ourselves to less ambitious considerations.
9. General information on the correspondence between triumphs and the Triumphi
After taking into consideration the opinions of the "serious" scholars, we have arrived at a point where we have had to turn to the contributions, at least apparently less fundamental, of the collectors and amateur historians of playing cards. It should be noted that these contributions are not, as one might expect, a kind of appendix to those published by academics, but come to fill a space that the "scientific" studies have left blank, the correspondence between triumphal tarot cards and the Petrarchan triumphs, which, once accepted, becomes the point of our greatest interest. At the base you have assumed that there really is a match, otherwise Petrarch, despite all his recognized importance as poet laureate and proto-humanist, would serve no purpose for the topic that interests us.
An historical connection between the two groups of subjects (as I was reminded by Ross Caldwell) actually comes from the environment of playing cards, from that of minchiate in the seventeenth century: Paolo Minucci comments on the order of rank among the superior cards of the game and ends with the similitude of our interest.
l Petrarca similmente ne’ Trionfi fa come un giuoco; perché Amore è superato dalla Castità, la Castità dalla Morte, la Morte dalla Fama, e la Fama dalla Divinità, la quale eternamente regna.
(Petrarch similarly made of the Triumphi a game; because Love is overcome by Chastity, Chastity by Death, Death by Fame, and Fame by the Deity, who reigns eternally.)
We mus not give to this quote, and in particular that "similitude", more importance than it has. Everyone knows the Triumphi
; everyone knows the minchiate, or at least everyone knew them at the time; Minucci does not look for a deeper partnership between the two parties: speaking of minchiate, he just wants to point to the fact that even in it, as in the Triumphi
, there is a ranking: the element that follows is more powerful than the one that precedes it. Everything is here, but this point remains of course very important for us always to keep in mind.
In fact, the two groups of successive subjects are often mentioned together, but without explicit attempts to match them element to element. We can even conclude boldly that there is no match, but here we are interested more in hypotheses that suppose it. Meanwhile we see what we can expect from that comparison. It seems to me that the results can be grouped into a few different types, aside from the problematic task of having them associated with twenty-two objects.
Then the first development that can be imagined is to identify the similarity among the six Petrarchan triumphs and the same number in the cards. For attaining the result, several options are opened for how to consider the sixteen triumphal cards left unmatched. One possibility is to consider them in whole or in part still linked to Petrarch, maybe finding the Triumphi
figure matched not with one but two or four of the tarots; another is to investigate a different origin, completely independent of the Triumphi
It seems unlikely that a pack of cards existed in which the triumphal cards were only six, like the Triumphi
. The sequence may have formed gradually, however, such that our task is not to seek a correspondence between the six and twenty-two items, but rather only among a group of six, and, typically, another group of fourteen or sixteen triumphal cards, that is, as many as would hypothetically be present in the first packs, all of them independently of the Triumphi
10. Particular proposed correspondences
In what follows we consider some proposals on the correspondence between triumphal cards and the Triumphi
. These cases were reported to me by experts who, like me, are interested in the subject at
an amateur level, including the authors of some of the mentioned proposals.
Associazione Le Tarot
This association is an obligatory point of reference for those interested in the tarot in Italy, and even beyond, thanks to the untiring work of study, dissemination and coordination of various high-level contributors by its founder and president, Andrea Vitali. Here I use the catalog of their international exhibition organized through the patronage of the Ministry for Cultural and Environmental Heritage (19).
In the catalog, in part reproduced also in the association's web pages (20), we can read that the Triumphi
were at the origin of the tarot; this statement does not come very unexpectedly, its originality is found, other than in the Prince, in the reconstruction of the triumphal cards guided by numerology, ending in the fateful 22.
In what follows we consider some proposals on the correspondence between triumphal cards and the Triumphi
. These cases were reported to me by experts who, like me, are interested in the subject at an amateur level, including the authors of some of the proposals mentioned.
This game derives from the Triumphi of Francesco Petrarch, in which the fourteenth-century poet describes the six major forces that govern men and assigned to each a hierarchical value. The Romanesque numerology saw in the number Six the "superhuman power" because it corresponded to the days of biblical creation. .... The number of triumph cards, the conception of which is due to Prince Francesco Antelminelli Castracani Fibbia, seems to have been originally composed of 8 allegories, later 14 and 16, to settle finally on 22, a number that in its Christian mystical meaning is the introduction of the wisdom and divine teachings engraved in humanity. This path, which declares in a progressive adaptation of these numerological "playing cards" dictates of a religious nature, was likely to have been adopted to avoid the condemnation by the Church that had repeatedly been hurled against card games that were considered gambling.
Missing here an explicit one-to-one correspondence between the Triumphi
and the cards, but we will find this in other studies.
Michael S. Howard
In the case of this author it would be questionable whether I include him among us amateurs, considering his professional studies in areas not too far from this one. According to him, the Triumphi
were fundamental constituents
19. A. Vitali (ed.), La carovana dei tarocchi
. Turin, s.d. [In Italian at http://www.associazioneletarot.it/cgi-b ... aliano.pdf
, in English at http://www.associazioneletarot.it/cgi-b ... arovan.pdf
; in French at http://www.associazioneletarot.it/cgi-b ... r_sito.pdf
20. http://www.associazioneletarot.it/page. ... 11&lng=ITA
[in English at http://www.associazioneletarot.it/page. ... 11&lng=ENG
of the first triumphs, and they formed a larger part than usual, as the first triumphs would be 16, made precisely from all six of Petrarch, in addition to the seven virtues and the two cards of the Emperor and Empress. At this point you get 15 of the 16 triumphal cards hypothetically present originally. It is therefore only remains to seek the sixteenth card, which according to Howard would be the Wheel, which is one of two surviving triumphal cards in the Brera-Brambilla deck made by the same workshop and is one of the most obvious allegories of the Amorosa Visione
. This interpretation has been used by Howard to propose a possible reconstruction of the Cary-Yale deck, inclusive of the cards that have been lost (21).
He is probably the most prolific animator of discussion on the triumphs that can be met on the Internet, as much on his website Trionfi.com
, as in the Tarot History Forum
; there is no sector in the history of tarot where he has not opened a new discussion exploring, forgotten contributions, always on the web, that no one would be able to fish out in a comparable amount from old texts, German or otherwise.
Also in this case he has a theory to propose, where there are mostly clear associations between tarot cards and the Triumphi
, reported in the following table (22). Where the association is not there – the cards in the table printed in italics – it means that those cards were added independently of the Triumphi
. The correspondence is almost one to one, but there are a couple of exceptions, which concern Time. It would be quite unusual to associate it with the Hermit, but here that association is so present, but secondarily and with a question mark; the reason is that time is preferably associated with four of the tarot cards, three as measures of time - year, month, day respectively for Star, Moon and Sun - while Judgment again has to do with Time, as it is its end.
22. L. Teikemeier, email 06.10.2016.
* Indicating here, understandably, a correspondence added with a question mark to 5, “Time”.
**Association justified in the case of Temperance depicted with wings.
To include Moakley among the amateurs seems indeed a bit reductive. Her profession would have been that of archivist; distinguishing whether her involvement with the tarot was amateur or professional seems to me a matter of splitting hairs, especially for her book, a pioneering contribution discussed in all monographs on the subject (23). The book is of interest even today, after half a century, but here we have to go back a decade, to her article centered on our topic, of which I did not know and was informed of it by Ross Caldwell (24).
I report it in the form of the proposed table, with minimal changes, such as including the Fool at the beginning, rather than the end, the only card for which a match is not given, since it is outside the series; for all the other cards - receiving help from minchiate - there is a correspondence with the Triumphi
, naturally with appropriate groupings.
23. G. Moakley, The tarot cards painted by Bonifacio Bembo
. New York 1966.
24. G. Moakley, Bulletin of The New York Public Library
. Vol. 60 No. 2 (1956) 55-69.
Moakley reports a couple of features that make her proposal appear particularly valuable; one is that even within groups corresponding to only one triumph of Petrarch (the card at five) one can identify a ranking in accordance with the position in the group. The circumstance appears even more significant, emphasized by her, that the modern order of the cards did not need a significant reshuffling, having only to put out of order the cards ranking number 9 and number 14.
__*Not part of the procession.
As weak points of this proposal, which is rather stimulating, we can mention the lack of an appropriate association with Fame (although it might hint at an astonishing antiquity to minchiate and become a plus) and also the fact that Moakley in the book cited, printed a decade later, argues that a correspondence like this would be just a kind of irreverent
parody of the carnival type, with almost burlesque transformations of the personages involved.
A number of studies of Petrarch's Triumphi
have been examined, focusing especially on the few that have proven useful for our point of view, aimed at the interest of the subject in the history of playing cards. In some images found in the tarot, there appear obvious similarities with those of the Triumphi
; to better compare the two groups we cannot use the text left unfinished at the death of the poet in 1374, but that accompanied by the fine illuminations which became, particularly in Florence in the mid-fifteenth century, a highly sought-after book, just when also the triumphs-cards had, in Florence, their first diffusion.
As seen in Florence for the fashion of triumphal motifs in birth trays and wedding chests, it is likewise for that of the illuminated manuscripts of the Triumphi
, it would seem that they all exclude a direct influence on the origin of the triumph-like playing cards, because of the latter we have notice in 1440 and probably were already known some years before, when the Florentine fashion for the other objects of the minor arts decorated with triumphal motifs was not yet widespread. This applies to the associated picture cycle, but not to the text of the Triumphi
which also previously had an appreciable movement in Florence.
Franco Pratesi - 15/10/2016