Steve'sM's last post was really interesting, about the recasting of Hercules from chivalric gentleman out of Boccaccio to "Herodotean" hero. It was not clear in the quote what "Herodotean" meant, but I can imagine--someone like the Athenians against the Persians, defeating a much more powerful foe by their determination and shrewd boldness. Perhaps the idea was that Ferrara was such an Athens, and Venice such a Persia; if so, it certainly led to disaster in Ercole's Salt War.
A similar change seems to have happened in Florence--exactly when is not clear; I think around that same time, the early 1430s, but others say it was a little later, around 1440 or 1450. It has something to do with humanism, too, but exactly what is not clear either.
I have been reading Paul Watson's Ph.D. thesis, for the purpose of trying to understand why he thinks that Petrarch's Triumphi
suddenly became popular, in the mid-15th-century, he says, as part of a shift in values promoted by Leonardo Bruni, from voluptas to virtus. He thinks the promotion of Petrarch's poem in cassoni and birthtrays was part of it, mentioning by name the workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni. If so, then then the proliferation of "I Trionfi" imagery after 1440 would not have been the result of the proliferation of the tarot, as I have been hypothesizing. The popularity of the game of Triumphs might have contributed to these themes' popularity, but not been a necessary or decisive part.
Essentially Watson's argument is that Bruni promoted Stoicism as opposed to the Epicureanism that permeated the earlier cassoni. Petrarch was a Stoic, especially in his Trionfi
Boccaccio more an Epicurean; hence it was important to promote Petrarch, and especially the Trinofi. This shift would have occurred, for Watson, in the late 1430s and early 1440s. Accordingly, he dates the "Labors of Hercules" cassone at c. 1440. It is possible, of course, even if the style reflects innovations by others in the early 1430s.
To support his contention Watson gives several humanist examples from the late 1430s, including Alberti in his essay on the Family. But it is not for him simply a one-time thing. He gives similar examples from Salutati in 1392 (Watson p. 230), Bruni in 1400 (p. 221) and another humanist, Francesco Barbero, in 1416 (p. 231) with the same sentiments ((the pupil of Guarino and with his perspective, SteveM's link indicates). Apparently the earlier defenses of Stoic values didn't succeed. In the 1420s even Bruni is defending Boccaccio and Venus. But then, it appears, a new generation came along to renew the challenge. I will give quotes later. They succeeded.
The problem I have is that nothing in what he quotes from Bruni and the other alleged Stoics supports this theory. He quotes from Bruni's 1400 dialogue in the mouth of Niccolo Niccoli, which makes many criticisms of Boccaccio in its first part, but then defends Boccaccio against them in the second part. His quote from Barbero (p. 232) simply says that while beauty is not to be ignored, the primary criterion in choosing a wife is her virtue, something that Boccaccio would hardly disagree with. Watson also quotes from Alberti in the late 1430s, presumably writing in Ferrara, is much like Barbero in 1416. He is another alleged Stoic; again it is virtus, now of the entire family, that is what is essential, and beauty only an incentive to have the necessary children; but this is not a defining feature of Stoicism. Then there is Bruni in 1436, who sees the family mainly as a bulwark of the state; but again, this is not Stoic in particular.
Actually, Bruni is usually considered an Aristotelian who was also influenced by Plato. He actually argued against Stoicism (see Jill Kraye's essay, "Stoicism in the Philosophy of the Italian Renaissance," in the Routledge Handbook of the Stoic Tradition
, https://books.google.com/books?id=eZSPC ... 20&f=false
). Watson also seems to regard Plutarch and Augustine as Stoics; the term is being applied rather loosely to these primarily Platonistic eclectics.
All the same, there is clearly a difference between Florentine cassoni and birthtrays of the 1420s and those of the 1450s. The first use stories primarily from Boccaccio and Ovid, emphasizing the sensuous aspect of love and its compatibility with virtue, the second from Petrarch, Virgil, Homer, etc., emphasizing heroic virtue and regarding sensuous love as a distraction from virtue. In such a shift it natural to use Petrarch, who indeed is closer to Stoicism than just about anyone else in the early Renaissance (see p. 123 of above volume, in the essay by Ada Palmer).
All I can think of is that in the 1420s there was still a need to increase the birth rate. So marriage had to look appealing, not merely a duty. By the late 1430s there was a new priority, namely, the duty to save Florence, and even Italy, from its enemies. Perhaps the condition of Constantinople had made an impression, on top of the threat of Milan. In that case, sensuous love, which might deter a man from war, had to take a back seat to civic duty. I can't think of anything else. The increased emphasis on Plato that might have came out of Plethon's attendance at the Council might have contributed to the shift as well.
What I do get from Watson is a clearer picture of how triumphal themes were treated before 1450 or so (or 1440, as he sometimes says) as opposed to after that date, and that indeed virtus rather than voluptas is what makes the difference, at least as regards Love and Chastity. In fact many cassoni paintings of the 1420s were done on the theme of the strife between love and chastity; sometimes they are resolved in favor of love and sometimes chastity, and sometimes both are victorious. But it is love and chastity conceived differently than in Petrarch: Epicurean vs. Stoic would be one way of characterizing the difference. However it could also be the lower ranks of the "ladder of love" in Plato's Symposium
, vs. the higher ranks, with the descriptions of the lower foreshadowing the higher.
The main representative of "Epicureanism" in the 1420s for Watson is Boccaccio, who carried on the French romance tradition of the Roman de la Rose
. That work was about the Lover's quest for the Beloved with the help of Nature, Genius, and Venus, against the opposition of Reason, Jealousy, and Chastity (Watson p. 43), in other words, a psychomachia, but not between virtue and vice, but between love, conceived in a physical way, and its opposition, especially Chastity. When the lover (usually male) wins, it is a Triumph of Love over Chastity.
I am going to give a series of examples from pre-1440 which I think will help to show that my example of Apollo and Daphne as a triumph of love followed by a triumph of chastity is how it would have been seen at the time. I am only interested in the stories, not what is shown, which is not easy to interpret (and I have not found all the corresponding paintings on the web; their reproduction in the University Microfilms version of the Ph.D. thesis is unusable).
A popular cassone theme in 1420s Florence was Boccaccio's Tesseida
. An example is on a cassone now in Stuttgart, c. 1425 (http://www.staatsgalerie.de/malereiundp ... g.php?id=3
). Two men, one associated with Mars (Watson says) and the other with Venus, are in love with the same woman, who of course is associated with Diana. The Martian interrupts the Venusian's wooing and challenges him to a duel; instead, they have a public trial by combat. Mars wins but dies of his wounds (thanks to Venus) soon after. So the Venusian gets the girl, whom he weds and beds (I am not sure on the order). It is the triumph of Venus over Mars, love over war, Venus over Diana, love over chastity.
Then there are the "Garden of Love" cassoni as such. Here we must remember that the groom's party goes to the bride's house--having first consummated the wedding at the bride's place, no doubt so he can reject her if she proves not a virgin. Then he "seizes" her to bring her to the groom's territory, the cassoni are carried in procession, and they end up in the couple's bedroom. It is again the triumph of Love. The garden is a symbol of fertility, conducive also to the relaxed atmosphere that promotes conception. It is also the reward of virtue and so a triumph of the bride's chastity, as well as, in anticipation, the triumph of love over the type of chastity represented by Diana, i.e. virginity.
A popular medieval book on love, the De Amore
of Andreas Capellanus, 12th century (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_amore_ ... apellanus)
told a parable of three gardens of love in paradise. "Those who love wisely and well will love in a paradise of green lawns, flowering trees, and flowing streams, together with the King and Queen of Love....Ladies too generous with their favors will be consigned to Humiditas, a swamp. Virgins will dwell in the horrid desert of Aridatus" (Watson p. 64). In this regard Watson makes much of the pastoral setting of dal Ponte's Seven Virtues and 7 Liberal Arts: they are both in a "garden" setting on the cassone (actually, it is just a lawn with flowers).
It seems to me that the CY Love card expresses precisely the "triumph of love" that the "garden of love" cassoni exhibit, in the context of the marriage that the cassone celebrates. There are the heraldics of the two families. (I don't necessarily mean the banner with the cross of Savoy/Pavia, although I think that the cassone tradition would suggest that they are of the two families; there is also the fountain on the man's coat.) If there is indeed a bed on the card, that emphasizes the idea of pleasure even more. In the PMB we are missing the heraldics; however the gestures are the same as in the CY. The CY Chariot card is more of the same, celebrating the bride's chastity and other virtues. The PMB card is something else, not a bride's, but a wife's chastity. (It might perhaps seem odd to use Milan cards as corresponding to Florentine cassoni; but we have no early Florentine Love and Chariot cards, and Milan is a place where the shift to "Stoicism" isn't really evident.) I will say more.
After marriage, from this perspective, it is not that chastity has been lost, but rather that the chastity of a married person is different from the chastity of an unmarried. It is what Watson calls "onestade". A couple of tales from Boccaccio popular on marriage chests illustrate the point, those of Saladin and Torello, and Ginevra of Genoa. "Saladin and Torello" is mostly about the friendship of the two men Torrello and Saladin; the wife is mentioned only at the beginning and end, when her husband leaves for the Holy Land on the understanding that she will marry again if she waits a year and a day after she gets news of her husband's death. She hear such news, and the husband arrives just in the nick of time. But the story is mostly about the virtuous heathen Saladin and the concord--of which Venus would be the patron goddess--with the Christian Torrelli. On the cassoni, however, the story focuses on the wife, showing her as "a gracious hostess, a loving wife, and a helpmate." She also exhibits the virtue of constancy in her love for her husband.
The story of Ginevra of Genoa is similar. In this case, Ginevra is a victim of a friend of her husband's, who fakes proof that he seduced her so as to win a bet, and the husband has her convicted of adultery and sentenced to be executed. Eventually the lie is exposed, but Ginevra never loses faith in her husband. It is the triumph of a certain, "onestade" against inconstancy and resentment. Boccaccio says "she has all the virtues that a woman, or even, in large degree, a knight or a young man should possess" (p. 49).
Then there is Boccaccio's Ninfale Fiesoleano
, in 3 surviving cassoni c. 1430. Diana is observed with her nymphs by a passing hunter, who falls in love instantly with one of the nymphs. Venus appears to him in a dream and promises him the nymph, if he will follow her. He catches the nymph by herself and proclaims his love for her. She throws her spear at him, but in so doing looks him in the eye and so is entranced by his beauty. Venus in a dream advises him to disguise himself as a nymph, join the band, and grab her when he has his chance. He does so, When the nymphs take off their clothes to bathe in a stream, his chance comes, and she yields. It is the victory of Venus over Diana. The nymph feels guilt for what she has done and rejects the young man. When Diana sees the ensuing child, she turns the nymph into a stream, in fact the very one that flows by the Villa I Tatti. Chastity is avenged. In this case, love's triumph was not within marriage.
The "garden of love" cassoni frequently showed little children running around or flitting about as little cupids. That suggests that love can even triumph over death, by means of progeny. Some love-gardens defeat death in another way. Those of dal Ponte are "gardens of famous lovers", a few of whom have been identified (Troilus and Cressida, and perhaps Mars and Venus) (pp. 73-4; for photos, see my blog on the Rothschild cards and dal Ponte). A famous love, even unto death if its protagonists are mortal, is a form of worldly glory.
Then there is the fountain. It is that in which Cupid dips his arrows to make them efficacious, gold on one side (for love) and lead (for hate) on the other. In other words, the fountain is that which replenishes love and keeps it alive, in the hope of further pleasure. "The fountain is the baptismal font of Cupid," Watson observes. They are portrayed in similar ways sometimes. There is kind of parallel between sensuous and divine love, shown also in paintings of Madonnas in a rose garden at that time. Music, dance, and fine food also help to tune the senses toward pleasure.
There is also the motif of the chase. These are again battles between love and chastity. Diana is the patron of the hunt, for the very activity draws one away from thoughts of love, just as the sentry at the gate of the Castle of Mirth in the Roman de la Rose
is called Idleness. In one birth-tray, youths join nymphs in the hunt, in Diana's wild landscape but then enjoy each others' company afterwards. It looks like the defeat of chastity. In Boccaccio's story "Diana's hunt", the nymphs revolt against Diana after the hunt, banish her, and the dead animals turn into young men whom they marry.
Acteon, of course, hunts stags, the animal of Diana. When he experiences lascivious pleasure at seeing her and her nymphs bathing, she turns him into her animal; it is the victory of Chastity over Pleasure. At the same time, the viewer enjoys the forbidden pleasure of seeing what Acteon saw.
A complex variation is the theme of Diana and Callisto (p. 82). Diana, in an aureole of light on the cassone, leads her ladies in the hunt for rabbits, animals beloved by Venus. One of the nymphs retires to a grotto with her prey, where Jupiter, smitten with passion (no doubt from one of Cupid's arrows), assumes the form of Diana so as to get close enough to achieve his aim. After his success, Diana finds out and expels her. After the birth of her son, Juno, the aggrieved spouse and goddess of marriage, does more, and turns her into a bear, which 15 years later is about to be killed by her own son. Jupiter intervenes and turns both into constellations, a kind of victory over death--and even fame, since they will go around til the end of time. Juno commands Oceanus never to receive them to give them rest. The last word is that of the goddess of chastity within marriage.
Another example Watson gives for early cassoni is the Judgment of Paris. Here Paris rejects Wealth (Juno) and Wisdom (Athena) to give Love (Venus) the triumph. Again there is much beauty to admire. But the viewer knows how the story will end: Love will be triumphed over, as concord (whose goddess is Venus) turns to war (Mars) and Helen is dragged back to Menelaus, a victory for marriage (Juno) but not love.
My point in giving these examples was to say that in this context, Apollo and Daphne on a cassone cannot be anything but another example of the strife between Love and Chastity. Apollo is not about to marry Daphne. He is inflamed by Cupid's golden arrow, just as Daphne is inflamed in the opposite way by his lead arrow. Her turning into a tree is a kind of death as a nymph. It seems to me fairly parallel to Petrarch and Laura.
On cassoni after mid-century, Petrarch dominates. There is no such thing as a chaste or virtuous pleasure, or anticipation of pleasure, of sexual love, inside or out of marriage. Cupid's victims are bound with ropes, slain, or made to look ridiculous, like Samson with Delilah or Aristotle with Phyllis. In about 1440, Watson says (p. 201), "choice of Hercules" paintings start appearing: one must choose between virtue and pleasure, not think one can have both.
For its part, Chastity now equals virginity, no longer compatible with sexual pleasure in marriage. The model is Petrarch's Laura, who dies a virgin.
As for marriage, its aim not to attain one's object of desire, but for progeny and companionship. Alberti in his essay on "The Family", written in the late 1430s, says (Watson p. 233):
we are inclined to take a wife for two reasons: the first is to be surrounded by children; the other is to have a steadfast and constant companion all of one's days.
Others gave one other reason: as the foundation of the republic. Bruni said, in his Vita da Dante
of 1436 (Watson p. 235)
The first community is that of man and wife, from which, when multiplied, comes the republic.
This is hardly a frontal attack on Epicureanism, I would observe. Watson quotes Alberti in an earlier passage as saying that the wife's beauty and compliant attitude are both conducive to the end of producing children.
In this new setting, Love, in the sense of what Cupid delivers, is only an instinct to be triumphed over by the virtues, not virtue's reward. The tarot sequence, in which the virtue cards triumph over the love card, reinforces that theme. As for the chariot card, a victorious woman is not quite the ideal. "Virtus" is from "vir", man, "and by a man is meant one who is constant and brave" (Watson p. 235f). The only appropriate image of a virtuous woman now is one with courage and steadfastness, the personification of Fortitude, not of sensual Beauty. Of Boccaccio's tales, only that of Griselda is worthy of a cassone. She is someone of whom "long-suffering" is a gross understatement (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Griselda_(folklore)
). Her reward is not a triumphal parade but an invitation to re-marry the monster she is so devoted to.
So the Florentine charioteer is a masculine conquering hero, the ideal of the new ethic. It is true that the Minchiate charioteer, a near-naked beauty, does not fit that rule; it reflects the earlier, Boccaccian model. Likewise the minchiate love card shows a lady crowning a kneeling man, reminiscent of ladies putting garlands on men's heads as a sign of their acceptance of his love.
What I am saying is that there are indeed triumphal motifs in cassoni and birthtrays before 1440; however they are not as Petrarch conceived them, or even necessarily in his order. In relation to the tarot, the odd thing is that even as the tarot follows Petrarch's order, at least in the forms we know it, its images of the Lover are not always consistent with Petrarch's, but hark back to a different and opposing tradition. As for Chastity, it again, to the extent that something can be found in the early tarot corresponding at all, is not Petrarch's.
As for the other Petrarchan triumphs, there is the one example of Fame, which Watson and others think is c. 1400 (but not Callman, who thought 1420s-1430s). The others, Death and Time and Eternity, would not be expected on cassoni. Fame, of course, is an important place to channel desire in the "Stoic" sense, away from sex and toward the nobler path of virtue--a course that Boccaccio, too, had recommended (in Book One of Amorosa Visione
) but about which he did not say nearly as much.
And perhaps indeed it is Herodotus--"father of history" or "father of lies" (I will have to read Plutarch's version)--who is decisive, more than Cicero and Seneca.