1428: Tarot cards were invented in the court of the Visconti.
Franco's research shows that 1440 is too late for cheap decks.
A few qualms here.
Even Pratesi has to equivocate with calling Marziano 'quasi-tarot.' The series of subjects with which we are primarily occupied do not reflect the classical mythology of Marziano (I'm thinking especially of Pratesi's paper: On Trumps, Triumphs, and Tarots. (10.06.2012): http://www.naibi.net/A/126-TRITARTRU-Z.docx
). I don't even see how the love interests of the pagan gods (e.g., Daphne) qualifies as a species of 'triumphal' art, unless narrowed to a triumph of love/chastity, which is rather restricted in light of the far-flung subjects of tarot proper. At all events, your qualified statement must read 'quasi-tarot' was invented in Milan...by a humanist.
Why Ross seemingly dismisses this last piece of information and places the creation of an even more complex series of subjects within the hoi polloi of the card-playing public continues to perplex me. On the flip side, there are no references to the Marziano deck at the time of its inception and thus no evidence of it's diffusion to Florence or elsewhere (both historical references to Marziano post-date the CY and therefore the ur-tarot - Decembrio's vita
and Marcello's letter).
As for your second point about 1440 as too late as marking mass production, what specifically are you referring to besides some uncited sociological time-lag rule before something novel is adopted or recognized? I'd prefer to stick to the evidence on this point and not anecdotal social theory. And the only evidence we have is that tarot was produced in Florence and known of by a provincial notary who ordered a deck for a potential (or recurring?) client, in the summer of 1440. But we must qualify 'provincial notary' as he was not just officially bearing witness to the signing of the odd condotte
but intimately involved in the business of supplying soldiers (procuratore
) to condottieri
and allied to the Medici faction. In the grand scheme of things he was a tiny, provincial cog in the rather vast political machinery of the Medici, but an extremely knowledgeable cog - e.g., his other entries carefully track the movements, victories and disappointments of both Sforza and Cosimo.
I won't bore you with all of my Anghiari ur-tarot arguments again here (suffice to say, it was a singular Medicean trionfo
over both internal and foreign enemies, hence the name given to the card novelty, IMO), but will point out the generally downplayed audacity of Giusti's act. This is almost never discussed in regard to Giusti's now famous diary entry: Malatesta was not a Medici ally at the time of Giusti's gift
. In 1437 Giusti was registrar to the Florentine vicar to Anghiari (Morelli, a Medicean partisan), but in 1440 he seems to have held no official position other than the private role of 'registrar of money' (cancelliere del soldo
) for the mercenary compagnia di Agnolo Taglia
, someone who had relations with Malatesta as a 'lance
for hire.' The audacity here is that reaching out to Malatesta was a brazen act of foreign relations; Giusti presumably did so with the consent of the Medici in order to re-establish a condotte
with the mercenary ruler of Rimini (who was once friendly enough to participate in the ritual consecration of the Florentine duomo in 1436, before Visconti paid him off for at least his neutrality).
Two fundamental conclusions here:
1. The deep connection Giusti had to the Medici at this early date makes him an active Medici partisan; and
2. The strong possibility that 1440 tarot production was tied to the Medici - for why else would that gift "made expressly in Florence" be given to Malatesta at a time of estrangement with the Medici by a Medici partisan, unless that gift was meant to connect Malatesta back to the Medici? Malatesta's arms were added - to a Florentine production (that did not already feature the Medici palle
or allude in some way to the Medici, only recently reinstalled as the leading party in 1434?).
So back to the problem of pre-1440 mass production; I can see at least three fundamental facts that rule it out:
1. Preponderance of written testimony
does not speak to either the novelty nor mass production of tarot before 1440: 1436's consecration of the duomo brought all manner of visitor to Florence; likewise the Church Union Council of Florence, from Jan-July, 1439 brought an equally large number of foreign visitors eager to describe the wonders of Florence. Despite Pratesi's deep dive into the archives and the well-studied foreign and Florentine reporting of both events, nary a word of 'trionfi'. Ross rules out anything earlier than this well-documented period.
2. Giusti uses an undocumented phrase to describe tarot
, suggesting it was something novel
. To cite Ross again, he wrote at the time of Depaulis drawing attention to Giusti's diary: "the unique
term naibi a trionfi
3. Was the Florentine ur-tarot even hand-painted?
Since all we have for the earliest evidence are the hand-painted decks for the Visconti-Sforzan ducal court, we tend to classify all early tarot as hand-painted, and later versions as woodblocked/printed; but of course social conditions were quite different in Florence than in Milan, where the former had 'Republican' rulers with a public that had to be appealed to more often and overtly. I agree with Ross that tarot was produced for the gaming public (but conceived of by a humanist, a'la Marziano, IMO), but that mass-produced Florentine item could simply have been embellished, easily enough, by having the recipient's coat of arms added when given as a gift to one of that social rank. There is no reason to infer anymore than this from Giusti's entry - there is nothing about a one of a kind, hand-painted deck, just adding 'Gismondo's belli
to something being made in Florence. A case-in-point would be the two surviving versions of the Sola Busca - the uncolored version in which armorial shields are blank and a colored version in which the coat of arms of Venetian patricians have been added.
There is nothing that rules out the ur-tarot as a mass-produced article at its inception...in 1440. Whether it was hand-painted (which does not alter the fundamental connection of Medici-Giusti-Malatesta) or printed by woodblock in one of the numerous studios/shops patronized by the Medici in Florence, there is no other evidence that suggests anything else than Florence/1440 as the city and year of the ur-tarot .