Paul Christian's Italian Renaissance sources

Note added July 8: I have changed the title of this thread to reflect better what I am getting at. It took a while for me to think of a proper title. Even that is not quite right, but it will do. By "Italian Renaissance sources" I do not mean works written in the Italian Renaissance, but rather works that were of interest, for the most part, to people only during the Renaissance, enough so that paintings were made using them and other writers incorporated their teachings in their work.

"Paul Christian" was the pseudonym of Jean-Baptist Pitois, who lived from 1811 to 1877, mainly in Paris. He was of some importance as a contributor to the occult tarot as initiated by Eliphas Levi.

Why this topic is of interest is that it suggests that the occult tarot of the 19th century may not have been the first to associate certain works and ideas to the tarot. Whether that means that there was an "underground stream" of tarot interpretation going from the late 15th century to the 19th, or merely that one 19th century occultist resurrected works not similarly appreciated since the Renaissance, I cannot say. But it fits with the correspondences I find between Etteilla's interpretations of the number cards and the Sola-Busca imagery of c. 1491, of Neopythagorean origin (, and his appreciation of the "Zodiacus Vita" of 1535 Ferrara (

Two questions:

(a) What does the PMB 2nd artist have in common with the 19th century French occultist Paul Christian?

(b) What does the Schifanoia "room of the months" have in common with Christian's History of Magic?

Short answer: (a) Both the PMB 2nd artist and Christian used, in relation to the tarot, information in a book published by Johann Engel in 1488 containing allegorical depictions of the astrological degrees and decans as described in the work of a 13th century astrologer. The PMB 2nd artist used Engel's picture of the 26th degree of Libra as the design for his Strength card. Christian included a short version of Engel's list of degrees and decans in his 1863 L'Homme Rouge des Tuileries; in his 1870 Histoire de la Magie[/i] he used the decans from that list in his astrological assignments to the tarot suit cards. He was the first, at least in print, to use the decans to interpret the tarot suit cards.

(b) Both the Schifanoia artists. c. 1470, and Christian, 1863 and 1870, used the same passage of the Astronomica of Marcus Manilius, a 1st century text lost until 1417 and generally ignored by astrologers after that. The Schifanoia used it in its association of gods to zodiacal sigms; Christian used it in his general presentation of astrology..

Long answer:

1. The PMB Strength card in relation to Engel's Astrolabium Planum.

Ross Caldwell wrote, quite some time ago, about the PMB Strength card (
Another possible interpretation of the card is that it represents an image from the astrological tradition, so beloved of the Renaissance, including the courts of Pavia and Ferrara. When Iohannis Angelus published Petrus de Abano’s images of the decans and degrees in his Astrolabium Planum in 1494, he depicted the 26th degree of Libra as "Victor Belli", The Victor in War. The translations and original works of Petrus de Abano (1250-1316), are considered the sources of the astrological imagery in the Palazzo della Ragione in Padua and the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara. Angelus' depiction of the symbol for 26 Libra is remarkably similar to the VS [Visconti-Sforza] card, both in the overall simplicity of its design and in such details as the shape of the man's garments and the lion's tail between its legs.
The page with Angelus's image of the 26th degree of Libra is below (from Next to it I have put a 1655 translation into English that I found on the internet (


The correspondence is to the image when reversed, as Ross showed:


A problem is that most tarot researchers writing about the PMB 2nd artist cards think they were painted earlier than 1494. Ross himself suggests 1475 in his caption to the card. The 1494 is for the Venice edition. There was an earlier printing in Augsburg of 1488. But most people, except for the art historians, think that the card is earlier than 1488, too. Is it possible that the the images were already available in 1470, for use in the Schifanoia, as Ross suggests? The problem is that the decans of the Schifanoia are based on the Picatrix, not the Astrolabium. Compare Engel's illustrations of the decans of Aries, supplemented by Engel's text (of which the 1655 translation follows, with those of the Schifanoia (on top). (I have omitted Engel's pictures of the first two degrees, to which the words on both sides of the ram refer)



The fit of Engel's images and Latin with the words in English of "John Angelus" is good. But the fit of either to the Schifanoia images of the same decans is not very close. As we will see, the Schifanoia decans' fit to the Picatrix is much better.

2. The Schifanoia and the Picatrix

What the decans of the Schifanoia actually are based on is the Picatrix. This is a work originally in Arabic, translated into Castilian in the 13th century and then into Latin for the rest of Europe. The Castilian translation was done for Alfonso the Wise; the translator for the Latin has not been identified. Here is the Latin text of the Picatrix, describing the three decans of Aries (, pp. 75-76). Above it I have put the three images as they appear in one of the Latin manuscripts (reproduced at

3. Prima facies Arietis est Martis, et ascendit in ea secundum opinionem magni sapientis istius sciencie forma hominis nigri, inquieti et magni corporis, rubeos oculos habentis et in eius manu ascionem incidentem tenentis, panno albo precincti; et est magni precii in se. Et hec facies est fortitudinis. altitudinis et precii absque verecundia. Et hec est eius forma.
[start p. 76]
4. Et ascendit in secunda facie Arietis mulier viridibus pannis induta et una tibia carens. Et hec facies est altitudinis, nobilitatis, precii et regni. Et hec est eius forma.

[p.127] Et in tercia facie Arietis ascendit vir inquietus, in manibus auream armillam tenens et pannis rubeis indutus, cupiens facere bonum et non potest. Et hec facies est subtilitatis et subtilium magisteriorum et rerum novarum et instrumentorum et istis similium. Et hec est eius forma.
Here is my attempt to translate the Latin. It is not a language I have studied, so there are sure to be errors. I hope and expect that it is close enough for our purposes.
3. The first face Aries is in Mars, and there ascends, in the opinion of great men of this science, the image of a black man, of restlessness and great size, red eyes, and having a hand ascionem incidentem (?) holding a white cloth near him; And there is great good in it. And this is the face of strength, loftiness, and good, without shame. And this is its image.
[Start p. 76]
4. And in the second face of Aries is a woman wearing green [or youthful] clothes and separated leg. And this face is lofty, noble, and regal. And this is its image.

[P.127] and the third face of Aries is of a restless man, in his hands holding a golden bracelet and dressed in red clothing, wanting to do good but not being able to. And this face is of keenness and of subtle teaching and a thing of newness and usefulness and the like. And this is its image.
Here the fit to the Schifanoia decans is much closer than for the d'Albano text published by Engel.

There is also a version given by Agrippa, written around 1530. He says his source is "the Arabians". Here is the 18th century English translation (, ch. xxxvii):
Therefore it is said, that in the first face of Aries, ascendeth the image of a black man, standing and cloathed in a white garment, girdled about, of a great body, with reddish eyes, and great strength, and like one that is angry; and this image signifieth and causeth boldness, fortitude, loftiness and shamelesness; in the second face ascendeth a form of a woman, outwardly cloathed with a red garment, and under it a white, spreading abroad over her feet, and this image causeth nobleness, height of a Kingdom, and greatness of dominion: in the third face ariseth the figure of a white man, pale, with reddish hair, and cloathed with a red garment, who carrying on the one hand a golden Bracelet, and holding forth a wooden staff, is restless, and like one in wrath, because he cannot perform that good he would. This image bestoweth wit, meekness, joy and beauty:
This is obviously based on the same Latin text of the Picatrix that I have already quoted, or similar.

For the degrees, Agrippa cites "Petrus de Abano" but only gives a few of the images, without saying which degrees they are for. That of Hercules, as Ross notes, "giveth victory in war" ( ... htm#chap37), Agrippa says, without mentioning the lion. The Schifanoia does not have illustrations of the degrees.

Given that the Engel was not available until 1488, in an edition at Augsburg, it seems to me likely that the PMB Strength card was made after that, perhaps even after the 1494 Venice edition. Even if the text by Albano was available in 1470 Ferrara--which is speculation--the fit to the image is too close to have been based on just that text. Since most art historians (all, in fact, that I am aware of, most recently Bandera in "Quelle carte de triumphi che se fanno a Cremona": I tarocchi dei Bembo, 2013, p. 50) attribute the PMB 2nd artist cards to Amtonio Cigognara, a painter documented from 1480 to 1515, this conclusion should not be too shocking. Had Engel's images been available for use on the Schifanoia in Ferrara, one would expect them to have been used. Ross says that it is generally understood that they were used; if so, he has to say which decans in particular; Aries doesn't work.

3. The Schifanoia and Manilius's Astronomica

Besides the Picatrix, the Schifanoia's other main source is the Astronomica of Manilius, as Aby Warburg shoed in a famous lecture of 1912. Manilius wrote in Latin in the first century b.c. He associated a different Olympian god with each of the 12 signs of the zodiac. That is the explanation for why so many gods which are not planetary gods are at the top of the 12 sections of the walls in the room. For example, the presiding deity over Aries is Athena. Manilius says (pp. 117-119, Goold translation):
Pallas is protectress of the Ram, the Cytherean of the Bull, and Phoebus of the comely Twins; you, Mercury, rule the Crab and you, Jupiter, as well as the Mother of the Gods, the Lion; the Virgin with her sheaf belongs to Ceres, and the Balance to Vulcan who wrought it; bellicose Scorpion clings to Mars; Diana cherishes the hunter, a man to be sure, but a horse in his other half, and Vesta the cramped stars of Capricorn; opposite Jupiter Juno has the sign of Aquarius, and Neptune acknowledges the Fishes as his own for all that they are in heaven.
The Cytherean is Venus; the Mother of the Gods is Cybele.

Besides influencing the Schifanoia, it has been speculated that the prominence of these Olympians in Manilius might have contributed to the formation of the first known deck with a permanent fifth suit, that of Marziano in Milan c. 1420, inasmuch as Poggio, who had found the manuscript in a monastery near Basel in 1417, passed through Milan with the papal entourage in 1418.

There is the difficulty that Manilius's list is not exactly the same as Marziano's (compare at ... -16-heroum). Notably, Vulcan is missing from Marziano, while Bacchus is missing from Manilius. In fact all 13 were members of the 12 at one time or another: it was held that Dionysus replaced Vesta, who preferred not to be at Olympus. Marziano, for his scheme to work, needed 4 virgins and 4 gods of pleasure. Both pleasure-loving Baccjis and virginal Vesta were useful for that purpose, but not dour and married Vulcan.

Besides the Schifanoia in Ferrara only one other fresco cycle was influenced by Manilius, the Room of the Winds at the Palazzo Te in Mantua, done for a ruler who was also the son of Isabella d'Este (Kristen Lippincott, p. 96 at ... graphy.pdf). In Florence, however, Ficino repeats Manilius's associations of gods with zodiacal signs in his famous De Amore, with important additions. There Ficino says (quoted by Lippincott on p. 103)
...Pallas, through Aries, teaches the art of weaving; Vulcan, through Libra, teaches bronze-working; and the others teach the rest of the arts.
So in the Schifanoia, we have for Aries Athena and friends:


It was Ficino, in this work on Plato's Symposium published in 1484, who spelled out the gods' gifts to humanity in so many words. But someone (Ficino or some other) had already made both the connection to Manilius and that of the gods to the various arts, because Cybele is featured prominently at the Schifanoia in connection with Leo but not mentioned by Ficino (see Lippincott note 3).

Finally, Agrippa quotes Manilius (, ch. LVIII) in c. 1530 to describe the rulers of the zodiacal signs:
Pallas doth rule the Ram, Venus the Bull,
Phebus the Twins, and Mercury doth rule
The Cancer, and the Lyon [The Lion, i.e. Leo] guides doth Jove,
Ceres doth Virgo, Vulcan Libra move.

For Scorpion Mars; for Sagittarius faire
Diana cares; for Capricorn doth care
Vesta; Aquarius Juno doth protect;
And Neptune Pisces -----
After Agrippa these sources were not exactly lost (Manilius in particular was never lost, contrary to what Tyson says in his note 3 to Book 3, chapter LIV, of his edition of Agrippa), but also do not much influence the practice of astrology. Who would use a book that failed to discus the astrological role of the planets?

4. Paul Christian's use of Manilius and Engel

The French occultist and tarotist Paul Christian (1811-1877), repeats the same material in Manilius that we see in the Schifanoia and perhaps in Marziano, and the same material in Engel that we see in the PMB Strength card. But now it is in the context of cartomancy. Here is Christian on the protector gods, p. 507 of Histoire de la Magie:


This is obviously the same as Manilius. Christian could have gotten this by way of Agrippa, but Manilius himself was commented on by some astrologers directly, e.g. Scaliger. On the internet I found this book cover:


"Paul Christian" was the pseudonym of Jean-Baptist Pitois. The "Ch" stands for "Christian"; so apparently he adopted "Christian" as his first name, then reduced the "Pitois" to "P" (as his early works are by "P. Christian") and finally made it "Paul". The attached blurb refers us to L'Homme Rouge des Tuileries ( ... eIntro.jpg). It also states that the images were in fact included in the Augsburg first edition, i.e. the edition in 1488, something I had been wondering about.

Christian also has a list of the 36 decans and their interpretations, apparently for use in interpreting the suit cards; this list of decans, as visible in the 1870 Histoire, corresponds to that of Engel and not Agrippa. Here for example are the three for Aries (these are from 3 different pages, spliced together; the rest of the pages are the degrees of Aries):

Christian gives them Egyptian-sounding names, of course, as for him this is all from ancient Egypt. Since there is one for every day of the year, except 5 special days, it is a calendar of Thebes. It of course is derived from Engel rather than the Picatrix.

As for the 360 degrees, the English translation of "John Angelus", dated 1655, contains descriptions of both the 36 decans and the 360 degrees. This matches the 360 plus 36 given by Christian in his 1863 work, which someone transcribed and put online. (I have not myself gone to any of the sites that advertise Homme Rouge des Tuilleries as available to subscribers, with "the first 30 days free".) I invite you to compare "Angel" ( with Christian ( Christian's is surely derived from Engel's. Here are the 23rd through 26th degrees of Libra again, below the pictures from Engel 1494 and the 1655 translation.


One thing is clear, that Christian's formulation does not derive from a version of Engel that had the pictures. The dragon becomes a serpent, symbol of cunning, and the peacock is now fanning his tail, unlike what is pictured.

Christian himself mentions neither Engel nor Manilius by name. I would guess that his immediate source had copied them out without giving the source.

It is a striking coincidence that Christian should have quoted both Manilius and Engel, both texts that had been part of the environment of the tarot in the decades around 1500 and then of little interest except by a few. Neither was well known in Christian's time. It took the scholar Aby Warburg, for example, to see the connection of Manilius to the Schifanoia. Engel was equally obscure.

5. Christian's use of Engel's decans in the context of Levi's Sefer Yetzirah

In his system of cartomancy, Christian from Engel only the decans, and then only in relation to the suit cards. He is thus the first tarot theorist to have used the decans in a presentation of the tarot. I will give one example, the suit of what he calls "scepters", i.e. Batons or "Wands", plus the beginning of the next suit, Cups. The Golden Dawn's later use of decans, although different, simply recycles Christian's idea (if in fact it is his and not someone else's before him). However I should point out that in Christian's "Egyptian" context, it is not cards he is thinking of, but rather metal plates with images engraved on them. To get a "reading", as they say, one does not shuffle and deal these plates, but rather use Christian's system of astrology to get a set of numbers which then correspond to the numbers on the corresponding plates. I do not understand his system at all, but it is vaguely reminiscent of one of Etteilla's in his 4th Cahier.


For the Kings (which he calls "maitres", masters), Christian is using the 4 brightest stars of the zodiacal constellations, as indicated by their associated signs (I get this point from Decker, Depaulis, and Dummett, Wicked Pack of Cards p. 211). For Leo the star would be Regulus. Then for the rest of the court cards (Mistress, Combattant, and Slave) he uses the zodiacal signs associated with each of the four seasons. For scepters, it is the spring signs. Then for the number cards he repeats the sequence of planetary and zodiacal associations that he has already used for the triumph sequence, using either Arcana I-X (in Scepters and Blades) or Arcana XI-XX (in Cups and Shekels). Two of the Arcana have no astrological association, where Arcana I and XIII would be (see his list for the Majors below). And instead of using the zodiacal signs over again, after having used them once for the major arcana, he uses their decans instead. In the case of planets, there is no equivalent substitute, so for them he simply repeats the appropriate planet.


Christian's correspondences of cards to planets and zodiacal signs, 1863, comes from Levi's account of the Sefer Yetzirah in La Clef des Grands Mysteres, 186, pp. 199-200 (below, downloaded from Gallica; there is a pdf translation online, Key of the Mysteries).



The cards are not mentioned per se, but we know what letters Levi assigned to each of them, with Aleph as number I (The Bateleur), Shin as number XXI (the Fool), and Tau as XXII (the World). (Incidentally, Christian seems to have been the first one to call the Bateleur "Magus".) That Levi gives no astrological assignments to the mother letters carries over into Christian's not giving the corresponding cards any either. But for the 12 simples, Christian simply uses those in the Sefer Yetzirah as then available.

These assignments, or lack of them, to the Majors are repeated faithfully by Papus, in both books, and Falconnier. For the minors, however, Papus used the spring decans for the 1-9 of Batons, the summer ones to Cups, and so on. The King, Queen, and Knight then took the seasonal zodiacal signs themselves, while the Pages and 10s were transitions to the next series and left unassigned (Tarot of the Bohemians pp. 235-237 of Waite translation).

The doubles are not in the order given in the SY, at least as Papus later translated that text (Qabbalah 1891, 1977 English translation pp. 119-120, where they are in the usual order from Saturn at Beth to the Moon at Tau). I would guess that Levi, or someone he was following, altered the order, so as to achieve some kind of symbolic correspondence between planets and cards. I would suspect Westcott later of the same tampering, to produce a different order of doubles for a different set of letter correspondences.

The advantage of Christian's system for the suit cards, as opposed to the Golden Dawn's, is that the minors reflect on a lower level what is already in the majors, which in turn reflects the yet higher level array of the Sefer Yetzirah, which in turn is derivative from the 10 sefiroth. Unlike the Golden Dawn, it does so in a way that does not involve seeing the majors as paths between sefiroth and the minors as the sefiroth themselves. The minors, and especially the number cards, are clearly derivative from the majors and not the other way around.

Re: Paul Christian's Italian Renaissance sources

Besides the Schiafonaia, your subject is ostensibly the 2nd artist PMB replacement cards but your sole focus seems to be the Strength card matching the Angelus decan "The Victor in War." Are you implying all of the 2nd artist PMB trumps are related to decans? I don't see how likely that is when one of them is Temperance, which is a straight forward virtue.

I also don't find the PMB strength card needing Angelus images, just the original text, given the historical context of Milanese-Venetian relations, especially the latter also using the lion as a primary symbol in a victor in war context, but not as the conquered (I've provided this many times, but here it is again - the lion rampant versus cowed in defeat, with a similarly raised weapon over it, but this time in concert with the lion's attack):

Allegory of Victory in the League of Cambrai (painted c.1590)

Re: Paul Christian's Italian Renaissance sources

Phaeded wrote,
Are you implying all of the 2nd artist PMB trumps are related to decans?
No, not at all. Also, the Strength card is related to a degree, not a decan.
I also don't find the PMB strength card needing Angelus images, just the original text, given the historical context of Milanese-Venetian relations, ...
Well, the similarity of the PMB Strength card with the 1488 Augsburg, 1494 Venice, image is strong. Yes, it could be coincidence that the same pose was suggested by the text, "man beating a lion". However the similarity is so close that a mutual influence is more likely than not. Since the deck was a private affair, it wouldn't have been the card influencing the book.

Also, it is not clear to me how familiar the de Abano text was among 15th century artists before Angelus's publciation. It is said that the repainting of the Hall of the Months at Padua used de Abano. But unlike Giotto's original (destroyed 1420) the repainting didn't use anywhere near all 360 of the degrees. Perhaps they worked from copies of some of Giotto's designs, without accessing the source. I seem to remember reading somewhere that the text was part of de Abano's Conciliator. It was published in 1472 Mantua, which is of course very close to Cremona and does not rule out manuscript copies there earlier. But someone would have to know where to look in that rather long work.

I do not see much of a match-up to to the League of Cambrai allegorical figure with the sword. She has her sword raised against an enemy facing her, as though ready to attack. The card and the Angelus have the club raised in back of them, so as to gain momentum on the swing, designed to inflict injury by clubbing something close at hand. rather than piercing as a result of a lunge forward.

I don't think the use of Angelus has anything to do with Milan-Venice relations. Its being published in Venice in addition to Augsburg would merely seem to make it more available to Milan/Cremona/Ferrara, given that Venice was closer. The Venetian lion, as you say, is a triumphant lion, not a cowed lion. That may be an intentional dig at Venice.

Everyone has said that the 6 added cards are by the same artist. I see no reason to doubt that. I see nothing tying any of the other cards to a particular time, other than the style, which seems Schifanoia-influenced. But even that is not certain. All the art historians name Cigognara as the most likely artist for the 6; the 1490s are safely within his period of activity which starts around 1480. Also, other PMB clones were probably done around that time.

Whoever did the 6 cards would have to have known the first-artist designs and dimensions--at least in general--so as to fit with the existing cards, as the dimensions are pretty much the same and they capture the same figure to background proportions and the "precipice" motif at the bottoms (in the case of the World card, at the bottom of the bubble). A match for the backs would not be necessary, because by that time I would suppose that the added cards were never intended to make it possible to actually play the game.

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