Biblical virtues and lights in the sky

This is a reply to this, by mikeh, here : viewtopic.php?t=365&start=50
Since the Star, Moon, and Sun reflect the iconography of Hope, Faith, and Charity, I am wondering if maybe I was wrong in thinking that the theological virtues were not present in the original PMB. Maybe they were there, and that's why the iconography of the Star, Moon, and Sun reflects these cards: the designer knew them because he (Galeazzo) had played with them. In that case the original PMB would have had at least 17 cards, with 3 more added by the original artist soon after and 6 replacements by the second artist (the 3 luminaries replacing the 3 theological virtues).
See also viewtopic.php?t=365&start=50

I am posting a new topic, as the above quote from mikeh is in the middle of a long thread covering many topics. I hope that is in accord with protocol. I had come to the sky lights = Biblical virtues notion from another route, and also the idea that all seven virtues are present, in some sort of disguised form, in the standard 21 trumps, and in each of the Visconti decks. My reasons for thinking so were not as good as mikeh's iconographical reasons. Mikeh aligns Hope=Star, Faith=Moon, Charity=Sun; I had aligned Hope=Star, Charity=Moon, Faith=Sun. Quite likely he is right.

Taking at least for now the alignment of Hope, Charity, and Faith with Star, Moon, Sun (in some order), we turn next to the six replacement cards of the VS deck. These are Strength, Temperence, Star, Moon, Sun, and World. If Sforza's deck, like his father-in-law's, had the Biblical virtues, and there was later a decision to replace them to bring the deck in line with the rest of Italy's trionfi decks, that explains why of six replacements, three are Star, Moon, and Sun, and this adds a little weight to the notion that the Biblical virtues did in fact align with Star, Moon, Sun. But more, of the six replacements, five of them are either virtues, or aligned with virtues. Five of six can hardly be due to chance. So that is a pretty strong statistical argument that there was a replacement of virtues.

Could it be that all the virtues of the original VS deck were replaced? Fortitude and Temperence are replacements. Justice is missing. Thus, a Justice may have been painted by the replacement painter, and then the replacement card, like so many of the Brera-Brambilla cards, got lost later. In some fortune-telling tarot site, I forget where, I once saw the “High Priestess” card associated with Wisdom (that is, with Prudencia). This card to me is Popess, and clearly shows the (then) historical figure, Pope Joan. This pope, during a religious procession, had a baby; she had concealed her sex to get elected, which hardly suggests virtue. Nevertheless, if Popess aligns with the virtue Wisdom, and if the VS Wisdom card needed to be replaced like the other six virtues, we can't say it wasn't, because Popess is missing. So the original VS could have had all seven virtues, and all seven were replaced: Wisdom, Hope, Faith, and Charity were replaced with Popess, Star, Moon, and Sun, to bring the Duke's precious painted cards in line with the printed decks used by the wool carders and metal workers of Milan. Fortitude and Temperence were also replaced, with new cards that were still Fortitude and Temperence. This may have been done because the original cards had something odd about them, as do the CYV Biblical virtue cards. Justice may have been replaced, since it is missing.

When I thought that all seven virtues might be present, three in the guise of sky cards, the question was, where can Prudencia be hidden?. I had two candidates: Popess was one, and Chariot was the other, since Prudencia is called the charioteer of the virtues. I was recently led, by a post on this forum, to the virtues and vices by Giotto, in Padua, dated 1306. Here is Prudencia giving a lecture or sermon:
giotto prudence.png
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Here is another Prudencia as a scholar, from about the same date:
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From, La Somme le Roi, ou Livre, des vices et des vertus, by Frère Laurent d'Orléans, dominicain, 1295. (The B.N.F. library card mentions Isabelle Stuart as a subject heading, but I don't know who she is. Isabella of Mar, of Scotland, is a possibility.)

And here is Popess from the Cary Sheet:
popess cary sheet.png
popess cary sheet.png (284.15 KiB) Viewed 219 times
I knew that “Prudencia” did not mean the same thing as the English word “prudence,” but I hadn't realized it could mean wisdom in the form of brilliance in scholarship. Pope Joan was a brilliant scholar. Although it still seems odd to use as a symbol for any virtue, a person mainly famous for having a baby in the alleyway behind the Colosseum, Pope Joan (who is one of Boccaccio's 106 women) was at least easy to depict, since a woman in a triple crown could be no one but her.
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I do not see even one image of Prudencia as the charioteer of the virtues. So I am led a little more toward Popess and a little away from Chariot, as the hidden Prudencia, if there is one. But I found no image of Prudencia as a scholar closer in time to 1440; in later works she is more likely to be strangling the serpent of ignorance, looking in a mirror, and she has a bearded face on the back of her head: This is Italian XVI cent:
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To put in Pope Joan at all, whether she is Prudencia or not, is to poke fun at the college of cardinals for being fooled by her, and to also make the point that even a brilliant scholar of the church can be defeated by desire. Depictions of Death such as Danse Macabre woodcuts, and Wheel of Fortune woodcuts, like to make the point that even popes, cardinals, and emperors are defeated by death. The fairgrounds conjurer is also a woodcut subject, tricking the rich in their fine gowns. So saying, by putting in Pope Joan, that even cardinals can be fooled, matches a certain “how are the mighty fallen” tone of the other cards.

If Popess is Prudencia, (but not if Chariot is), then the four cardinal virtues are found in the correct order in Dummett's C order, but not correct in any of the A or B orders. Among C orders they are correct in both the Marseille order and the Paris order, which equals the Susio poem Pavia order. The correct order per Thomas Aquinas is: Prudencia, Justice, Fortitude, Temperence. It is correct to have the Biblical virtues after the cardinal ones, but neither mikeh's order nor mine agrees with the Bible's order: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” KJV.

In early tarocchi we have four anomalies connected with the virtues. Could they all have a common explanation? The four anomalies are:

1) The three regional trump orders found by Dummett differ pretty much only in the placement of the virtues.

2) The standard 21 trumps have virtues, but not all seven virtues, and not even all four of the cardinal virtues, but only three of them. This is odd.

3) The CYV deck uniquely has cards for the Biblical virtues. It may have had all seven virtues.

4) Five of six of the replacements in VS, were either virtues or aligned with virtues, which can hardly be chance. This is consistent with the deck having originally had all seven virtues like CYV, and all seven needing to be replaced.

What theory could explain all four anomalies? Here is one:

The first printing of a large edition of trionfi decks was in Milan, and the court was involved in some way. Perhaps they invented the game and bankrolled the printer, or perhaps the printer invented it, and the court knew about it early. The first printed naibi di trionfi had all seven virtues (says this theory). The trumps were neither numbered nor labeled. The printed version had to show the virtues, and all of its concepts, without labels. It is not so easy to show abstract concepts without using labels. The Charity card of the Tarocchi di Mantegna, for example, shows a woman salting a live swan (I don't know why). I wouldn't have known it was the Charity card if it didn't say “caritas” on it. The printer of the trionfi cards did not succeed in making his virtues obvious in every case (says this theory), and it happened that his Hope card had a star of hope, and his Charity and Faith had a moon and a sun (or vice versa). Users, especially in other cities, saw a woman under a star and called that card Star, since they did not understand the anchor or whatever it was, that the printer had put in to indicate Hope. Likewise for Faith and Charity. The intended Prudencia got called High Priestess or Pope Joan. Justice with her scales, and Temperance with her two jugs, were recognized, as was Strength (whether fighting a lion, or breaking a stone column with her bare hands, or both), but Wisdom, Faith, Charity, and Hope, were not recognized. Once the meanings Popess, Star, Moon, and Sun were established, later printers making copies of the deck did not always include the details which had originally signaled the intended virtue meanings. This explains why the 21 trumps have, oddly, only three of the four cardinal virtues, and no Biblical virtues. Meanwhile the Viscontis had all seven virtues correct, for all the good it did them.

The printer (this theory says) had thought up a “memory scaffold,” a scheme so the players could memorize the trump order. That was essential to his business plan, since the cards were neither labeled nor numbered. He could count on only a word or two passing from the retailers to the buyers, to convey the order of 21 trumps in the new game he hoped to sell. But with the buyers not even able to recognize four of the virtues for what they were, the printer's memory scaffold scheme partially failed, and especially it failed in the placement of virtues. Thus in different cities the virtues ended up in different places in the trump order.

The Viscontis eventually got tired of being right when everyone else was wrong, and hired someone to replace their virtue cards, and while he was at it they had him replace the world card.

Thus all four anomalies are explained.

All the replacements done were virtues or the sky lights which may have replaced virtues, except World. CYV World card shows a ruler with orb, crown, and scepter, presiding over the entire world, which is shown enjoying the benefits of peace. A ruler who in the future presides over the whole world at peace, is quite orthodox, except that the ruler on this card is a woman, instead of Jesus Christ. This card is not orthodox at all. If Sforza's card also showed a woman as the ruler of the whole world at peace, that would be reason enough to replace it. Thus, none of the replacements may have been because cards were randomly lost in play.

Re: Biblical virtues and lights in the sky

Yes, something like that. Dummett once speculated (I forget where) that the Popess substituted for Prudence, and I agree, at least in Milan (see for example my blog-essay at One reason for "wisdom" is that the Sophia of the Old Testament is sometimes depicted in very Popess-like attire, as at right below (Bibbia Mugellana 2, f. 189, Laurentian Library, Florence). Labeled Sapientia, Latin for “Wisdom,” the illumination is of the first letter of “Omnis Sapientia a Domino Deo,” i.e. “All wisdom is from the Lord God.”.
But Prudence is simply Wisdom in the practical sphere. Here is Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book 2, chapter 6:
Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it.
And Aquinas (, translated 1920 by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, online at
... sicut supra dictum est, sapientia considerat causam altissimam simpliciter. Unde consideratio causae altissimae in quolibet genere pertinet ad sapientiam in illo genere. In genere autem humanorum actuum causa altissima est finis communis toti vitae humanae.Et hunc finem intendit prudentia, .. Unde manifestum est quod prudentia est sapientia in rebus humanis, non autem sapientia simpliciter, quia non est circa causam altissimam simpliciter; est enim circa bonum humanum, homo autem non est optimum eorum quae sunt.

(As stated above (II-II:45:1 and II-II:45:3), wisdom considers the absolutely highest cause: so that the consideration of the highest cause in any particular genus belongs to wisdom in that genus. Now in the genus of human acts the highest cause is the common end of all human life, and it is this end that prudence intends ...Wherefore it is clear that prudence is wisdom about human affairs: but not wisdom absolutely, because it is not about the absolutely highest cause, for it is about human good, and this is not the best thing of all.)
In the Middle Ages both virtues have as attributes the cross-staff and book (e.g. the illumination at left, Autun, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 19 bis, fol. 173v, 8th century), which the PMB Popess also has (at left above) For cross-staff and book in medieval manuscripts, see Adolf Katzenellenbogen, Allegories of the Virtues and Vices in Mediaeval Art: from Early Christian Times to the Thirteenth Century, trans. Alan J. P. Crick (New York: W. W. Norton, 1964), index entries for “book,” “staff,” and “cross-staff.” The virtue of Faith was also so represented, as for example in Giotto's version. So once "Faith" was replaced by a celestial, the Popess could be interpreted as representing Faith. But Faith also had other attributes, as we see in the CY Faith card.

The virtues could be in different orders in part because actually they were in different orders in different authorities. So different cities could pick and choose, or use one of their own liking. Wisdom of Solomon 8:7 says, "She [Wisdom] teaches temperance, and prudence, and justice, and fortitude, which are such things as men can have nothing more profitable in life." But Cicero and Aquinas had them in the order prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Plato in the Republic listed them in the order temperance, fortitude, wisdom, justice. But wisdom was clearly primary, and made so by Augustine (De moribus eccl., Chap. xv, cited at, so a Platonic ordering would probably put Wisdom or Prudence high, perhaps in their World card. So we get the Charles VI A order (of virtues). In Ferrara, justice was considered primary (see Borso's statue of himself as Justice), so we have the B order. And it seems to me that some Church Father, I forget which, put fortitude first.

Re: Biblical virtues and lights in the sky

So a card intended to be Prudentia, would likely carry a cross, as well as read from a book, and thus make it even more likely that the female figure would be mis-recognized as a female pope.

The Aquinas order is Pru - Just - Fort - Temp, and if the only concern was to remember the trump order, it might make sense to have them in that order. But since the card that comes first, is trumped by the card that comes later in the list, in another way it would make sense to have them in the reverse order Temp. - Fort. - Just - Pru., so the virtue rated the most important gets the higher number and can trump the virtue rated less. Pru - Just - Fort - Temp is the order you would choose if you cared most about making the trump order easy to remember, using a familiar list. We can call it "memory" order. Temp. - Fort. - Just - Pru is the order if you want to teach correct morality, making the higher numbered, higher powered trump, the virtue that was most impotant. Call that "teaching" order.

If Popess is Prudentia, all C orders use Memory order (not counting the Rider-Waite astrologically motivated switch of Justice and Strength)

And in a way, A and B orders use teaching order. Among the three virtues that are openly virtues, Temp comes first (and thus has the lowest number, and the lowest importance, as it should) in every A and B order. But if Popess is Prudentia, then the virtue with the lowest trump number and lowest importance, is Pru! No theologian teaches that wisdom is the least important . Thus we can say that A and B orders might have resulted from placing, or moving, the virtues, but only after Prudentia was mis-recognized as the popess, and therefore as Popess the card escaped any moving about, when the virtues moved.

If those who caused the A and B orders to have those orders, acted only after Prudentia was incorrectly recognized, then they did not place the virtues, they moved them.

So someone designed an order using the Memory order of the virtues. This was the C order of the virtues, and therefore, since the orders differ pretty much only by the virtues, it was C order. This designer knew that Pru was Pru, and placed her first, as Memory order requires. Then this C order was looked at somewhere else, and Pru was called Popess, and these other people noticed that the least of the virtues, Temp. had the highest trump number, and switched her into the lowest place (and perhaps they moved the virtues around a bit at the same time). Thus every A and B order has Temp in the lowest trump number of the three visible virtues (Temp, Just, and Fort). It seems inescapable that if this down-placement of Temp, was due to her low rank, then it occurred after Pru became Popess.

Every A order has the three visible virtues adjacent, and every one has Temp first, in lowest place, as is correct from a Teaching point of view. But whether it is Justice next or Fort next, is just about an even split among A orders.

It is not clear that either Socrates (not him) in the Republic, nor King Solomon (not him) in his book of wisdom, thought they were listing the virtues in order of importance. Therefore their lists can be used for memory purposes only, so that anyone who knows these sources can recover the trump order. Solomon (not him) gives Temp -- Pru - Just - Fort, and thus of the three visible virtues, his order is Temp - Just -- Fort, which is the A order in Tarocco Bolognese and the Rosenwald sheet. But this is to use Solomon (not him) as a source in Memory order, rather than reversed as in Teaching order. Nothing about Solomon or anyone thinking that justice is more important than fortitude is involved here. The Republic order is Temp - Fort - Pru - Just, or Temp - Fort - Just,.of the three visible virtues. But again, the text does not suggest Socrates (not him) was listing them in order of importance.

I wouldn't say that some A cities had Temp - Just -- Fort, and others Temp - Fort - Just as a result of the preference for Plato over King Solomon or the reverse.

Justice may have been moved TO the second highest place in B orders as a result of the value placed on justice, but as to where it was moved FROM, or indeed why it had to be moved at all, I think that was more a matter of the desire to have Death bear the number XIII. Every order (just about) has Death bear this unlucky number, but the means to achieve that are so varied, that I conclude that the original order did not have Death at XIII (probably at XIV),

I notice the text you quote as Omnis Sapentia, actually says OMISSAPENTIA Is that a tilde over the i? I had no idea that medieval manuscripts used tildes.

Re: Biblical virtues and lights in the sky

sandyh wrote:
18 Jun 2018, 03:55
I notice the text you quote as Omnis Sapentia, actually says OMISSAPENTIA Is that a tilde over the i? I had no idea that medieval manuscripts used tildes.
I think tilda's, lines over letters and such were used to indicate an abbreviation - for example see the "Steele Sermone" which includes abbreviations -
So a card intended to be Prudentia, would likely carry a cross, as well as read from a book, and thus make it even more likely that the female figure would be mis-recognized as a female pope.
I think it unlikely that an allegorical figure with the emblems of Prudence would be misconstrued as an image of a Popesse, especially in company of three other cardinal virtues, rather the other way round, that the identity as Popesse would have to have been pre-determined for them not to misconstrue such an image of the Popesse with said emblems as Prudence --
If/when prudence was included among the trumps of an early deck, I don't follow why it would have been any more difficult to recognize than Justice, Fortitude or Temperance - or as a commonplace allegorical figure be misconstrued for something more obscure -
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Biblical virtues and lights in the sky

sandyh wrote:
09 Jun 2018, 01:43
The Charity card of the Tarocchi di Mantegna, for example, shows a woman salting a live swan (I don't know why).
It's not a salt-pot, it's a purse with money falling out of it - the 'swan' is a pelican feeding its young with blood from its breast -- a symbol of self-sacrifice and charity:

Pelican pecking at its breast on top of the head of Caritas, by Peter Bruegel c1560:
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Biblical virtues and lights in the sky

An Oxford college has Andrea del Sarto's Charity, bare breasts, half a dozen kids, and all, hilariously labeled "Chastity." The Brazilian national museum has a St. Sebastian who isn't. Mistakes happen. I myself am good for Sebastian, Baptist, Christopher, Jerome, but no more than half a dozen others, and I'm pretty sure I've seen more paintings of saints than a typical Milanese wool-carder. It is paintings I've seen; I have no good excuse (the wool-carder does) but I have seen far fewer manuscript illuminations, and as far as paintings in churches go, the Seven Virtues are pretty rare. Of Giotto's seven, I can recognize only Faith and Fortitude, and that is knowing that they are virtues. Justice and Temperance could have been conveyed by conventional signs, but by Giotto they are not. The presence of Justice and Temperance and Fortezza among the trumps, would not necessarily clue me that every woman I saw on a card was to be interpreted as some virtue. And if i had seen images of the seven virtues before, or even a dozen sets of them, there would be a good chance that not one of those dozen would have Prudentia reading a book. It really is quite rare as a sign. There is one (not counting Giotto) among three pages of hits on "the virtue prudentia" on Google images. The hypothesis is that an image intended to be Prudentia, was shown as a woman reading a book at a lectern, and as far as I can see, hardly any of the card buyers would previously seen a Prudentia where that was the sign used to indicate who she was.

Re: Biblical virtues and lights in the sky

There are 80+ emblems associated with Prudence over time, the four most common are Mirror, Serpent, Janus-Head and Book (others for example include compasses, coins, stags, dragons) - the book is the oldest with examples from the 6th to the 20th centuries; most common from the mid-14th century are the Mirror and the Serpent (alone or together or mixed with other emblems) - Many emblems are shared with other figures, thus inviting conflation (or confusion) - the book for example may be among the emblems of Science, Faith, the Virgin Mary and several Saints - (Not forgetting Pope Joan, of course)

While the book post 14th century is the rarer of the top four emblems of Prudence, it is no rarer I think than images of Pope Joan with book but without baby, the only examples of which I know of appearing in illustrated manuscripts - I don't see why any reader familiar with such would not be erudite enough to recognize the book as an emblem of Prudence too, and be equally curious as to why she among the cardinal virtues is the only one apparently missing then as so many are now -
So a card intended to be Prudentia, would likely carry a cross, as well as read from a book, and thus make it even more likely that the female figure would be mis-recognized as a female pope.
Carrying a cross is very rare I think, and early , book or book and sceptre is more common - But putting that aside for the moment, this not only pre-supposes a reader who mis-recognized an image of Prudence as a Popesse, but one with such influence that the mistake was taken up by everyone else, among whom none other was able to recognize and correct the error either!? It is not impossible, but surely such a Gebelin like figure would have left some trace?
The presence of Justice and Temperance and Fortezza among the trumps, would not necessarily clue me that every woman I saw on a card was to be interpreted as some virtue.
No, but it being a popular convention of the time to depict Allegories of the Virtues as female, and being curious as to why Prudence appears to be missing, might lead one to consider first the other female figures in search of whatever 'virtue' one considered to be missing or falsely identified--

As an example against that convention, and in connection with tarot trumps, we have the early 16th example of Lollio who appears to associate Prudence with the Traitor (Hanged Man - Trump XII):

Vien poi la Morte, et mena un’altra danza,
Et la prudenza, e la malitia atterra,
Et pareggia ciascuno alla bilanza.

Risposta di M. Vicenzo Imperiali all’Invettiva di Flavio Alberto Lollio

The combination of Prudence and Malice here reminds me of the Latin phrase "prudentia absque bonitate, malitia est" [Prudence without goodness, is malice]

A phrase to be commonly found used among early Church Fathers (eg St Jerome), usually in reference to the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, or the 'prudence' of Pilot, or the Parable of the Unjust Steward [Luke 16:1-13] or to Matthew 10:16 "be therefore prudent as the serpents, and guileless as the doves."
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Biblical virtues and lights in the sky

This might be of interest:

Remembering Prudence: Tracking the Iconography of a Cardinal Virtue to Her Resurgence in Depth Psychology
by Warwick-Smith, Kathleen Marie. Pacifica Graduate Institute, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2017. ... 750&diss=y
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Biblical virtues and lights in the sky

We had a good discussion a few years ago (2012) about the Cardinal Virtues in the thread "Plato and Virtues", where Mantegna's "Pallas expelling the Vices", which shows Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance grouped alone. Here is a post of mine, adding some lines to the painting to show lines of sight and relative sizes -
- but the whole thread, at least the first five or six pages, is worth reading and checking the links to interpreters and art history pages.

Re: Biblical virtues and lights in the sky

Yes, you seem to be right about the cross being rare, and early.

I'm trying to get a handle on how common the virtues were, as images painted in churches, as opposed to in manuscripts. Giotto's is the only example I know.

As for the baby, no tarocchi Popess card has ever had one. Pope Joan was a fairly well known historical figure, and the one and only Popess there has ever been (as the facts stood in the XV cent). To say the card is Popess, but is not Pope Joan -- I don't even know what that would mean. Pratesi quotes some study of cassone and deschi da parto to say that Boccaccio, but not Petrarch, Virgil, or Homer, could be drawn on for stories (before 1445, anyway). Pope Joan is one of Boccaccio's 106 women.

Boccaccio wrote a play, the Comedy of the Nymphs of Florence. I don't know if it was staged in the XV century, or if something ever happened like working people seeing a play at one of those many festivals (I'd choose a play over watching all those overdone carnival floats go by, myself). The play has six of the seven virtues in it. I haven't read it (I may be able to get a hold of a translation, there is one) so I don't know if the Nymph representing Pru comes on carrying a book, or something. But this may be one sort of example of how ideas like the seven virtues circulated around. Cheap printed pictures of saints existed in Italy, as we have some mention of their makers, but from Italy I have yet to see an example from before 1490.

I'm proposing there was a first printed edition of the naibi di trionfi, and it was very influential. Of course we have no cards from it. Overall, most of the unlabeled images were recognized; perhaps some were not. Since we don't have the cards, it could be that some cards were just bad; the artist may have made a bad choice of the signs to use, to be understood by his card buyers, who were likely of a lower class than himself. If he meant Prudence, and it ended up Popess, then he must have chosen book, lectern, and audience as his symbols, when he should have chosen the more common snake and a face on the back of her head. (Mirror, which Giotto included (it looks like she's checking her makeup) could well have gone with the Book-and-Lectern set, but as you can see in Giotto's image, it is hard to read a book aloud and look in a mirror at the same time.) Many of those mirrors, don't look like mirrors, they look like medalions: they show a face when no face is looking into them. The artist may have made some other bad choices, such as head-dress with layers. He did pretty well overall, on getting his 21 unlabeled images recognized, but nobody's perfect, not even the scholars of Lincoln College, Oxford. He didn't know that his Prudence might become a Popess, so he did not know what to guard against.

If the artist of that first influential edition meant Popess to be Popess, why no baby? Why would he have put in a Popess at all: it's a bizarre choice. Emperor/Empress Pope/Popess sounds like it makes sense, except that popes don't get married! If the artist meant Popess, he meant Pope Joan -- there is no generic Popess concept. Why did he put in Pope Joan? None of the proposals of a theme behind the cards makes any sense of her.

As for the general question of how good the working class was at iconology, I assume any working man would know the saints of his own church, and many others. But if he went to look for work in another town, he would likely encounter many familiar saints he could know by the signs, but also a few obscure or local saints whose pictures he had never seen before on the walls of a church, and he sees pictures nowhere else. No problem, he just asks. The new naibi di trionfi were a large collection of images no one had ever seen before, and there was no side channel for passing on explanations from the artist to the customer; the very success of the new game outstripped them. I don't think a few failures in recognizing the artists intention is surprising.

On the Tarocchi de Mantegna Caritas, I'll give you the pelican, but how did you know that was a cash box? Would you have, if the card was not labeled Caritas, and you did not even know it was a virtue? Is the object in her hand some special XV Century cashbox shape? Are those dots coins? They aren't, in the highest resolution image I have.

This quote
No, but it being a popular convention of the time to depict Allegories of the Virtues as female, and being curious as to why Prudence appears to be missing, might lead one to consider first the other female figures in search of whatever 'virtue' one considered to be missing or falsely identified-
leads me to wonder if you think the charioteer was a woman, early (and I always care most about printed cards) -- this is a question I've been meaning to look into.

Thanks for your interesting and informative reply.

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