Noblet's choice of “Le Maison Dieu” as the label for his trump XVI :
Part 3 of 4, of a posting on the trump labels of France.
My thesis is that Noblet resorted to the Cary sheet as an image source, only because for five consecutive trumps, Devil through Sun, he did not have Viéville's images to copy. This would include Tower, to which Noblet gave the label “La Maison Dieu.” Noblet copied his labels from the AP, but he shows no sign of being influenced by the AP's images. Perhaps he did not have the AP's cards, but only a list of his labels. Thus, when Noblet had to come up with both a name and an image for the trump after Devil, he may have had before him only the AP's label, “LaFouldre,” and the image from the Cary sheet, showing a tower. I have shown that image reversed because Noblet usually reversed what he copied; the tan space around the card accurately shows the area of the card we don't have, based on the size of the complete cards on the sheet. The card Noblet made is on the right. Although much later cards in the Tarot de Marseille tradition put in lightning bolts, to me it seems clear than on Noblet's card at least, there are only flames going up from the broken tower, and no lightning bolt coming down. Note the rain, on both cards. On Noblet's card, the sun is brightly shining, while it rains.
Cary sheet (highest res on Wikimedia) : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File ... c1500..jpg
Jean Noblet (c.1659), Paris BnF : https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105109641
Noblet would have had the full image from the maker of the Cary sheet. Those may be flames coming from the window of the Cary card, just visible at the torn edge; I think they are, because Noblet would not have shown flames otherwise. There could have been a lightning bolt in the lost part of the Cary sheet card, but I think not, since Noblet does not show a lightning bolt, and Noblet would have copied the lightning bolt if there had been one.
So what Noblet had to work with was, for an image, a round tower with flames coming out of a high window, and for a label, "La Fouldre," lightning bolt. His image source did not show a lightning bolt. What was Noblet to do? He couldn't put on his card a tower on fire, copying his only image source, and label it “Lightning” from his only label source, because that label would make no sense for that image.
Noblet had a mystery. Perhaps he could look at the adjacent cards for a clue. Here is a table of the last seven trumps, showing what sources Noblet had for a label and an image for each card, and what he chose to do:
The Devil, the dead rising, Christ in glory as the Salvator Mundi (this is the meaning of the tetramporph) -- these are concepts related to the world above and the world below, the world which is beyond our mundane world. Here is the AP's XX Le Ivgement, which I suppose Noblet never saw, and Viéville's XX, which Noblet must have seen.
anon. (1600-1650) Paris “tarot parisien anonyme” BnF : https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105109624
Jacques Viéville (1650), Paris BnF : https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10510963k
The dead rising from graves can only be the Last Judgment. The Last Judgment was a ubiquitous image, found in almost every prayer book: I have looked at over a hundred of them. Here is one, from a book of hours in the Dutch Koninklijke Bibliotheek:
Book of Hours (use of Utrecht), Northern Netherlands, c.1495, KB 135 G 19, f.81v
All the Last Judgments I've seen show the same parts, found in every Last Judgment: (1) the dead rising, (2) Christ in glory judging, sitting on a rainbow with his feet on a (3) globe, usually tripartite, sometimes topped by a cross. The praying figures are his mother and his cousin John, sometimes but not always present. There are almost always (4) angels (usually 2 of them) blowing (5) trumpets, often with flags showing a cross. Present about half the time, there is a lower half of the picture, with (6) Hell with devils, and (7) Heaven with St. Peter at the door. Heaven is often a castle; the above picture is rare in also showing Hell as a castle. It is more usually shown as a gaping mouth; the open end of a passage down to the fires under the Earth, as in this picture:
From the same prayer book as above (folio 112v) only lower half shown.
Printed playing cards are objects for the common artisan to buy, while these illuminated manuscripts were the property of the extremely rich. But the Last Judgment was also painted on church walls (the Sistine Chapel, for example) : everyone knew it (see book by Kline). One class of artisan certainly knew what a standard Last Judgment image looked like, the printers, and Noblet was a printer. The Viéville's XX card evokes the Last Judgment beyond question, but it does not have what every Last Judgment must have, Christ in Glory. But on the very next one of Viéville cards, we see a male figure surrounded by the Tetramorph: angel. eagle, lion, ox.
[ Book by Kine: Maps of Medieval Thought: The Hereford Paradigm By Naomi Reed Kline, 2001: https://books.google.com/books?id=pv5Nb7KpWTgC&pg=PA42
Here is that card by Viéville, and a tetramorph from a psalter, the “Hamburger” psalter. (It is in a library in Hamburg).
Jacques Viéville (1650), Paris BnF : https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10510963k
Hamburger psalter, 1220, UB Hamburg Cod. 85, f.209 https://resolver.sub.uni-hamburg.de/kitodo/HANSh502
(On Viéville's card, note incidentally the similarity of the cloak straps going to a pectoral fob, with the cloaks as reconstructed on the Cary sheet Sun card. It says, somewhere, that Christ had at his crucifixion a “seamless” garment. This may be it.)
Only Jesus Christ (or the Lamb of God, which is the same) is ever
shown surrounded by the tetramorph. It is a fairly common image, often called “Salvator Mundi,” which is connected with the “World” name for this trump. Here is the AP's trump XXI, “Le Monde,” although I suppose Noblet never saw it, and a Salvator Mundi from a book of hours.
anon. (1600-1650) Paris “tarot parisien anonyme” BnF : https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105109624
Salvator Mundi from a Book of Hours, c.1470-1490, The Hague KB 133 H 31, f.97v
http://manuscripts.kb.nl/search/manuscr ... k/133+H+31
In Last Judgments, Christ's robes often cover the top of the orb, so you can't see if there's a cross or not, but sometimes you see one. Even without the cross, no one else ever stands on a tri-partite globe. The AP's orb shows sun, moon, and stars on the top half, and a terrestrial scene, suggestive of the elements, below, confirming that this is the world. I don't know why he's holding a shower curtain, but the figure on the AP's card is definitely Jesus Christ.
The AP's card has the four winds blowing; The winds are another symbol in some manuscripts, for a world tossed about by chance. This card shows our mundane, unpredictable world, tossed by the winds, under the firmament, the sun moon and stars, and above that, Christ in glory. This is the way pictures of the whole world are made, in the age of manuscripts: a sublunar world, subject to decay, death, and capricious chance, and shown above it, the firmament, and above or beyond that sphere, the eternal. "Mundi" was the name of whole, not just the sublunar part. The AP's card shows them all, and thus it is well named. Whenever there is a picture of our chance-governed world of decay and death, whether it is a mappa mundi, or symbolic representation such as the seven ages of man, or a wheel of fortune, or the four winds, that picture of our mortal round is accompanied by the eternal: above it, or all around it, or on the facing page in the book, or on the opposite wall of the church (see book by Kline). That's the way it was, in the XV century, but with these cards we are in a century when things were changing.
The tarot decks of Flanders
: In connection with the AP's Le Monde, we should consider the Flemish decks. Here is Vandenborre's Le Monde:
F. I. Vandenborre (1700s), Brussels BM Flemish
https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/ ... 2&partId=1
Jean Gisaine (1700s), Dinant, Flanders, Belgium BM
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/c ... 5&partId=1
(I have only a low res of the Gisaine card, due to a persistent problem with downloading from the BM.)
The Belgian decks are normally copies of Viéville, but for this one card they have copied the AP, which shows that this one of the AP's cards, at least, was still around late enough for them to copy it, and thus could have been seen by Noblet, whether or not he did see it. The AP's four winds have become two faces, not blowing, on the Vandenborre card.
The World card figure as male or female, winged or not
: At various times and in various places, the figure on the World card has been female. It was also sometimes winged. In early C-order Milan, there are no wings. The figure is of unclear gender on the CYV card (I incline towards female), and male, but there are two of them, on the VS card (a replacement card). There is a card in the Guildhall in London which also shows the two boys. It was in general not winged later in France, but it is winged in Belgium, as we see in this Vandenborre. In B and A order regions, the figure is mostly female (when not ambiguous), and almost always winged (but not in “Dit de Charles VI“ ). But in the two oldest World cards in France, the AP's and Viéville's, the figure is male, and like on most World cards in France, there are no wings. We can say that overall, C-order World figures are wingless and male (or ambiguous) to begin with, becoming female with Noblet and thus all his copiers to the south, and becoming winged in Viéville's copiers to the north..
It is hard to see how Viéville could have indicated any more clearly than he did, that this is Christ in Glory, than to show him in a halo, and a mandorla, surrounded by the tetramorph. The only way I can think of that would be equally clear, would be to show him in the pose of the Salvator Mundi, which is what the AP did. Since two card makers both show unambiguously that this is Jesus Christ, but do so in two different ways, that rules out any accident. This is 100%: no one else (except the Lamb of God, which is him) is ever shown surrounded by the tetramorph. The mandorla just emphasizes the point. No one else is ever shown with his feet on a tripartite globe. Christ in Glory is nearly always shown that way, in almost every Last Judgment, and every prayer book has a Last Judgment, Christ is shown with his wounded feet on a globe, usually tripartite.
: So what did Noblet see, in the trumps that surrounded his mystery trump? Even if he never saw the AP's XXI Le Monde, he saw Viéville's XXI with the tetramorph. He saw someone's XX, probably Viéville's, with an angel and a trumpet and the dead rising from their graves, because he put all that on his own XX. He knew that trump XV was the Devil. So among the last seven trumps he saw three of the components of the standard Last Judgment picture: 1) The angel with a flagged trumpet blaring over dead rising from their graves, 2) Christ in Glory, and 3) The Devil. If his mystery XVI card was also a component of a standard Last Judgment picture, what component could it be? What was left? Only: 1) Mary. 2) John the Baptist; 3) Hell, 4) Heaven.
The tower on the Cary sheet card was clearly not John or Mary. So was it Hell, or Heaven. The comparison were:
The best of two bad options:
There are lots of reasons why the Cary Sheet tower is not Heaven. Heaven may be shown as a realm surrounded by a wall with battlements and towers, but it should not be a narrow isolated tower. If it is a tower, it should not be on fire. That is one ugly St. Peter. But of the two, assuming it had to be either Heaven or Hell, the Cary sheet Tower card looks a lot more like a standard Heaven, that is, a castle, than it looks like a standard mouth of Hell, a living, giant, gaping mouth. If he had to pick one or the other, the Cary tower had to be Heaven.
So if he had to pick one or the other, he would pick Heaven. Having picked Heaven as the meaning of the image he took from Cary, he could not then label his card “Lightning” which would make no sense, but had to name it something that indicated Heaven. Heaven can be depicted in many ways, but if it is shown as a building, a good label for that depiction of Heaven is “The House of God.” But why was Noblet choosing between Hell and Heaven for this card? What led him, from his initial conundrum of his image source showing a tower, while his label source was “La Fouldre,” to a choice between Heaven and Hell? Only one route I can think of, that he saw the last group of trumps as a picture of the Last Judgment, spread across many cards. That meant that his mystery card had to be some component of the Last Judgment picture, and of those comments, only Heaven, Hell, Mary, and John were not shown on other cards. It wasn't Mary or John, and while it wasn't a good picture of Heaven, it was more like Heaven than it was like Hell. No other route, that I can see, could have led Noblet to a forced choice between Heaven and Hell, and it was only because he had to choose between them, the he could he label an isolated tower, on fire, with the dead sprawled on the ground, as "The House of God."
The trumps as a group, showing a united picture
: Is there anything else that would have led Noblet to see these trumps, as a group, as the Last Judgment picture spread across several cards? Yes there is. Noblet knew Viéville's cards, he copied them. Therefore he would have seen Viéville's two pip cards containing the poem, which manages to mention almost all the trumps. That poem is about the Last Judgment, and from a “death of princes” or Michael J. Hurst, point of view: the geezer, the idiot, and the carnival quack, who are not doing so well in our world of chance and decay, will receive justice. It is the end for the Pope and the Emperor, The Lovers have been tricked by stumbling Fortune, as the last trump sounds before they make it to the altar.
Why was Noblet left to choose between the label “lightning” and an image showing a tower on fire?
: Somewhere and some when in XV Century Italy, there was a first Trionfi: the original source of all the images, labels, and order that came later. That first Trionfi must have had some concept of this trump, and that led by some series of steps to AP's label "LaFouldre," and by a different route, to the Cary picture of an isolated tower on fire. How did that one original concept split and reach Noblet's desk as a label and an image that didn't match? First, what was that first trump concept? The door to Hell on the day of the Last Judgment, is a concept for that card, which makes sense as an origin for all the varying images that came later. In illuminated manuscripts, the door to Hell could be the arched doorway of a stone castle that had fire inside of it, or it could be a huge gaping, living mouth. The two oldest French cards we have show one each: Geofroy shows the castle, and the AP shows the mouth. But the AP's gaping mouth is the only gaping mouth of Hell in all of tarot. By Noblet's day both images were old-fashioned, and unsophisticated. A more scholarly and sophisticated view did not picture Hell this way, not even as early as 1310. Dante's gate of Hell was certainly not a living mouth with teeth; it was a door or a gate, but not, as far as I can tell, the gate of a castle with battlements. Of course John Milton, Noblet's contemporary, did not have a huge living mouth for his Hell.
William Blake' illustrations of the Inferno in the Tate:
https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/wil ... ions-dante
Thunderbolt of Judgment
: Another way to think about the Day of Judgment, is that it comes as a bolt from the blue; it is sudden and very loud. For sinners, the unexpected thunderbolt means it is too late to repent. The AP's card, with the label, “La Fovldre,” does not show any lightning but shows a devil pounding a drum, a representation of thunderous noise. The loud and sudden thunderbolt is always a part of the concept of going to Hell at the Last Judgment. Lightning is associated with this trump, from the earliest evidence we have.
Many tarot images for this trump show buildings and fire, but they are of two kinds: Geofroy's Hell has fire in it, but is in no danger from that fire. But many of the tarot images for this trump show a building that is being destroyed by fire or lightning. The towers are toppled, and corpses litter the ground. Example are:
(in the Louvre)
http://arts-graphiques.louvre.fr/detail ... tarots-max
Tarocchino “Al Mondo”
British Museum : https://tinyurl.com/y8jvqs98
Note the small tower, above the battlements, on both cards. Also both show a door.
Note the double suns: clear on the Al Mondo, and once you know what to look for, the upper corners of the Rothschild can't be anything else. In the Al Mondo deck, the double suns are on the Tower, Temperance, Moon, Sun, and (possibly) Wheel.
The “Tarot dit de Charles VI”
also has that small upper tower, and a door. It has no corpses on the ground, but there is a huge black rounded object above the tower, from which comes, perhaps, lightning. The image on the right shows that spot. This is an example of the fantastically high resolution which the Bibliothèque nationale de France can provide.
dit di Charles VI deck
https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b ... 2s/f1.item
towers, by contrast, show the Orfeo and Eurydice image of a woman snatched back while going out the door, but the building is not about to fall down. At most a few bricks fall off. The Sun is not double, but it looks more like flames than most Sun images do.
Orfeo Minchiate: https://tinyurl.com/y7pkbe68
Baragioli All Sorte 1860 : https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105161123
Here on the left is an image from Mitelli's "Trombetta" tarocchino
, showing only a lightning bolt. On the right, we see a tower on fire, half fallen down, from the Rosenwald
sheets. Note that it has the small upper tower, and a door, but no fallen bodies.
Rosenwald sheet : https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-obje ... 41321.html
image shows rain falling from a sky in which, although there are clouds, the sun is shining. The figure is a shepherd or goatherd. He looks up, startled.
https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b ... k/f31.item
The rain is also in the Cary sheet Tower, and rain while the sun shines is also in Noblet. This is a lightning storm that comes out of the blue, on a sunny day.
So the images for this trump fall into four classes, one of which has two subclasses.
How can the towers of Hell be toppled by their own fires?
- Class 1) : A building is full of fire but is not falling down, as in Geofroy and Minchiate. All of these may be “Orfeo and Eurydice” images. The small upper tower is never shown in this class.
- Class 2) : Towers are toppling, either
- Subclass 2a), with bodies on the ground, as in Noblet, Rothschild sheets, and most Tarocchino.
- Subclass 2b), with no fallen bodies. Charles VI is in this subclass, and so is the Rosenwald sheet and Budapest
All class 2) , with or without bodies, shows the small tower, except Noblet and Budapest.
- Class 3) A thunderbolt strikes without warning, as in Viéville's deck and Mitelli's Trombetta tarocchino, and we may include also the cards labeled “Lightning,” plus the poems that call the card lightning, or arrow. The poems that call the trump "il Fuoco," fire, could be in class 1), 2), or 3).
- Class 4) The gaping living mouth of Hell, which is only in the AP.
The images of class 3), show the first thing that happens on Judgment Day, the lightning that comes as a crashing thunderbolt from the blue, telling sinners it is now too late to repent, and for them it is the fires of Hell. We can call this the "Thunderbolt of Judgment
." Then the images in class 1) show Hell, with those fires. So class 1) and class 3) don't disagree; they are the same story seen at different times. But the images in class 2) are different. In the Last Times, the last 15 days, all the towers on Earth fall down; the Sun goes black; fire rains from the sky. But the one thing that is not destroyed in the general destruction of the Last Days, is Hell. Hell suffers no towers falling, and no loss of life, as the inhabitants have none to lose. So class 2) shows something which is not Hell, or is not correct for Hell. Why would some images for this card not show Hell, but some other building which unlike Hell, is destroyed by fire, or by fire from the sky?
The oldest images of this trump, if we accept the dates given by the holding museums, are tbe "dit de Charles VI" and the Rosenwald sheets, both called XV century by the BnF and the NGA respectively. The Rosenwald sheets show signs of being Minchiate, as Huck says. as they have centaurs as Knights, so XV century may be too early, although I tend to quite an early date for Minchiate. For this trump, however, Rosenwald is class 2b), a destroyed tower, while later minchiate is class 1), an Orfeo and Eurydice image. But let's take Rosenwald as XV century for now.
, and lightning bolt,
are both present, from our earliest evidence. If building and lightning bolt are combined in an image, it is natural to show the building as shattered. So could the original concept of this trump be simply a building toppled by lightning, nothing to do with Hell or the Devil? I think there are several reasons to think that the fiery building is Hell, and the bolt from the blue is the one that comes for sinners on Judgment Day.
1) All early French
evidence about this trump supports a devilish interpretation. Catelin Geofroy and the AP have devils on their cards. Viéville has a poem of which the last line is: "L'a foudre prins a force qui soit pendue trannay au dyable." However bad my translation, this is not a poem about the danger to tall structures during foul weather.
2) Of the Italian
(except Mitelli's) has a building tumbling down, with bodies on the ground, but the other main late source of decks, the Minchiate
, has the Orfeo and Eurydice image, associated with Hades. Furthermore it is called "La Casa del Diavolo."
3) This trump, along with it's neighbor the Devil, is about the least likely trump to be preserved from the early handmade decks; really only in Charles VI. Devil and Tower are even more rare than Death, although that is also rare. If it was just a building on fire, or a building hit by lightning, that should not have been a bad omen, even worse than the Devil and Death cards..
Since the evidence for a devilish meaning for this card, is in both countries, and in A decks and C decks, it seems unlikely that a Hell as a concept arose from a tower hit by lightning, independently in two places. It is more likely the origin included Hell, and was copied in several places, in one place the building was shown falling down, either because the Hell
concept was lost, or they saw no contradiction with the House of the Devil getting it's fair share of destruction. Since the AP is the only living gaping mouth in all of tarot, it is more likely the original mouth of hell was some sort of door in a wall. The lightning part of the concept, was the bolt from the blue, announcing to sinners they left it too late to repent. So Thunderbolt of Judgment
and Hell mouth as door
, are the origin. Here is a tree iconograph of the way that concept spread and changed:
The first branch, in B order, goes from the origin to the Budapest tower on fire. This tower may or may not be falling down, but there is no small upper tower, and no bodies on the ground. The Steele sermon calls this trump "Sagitta" so Lightning
was part of the concept in the B-order region.
The second branch in A order, has Charles VI and Rosenwald. Both are class 2) tower is breaking, and both show the small tower. They are subclass 2b) no bodies; a further change adds the bodies, which leads to Tarocchino, except Mitelli's. Mitelli's Tarocchino has only lightning. A fourth branch from the original concept classicalizes Hell to Hades, and shows Orfeo and Eurydice
, leading to the Minchiate. The only Thunderbolt is what Eurydice feels when her idiot husband turns around to look.
A fifth branch, in the C-order region, splits in three: Catelin Geofroy is the first fork: alone in C-region he has Orfeo and Eurydice. The AP alone shows Hellmouth as giant gaping living mouth; his devil drummer and the label LaFovldre show that both Hellmouth and Thunderbolt are part of his concept for card. The third fork emphasizes Lightning, and depicts rain: in Viéville there is rain, and a sun which is both shining and half-covered by clouds: showing a lightning storm that comes unexpectedly out of the blue, surprising the shepherd. In Cary sheet we see the rain also. There may have been a sun in the corner of the Cary card that is lost: it is hard to see why there would be rain except to make the same point that Viéville makes, that the lightning strike comes in a sudden storm out of a blue sky. Further, Noblet has a bright sun on his card, and he copied the Cary card, and he had the whole card to copy. So we may say Viéville and Cary are both showing sudden lightning, Viéville with a tree, and the Cary sheet with a tower.
Orfeo and Eurydice show up both in A-order Minchiate, and C-order Geofroy. This is a homoplasy, a similarity not explained by the common origin having that property. Some homoplasies are to be expected. There may have been influence one direction or the other, or they both may have made a classicalizing move from Hell to Hades, and both hit on the same story. Eurydice finds out very suddenly that she is going to stay in Hades. It is a kind of thunderbolt. The story of Theseus rescued from Hades by Hercules wouldn't do, as it has a happy ending.
So the Cary sheet card may have been like Viéville's card, a sudden lightning storm, only the blast hits a tower instead of a tree. But why then didn't Noblet simply copy that picture, and apply to it the label "La Foudre" he got from the AP? I can only guess that the Cary sheet card did not show lightning clearly. This is true of Viéville also. There are clouds over the sun, although it still has rays, and the shepherd looks up, startled, but there is no lightning bolt. The one face we see on the Cary sheet, looks like a cow, but it may be a devil. It's hard to explain why there would be a cow. If it is a devil, that would mean that Cary sheet is showing both parts of the original concept: the building is Hell, as a building on fire, and there is also a sudden thunderstorm. There would be figures, the souls of sinners, being dragged by devils into the mouth of Hell. Then Noblet did not understand that rain and sun meant a sudden thunderstorm. He saw the figures at the base of the tower as victims of the fire. He showed the top of the burning tower as falling, because in fact stone buildings (except domes) have wood in them and they fall down when they burn up.
For whatever reason, in the end Noblet showed bodies on the ground at the foot of a tower, which is thus a common feature with the Tarocchino (except Mitelli). It is hard to see how the common origin could have had bodies on the ground: because so many branches of the iconograph don't have them, and anyway souls in Hell don't jump from the roof of Hell and end up dead on the ground, because they cannot die. So Noblet's bodies on the ground, and the bodies in the Tarocchino, would have to be a homoplasy. (Note that this result does not come from the assumptions I made about the Cary sheet. Whatever the Cary sheet shows, Noblet's Tower has bodies, and the Tarocchino Tower cards have bodies, and the common origin probably did not have bodies.) So we must accept another homoplasy. Influence is a possibility, in either direction. I don't know of an Tarocchino showing the bodies that is especially early.
Summary: Noblet was forced to label an image of an isolated tower. Because of the surrounding cards, he saw a standard Last Judgment picture recreated on four cards (I will get to the 3 celestials in a bit). In order to complete the picture, this card had to be either the Heaven (as on a Last Judgement picture) or the mouth of Hell (as on a Last Judgement picture) . Given that choice, the tower had to be Heaven, although it was unlike Heaven in many ways. So he called it the House of God.
It was basically a series of accidents that left Noblet with a label and an image that didn't match.
this has been part three of a posting on the tarot labels of France.
part 4 will be called "The three celestials"