Sorry for the late reply—it often takes me a while to reply to things on this forum, partly because I don't have as much time as I would like, and partly because I am still fairly new to this and so my ideas are still very much in flux...
mikeh wrote: ↑
02 Jul 2020, 03:27
as far as the second emperor looking like a morphed empress, Nathaniel, if you look at the kings, you will see that there are two types: young, beardless, with the head cocked to one side, and older and bearded. The two emperors might simply reflect the two types.
It really doesn't help that the pairs of kings show two similarly contrasting types. The influence could have gone the other way (from the emperors to the kings), or it could have evolved independently. The crucial point is that it doesn't seem odd for the kings to contrast like this, but it does seem odd for the emperors. It's not odd for the kings because the kings of Coins and Cups are one type, and the kings of Swords and Batons are the other, and this feels fitting because the four suits have always been thought of as being divided into two pairs in that way. People have always seen an affinity between the suits of Coins and Cups on the one hand, and Swords and Batons on the other. It was even reflected in the orderings of the numeral cards. So the contrast between the pairs of kings feels right. But it does not look right for the two emperors to contrast like this when the two popes are identical. There is no obvious and immediately satisfying explanation for that. Except, of course, the one that is obvious if you bring to mind the history of the Minchiate deck, namely that one of them used to be an Empress.
What happened with the Minchiate deck is quite clear: We know from the strambotto that the Florentine deck before Minchiate had a Pope, an Emperor, and an Empress. In the earliest literary sources for Minchiate, there is mention of a Pope, an Emperor, and a Queen (Aretino's Carte Parlanti
mentions all three, Bronzino mentions the Pope and Emperor, and the Meretrice poem mentions the Queen). In the earliest surviving Minchiate cards, we see two emperors plus a female ruler with a less impressive crown than theirs, who was presumably this Queen. As Dummett observed in Il Mondo e l'Angelo
(p. 249), the Minchiate Queen and lower emperor are practically identical to the Empress and Emperor in the earlier Rosenwald deck, and the higher emperor is very similar to the earlier Rosenwald pope.
(photo credits: Mike)
In later years, the Minchiate "Queen" was reinterpreted by some card designers as a male figure, while still retaining a few characteristics of her former self which distinguished her from the emperor figures. This appears to have been an unconscious development, not a deliberate change, a result of shifting interpretation of the card over time, just as the earlier Empress had been reinterpreted as a Queen many years before. The transformation of the Pope into the higher emperor, however, would no doubt have been a deliberate act, in response to offended religious sensibilities.
For present purposes, the important point to note in all this is that all these changes were minimal
. This is the usual way for playing card designs to change: in minimal increments, because players like to be able to easily recognize a card based on the cards they knew previously. So the Minchiate Pope card was changed into an Emperor, but only as much as absolutely necessary.
The robes remained largely the same, the hair, the lack of beard—even his crown retained something of its original papal shape.
My views (fluxing as they do) have changed slightly since my previous post: I'm now inclined to think that in Bologna, the transformation of the female figures into males was deliberate in the case of both the Empress and the Popess (for reasons I will explain below). But in both cases, the changes made would have been minimal, just as with the Minchiate pope. In many of the early decks (the Rosenwald above being a superb example), the Pope and Popess looked very similar, so a minimal change to make the latter male would have caused the two to look virtually identical except for the objects they were holding. And that is exactly what we see on the early Bolognese pope cards. The difference in appearance between the Emperor and the Empress, however, was greater (and again Rosenwald is a good example, and the best one possible, as both it and the Bolognese deck presumably derived from a common Type A ancestor). So the minimal change required to make the Empress male was not
enough to make her look identical to the Emperor: the face, hair, and even the clothing still looked different.
So the Minchiate deck provides us with the obvious explanation for something which is otherwise quite hard to explain.
The other thing that is hard to explain about the "equal papi" is the rule itself. I fully agree with Mike when he says "you consistently ignore the "equal papi" rule as if it does not need explaining, which for me is the main task ... How is it to be accounted for?" I disagree with Mike's explanation, but he's right that the rule does need explaining. It is an extremely odd rule. We have 21 trumps, all of them in a precise sequential ranking, except for four, who all share one identical rank. And they are not even the lowest four or the highest four, which would surely have been slightly more natural, although still very odd.
This oddness is in itself one of the strongest reasons for believing that this rule would not have been original. It looks inherently like a later modification. So it is definitely something Ross would need to explain to convince us of his argument. Another big difficulty he has is the one that Phaeded repeatedly points out: "Does it not seem at all odd to you that none of the surviving 15th century decks have two popes?" Indeed. The early decks and early documentary sources all suggest an ur-tarot that featured an Empress, Emperor, Popess, and Pope (the "Imperatori e Papi"
in Piscina's words); there is nothing anywhere in those early sources to contradict this. The third major difficulty Ross has is that Piedmont and Bologna are the only places we know of where this rule appeared. There is simply no evidence that it ever existed anywhere else; on the contrary, as I just said, all the evidence suggests that the other orders all derive from a common ancestor that had those four unique trumps, ranked in the same sequential way as all the others.
I think Ross is right to say that the symbolism of the figures is not hugely important, and that it would not necessarily have had much effect on the gameplay. But the question of whether or not the four cards each showed a unique figure, clearly differentiated from the others, is hugely important. If the four cards all looked identical in the ur-tarot, then the rule would have had to have existed. If they were all unique, then it's very likely the rule did not exist. And the evidence overwhelmingly suggests the latter.
Nevertheless, I agree with Ross that the equal papi rule probably goes back a long way, for the reasons he cites: "To me it seems that the coincidence of the equal-papi rule - and name "papots" - and the high Angel (and the name "Angel") in Bologna and Piedmont at the same time, is alone sufficient proof of the antiquity of the rule." Moreover, the rule must surely have taken root in Piedmont before the Type C order exerted its influence on the Piedmontese (which may have come about even before the Tarot de Marseilles; possbily it was because the Lombard deck took over the Piedmontese market and that deck was numbered, like the World card from the Castello Sforzesco). So the rule probably goes back to the 15th century. I disagree with Ross about how the Bolognese game reached Piedmont—I incline more to the view of Dummett/McLeod that it bypassed Lombardy, or at least bypassed most of Lombardy—but that is a side issue.
Another major reason why I have to disagree with Ross's viewpoint is because of why I think the equal papi rule was invented.
While I agree with Huck and Mike that it is essential to consider the practicalities of gameplay when addressing this question, I disagree with the answer Mike came up with (involving Karnöffel). To my mind, there is a much simpler and much more likely answer.
Let me start by recalling that there are two groups of trumps whose ranking varied a great deal in the earliest trump orders, in the days before the cards were numbered: the three Virtues and the four papi e imperatori
. As Dummett observed in GoT, the rest of the trump sequence barely changed from one locale to another, but the ordering of these two groups changed enormously. I believe the basic reason was the same in both cases, namely because both groups were made up of very similar figures with no obvious, well-established ranking (among themselves). So players found it hard to remember and agree on what order they should have.
I think exactly this is the main reason why the virtues were moved in Type B from their original positions (which I think were probably where they were in Type A): because the new positions seemed more meaningful and were therefore easier to remember and harder to argue with. In this sense, I disagree with Ross when he suggests that the Type B ordering of virtues had nothing to do with "ludic evolution"—but at the same time I agree with him that it "suggests a thoughtful re-ordering, based on theological or moral considerations." It seems to me most likely that it was both, simultaneously.
You can probably guess where I'm going with this. The papal and imperial cards brought much the same problem: While just about everyone could agree that the pope had to be the highest ranking of the four, there seems to have been no end of disagreement about the order of the other three. The Bolognese solution (to the arguments that must have raged) was as simple as it was ingenious: Make all four equal in rank, and if more than one is played to a trick, the last one wins. No more reason to argue, and it would have made the whole trump order significantly easier to remember too. Problem solved.
Except for one small difficulty: patriarchy. A lot of players—well, a lot of male players, at least—would no doubt have felt it wrong for the Empress and Popess to be able to beat their male counterparts in a trick. So the decision was made to change the card designs ever so slightly to make the ladies into men. The result was the Bolognese trump sequence that remained unchanged until 1725.
I'm sure the Bolognese would have applied a similar kind of rationalization to the new order to that which was applied in the case of the Type B virtues, by which I mean that they would have easily found a symbolic justification for a change that was primarily motivated by the practicalities of gameplay. In the case of the Type B virtues, it was Justice representing the Last Judgment, and Fortitude being associated with the martial triumph of the Chariot (or whatever they managed to come up with in the case of Fortitude). In the case of the now all-male papi e imperatori
, the most obvious interpretation would probably have been to see them as the Western and Eastern Emperors and a pair of schismatic popes. Or alternatively, if you felt uncomfortable about schismatic popes, you could see those two as the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople, or just view all four as popes and emperors from different times in history. You know, whatever makes you happy. It wouldn't have been terribly important; what would have been important was the practical benefit of making the trump order simpler, clearer, and less contentious.
As Ross has repeatedly pointed out, the equal papi rule went hand in hand with unnumbered trumps. The Bolognese order stayed unnumbered for much longer than the others, no doubt partly because the equal papi rule made it easier for the Bolognese players to remember the order without numbered cards. Moreover, it seems that once numbering was introduced, it began to weaken the equal papi rule. In Piedmont, where the papi themselves were numbered, the rule died out almost completely; in Bologna, where only the trumps from Love to Star were numbered, the rule held on, but even there it seems the presence of numbers on most other trumps eventually gave people the idea of putting them on the papi as well. The staunch endurance of the rule in Bologna, even in the face of the temptation of numbering on most trumps, suggests that Ross is absolutely wrong when he says that "the equal-papi rule is unstable." It seems Ross was compelled to believe that because there is no trace of the rule anywhere except for Bologna and Piedmont; he has to conclude the rule is inherently "unstable" to explain its disappearance elsewhere. But this assertion does not fit the reality, which is that the equal papi rule, like most aspects of the Bolognese game (including unnumbered trump cards), remained remarkably stable and resilient in that city for an extremely long time.
In other words, the trumps being unnumbered was fundamental to the rule's existence. If the trumps are unnumbered, it is a significant practical benefit for four of them to all have the same rank, quite apart from the arguments about their order that would have bedeviled the earliest players. Under such circumstances, there would be no temptation at all to give each of the papi a ranking—why would anyone want to make the order harder to remember? But once you start putting numbers on the cards, that objection disappears, and with it goes the whole foundation of the equal papi rule. In that situation, it is entirely understandable that players would be tempted to ditch the rule, because it doesn't seem to have a lot of practical appeal otherwise.