* Elogium on Giangaleazzo Visconti by Pietro da Castellato, complete with both Christ crowning the deceased duke as well as the Venus-Anchises genealogy appended at the end of the funeral oration for Gian Galeazzo, "Sermo in exsequiis Iohannis Galeatii ducis Mediolani", by Petrus de Castelleto (B.N. ms. lat. 5888). The illuminations were painted by Michelino da Besozzo in 1403.
* The Visconti Hours, the unfinished portion by Giovannino de Grassi interrupted at Gian Galeazzo’s death in 1402 and then completed by Belbello da Pavia under the auspices of Gian Galeazzo’s second son, Filippo Maria, who became duke in 1412.
Because Filippo was the second son and not the original successor he felt an acute need to draw the connection to his father, particularly in completing the Hours. This was especially the case since his older brother, Gian Maria Visconti (b. 1388 in Abbiategrasso – d. 1412 in Milan), was assassinated by Milanese nobles and did not leave a son, but his wife, Antonia Malatesta of Cesena (daughter or niece of Carlo Malatesta), survived him with the title of Duchess. More importantly, many of the various communes that formed the duchy announced their freedom and separated themselves at Gian Galeazzo’s death. Reconquering the duchy was of paramount concern, but reasserting legitimate succession to the first imperially sanctioned duke (1395), Gian Galeazzo, also needed to be visibly proclaimed.
The CY deck, like the Eulogy and Hours, is essentially a set of illuminations (whether on card or parchment, these are all miniatures). I will argue that the CY can similarly be seen as a continuation of the concerns of the first two productions; in fact the second phase of the Hours by Belbello made for Filippo graphically references the earlier Eulogy’s genealogy, on the leaf now known as Landau Finaly 57v (by the library collection it ended up in; hereafter LF 57v).
So immediately in the renewed hours we have a portrait of Filippo, following suit like his father, similarly portrayed in a nimbus of clouds (a flattened version of this cloud nimbus separates the allegorical fama at the top of the arch in the CY “World” card). Moreover he visually cites the Eulogy’s genealogy, culminating in him at that time, shown at the center-bottom of the illumination in the case of both works:These miniatures belong to a continuous pictorial tradition, traceable to the Early Christian period, in which Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent for their transgression. The presence of mankind’s progenitors perhaps suggested to the illuminator a condensed genealogy of the Visconti as decoration of the borders on 57v. The profile at the top may represent Anchises, from whom the Visconti claimed descent. At the sides are pairs of veiled profiles (perhaps women), wreathed men, and youths. The bust in the center of the lower margin probably represents Filippo Maria, portrayed like his father (BR 115) within a ring of pink and blue clouds set against golden rays. This painting depicts a much younger man than the portrait of Filippo Maria by Pisanello on the medal of around 1441.
It is not surprising that the second patron should have wished to be portrayed on the opening miniature of the first gathering of leaves in the Visconti Hours illuminated entirely for him. (Millard Meiss and Edith Kirsch, The Visconti Hours, 1972 [no page # but see text preceding plate LF 54]
The genealogy on the left is the last illumination of several pages of Visconti descent from the Jupiter-Venus-Anchises group that begins the genealogy. Given that “Love”, Venus’s son, is the only CY trump that is a classical god is also represented in Marziano cards (the last trump), both should be linked back to this preoccupation with Venus as tutelary goddess of the dynasty. Ross has appropriately, to my mind, linked Michelino’s earlier Visconti genealogy of descent from Venus to the Marziano deck featuring both Venus and Cupido on his new book’s cover:
I’ve argued previously that Filippo had the Marziano deck in mind with the true love of his life, Agnese del Maino. viewtopic.php?t=1029
The affair between Filippo and Agnes began in 1418, but Ross’s new proposed dating to c. 1420 would simply celebrate a relationship that was going to endure the early infatuation stage. We know from the Borromeo fresco that elite males and females played cards together and there is no reason to think Filippo would not have followed suit with his lover; even Marziano seems to wink at the idea: “…it might be asked whether it be fitting for a man to find recreation from the weariness of virtue in some kind of game….. and that it be fitted to the serious man wearied of virtue, and that without much difficulty the use of it will be free of circumstances of debts, and that it will be conducive to happiness; as I am truly persuaded that the noble working of the intellect of he who was fatigued would thereby be restored to excellence.” No doubt a weekend with the mistress in Abbiategrasso was just the restorative tonic Filippo needed; and now for some cards to pass the idle hours. As for a comparable obsession with a mistress, one thinks of Pier Maria Rossi’s c. 1460 building of the Castello di Torrechiara, complete with surviving frescoes, for his lover Bianca Pellegrini, herself a lady-in-waiting to Bianca Maria Visconti (not to mention Sigismondo Malatesta's public declarations for his mistress, Isotta degli Atti, in numerous poems, written by himself and by his court poets). On a slight tangent, another Rossi commissioned fresco, from his Roccabianca castle and now detached and housed in Castle Sforza museum, shows men and women playing at cards (just like the Borromeo fresco).
As a woman and given the times, Bianca’s primary role in Visconti dynastic politics was to someday bear children who would carry on the Visconti legacy. And to hammer home, once again, the clearly shown item in the tent behind the couple in the CY love card: a matrimonial bed, where consummation would legitimize the union with Sforza (with resulting issue to ensure succession for Visconti). The presence of Venus in both the Marzinao and via her son in the CY is in the role of the the classical representation for human generation; Adam and Eve the Chrisitian one – both are present in Visconti’s miniatures.
The Visconti Hours LF57v’s biblical theme speaks to genealogy via “mankind’s progenitors” of Adam and Eve, now cursed with original sin but also with generation, located directly above Filippo. Given this obsession with genealogy and succession, not to mention the virtual damnatio memoriae of brother Giovannino (no nimbus portrait in the Hours), would Filippo really neglect his own succession in his only child, Bianca Maria, on whom Filippo having grandchildren entirely relied? Bianca and Francesco Sforza tacitly acknowledge this desire, self-servingly of course, in having their first male child take the name of the grandfather and share Filippo’s middle name: Galeazzo Maria. Succession is clearly intimated at here and had to have been a constant subject on Filippo’s morbid mind – Filelfo translated two short treatises by Hippocrates (De flatibus and De passionibus corporis) for his unhealthy prince (Filippo was corpulent and gouty) and indeed he would only live a half dozen more years after Bianca and Sforza’s wedding.
We are then confronted with the strained circumstances of Filippo’s bastard child marrying a newcomer powerbroker, without hereditary titles. Nonetheless it is Filippo’s only child and if he is not going to be remembered by her and her children, who else will tend to his memory? The emergence of the Ambrosian Republic after his death presented just that problem, performing their own damnatio memoriae on Filippo, as duly noted by his still-praising humanist Filelfo (with an eye to Bianca and Sforza restoring Visconti order):
The ungrateful plebs are punished because they failed to honor the deserving shade of the sublime and celebrated Duke Filippo with funeral rites….Let bold Francesco Sforza, whom our songs have often raised to the stars, look well to the interests of this man he supports. (Filelfo, Odes IV.1.30f; Robins tr. p. 223)
And what was Gian Galeazzo’s Euology but the proper “funeral rites”, appreciated by Filippo but denied to him by “the ungrateful plebs” of the Ambrosian Republic (but that pertained to a later day).
When Filippo finally relents to giving Bianca away in marriage, however reluctantly to the likes of side-switching Sforza, it his surest means of immortality in terms of being remembered by a loved one connected to the rulership of his realm. And to ensure Bianca’s own tenuous claims on the duchy, the relevance of genealogy had to be addressed, and I believe that naturally occurs in the patrilineal lines, as represented by the CY Kings. The problem is there are only three surviving kings – there are a total of 17 court cards in the CY when there should be 24 (3 males and 3 females per each of four suits, or 24 total). The missing King is of Batons, which, as we shall see, would have represented Sforza.
The Visconti are represented by the Coins, with that suit's court’s clothing decorated by the radiate dove, and Cups, with the ducal crown and fronds device. Sforza’s devices are present in the Swords suit with the pomegranate/quince of his family’s hometown of Cotignola, and then in the Batons suit with his fountain device.
First, how to identify who was who between the two Visconti kings? Referring back to the portraits of Gian Galeazzo and Filippo in the Eulogy and Hours, note that the father has a long goatee and Filippo is generally clean-shaven (perhaps a hint of stubble in the Hours), which he maintained even when he became corpulent, as shown on the Pisanello medal. So if Filippo wanted to make another nod to his own succession of Gian Galeazzo in the CY, by depicting both of them, it would be easy enough to differentiate between the two with facial hair. Granted the CY king has a full beard rather than a goatee; as for Filippo, he is seldom depicted as obese – shown as a rosy-cheeked youth here - so we are never going to find true likenesses in the idealizing cards but rather stereotypes. The two Visconti kings:
Besides the facial hair, there is not much to distinguish between the two except to note the extremely odd gesture made by the King of Cups, the king identified with Filippo, in rejecting the coin offered him by the servant. The coin being rejected tellingly does not have the radiate dove on it. The radiate dove decorates the robe of the King of Cups, the jousting shield held by the allegorical figure of chastity upon the Chariot trump (surely Bianca), and the banner on the downward pointing trumpet in the Judgement trump. The last, the trumpet with radiate dove banner, is pointed at the naked female “arising for judgement” (per the text at the top) who makes a hand gesture back at the trumpet, visually connecting the two. Comparing the standing naked male and female, their positions match that of the Hours leaf LF 57v, Eve’s head exactly at the same height of Adam’s groin as in this Judgement trump. Its as if it is the female (one of Eve’s descendants, gender-wise) is in more need of atonement and salvation as the prime bearer of original sin. The other male, clothed but without halo (so not Jesus), could signify the already deceased Gian Galeazzo (with full beard like the King of Cups); the still living being depicted naked. That would make the Adam stand-in Filippo, perhaps looking on at Agnese – note the plump stomach of the naked woman who apparently has been through child-bearing. The third figure whose head is just emerging from the grave, below Filippo (not shown here), would be Agnese’s daughter, Bianca. The entire dynastic succession connected to Filippo is thus shown – his father, the mother of his child and his child – thus foreshadowed as being saved on Judgement Day. Also note the tower resembles the dowry city of Cremona’s huge tower – the tallest brickwork bell tower in the world in 1441 – in that both have a crenelated lower section of tower from which the spire portion “telescopes” from (the actual Cremona octagonal top simplified to four walls, perhaps due the limits of the small area allotted it on a card).
The real significance of the radiate dove is its central position over Gian Galeazzo, being crowned by Christ Himself, in the first Eulogy illumination. Adopting the radiate dove as his primary stemma underscored how Filippo understood the significance of that symbol at his father’s death: not just the dead man’s eventual resurrection but succession to the imperial title, as noted by the numerous imperial eagles flanking the scene:
The Venus-Anchises genealogy follows this “funeral rites” scene, which again places an emphasis on succession. When we encounter the radiate dove in the CY it has to be in this light: although born in original sin, Bianca is nonetheless chaste and is shown as such with Chastity’s jousting shield emblazoned with the radiate dove, a suitable bride for succession. Similarly, in the Judgement card the people below the trumpeting angels are all guaranteed salvation because they were divinely appointed in the first place “with good right”; indeed, the Queen of Cup, the consort of Filippo/King of Cups, has not just the radiate dove on her robe but her servant’s robe is embroidered precisely with that motto: a bon droit (i.e., ignoring the reality that Agnese was not his wife and the daughter was illegitimate):
Again, the coin offered to Filippo/King of Cups, from which he recoils, does not have the radiate dove device. The coin then is simply ‘filthy lucre’ of which Filippo’s dynasty is not based on – the dynasty was anointed to rule from the beginning, via Anchises and with 'good right' from God. Nonetheless Filippo was accepting some twelve thousand florins for a castle and small towns at precisely this time in October 1441 from Correggio – ergo, methinks the Duke doth tellingly protest too much. From a different tact, perhaps the coin was a dig at his contractor (condottiero) son-in-law. At all events, there must be a meaning to why this king shows the coin and I see no other reason. The radiate dove, on the other hand, is central to the Visconti identify under Filippo.
Moving on to the Sforza stemmi on the Kings of Swords and Batons – the pomegranate/quince is on a jacket covering the armor of the King of Swords and the fountain device on the Baton court cards (the fountain is recycled as the Ace of Cups in the PMB, albeit outfitted with a chalice base so as to make the fountain a “cup”). Below, the Page of Batons has been inserted in place of the missing king, but his dress would have been virtually identical to the king, as indeed is the motif clothing for each set of court cards in each suit. CY King of Swords and Page of Batons:
Following the father and son identifications of the Visconti suits, we are confronted with the question as to who would be Muzio and who Francesco? The missing King of Batons can be overcome due to the the unique attributes of the helmed page at the King of Swords’ side. No other page ever occurs in the Visconti-Sforza cards with a helmet on; why? The biography of Muzio explains this odd feature: In service for the Queen of Naples, in 1424 Muzio was leading their combined forces across Pescara River when his squadrons hesitated on the south bank - he plunged his horse into the river to lead them on, but his page carrying his helmet fell into the river; Muzio drowned trying to save his page. That must be the reason the King of Swords averts his eyes from the helmed page in the lower right, and why indeed the page's head is covered with the helmet. One can even find a modern reconstruction of this event:
Nonetheless, Muzio had already achieved immense fame by the time of his death, as evidenced by serving a queen. In 1441 Muzio’s deeds were arguably equal to that of his son, Francesco, being merely the count of the Marche at that time (essentially the middling port of Ancona). Muzio can then be seen as founder of the Sforza line, just as Gian Galeazzo founded the Visconti line on an imperial basis (again, imperial investiture came in 1395). In a way, the propping up of Sforza’s social status by means of the father foresaw the difficulties that Sforza would encounter when he claimed Milan. Without the imperial investiture, Sforza claimed the duchy based on the public acclaim by the communes in the duchy. The legal problem at that time:
It is clear why Muzio would have been included in the CY - it provided a sort of ersatz elite background for Sforza, albeit not hereditary, but necessary for Visconti to feel like Sforza's standing was important enough for his only child. Sforza was not shy in using Muzio's background once again in 1450, per Ianziti..…the elevation of Milan to the status of duchy had canceled the privileges granted to the Lombard communes at the peace of Constance. In the eyes of the law, Sforza was a usurper; the duchy was officially vacant and should devolve to the Empire.(29)
(Therefore the reasons for the translation and his deeds, why Milan granted the duchy to Sforza, becomes central to the arguments made by Sforza’s chancery and they are fourfold: 1. Filippo’s donation (recognized as a forgery and thus drops out altogether as a rationale); 2. the fame and glory of his house in the person of his father Muzio degli Attendoli; 3. His wife Bianca Visconti, the only issue of Filippo Visconti; 4. Sforza’s virtus): “This final point occupies more space than all of the rest put together, and is obviously the most important.” (30)
(Gary Ianziti’s Humanistic Historiography under the Sforzas: Politics and Propaganda in Fifteenth-Century Milan . (Oxford, I988).
In summary, we have irrefutable interest on the part of Filippo in his family's concocted genealogy and it is hard to imagine how Filippo, clearly continuing that genealogical preoccupation in the form of the Visconti Hours leaf LF 57v noted above, would not been concerned with how his only child would continue that genealogy, particularly at the time of her marriage, when she was literally contracted to bear children. Below, the CY King cards are arranged so as to better depict the genealogy of the two lines being joined in a marriage union, with Sforza depicted twice – the second time in the Love card, reflecting his roles as both an equal negotiator with Filippo, scion of the House of Sforza, and as his future son-in-law. As the latter in the Love card, Sforza is clothed in the Baton suit’s blue dress embroidered with the gold fountain device, which I believe clinches the identification of the missing King of Batons. Also of relevance is that the Baton suit's pips feature arrows instead of batons, which would link those court cards to Cupid, who wields two arrows in the Love trump. One might liken Sforza to Apollo, smitten by love's arrows for the chaste Daphne-Bianca, not unlike an implied theme in the Marziano deck, which drew on Ovid via Boccaccio, where we find Apollo, Venus, Cupid and Daphne among the 16 gods (notably the related Brambilla's baton pips are not arrows).
Gian Galeazzo Visconti / Filippo Maria Visconti / Union of Bianca-Francesco in "Love" trump / Sforza / Muzio Attendolo da Cotignola
Clearly the male in the CY "Love" trump belongs with the Baton's suit - and I believe the reason why has been demonstrated above.
Finally, the result of the union, in the Love card’s matrimonial bed, literally embodies all of the above: Galeazzo Maria Sforza.