Re: Materials to Jacopo Antonio Marcello

I've sorted the letters to get an overview

1450 08/16 Lodi
1450 O8/18 Lodi
1450 09/11 Milan
1450 09/12 Milan
1450 09/21 Milan
1450 10/09 Milan
1450 10/10 Milan
1450 10/13 Milan
1450 10/15 Milan
1450 10/19 Milan
1450 10/28 Milan
1450 11/10 Milan
1450 11/11 Milan
1450 11/26 Milan
1450 12/19 Lodi ... Christmas, near to the Trionfi letters of Sforza
1451 01/09 Milan
1451 06/29 Lodi
1451 07/25 Cremona
1451 08/04 Cremona
1451 08/06 Cremona
1451 08/15 Lodi
1451 08/16 Lodi
1451 10/14 Belgioioso
1452 04/08 Milano
1452 04/15 Milano ... short before war declaration
1452 12/28 Lodi ... Christmas
1453 10/12 ? ... Rene d'Anjou addressed, letter from Marcello

Re: Materials to Jacopo Antonio Marcello

Huck wrote:
07 Dec 2019, 10:43

1451 07/25 Cremona
1451 08/04 Cremona
1451 08/06 Cremona

I’m afraid diving into this material is bound to disappoint, unless one cares to read about returning the duties on pigs, returning horses, runaway boys, etc. It seems after Sforza and Venice broke and the former took Milan, that Marcello, formerly provveditore with Sforza, was the one in position to negotiate material grievances (pigs, horses, etc., lost in the shuffle of the Venetian contingent abandoning Sforza). But what is interesting is Sforza’s whereabouts - in Cremona, Bonafacio Bembo’s home city where tarot were painted.

Especially interesting to me is that Filelfo was allowed to leave plague-stricken Milan in September 1451, but only to visit Cremona right after Sforza, when in fact Filelfo was pining away to visit Florence, Venice or Naples instead (see Diana Robin, Filelfo in Milan: Writings, 1451-1477, 1991: 104-105). So Sforza precedes Filelfo in Cremona and then sends this humanist desperate for work there (Filelfo’s teaching stipend in Pavia had not yet been paid). I previously postulated that Filelfo was sent to Cremona specifically in regard to the program of the trump series of tarot we know as the PMB (and I further postulate that it was at this time that the ur-tarot of 14 was expanded to 22, prompted by the recent rediscovery – new to Sforza and Marcello at least – of the Marziano deck…Filelfo commissioned, in this scenario, of coming up with something to rival Marziano, but with something that extols Sforza). The key piece of evidence is that Filelfo singles out the “scholars of the gaming table” in an Ode he wrote to commemorate that visit (and that Ode is followed up by one to Inigo d’Avlos about why he has been diverted and delayed from visiting Naples).

All of this was discussed in the post started by Huck called “Francesco Filelfo: the "Odes" (early 1450s)”.

The relevant passage in Filelfo’s Odes scanned by Huck (his highlights):

Huck understood the reference to “three” literally, as if that were Filelfo’s third visit, but he is just using that number figuratively, as he did in describing himself as having three testicles. In this context the thrice is formulaic, as Filelfo is placing a curse on the city (see the reference to Hades, etc.). His lengthier account of his voyage to Cremona in Ode IV.5 describes his family departing from Milan “with our sacred Lares” (Roman household gods), just to give you a flavor of the antique lens through which Filelfo viewed life. The “gaming table” in Ode IV.7 is from an ode appropriately entitled an invective against Cremona itself, “where only the vulgar arts thrive openly” (presumably card painting included in that category). The prevalence of the number three in Latin ritual cursing is in ample evidence in Pliny’s Natural History, for example, where a formula is repeated three times (28.21), a stone kills three animals in three blows (33), one curses while touching three times (36), washing the eyes three times (44) (see Magical Practice in the Latin West, edited by Richard Lindsay Gordon, 2010: 565). When Filelfo says goodbye for the third time its because he is gladly leaving the cursed place - one he has personally cursed of which he uses three ritually (or to appear so in an antique sense).

My relevant post in that thread (I'd tweak this somewhat today - less emphasis on Bianca, although she clearly had a role in trionfi):
Instead of something being incapable of interest to Fielfo (garnering dismissiveness at best) he has to implicitly contrast his own standing as a dottore at Pavia with the “shrewd scholars (doctoribus)” involved with table gaming in Cremona. Why, unless the game in question impudently touched on something Filelfo found himself involved in? More on that after describing the context again.

Filelfo hardly thought of himself as an artistic program director but rather as the leading rhetor/orator of his age (mainly due to his advantage in Greek). Flawlessly aping the ancients was the name of the game, not associating one’s name with a new leisure that had no pedigree in the classical world of antiquity. We’re not even talking about a cycle of frescoes for a church or palazzo after all…just paper cards! The humanists' world had gotten even more classically correct (Ciceronian, etc.) after Marziano had invented his game for Filippo and passed on.

In my scenario the PMB program was a commission - not an ode, idyll or satire that Filelfo produced with the initiative of his own genius. He asks Bianca (Ode 5.1) what he can do for her for money and she [and husband] (theoretically) assigns him what would become the PMB; not unlike the Muses program commissioned by Leonello from Guarino (who still preferred medals when it came to art).

Filelfo would have thought nothing about stooping to such a chore (but would have hardly mentioned it to his humanist friends – again, it was well beneath their primary objective of improving upon classical models) due to what his esteemed university mate at Padua and lifelong friend had already written on this very subject in 1436:
"For their own enjoyment artists should associate with poets and orators who have many embellishments in common with painters and who have a broad knowledge of many things whose greatest praise consists in the invention." (Alberti, On Painting, Book 3)
Thus Alberti provided the ‘license’ for Filelfo to accept for such an undertaking…as a favor for artists, the Duchess Bianca’s artist in Cremona. Moreover Alberti was fresh in Filelfo’s mind in 1451 as he dedicated an ode to Alberti in the same book of odes which opens with the one to Bianca (Thalia, IV.6) ; here he famously wonders at whom Alberti’s Momus, written in 1450, was directed (the presumption is Filelfo feared that it was himself and several scholars have thought that as well although the recent translator of this works tends to think Momus was a figure aggregating the worst humanist personality traits of the time).

Perhaps after the bad quarantine experience in Cremona he did resent the assignment, but again it was quite odd of him to include in the city’s supposed vices the “gaming table” unless he knew the studios there were turning out trionfi. And where after all did Sforza get his decks when in Lodi in December 1450 (a month when travel would be difficult) and yet expected to send out a rider on the 11th and receive the decks back on the 13th unless it was from somewhere nearby (75 km. by car from Lodi to Cremona)? Less than a year later, in November 1452, Malatesta is also asking for a “pack of the famous hand-painted trump cards from the highly praised artisans of Cremona” (Ross’s translation of Pizzagalli). Filelfo was in Cremona precisely in this time period – September 1451 (Robin, 415). What would have vexed him the most is not the bureaucratic treatment by customs officials but someone with the airs to disagree with him about something of which he would be an expert at – something scholarly, or at least with pretensions to being scholarly (a category to which the allegorical trumps can be said to loosely fall). But why in the hell would Filelfo have had even been in the position to have a “scholarly” argument with those of the gaming table…unless he had been asked to do something in regard to the game Cremona had become famous for: trionfi? If trionfi decks had been around since 1440 with the 14 trumps/suits structure, and the Duchess suddenly requests a new version of 21 trumps + Fool for them to execute there would naturally be resistance; but its her city and her commission so of course they accede. But then a pretentious windbag, throwing Latin/Greek phrases around, shows up to inspect your work – the very person responsible for this deviation in the number of cards which affects the very way it must be played. Well, from there its not very hard to imagine Fielfo, who rubbed plenty of people wrong within his own station in life, getting an earful from the “shrewd scholars of the gaming table” who knew better to not ‘fix what isn’t broken.’ Does Filelfo even care how the game must be played now? He was told to add and describe a certain set of subjects to the trumps and he did that. Again, the fundamental question here is: Why the animosity and need to derisively and mockingly call card-makers ‘scholars’ without a personal reason and/or incident being involved?

To summarize this theory again, in a concise timeline within a ~3 year window (the Malatesta reference widens this to four years, but he merely confirms earlier tarot production in Cremona):

December 1448-March(?) 1449: Marziano deck (bought at auction in Milan?) makes it way to Sforza’s camp outside Milan
30 September 1449: Venetian troops abandon Sforza before the gates of Milan, delaying his capture of the city and indicating that Venice is now hostile to him.
11 November 1449: Marcello writes to Isabelle and encloses a Marziano-type deck but merely refers to the original Marziano deck as having been found “last year” which could have been as late as March 25 1450 per their calendar. Clearly this is a diplomatic gift to keep her husband Rene neutral in the forthcoming war between Venice and Sforza, given their break less than two months before
11 and 15 December 1450: Sforza writes for decks of trionfi from Lodi.
25 July to 6 August 1451: Sforza is in Cremona, and among the things he hypothetically does there, aside from the important preparations for war with Venice on this eastern boundary of the duchy, is to commission a deck to extol him as the new duke - a visual complement to the textual propaganda his chancellery had been churning out (works such as those by Filelfo’s protégé, Lodrisio Crigveli’s Series triumphi Illustrissimi Francisci Sfortiae Mediolansensium Ducis; e.g., Fortitude has been completely refashioned from a female virtue to a Roman style imperator in the PMB, lording over the symbol of Venice, a lion, as a key event in the "series triumphi;" I would also note that the d'Abano astrological degree icon that Ross identified as the model for this card accords with the date of the battle of Caravaggio in 1448 - Sforza's greatest victory over Venice before they became allied against the Milanese Ambrosian Republic).
September 1451: I propose that Filelfo is commissioned with the program to be carried out by the Bembo workshop in Cremona and certainly travels there himself (he'll only be allowed to travel to Naples - which most certainly had diplomatic value - after visiting Cremona first).
November 1452: In a year we know tarot decks are in fact being produced there as Malatesta writes Bianca for his own deck.

Certainly all circumstantial, but no other humanist is in the right place and at the right time: in Cremona, right after Sforza and before confirmation that tarot are being produced there the following year. The catalyzing event for this flurry of trionfi activity seems to have been the rediscovery of the Marziano deck. And it is possible that a humanist was not involved with the PMB (even though the precedent of Marziano was just celebrated in Sforza’s camp the year before), but why else was Filelfo sent to Cremona, a city with no diplomatic value whatsoever (it was simply part of the Duchy)? And once there, why does he give a shit about the "shrewd scholars" involved with gaming there?


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