The Chinese in Florence in 1434??

#1
There's a highly questionable book called 1434 by Gavin Menzies about a Chinese visit to the court of the Pope in Florence in 1934 (where Eugenius moved it in that year) - spurring many of the inventions of the Renaissance. While the objections to this book are huge, he mentions that Paulo Toscanelli (a close friend of Nicolas of Cusa) in his infamous 1474 letter to Fernão Martins (and later one directly to Columbus), reported having long conversations with a Chinese ambassador to Pope Eugenius in Florence. However, there doesn't seem to be any additional confirmation of a Chinese delegation arriving in Italy during this period. Menzies attributes a large number of early Renaissance inventions to this Chinese trip. While this may be absurd, it made me look at some of the indications of Chinese travel that may have led to the idea of playing cards being spread directly by the Chinese (rather than through India). The book, The archaeology of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa by Timothy Insoll mentions trade between China and Africa from 960 to 1279 and the many Chinese artifacts found in Africa. He also talks about the several journeys of Zheng He to Africa starting in 1418. [Menzies claims that Zheng He (or others under his command) traveled from Alexandria to Venice to Florence in 1933-1934. Menzies also thinks that the idea of playing cards may have been spread by sailors on Chinese ships. We know that the Indians of North and South America learned about playing cards from the Spanish conquistadores.]

Chinese trade with Persia around 850 CE
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/ ... all-text/1

A Chinese merchant ship from around 1200:
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009- ... 575992.htm

Anyway - the new knowledge coming from the Chinese shipwrecks is fascinating and worth taking a look at.

Mary

Re: The Chinese in Florence in 1434??

#2
Mary Greer wrote:There's a highly questionable book called 1434 by Gavin Menzies about
Questionalbe is an understatement, I perused it in a bookshop and e too much that I knew about was wrong; and Wrong about the things I know about, I don't trust for those I don't.
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: The Chinese in Florence in 1434??

#3
Questionable is an understatement.
I agree with you, but I really don't know enough about the subject, which is why I've been looking some things up. In fact, that's often what a book like this will do. It spurs interest and presents information about people of the time that I never would have run across otherwise and prompts more research. None of my other books on the Italian Renaissance (mostly art, culture and literature) go into such detail showing the development of machinery from Jacopo Taccola to Francesco di Giorgio to Leonardo da Vinci for instance, nor the suprising parallels with the drawings of the Chinese - even if they were entirely independent inventions. Plus I didn't know about the early Chinese sea trade with Persia - did you? And I discovered the ship from 1200 that's being excavated in a museum in China.

Or, how about this quote from the Venetian Senate, Oct. 11, 1441:

"Whereas, the art and mystery of making cards and printed figures, which is in use at Venice has fallen into decay, and this is in consequence of the great quantity of printed playing cards and coloured figures, which are made outside Venice, to which evil it is necessary to apply some remedy in order that said artists who are a great many in family, may find encouragement rather than foreigners: let it be ordained and established according to the petition that the said Masters have sought, that from this time on, no work of the said art that is printed or painted on cloth or paper—that is to say, altar pieces, or images, or playing cards or any other thing that may be made by the said art, either by painting or by prints—shall be allowed to be brought or imported."

although Menzies doesn't seem to understand the difference between printing woodblocks and Gutenberg (he's a little vague about printing) - it's still worthwhile to have this quote, which may help explain why no early decks of Trionfos are native to Venice.

Re: The Chinese in Florence in 1434??

#4
I was hoping someone would take this up Mary, but it's early days yet.

I have a 'thing' about the Chinese and the Mamluk (cards), I'd love to know more - but there is so little documentation/records.
Plus I didn't know about the early Chinese sea trade with Persia - did you? And I discovered the ship from 1200 that's being excavated in a museum in China.
Now that is interesting!

Bee.

Re: The Chinese in Florence in 1434??

#5
I've come across this story in relation to Toscanelli, but I haven't tried to get to the bottom of it.

It seems to be spurious, coming from a Chinese chronicle that mentions the term for France, Fulin or Farang, and then assuming that the same word means "Florence".
Mary Greer wrote:
Or, how about this quote from the Venetian Senate, Oct. 11, 1441:

"Whereas, the art and mystery of making cards and printed figures, which is in use at Venice has fallen into decay, and this is in consequence of the great quantity of printed playing cards and coloured figures, which are made outside Venice, to which evil it is necessary to apply some remedy in order that said artists who are a great many in family, may find encouragement rather than foreigners: let it be ordained and established according to the petition that the said Masters have sought, that from this time on, no work of the said art that is printed or painted on cloth or paper—that is to say, altar pieces, or images, or playing cards or any other thing that may be made by the said art, either by painting or by prints—shall be allowed to be brought or imported."

although Menzies doesn't seem to understand the difference between printing woodblocks and Gutenberg (he's a little vague about printing) - it's still worthwhile to have this quote, which may help explain why no early decks of Trionfos are native to Venice.
Note that the word mistranslated "mystery" here is "mestier", which just means "profession".

Foreigners means non-Venetian; not only Germans, but probably Bologna and Florence were making a lot of cards then.

You may be right that this law, assuming it was enforced, prevented the game of Triumphs gaining popularity in Venice. One prominent Venetian, Jacopo Antonio Marcello, knew the game early (1448) while in Milan, and it was played at his home in Monselice around 1460 (Monselice is a little south of Padua). So we may assume some Venetians knew and played it, maybe even in Venice, quite early, but no native production took place. However, some people attribute the Met Museum/Budapest type cards to Venice (Eastern, B or Ferrarese order), so I guess there is a chance that this is the Venetian pattern.

Ross
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