Re: "The 5x14 Theory: An Investigation" part II

mikeh wrote:
(1) The word "Martiano" seems to be printed on the Faith card. Here is what Tolfo says:

"Il mazzo era stato molto probabilmente realizzato al più presto in occasione delle nozze tra Filippo Maria e Maria di Savoia , celebrate nel 1428 , quindi almeno tre anni dopo la scomparsa di Marziano da Tortona. La scritta, ormai illeggibile, accompagnava la figura di un re - re Nino di Ninive, l'idolatra - schiacciato sotto il trono della Fede, il cui manto è intessuto di colombine raggiate. Una carta un po' strana per portare la firma (ma quando mai, purtroppo, i miniatori firmarono le loro opere?) di Marziano, che si sarebbe così identificato con un eretico..

The deck was probably realized quickly at the wedding of Filippo Maria and Maria of Savoy, celebrated in 1428, so at least three years after the disappearance of Marziano de Tortona. The inscription, now illegible, accompanies the figure of a king - king of Nineveh Nino, idolatry - crushed under the throne of Faith, whose robe is woven of doves and fishes. One card, a bit strange to bear the signature of Martiano (but when did, unfortunately, the illuminators sign their works?), who would be so identified with a heretic."

I will ignore the part about Martiano as a heretic, as I don't understand it. I am just interested in the "signature." I Here is the relevant part of the Faith card, cropped from the Beinecke images:


I can make out an m, an a, an r, and a t, all small letters, uncapitalized. There may be letters after the t. And before the m, there may be a space and then some other letters. So we appear to have some kind of homage to Martiano spelled with a t), author of the book explaining the Michelino.
Hello Mike.
Here there are large images of Cary-Yale trumps.
"Colombine raggiate" means "rayed doves", i.e. the Petrarch designed emblem of the Visconti-Sforza, that we recently discussed on ATF. Actually, on the image I can see only the rayed sun (raya): no doves.

About the "heretic", Tolfo is saying that the person below Faith must obviously be an enemy of the true Faith, defeated by Faith herself. So, he must be an heretic. With the same logic, below Hope, you can see the desperate suicide Judas, with the rope around his neck. The Sinagogue was sometimes presented as opposed to Faith, but obviously it does not appear here. I think that another candidate could be Mahomet. But we know (from the crown) that the character represented here is a king.

The only letters I can read are "...ra..." which would exclude also Ninus as the subject. But I may be wrong. Ninus could be a good candidate...see figure 2 here.

I am quite sure that this character has been studied and identified by tarot scholars.
At the moment, I cannot check my books to see if I find a reliable interpretation.


Re: "The 5x14 Theory: An Investigation" part II

This is what I wrote a few years ago about the hope card, not sure if it is helpful or a distraction, but worth mentioning perhaps:
Hope's Hanged Man

Another strange image is present on the Hope card. All three of the Theological Virtues have an image of a man at the bottom of the card. On the Hope card, the man has a hangman's noose around his neck.

This figure is mentioned in the Little White Book that accompanies the deck. It notes the noose around his neck and says:
"At one time the words Juda Traditor were visible on his garment . The virtue of Hope has overcome the traitor Judas, who represents disloyalty and hypocrisy."
Then, under the entry for the Hanged Man, it says:
"Parravicino, in Burlington Magazine (1903) claimed to have seen the legend Juda Traditor on the purple garment of the figure at the bottom of the Hope Card in the Cary-Yale deck. However, the inscription on the Hope card is now illegible. From his observation, Parravicion concluded that the Hope card probably 'corresponds with the twelfth tarot of the man hanged.' "
Personally, I think this is really interesting and important. It tells us a little something about the mind of the creator of the deck, and may indicate a connection with The Hanged Man card and the Traitor Judas, which seems to pop up in several decks of the ages.

It also may point to a link with Giotto's early 14th Century Virtues and Vices in the Cappella degli Scrovegni (Arena Chapel) in Padua, Italy. In Giotto's paintings, the Virtue of Hope is contrasted with the Vice of Despair.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: "The 5x14 Theory: An Investigation" part II

Marco and Robert: After reading your posts, I did a Google search for Nino and Nineveh. Ninus was the legendary founder of Nineveh, a city notorious for its idolatry and rejection of the true God. Nino was a female saint whose intense faith healed the Queen of Iberia (modern Georgia) and thereby caused the Queen to convert to Christianity. The King , still a pagan, was about to slay all the Christians, incluidng his wife, but then the power of the true God converted him. In mentioning Nino and Nineveh, Tolfo may be alluding to the Nineveh Nino/Ninus. The king on the Faith card, if known about when the card was created, may thus have a double reference, to both kings and also the female saint who converted the second king. (; On Nino and Nineveh in tarot, I have found nothing so far.

Putting Martiano on the Faith card for Tolfo is a suggestion that Martiano didn't just die in 1425, but was accused of heresy and allowed to disappear rather than go to trial, thanks to his high-level protectors (or perhaps worse: they just didn't want any publicity). Tolfo sees heresy in other aspects of the cards--she thinks the Emperor and Empress refer to Sigismund and his wife, who founded an "order of the dragon" which gave rise to the Dracula legend (Romanian for" dragon.). The Empress, according to Tolfo on this web-page, expressed a disbelif in angels, demons, heaven, and hell. But to believers, only a demon would deny the existence of demons, obviously!

I still don't quite understand why the artist would want to associate Martiano with heresy, since he is implicating himself in the heresy just by doing the job. Perhaps the idea is that he was ordered to do it against his beliefs, and wrote in Martiano's name as a warning to others about the cards. Perhaps, then, the crowned figure is the duke who ordered the job (among other personages). I am just trying to figure out the logic in Tolfo's remark. To some extent I guess I did think I understood what Tolfo was saying about Martiano. But I didn't want to spend time and effort following out her logic; it all seemed to iffy to me. What was important to me was the possible word "Martiano" here--i still can't think of any other word that fits, unless I am overlooking some idolatrous or heretical king with the letters "mart" in his name, comparable to "Juda Traditor" in the Hope card.

Re: "The 5x14 Theory: An Investigation" part II

Huck: I am finally replying to your post of a few days ago. I had to get together a lot of research on the history of the period 1450-1476, and it took me some time.

First, thanks for the links. I had guessed that the 13 cards in 1422 were extras, to go with the suit cards, but I appreciate the fuller account by Trionfi. I didn’t know about the other link. My Italian isn’t so good without digitalized text and Google’s automatic translator; but I will try to decipher that one paragraph.

The rest of this post is part of a response to your theory that the 6 cards of the PMB by the second artist are all additions, not replacements. In this post I am only going to give one set of considerations, having to do with the Sforza family’s needs and personalities, especially those of Bianca Maria, Francesco, and Galleazo Maria during the period 1450-1476. I will look at other considerations, e.g. visual details in the cards, in a later post.

First let me try to restate (my 2nd try) your theory for the original PMB. (This summary comes partly from your initial posts on the original thread for this topic, on the other forum, and partly from You are saying that the PMB was created from scratch--not from the CY, anyway-by three 15 year olds, possibly aided by the suitor of one of them, at a New Year's celebration in Ferrara 1441. They designed 14 special cards and had them painted by an artist hired for the occasion in Ferrara and paid for by her suitor, Leonello d'Este. A peculiarity of the deck they designed was that it didn't have any virtue cards, because these 15 year olds weren't interested in virtue.

Bianca's father Philippo liked some of these cards but not others. He wanted a deck that blended three of his passions: cards, chess, and Petrarch. He wanted the pawns to be the 7 virtues plus Love, and the other chess pieces to be various important members of society, whom the virtues serve. Seven of Bianca's cards would work well in the first chess row: Angel of Judgment for the castle (rook), Death for one knight, Chariot for the other knight, Pope and Popess for the bishops, and Emperor and Empress for the king and queen. In this row, Philippo would only have to design one card, for the second castle. These same seven cards would serve for 3 of the 6 Petrarch triumphs: Chariot--a lady riding while her lover manages the horses--will serve for Chastity. Death is Death, and the Angel of Judgment is Eternity. Another of Bianca’s cards was Love, which would serve both as a triumph and as a virtue. Finally he could use her picture of a woman and her courting knight; it would be the virtue Justice and also the triumph of Time. The only triumph not accounted for was Fame.

Five of Bianca's ideas he couldn't use (even though two of them were standard symbols of Time, an old man and a wheel). The other rejected cards were an elegantly attired conjurer, a deranged man, and a man hanging from one foot. Philippo set about designing seven more cards, corresponding to the virtues and Fame; then he would have 16 in all, the same as the number of chess pieces. These cards were Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Temperance, Prudence, and Fame. (Sometimes Huck writes as though Prudence and Fame were the same card; but if so the deck is one card short.)

The result was the deck we know call the Cary-Yale, which Philippo gave to Bianca and Francesco as a wedding gift. But Bianca still liked the old idea. So when her husband grabbed Milan in 1450, she wanted a luxury deck based on the girls' original ideas. Francesco obliged with the original PMB, which is the PMB we have minus the 6 cards painted later.

Trionfi offers documentation for this theory: (a) 14 paintings of figures delivered at night (party time) to Bianca Maria Visconti, paid for in January, 1441, Ferrara; (b) a chess club at court in Milan, 1441; (c) Francesco asking his secretary to get him trionfi decks in 1450; (d) five 70 card decks paid for, with lots of gold leaf on them, 1457.

It seems to me that the 14 “figures,” presumably a gift from the man courting Bianca, Leonello d’Este, could have been 14 Ferrara-style proto-tarot subjects, which he might have preferred to those of Milan, or 14 of some other trionfi pattern, etc. Then in 1450 Francesco could well have been thinking of commissioning a luxury deck. What the cards were is the point at issue; they could have been something less luxurious and now lost. The 1457 cards could have been Ferrara-style cards, not Milan-style. There is no reason to think that all cities had the same decks.

If the story were meant as fiction I would say that it lacks plausibility. First, it is a bit of a stretch to suppose that two-thirds of the girls’ cards just happened to fit Filippo’s chess and Petrarch obsession. It is also a stretch to suppose that they would include Death and Judgment without the virtues, the criteria by which one is judged. Also, how is a woman with scales in her hand not Justice? Or did Philippo add that part? And what does such a woman have to do with Time? She is the primary figure on the card, and the knight is merely doing her bidding. It is again a stretch to say that the card, besides being Justice, is about the time it will take for him to win the lady. There is also the issue of the Prudence card. “Four cardinal virtues” is only one way virtues were classified then. There were “three moral virtues.” There is, to be sure, Prudence in Minchiate. But I find no trail of decks between it and the CY.

And there is a larger issue that I want to talk about mostly: the time of the deck’s actual creation, the shift from 1441 to 1450. Even assuming Bianca was indifferent to virtue in 1441, by 1450 she would not have been. She was not 15 any more: she was a 24 year old mother of three, and a duchess with much experience of the world already behind her (see Wikipedia article on her). The three children included a future Duke of Milan and a girl who would need to be married off eventually. More were on the way—8 in all, the last in 1458. They would all need training in virtue. That was what a humanist education was all about. Cards were an educational tool in this program. If the PMB at all reflects the Sforzas’ needs as a family, it would have had cards representing Fortitude and Temperance as well as Justice—the three primary Aristotelian moral virtues. I will document their concerns.

It is clear from Francesco’s correspondence that indoctrinating their children in virtue was very much on his and Bianca’s minds, starting with that of the heir-apparent, who must have already been displaying upsetting behavior. Lubkin (A Renaissance Court p. 24) quotes a letter by the 8 year old Galeazzo, where he tells his father that he is acquiring “letters and [good] habits, and pursuing true and solid glory, so that I will not degenerate from your glorious and divine virtues, which have allowed you to such height of empire.” The boy also asked his father “not to let me lack horses, dogs, birds, or anything else that would please me.” This letter is too candid to reassure a father.

In July 1457, when Galeazzo was 13, his father sent him a letter. “Considering that now you are of an age to know good and evil,” Francesco chose “not to wait any longer to tell you the manners which we want you to observe, so that you may never for any time say you have not had your vices and bad habits admonished and repressed, and that you have never been given the order of life and customs and manners that you have to keep” (Lubkin p. 24f). He then gives his son 10 points of “manners” for Galeazzo to obey. Lubkin summarizes them as follows:

(1) “To be devoted to God”; (2) to be “reverent and obedient” to his mother grandmother, tutor, and “every other wise and virtuous person”; (3) “to be reverent and modest” at home or elsewhere and always to honor guests; (4) “to be honest and humane in speaking with everyone, according to their rank, quality and condition”; (5) “not to play with irons, stones or sticks” or to “persevere in anger and hatred”; (6) not to commit “any act of cruelty nor of arrogance” but to use “magnanimity, justice, and clemency”; (7) “not to be hungry for those things that are not worthy or necessary, and not to want all the things that are not worthy or necessary, and not to want all the things that you see and that come into your mind”; (8) neither to lie nor to encourage slanderers, “because the customs of the household which are not laudable bring infamy to the patron”; (9) to be moderate in eating and drinking; and (10) “because you delight in horses and have to use them, see that you never ride a horse with a hard mouth, nor one which has bad feet or which bucks.” (Lubkin p. 25)

This list covers the moral virtues in the CY well, virtues also present in the Michelino “virtues” suit. It does not mention Fortitude or Strength, but does talk about not being cruel or arrogant, dangers connected with the improper exercise of Strength. It also does not mention the dangers of Pleasure, specifically the vice of Lust; well, Francesco himself had numerous affairs. There is also no mention of specific theological virtues. Galeazzo did not have a problem going to church and other outward displays of piety. He went to church every morning, loved church music, and even was murdered in church.

Of course the boy’s behavior continued to be a disappointment. There was, for example, the incident in 1459 when Galeazzo refused to follow protocol and dismount while escorting Pope Pius II In 1460 Francesco admitted that his son “fears no one and does whatever enters his head” (both Lubkin p. 26 ). Well, they had 7 other children.

Virtuous conduct, or at least conduct that appeared virtuous, was also important for the family’s ability to maintain power, from 1450 on. Francesco had no legal claim to the Dukedom; a vote by some townsmen facing starvation was no legal argument. In fact, Sforza’s ambassadors’ main argument at home and abroad was “the virtus and other qualities of Francesco Sforza himself. …Francesco Sforza is praised not only for his military prowess, his innumerable victories, etc., but also for his integritas, iustitia, and clementia, the qualities associated with the ideal ruler. He is in fact portrayed as a model of virtus and sapientia, who will, by the exercise of these qualities, bring peace and civil order to a divided society” (Gary Ianziti, Humanistic Historiography under the Sforzas, p. 31). Ianziti describes an extensive propaganda campaign to keep the nobles and outside political powers from unseating him. It includes generosity to those who had opposed him but changed their minds; only those who represented a continued menace were imprisoned; the die-hard republican Decembrio was allowed a gracious exile.

I would not be surprised if the holes we see at the top in the CY, PMB, and other PMB-style cards were not made then, in this crisis period 1450-1464 (when he finally got an alliance with Louis XII of France, per Ianziti p. 22). To display the decks on state occasions would have been good propaganda. They would show the continuity between the old and the new, reminding their viewers that the Visconti line did not die out, but continued on the maternal side, and with people who valued the traditional virtues. They could see one old deck, celebrating Visconti’s 1428 marriage (or so some might assume, given the Love card’s banners), and at some point another similar deck celebrating its repetition in the current generation but with Visconti and Sforza emblems. (I am not saying that the CY was created in 1428. I am talking about appearances. For all the evidence I have seen, the CY may have been created in 1452, simulating the world of 1428. Francesco actually stooped to forgery once, according to Ianzita, p. 31, producing a document attesting to be Filippo’s “donation” granting him the dukeship.)

I think I can also explain why 2-3 of the cards would have been replaced rather than kept like the rest. For one card, Fortitude, the reason is clear enough. Francesco would not have approved such an image as a man looking rather like him clubbing a poor lion to death or submission. It is the very vice he cautioned his son about. True, he was the most successful military man of his generation; but after 1450 all he wanted was to keep the Duchy running as before. That was his appeal and his hold on power (one that his sons unfortunately did not follow, dreaming of higher things). He was threatened on all sides by attack, for being a usurper. In reply his was the image of peace; to secure it, he organized “the first great modern peace conference (Lubkin p. 19), in 1455. But even after that, “the period of 1457 to 1463 might be described as one of the most critical” (Ianziti p. 67). In this context, a card such as the PMB’s clubbed lion would have been an insult and a provocation to those not part of the alliance. The original PMB card, in my opinion, was similar to the CY’s: a courageous but physically weak female winning the cooperation of a powerful but grateful lion (like that of St. Jerome); the lion would be the nobility of Lombardy and the city-states allied with Milan, the woman Bianca Maria Sforza.

But once Francesco was dead, his son Galeazzo Maria could well have commissioned such a card (Ross mentions this possibility, Galeazzo was the one who initiated plans for a mammoth equestrian memorial to Francesco after his death (Izansiti p. 142). He had a “cruel streak,” says Wikipedia, with graphic details. At one point he bought a tame lion for his little son (in Lubkin). I hesitate to think what kind of show Galeazzo might have put on in making it do tricks. He ruled by fear and feared everyone (Lubkin). It would not have been beyond him to portray his father in the same light, great physical force overcoming great physical force.

As for Temperance, I think that one, too, was a remake. The CY had a Temperance card. I see no reason why Sforza decks in the 1450’s would not have continued with it; the virtue is mentioned in Francesco’s rules for his son. The subject was popular in other cities: both the d’Este and the Charles VI have it. As to why it would have been replaced, I suspect that Galeazzo wanted to change the face on the card, so he could tell one or more women that he was honoring her. As Huck says, we see the same face on two of the new cards, Star and Moon. (I will say more about that face in another post.)

Then there is the card I call Glory, otherwise known as World and Fame. Looking back at Francesco’s correspondence already quoted, I can indeed imagine the card’s being dropped until something better could be put in its place. Galeazzo had worldly fame on the brain (at the expense of prudence), and Francesco didn’t like it. The CY card did not stand clearly for “eternal fame” as opposed to “worldly fame,” achieved by reckless means, if Trionfi’s identification of the little man in the boat is accurate. On the other hand, some glorification of Niccolo Piccinino (the man in the boat) continued to be worthwhile, not to mention of Francesco, the knight on the bank. Nicollo was already dead, but in the 1450’s Giocamo Piccinino led the main opposition to Francesco within Lombardy, the so-called Braccian party (Ianziti p. 26). So Francesco and Bianca went out of their way to grant the family status and recognition—in 1462 they even married one of his illegitimate daughters to Niccolo Piccinino’s son Jacopo. So maybe the original PMB card was like the CY’s. Alternatively it could well have been omitted, until after the Piccininos ceased to be a threat. Or it had some other design deemed unsuitable later.

By1465 Giacomo and Jacopo Piccinino were both dead, Jacopo at least by murder in Naples (Lubkin p. 82). Niccolo’s name could now safely be blackened. Ianziti shows how in the 1480’s, for a new edition, the official Sforza history of the period, Simonetta’s Commentaries, was rewritten to turn Piccinino’s adventures against him (p. 228). He certainly no longer needed to be on the card. The second artist’s PMB “World” fit the times.

The “three luminaries” are new cards, two featuring the lady of Temperance and one with a child, although in a sense they are also remakes of the three theological virtues. I will discuss them in more detail, including the people on these cards, in another post.

My theory, such as it is, puts the PMB in the context of the Sforza family of the 1450’s through early 1470’s: the original PMB, perhaps in stages, was done during the time Bianca and Francesco were raising their family and achieving stability for the regime, 1450-1466; developing directly out of the CY, it had anywhere between 13 and 17 cards. Then Galeazzo redidt at least two cards (Fortitude and Temperance) and introduced up to 4 new ones.

I so far haven’t given any date for when the original PMB was done, or its stages, or for that matter the CY (other than 1441-1465 for the original PMB, 1466 or later for the additions, and after 1428, but before the original PMB, for the CY). To do so would require examining specific cards in the context of known artwork, events, and writings of the time and earlier. I will get to that in a later post. We also have to bear in mind that these particular cards were likely not the only ones in existence; there were other, cheaper decks used for actual play, and some of the evolution of the deck might have taken place there. And there are other PMB-style luxury decks to consider. The PMB is the tip of the iceberg. In this post I have only been considering the needs and personalities of the Sforza family 1450-1476. They are incompatible with Trionfi’s theory, at least concerning the original PMB.

I should say something about how the Popess and the Hanged Man might have come about, in a way that does not depend on chess analogies. Since they are unorthodox cards they may have been added to the original deck, painted by the same artist at a different time. The Sforzas had Boccaccio’s Of Famous Women in their library (Franklin, Boccaccio’s Heroines, p. 12, at Google Books). It includes an account of the life of the legendary Pope Joan. In Boccaccio’s account, God only gets angry when she becomes Pope. Then God “abandoned to her own devices this person who boldly persisted in doing what should not have been done” (illam indebita audentem nec sinentem suis in minibus liquit Famous Women pp. 438-439, ed. and trans. Brown), perhaps implying that God helped her before that. There were many manuscripts, including one in the Visconti-Sforza library. The Boccacci illustration of Pope Joan posted by Ross shows some similarity to the card ( Besides Joan, there was Sister Manfreda, the Visconti ancestor, the “Popess” burned at the stake in c. 1300 Venice. The resemblance of the PMB Popess to Giotto’s Faith or Justice, c. 1305 Padua, may in part have been to help us recall that other nearby time and place (for the PMB Popess, see previous citation to Ross); for Giotto, see Like these two models, and probably some abbesses she knew, Bianca was a strong woman, an able administrator, diplomat, and perhaps even military leader (see Wikipedia). She gave her daughters the finest education available.

As for the Hanged Man, he is another exercise in ambiguity, appropriate as the children got older: Don’t take appearances at face value, and temporary humiliation at the hands of others is not always a bad thing in the larger picture: look at grandfather Muzio. As usual, Galeazzo missed the point; in 1466 he posted images on the city gate of a friend of his who offended him “in the usual way,” meaning upside down (Lubkin p. 32).

Before I write much more, Huck, I have a favor to ask. In an earlier post on ATF, Ross mentioned a recent article by Dummett, in which in the last two-thirds of a page he maintains that both artists of the PMB did their work in 1462-1463. Ross forwarded your summary, from Trionfi; but I would really like to see his own words, just that part of the article. This is not to doubt your summary; it’s just that in general I like to see primary rather than secondary sources, when available. (And well, when someone who isn’t a native speaker of one language summarizes something written in another language, maybe I do wonder if the whole meaning was represented exactly.) There may be copyright considerations here. If so, then just quote the part about 1462-1463 as the date. Or suggest how I can get the article myself. Thanks.

Re: "The 5x14 Theory: An Investigation" part II

hi Mike,
I reflect a few things
mikeh wrote: You are saying that the PMB was created from scratch--not from the CY, anyway-by three 15 year olds, possibly aided by the suitor of one of them, at a New Year's celebration in Ferrara 1441. They designed 14 special cards and had them painted by an artist hired for the occasion in Ferrara and paid for by her suitor, Leonello d'Este.
The CY didn't exist as an influence, but possibly other undetected influences. The whole has the character of a research, just collecting that, what might have influenced the situation.

Basicly Bianca Maria was a single child, and the Visconti in younger generation hadn't too much children. She was send to another court, what also happened to other children. This children exchange had often the character of a political guarantee for no hostile action. Filippo wished to have the confidence of Niccolo d'Este in 1440. So Bianca Maria went to Ferrara. Now just this court was a court "with many children" and naturally with rather different organisation around this many children. Filippo was lonesome in self-protection mode, likely he to some degree made all familiary occurences to lonesome actions. Now Bianca Maria stumbled into this household , which was very alternative to that, what Bianca Maria had seen from the world before. Children, children, children, and even two girls of same age. This was wonderful, Bianca Maria was 15 years old. She even became godmother and the babe was named after Bianca Maria.
The whole triggered her motherhood energies, she married and one child followed the other - this with a man of the same explosive sexual character as Niccolo d'Este (what she accepted in most cases without problems) and a similar complex family, the Sforzas.

Ironical nearly none of the many children at the d'Este court got many children themselves - with the exception of Ercole. Probably all had in their childhood the basic impression of "too much other children" and a feeling for missing personal parental protection. Indeed many died young, and if they didn't die, the husband was dead soon. Borso got the dukedom for 20 years and he was even not married. In his period the Ferrarese household was turned from bottom to top in comparition to Niccolo d'Este's time.

So we have to conclude, that Bianca Maria was happy in Ferrara, and we learn this specifically by the condition, that later the opportunity was taken, that Tristano Sforza, one of the elder children of Francesco Sforza, married the girlfriend Beatrice d'Este, which then left her young son Niccolo in Ferrara and went herself to Milan, becoming there the second lady after Bianca Maria. How influential this lady-in-the-background (who many reports about the Sforza simply overlook) was, we learn, when we hear, that the deciding reconcialiation between Bona and Lodovico in 1478 was done by her mediation. An it is not astonishing, that she had for herself very comfortable and elitary appartements in 1493 ... the deal, that Lodovico married the younger Beatrice should go back at least partly to her influence. From all persons she should have had the best overview over the glorious time of the Sforzas in Milan, she had an insider position and survived all others, Bianca Maria with 29 years. When she died, the Sforza-Milan died soon later with some not satisfying come-backs later.

.. .-) ... if we knew, what she knew about Trionfi cards, we probably hadn't a problem about the history. In all our calculation and fixation on our object we shouldn't overlook, that Trionfi cards were a humble minor part of the costs for the general household, and that actually we're a little crazy, to give it this importance.
A peculiarity of the deck they designed was that it didn't have any virtue cards, because these 15 year olds weren't interested in virtue.
This is only a conclusion around 3 corners or so.
Definitely the 14 Bembo cards have only one virtue, Iustitia, and this special allegory might have been not intended to be a common virtue, but a specific feministic virtue of a Justice in matters of love (in a Lombard interpretation), descended from the poetical court of Valentina, Bianca Maria's aunt, developed in Christine de Pizans "Cité de la Dames".
Also definitely we have 4 virtues in the fragment of the Cary Yale Tarocchi - they're reason enough to assume, that this deck had 7 virtues, as we know them, maybe in a somewhat specific interpretation.

For the "14-figure-note" of 1.1.1441 we have no information about the content. We know, that the filling of the content fields in Trionfi card arrangements can totally contrast, it might have been an edition with totally different ideas - this is in the given situation not the most probable solution, but anyway might have an outsider chance of 10-15% probability, considering the real existence of totally contrasting editions like Sola Busca Tarocchi, Boiardo Tarocchi poem, Michelino deck, Mantegna Tarocchi, Guildhall-Goldschmidt-cards, Minchiate. They're many unusual versions and they have a great part of the relative few informing documents, that we have from 15th century.
For the given situation of the factors ...

A (Michelino, unusual deck)
B (unknown 14 figure of 1441)
C (Brera-Bambrilla, gives not much information, but tends to be comparable to Cary-Yale amd 14 Bembo trumps))
D (Cary Yale Tarocchi)
E (14 Bembo trumps)

... we have the somehow justified hope (with insecurities), that a comparition of Cary-Yale and 14 Bembo cards leads to informations about the objects from 1.1.1441.

Now in the ideal case these 14 figure would be simply the 14 trumps of Bembo, or at least rather similar. Naturally this possibility exists and it even might be a little stronger than the alternative of "total contrast". But a consideration of the enjoyment in experiments observable in the time of the Trionfi might give the preference in probability, that some some elements of theknown 14 cards were there and others not.

We've contrasts between Cary-Yale and 14 Bembo cards:

1. The Cary-Yale follows chess ideas - as the Michelino deck. It follows matrix ideas, but the matrix is subordered to chess by adding female pages and female knights
2. The 14 Bembo cards follows structural matrix ideas, ignoring chess - 5x14 deck, associated to common card structure (4x14)

1. The Cary-Yale has a clear interest in virtues - generally the deck is sincere, beside the funny interpretation of the Fame card
2. The 14 Bembo cards have only one "special virtue", but partly "funny" figures, which don't appear in the reconstruction of Cary-Yale

There is reason to assume the "father's taste" of Filippo in the Cary-Yale Tarocchi, and to assume Bianca's taste in the Bembo cards.
A marriage is a generell serious matter (with deep symbolic meaning) and it is not astonishing to find a serious construction in the deck, not dominated by "funny" things. A religious moment, in which it is wished, that anything might proceed with the help of God. So: "7 virtues" for a holy moment.
A deck, with which really is played at the card deck, has to survive some jokes and loud words and sarcastic moments. A constant reminding of the 7 virtues would really disturb the fun a little bit. The actual 14 Bembo cards are in their taste "not unserious", but actually also in accordance to matters, which make the life at the card table.


7 virtues (4 really, 3 reconstructed) = 7 of 8 pawns in chess
Emperor + Empress = King and Queen
Fame + Judgment - both with Towers, both with trumpets (Rooks)
Chariot + Death - both on horses (Knights)
Love - the 8th pawn
(2 further cards missing, difficult to determine) = advisor or Bishop position in chess

14 Bembo cards

1 feministic virtue Justice, the rest is stripped
playing card rules: "calling a king" is a rule in Königsrufen (Tarock-variant), the player invites another with a specific king ... also exists the "Armut" (="poverty", Doppelkopf), a specific rule, by which a player with only few trumps (with 21 trumps it should be 3 or less) can ask the other players to become his partner. If somebody agrees, the "Armut" player exchanges his few trumps with the cards offered by the partner and the game can start. A logical rule, cause it hinders very worse luck with the cards. The unusual chosen motif (knight in background with a poor lady asking for "Justice") would be nice

Emperor - Empress (also in Cary-Yale)
added Pagat + Papessa
that's simply a prolongation of ordinary playing card rules, also relevant for Tarock and Tarot games

Kings = 4 (5) points
Queens = 3 (4) points
Knights = 2 (3) points
Pages = 1 (2) points

That Emperor (= chief of the Kings) got the number 4 in the Tarot and Empress (= chief of the queens) got the number 3 is a clear tribute to other (probably) already existing rules, which found a strong realisation in European playing card rules - it's a sort of basic, that you learn immediately, when starting with playing cards - it might be far less common, if you play in English/American context, where trick-counting is dominant (as in bridge, as in spades). In Germany you have King = 4 points, Queens = 3 and Jack = 2 (the knight is missing) and games of trick-counting unusual. English/American card playing didn't exist at the relevant time, but German card playing existed, so it could influence the situation. We've not enough information to confirm with 100 % security, that King = 4 and Queen = 3 existed, but it's simply "very probable".
Johannes von Rheinfelden counted in his prefered deck ...

15 = King
14 = Queen
13 = upper Marshall
12 = Maid
11 = lower Marshall
this deck had 5 court cards, later the 4 court cards versions were dominant.

For the Tarot trump version (emperor-empress-papessa-bagatello) the "upper marshall" was diminished, for the general 4x14 version (Italian cards) the maid was reduced. The Italian 4x14-version was surely not influenced by the "3 girls of Ferrara", but the choice of "Papessa" instead of "maid" might have been, especially as there had been really a larger interest in the figure of Guglielma (teacher of Manfreda) by Bianca Maria and probably also on the side of Beatrice d'Este for specific reasons. We researched that once.

Pope - Love (marriage)
The pope doesn't marry ... the Lovers do

In a game of 4 players, there are some logical alternatives.
1. Two players unite against two others
the uniting process can be ruled by different systems.
a. at begin of a series of games, possibly by a lot. United players sit mostly always on opposing sides of the table and 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th place (bridge, spades).
b. at begin of a single game, normally united by a bidding process, which in its character might variate (some Tarock variants)
c. decision of pairs by an accidental moment, usually the possession of two specific cards (for instance trump/trump queen) after the dealing process. The partnership has possibly to be declared at the begin or alternatively during the game in the moment, when the cards are played (the whole is especially developed in Schafkopf/Doppelkopf, but appears also in other rules)
--- combinations of these features are possible.
Especially the c-alternative has necessary further developments, if it happens, that the both partner-identification cards are in the same hand; in such a case the further may be decided as in Doppelkopf by the players decision to seek a partner (he then declares "Hochzeit" and declarers a condition, which shall select the partner) or by saying nothing - in the latter case he plays a "hidden Solo", cause the 3 others do not know the game condition, which turns obvious in the moment, when the second ipartner identification is played.

2. Everybody plays against everybody ... (hearts, Ramsch-variants)

3. 1 against all others (in socalled "Soli", which can be defined)

The case mentioned under 1. might refer to the Love card, the cases 2. and 3. would be summarized under Pope.

... :-) ... well, it turns me a little stupid to explain such trivial things, which I learnt 35 years ago ... .-) ... Why don't you learn a little German and play Doppelkopf online? Or Schafkopf? Or a little piece of the many Tarot variants?

Enough of this stuff. You see, that the question gets another face, if you take players perspective.

Re: "The 5x14 Theory: An Investigation" part II

Hi Huck: German card-playing sounds out of my league, but fun. However I don't see the relevance of your discussion of German four-handed card games. I thought tarocchi was a game for two or three people. When Galeazzo wrote home from Ferarra in 1457, he said he was playing tennis and trionfi with Francesco Pico, the man his father gave the responsibility of watching over him (Lubkin, A Renaissance Court, p. 309). These sound like two person games.

And in the earliest set of rules that we have for tarot, the “Regle” of 1637 it was a two-person game, with a "dead" hand (La Mort) that could if desired allow a third person to play:

“Mais avant que d’entrer plus avant dans le détail de ce jeu, il me semble à propos de dire qu’il n’y faut estre que trois personnes au plus, & qu’il n’est pas fort agreable a deux, estant mesme encore necessaire d’y en supposer un troisiesme que l’on appelle le Mort, duquel l’on tire selon le hazard autant de cartes que les autres font de mains pour estre emportées par celuy qui est le plus fort.” (

(But before going into further detail on this game, it seems fitting to say that there must be three people at most, and it is more agreeable for two, being at then necessary to suppose a third called the Dead, which is dealt by chance as many cards as the other hands, to be taken by the one who is strongest.”)

These rules are probably as old as the words "tarocchi" and "tarot" themselves--i.e. 1500-1510--if not older. That's why the name came into use-to distinguish the game played with these cards from other trick-taking games. In 1450, it probably would have been simpler than in 1500: a children’s game designed to inculcate moral lessons, develop strategic thinking, and test their ability to utilize the memory-systems then in vogue.

Re: "The 5x14 Theory: An Investigation" part II

hi Moke,
mikeh wrote:Hi Huck: German card-playing sounds out of my league, but fun. However I don't see the relevance of your discussion of German four-handed card games. I thought tarocchi was a game for two or three people. When Galeazzo wrote home from Ferarra in 1457, he said he was playing tennis and trionfi with Francesco Pico, the man his father gave the responsibility of watching over him (Lubkin, A Renaissance Court, p. 309). These sound like two person games.

And in the earliest set of rules that we have for tarot, the “Regle” of 1637 it was a two-person game, with a "dead" hand (La Mort) that could if desired allow a third person to play:

“Mais avant que d’entrer plus avant dans le détail de ce jeu, il me semble à propos de dire qu’il n’y faut estre que trois personnes au plus, & qu’il n’est pas fort agreable a deux, estant mesme encore necessaire d’y en supposer un troisiesme que l’on appelle le Mort, duquel l’on tire selon le hazard autant de cartes que les autres font de mains pour estre emportées par celuy qui est le plus fort.” ("
... :-) ... well, my French is not the best, but I think, in 1637 "it's best played with 3 or more and not very interesting with two". But perhaps ask Ross for a translation, he lives at France ... .-)

No, and generally that's today not very different.
the general page ...

... and here we've French Tarot:
Tarot is a trick-taking game in which the partnerships vary from hand to hand. It is most commonly played by four players, and this version is described first. However it is also common for five to play, and it is also possible for three; the necessary modifications will be described at the end.
And, spoken as a player, the game with 4 is most attractive, the play for 3 is taken, if you don't have 4 players and the game with 5 is done, when you've one player too much. The game with 5 is just the same as with 4, as the "dealer sits", in other words he takes a pause, usually.

You translated:
"(But before going into further detail on this game, it seems fitting to say that there must be three people at most, and it is more agreeable for two, being at then necessary to suppose a third called the Dead, which is dealt by chance as many cards as the other hands, to be taken by the one who is strongest.”)
"il n’est pas" is a form of negation (indicated by the "n") like "it is not" or "it isn't"
These rules are probably as old as the words "tarocchi" and "tarot" themselves--i.e. 1500-1510--if not older. That's why the name came into use-to distinguish the game played with these cards from other trick-taking games. In 1450, it probably would have been simpler than in 1500: a children’s game designed to inculcate moral lessons, develop strategic thinking, and test their ability to utilize the memory-systems then in vogue.
... :-) ... good, that we talked about it, there is no other way to lose the errors.

The point is, that the game Tarot (in its essence) could exist (and probably existed) before any specified Trionfi cards were painted. The development to the specific iconography was guided from the wish to mark the trumps in a specific way. But trumping existed, probably already in 1377, in the time of Johannes of Rheinfelden. And probably already before this date.

Re: "The 5x14 Theory: An Investigation" part II

I have found it frustrating that there is no English translation of these rules on the Web. Tarotpedia gives up trying when they hit this paragraph! All I find is Wickson's paraphrase (thanks to Hurst's blog), at He has:
The author of the original document (assumed to be Abb=E9 Michel de Marolles) recommends the game for no more than three players and also claims it is not very pleasing for two as a "dummy" or "phantom" player, here termed "le Mort", (not to be confused with "La Mort" or the Death Trump) is deemed necessary to play the missing third hand.
From this, it would seem that I translated the second part incorrectly but not, if Wickson is right, the first part, as he reads the French as saying that the game is for "no more than three players." I guess I don't know what "il n’y faut estre que trois personnes au plus" means.

For myself, I was relying on Google's automatic translator for that part (using it on Flornoy's modernized French text of the Rules at ... -1637.html): " But before going further into detail on this game, it seems fitting to say that there must be three people at most, and it is not agreeable to both, as well still necessary to assume a third is called the Dead..." (Given Google's translation of the second part, I have no idea why I messed it up further. I do know a little French.)

Other automatic translators say something similar. Yes, these translations are not to be relied on. Neither is either of us.

Re: "The 5x14 Theory: An Investigation" part II

Meanwhile I will proceed as though I knew what I was talking about. I have been working on a way of dating the relevant Milanese decks. Here is what I have come up with:


In a previous post, I was assuming that the original PMB was done in the time period 1450-1466, when Bianca and Francesco were raising their children. Now I want to narrow that time span further, to 1452-1456. I also suggested that the additional cards were after Francesco’s death in 1466. I want to go further and suggest that the cards were done between 1468 and 1473. I am going to use what I think is a relatively novel approach to dating the cards. I will be trying to determine what member of the Sforza family is actually being depicted on a particular card, and at what stage in his or her life is the depiction being made (as opposed to what stage in life is being depicted). This method is an obvious one, and there are good reasons why it has been avoided in the past: inaccessibility of many likenesses, misidentification in Kaplan’s Encyclopedia, and at least one misleading likeness. All that in due time.

An important detail is the face of the male figure on many of the court cards. Here I refer to the website, created by Maike Vogt-Luerssen with both English and German pages. On the page ... antegna101 is a series of portraits of Galeazzo Maria Sforza; many show him as one saint or another, but she also includes the PMB Knight of Batons. It is obvious from the other images in the series that this figure is the young Galeazzo on a white horse. He looks to me about 11, We cannot assume that the card was done when Galeazzo was the age he appears on the card, because the figure there could have been painted from a likeness made earlier. But we can at least say that it was not done much before he was that age, certainly not before age 8. Thus we have 1852 as a lower limit for the card. Here is one image of Galeazzo along with the Knight of Batons. (If you are not convinced, please go to the web page at for more.)



In 1459, when Galeazzo was 15, he was painted on his white horse in a Florentine fresco, "Journey of the Magi to Bethlehem" (below). Galeazzo did in fact visit Florence in 1459. He has a leaner face than on the card.


In the PMB, the same figure on his white horse appears again in the Justice card (bottom right, first below). There are also cards where he appears older, say 16: e.g., the King of Swords (top right, first below) and the King of Cups (second below). But these portraits on the cards seem to me not taken from life. In real life, Galeazzo had a thinner face at that age, as we see from the painting of him on his horse (above) and in armor (left, first below).



(Since there has been some discussion of the Sola-Busca's snail-hat image on tarot forums, I had to include Galeazzo's version of the same thing, with other bizarre devices thrown in.}

So it would seem that these King cards were not done in 1459, but rather at the same time as the other cards, Knight of Batons and Justice, where he looks about 10-11. Age 12 might be an upper limit here. Any earlier and the painter would not have gotten such a lifelike image on the horse. Much later, he would have painted the more mature Galeanzo realistically. So we get a time period 1452-1456 for the original PMB.

I would have liked to have obtained additional information about the dating from the women on the PMB cards. They are similar in part to the comparable ones in the Cary-Yale cards, and in part to some of the Bianca Maria images at ... 6.html#759. For the paintings that are similar to the cards, it would be helpful to know when the artwork was done. There is no information about date or artist on Vogt-Luerssen's website; Hopefully, it is in her book, Die Sforza I: Bianca Maria Visconti - Die Stammmutter der Sforza.

Tarot researchers have apparently been misled about how Galeazzo looked. For one thing, the most familiar painting of Galeazzo Maria, seen on Wikipedia (, in Kaplan (Vol. 2 p. 104), and elsewhere, shows him with a bent or hooked nose. He did not have such a nose, at least in the images that Vogt-Luerssen offers. She says that this painting was done so as to portray him as a descendent of the hook-nosed first Duke, Gian Galeazzo Visconti. Another miscue is a painting reproduced in Kaplan's volume 2, identified as Galeazzo's son Gian Galeazzo reading (Vol. 2 p. 105). Although that figure looks like the PMB horseman, Gian Galeazzo at that age would have been far later in time than anyone has given for the PMB. According to Vogt-Luerssen, the painting is of Galeazzo Maria. The resemblance is clear, both to the figure on the PMB cards and to the other various likenesses of Galeazzo. However I have yet to verify Vogt-Luerssen's work.



The main way in which I would date the cards by the second artist is by the woman on the Temperance, Star, and Moon cards. She does not look like the other ladies on the cards. She might simply be Bianca Maria again, painted in a later style (in which case my argument for why it was replaced would be wrong). I also considered Galeazzo's mistresses, Lucrezia Landriani and Lucia Marliani (the links are on Galeazzo's page at None of their portraits looks much like the cards.

But a more promising candidate is in the artwork below right ( From left to right, the three ladies, according to Vogt-Luerssen, are Galeazzo's sister Ippolita as St. Lucia, his wife Bona as St. Catherine of Alexandria, and his sister Elisabetta as St. Mary Magdalene. They were together only once, July of 1468 for Galeazzo’s wedding (Lubkin, A Renaissance Court, pp. 53, 64). Next to them I have put the PMB Moon card:


Among the three, my vote would be Elisabetta. She died in 1472 at the age of 16, shortly after childbirth (Lubkin p. 118). Perhaps the cards are Galeazzo's memorial to her. He had been the one to arrange her early marriage (Lubkin p. 81) to a man five times her age; perhaps he felt guilty. Of the three cards, the Moon is especially poignant. It shows a dejected maiden holding a crescent moon in one hand and a broken bow (Kaplan Vol. 1 p. 72) in the other. The only reference I can find to broken bows and the Moon is in Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls, where Diana's virgins break their bows in regret at the years in her service (Complete Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, p. 346, in Google Books). Such irreverence toward chastity would have appealed to the lustful Galeazzo. But the result in Elisabetta’s case was disastrous. The Duke, Lubkin tells us, “concerned himself particularly with the deaths of persons who belonged by blood or marriage, such as his sister Elisabetta” (p. 150). And in fact a “massive service” was held (p. 151). Perhaps the cards were by way of a special memorial.

Elisabetta as saint appears older than 13 or even 16. That is the art of the painter. She is also plumper than the lady on the card. This difference might be explained by two letters excerpted by Lubkin. In February of 1467 Galeazzo told her that “if she put on a little flesh, she would be much more beautiful than the lady duchess, her sister” (Renaissance Court p. 43; the sister is Ippolita). Then from October of 1469, here is Lubkin’s paraphrase and quotation from another letter: “With Galeazzo, ‘she was ordinarily eating meat four or five times a day, which totally ruined her complexion.’ In Montferrat, she was ‘eating more correctly,’ gaining weight, and generally doing better than ever” (p. 81).

For the Sun card, I cannot resist posting one of Vogt-Luerssen's images, one of several similar ones. She says it is of Bianca as the Virgin Mary and son Galeazzo as the Christ child (


The Christ child's face looks very much like that of the child on the Sun card. In fact the whole body does, except for the Sun child’s muscles. If we knew when this painting was done, it might set a lower limit on when the card was done.


Besides the PMB, there were numerous similar decks, of which only a few cards of each survive. When were they painted? I think the Bonomi deck is instructive in this regard. Below, the Bonomi card is at the right, and the PMB on the left. The Bonomi King of Cups is hard to make out, so I have included one more version, the Biedack card (Kaplan Vol. 1 p. 105), to the left of the PMB. Another similar version, except facing left, is the von Bartsch (Kaplan Vol. 1, p. 101), not shown:




What is interesting is that the Bonomi World card is quite similar to that of the PMB, but Justice is not, nor is the King of Cups. It is as though the artist wanted to change the identities of the King of Cups and the young man on the horse in Justice. It is no longer Galeazzo. Yet clearly the same artist painted all three Bonomi and probably also painted, or at least copied, the PMB World.

But whose face is on the Bomoni cards? I see two possibilities: Galeazzo’s younger brother Ludovico, at the top right below, and Galeazzo’s son Gian Galeazzo, at the bottom right (images from


On the outside, the upper medal says “Ludovico, Dux Bari.” He could not call himself Duke of Milan until Gian Galeazzo died in 1494. Officially he was only the Count of Bari. These two medallions were probably done around the same time. Gian Galeazzo looks in his early twenties; he died at age 25. Since he was born in 1469, the medals were done in the early 1490’s. At that time his uncle Ludovico, born in 1451, was in his 40’s. My pick for the man on the King of Cups card would be Ludovico in the early part of his reign, which started in 1479.

Since Ludovico was born in 1452, his rule would have commenced when he was 27. Here is how Ludovico looked in his 20's (from


Thus on the Justice card, the horseman has changed from blond to dark hair. Ludovico was called “Il Moro” precisely because of his dark hair and other features. These cards would have been painted after the transition to the new de facto duke after Galeazzo’s death. Since the ruler changed, the identity of the King of Cups and the Justice horseman also changed. The switch not only helps date the later decks; it is further evidence that Galeazzo is on the earlier Justice and King of Cups. (Galeazzo is also edited out of the other von Bartsch court cards, although I won’t take time here to show the contrasting images for these five cards.)

Thus it appears that there was a 15-20 year gap between the two artists of the PMB. Dummett has recently posited that both artists, whom he identifies as Bonifacio and Benedetto Bembo, worked at the same time on the PMB, c. 1462-1468, according to Huck's summary in an earlier post on ATF. Such a scenario, it seems to me, would destroy the artistic integrity of the work, in the way that Scalpini's re-creations do for the Cary-Yale sold by US Games: who would accept Scalpini if Bembo was available? For this reason it is more probable that the second artist worked on complete decks, except for the PMB itself. The suggestion that the second artist was Benedetto Bembo makes sense to me. His figures are more rounded than his brother's, as are the cards by the PMB second artist, who would likely be the artist of the Bonomi as well.

Ross, in calling Dummett’s article to my attention on ATF, posted this example of Benedetto's work, in what Dummett calls “the Ferrarese style”:


Another reason for thinking that the two artists worked at different times is the condition of the cards. The six added PMB cards are physically in much better shape than the original ones, especially the green in the foreground. The only one in comparable shape are the Popess and the Empress, but there isn't much green in them. Oddly, the green in the upper portions of the original cards is in better shape. I don’t know the explanation, but something happened to the green at the bottom of the original cards that did not happen to the cards by the later artist. Or vice versa. Perhaps the workshop had learned better methods for preparing and applying tempera.

You will notice that the Bonomi World card is similar to the PMB World. Either they had the same artist or the Bonomi is a good copy. It might be that the two putti are the two brothers, Galeazzo and Ludovico, and the resemblance of one to Galeazzo was to obscure to edit out. Or they might just be putti--it is hard to tell. Some features on the faces look to me like those of adults, suggesting that they might be depicting particular individuals.


The last decks I want to consider are the Cary-Yale and the Brera-Brambrilla. Vogt-Luerssen's images have shown how the Viscontis and Sforzas liked to have themselves painted as famous religious figures with whom they could identify. It seems to me that this practice provides one perspective on when the CY was done.


On the one hand, the banners on the Love card seem to me clearly meant as heraldic devices. Even if other people used the white cross on a red background, here it suggests Savoy: who else with such a device did a Visconti marry recently? And according to Tolfo the clothes are those of 1428 (although I see the same clothes in later work).

Yet it is impossible for the deck to have been done in 1428. One hint is the fountain on the man's coat; the fountain was a Sforza device, and Sforza was not in the picture in 1428. Fountains also appear on all the Staves court cards. And another Sforza device appears on the suit of Swords: the “Sforza quince or branch bearing leaves and flowers” (Kaplan Vol. 1 p. 107). Correspondingly, Visconti devices appear in Cups and Coins.

Perhaps, one might argue, they are generic fountains and branches, and it is only a coincidence that Sforza had those device. Other evidence is in the suit of Coins. Real coins with the Visconti rearing horse, which we see on both the CY and the BB painted coins, were not introduced until 1436, according to Tolfo.

But how much later than 1436 were these coins painted? Let us look at them in the context of the actual coin done in the 1336-1441 period compared with a similar coin minted in 1450. Here the Visconti coin is on the top left, the Sforza coin in the top right, the Brera-Brambilla on the bottom left, and the CY on the bottom right:


It seems to me that the coins on the CY Coins suit are more similar to the 1450 design than the one earlier. In the case of the reverse images, I have found images only of the Visconti coin and the two painted coins on the BB and CY. We can at least see that the painted coins are different from the actual coins.


(Ross, in an earlier post on ATF, supplied the images of the Visconti coin; the others come from "Andy's Playing Cards," ( and )

Another point that bothers me has to do with the CY Chariot. In a wedding procession, either both would be on top, or both would be walking with the parents on top. Yet here the man walks while the woman rides. It is as though the man were leading the woman in victory to her prize. Famously in that time, Francesco did not have a triumphal parade into Milan, but rode on horseback with his men, who were carrying bread for the besieged populace. The triumphal entry is on the Chariot card. It is Francesco on horseback leading Bianca into her rightful ancestral home, Milan. That event in 1450 makes the card memorable. Yet they are the same pair as in the Love card, which has the devices from 1428.


What we may have, it seems to me, is Francesco and Bianca in 1451 or 1452 portraying themselves as Filippo Visconti and Maria of Savoy in 1428 and also as themselves in 1441. Identification in the image supports identification in real life. It could be the same family in two generations, like Galeazzo having himself painted with the features of GianGaleazzo, to show that it is the same family repeated through the generations. And the white cross is both Savoy’s device in 1428 and Sforza’s in 1450, when as Count of Pavia he acquired the right to the same device (Kaplan Vol 1 p. 106). In 1441 that device would not have been appropriate, as neither Bianca nor Francesco was entitled to it then.

In that case, when Francesco was inquiring about trionfi decks in 1450, he had in mind the CY and not the PMB. It would either be a new creation, a Christianization of the deck described in the Martiano manuscript, or a reconstruction of a deck originally designed by Filippo and either lost or never executed.

And then when the original PMB cards were done, the theme repeats, just to reinforce the identification. The couple on the Love card is the same, with the same Cupid overhead. And one thing is stressed even more: in the CY the man may have been slightly shorter than the woman. In the PMB, he is clearly shorter. He is the subordinate, the vassal. The woman is the familial power, and thus the one through whom the inheritance of power descends, a generative power emphasized both by her higher stature and the green glove.


However this is only one possibility. It remains possible that the coins on the cards (as opposed to the real coins) were designed by someone ahead of his time, and Filippo did indeed have the deck made in 1441 expressly for the wedding. Then the man in the Love card could be both Filippo and Francesco, and the woman both Maria and Bianca. So we have Maria's device of the cross, Filippo's of the serpent, and Francesco's of the fountain on his front. And on the Chariot he, as her conditierre, manages the horses while she, as the aristocrat and high lady, is on top. But there remains so much we do not know.

Finally, what about the Brera-Brambilla? The curved swords in that suit make it appear older than the CY. But this may just be the preference of whoever commissioned the deck. The coins are the same as the CY's, suggesting a similar time. Tolfo says the clothing is of a later period than the CY. I have not seen many of the court cards; again that might have been the preference of the one commissioning. If one can choose what saint one wants to be, certainly one can choose one's clothing style. For dating purposes, such choice only shows that the card wasn't made earlier than the time of the style.

In summary, this method of dating yields the following results: Brera-Brambilla and Cary-Yale, c. 1452 (based on coins and merging generations, less probably, 1441); PMB original, 1453-1456 (based on young Galeazzo); PMB added cards, 1468-1476 (based on the lady and continued appearance of Galeazzo); Bonomi, Biedak, and von Bartsch, 1479-1485 (based on Ludovico).

Re: "The 5x14 Theory: An Investigation" part II

hi Mike,

for ...
the conclusions of the author are by far in any point always compelling or "accepted by everybody".

More: the author occasionally changes her attributions (we've observed it more than once). The altered versions are similar "suggestive" as the older versions. She doesn't give info about the pictures and don't give hints, if an attribution is insecure, at least at the website. As she wishes to sell her books ... she said, that nearer details would be in the books.

She has read much and shown much engagement. So her attributions are often interesting ... but nothing to rely upon.

A letter exchange Malatesta to Bianca Maria, Bianca Maria to her husband Francesco, Francesco to Malatesta (if this last letter ever existed ?) is recorded for either 1451, 1452 or November 1452 (our informations contradict) and probably based only on the surviving letter Bianca Maria to Francesco.
In it it seems, that a Cremonese card production had established (probably in 1451/52) ... so far the 14 Bembo cards are considered.

Indeed we have in August 1453 a Milanese Trionfi festivity - possibly done, as the earlier Trionfi festivity (March 1450), had been a little improvisional, especially cause it was followed by a devastating plague in Milan, which is said to have taken 30.000 lifes the same year.
However, short before the Trionfi activity new hostile movements occurred and Francesco himself couldn't attend.
So it's possible, that these cards were intended to accompany this event. Though - the theme of the 1453 event was an "old Roman battle" ... and we don't recognize the theme on the cards.

Generally Sforza had hoped to get acceptance by the Emperor, who visited Italy and approached end of 1451 (so perhaps for this opportunity he had made cards). But the emperor refused the acceptance and showed the cold shoulder.
More lucky was Borso (who had become Signore of Ferrara in October 1450) and who was successful to buy the duke's title for Modena and Reggio in spring 1452. Borso also started to produce Trionfi cards in 1451. From Florence it might be assumed, that there were produced Trionfi cards either in late 1450 or in begin of 1451. In Siena are recorded Trionfi cards only for 1452 (the emperor met his bride in January in Siena).
The pause of some Italian peace (between the wars) ended quickly, when the Emperor left Italy in late spring 1452.

So far the matters of the 14 Bembo cards.

The Brera-Brambilla was given always to the period of Filippo Maria, not to the Sforza period - as far I know. As it has only 2 trumps, which as motifs might be called very common (an Emperor, a wheel), it might even be the rest fragment of a sort of Imperatori game.

For the six added cards: These were produced in our opinion in May 1465, in the preparations of the bride's journey to Naples (the considered bride is Ippolitta). The actual reasons:

In 1466 the term "Minchiate" appears for the time in Florence, reflecting a sort of "new kind of Trionfi deck" made probably short before.
The Medici changed their heraldic in May 1465 - "seven palle" were altered to "6 palle" and one of the palle was allowed to carry the French Lille. The dramatic background: the new king French Louis XII had gotten trouble with Burgundy and some of the French nobility and was near on the edge to loose its kingdom. So he needed urgently help of his Italian friends (Sforza and the Medici) to survive. As part of the deal, which included militaric help of the Sforza and money from the Medici, the heraldic change of the Medici was realised in haste.

Already the older heraldic was connected to virtues (probably 7 virtues), now the question arose, what one wished to express with 6 palle. The family had recently finished the paintings in the Medici chapel, which had its topic in the triumphal march of the 3 holy kings ... indeed we have for the year 1465 a triumphal festivity in Florence recorded with "3 holy kings" topic (no date known). The kings are relatable to Star-Moon-Sun, especially as one of the kings was a black king. 3 virtues remained connected to 3 additional heraldic feathers, just Justice was missing (as in the cards).
The motifs were chosen in a haste, the three-fold girl at Temperance - Star - Moon is rather boring. The Florence delegation to the wedding of Ippolita was lead by the very young Lorenzo, who was on a sort of initiatory personal triumphal march through Italian cities, presenting himself as a young men and heir of the Medici influence. In this slower approach to the festivities in Milan he also crosssed Ferrara.
Meanwhile in France the actual political decisions had fallen. The news of France might have reached Lorenzo during his stay in Ferrara.
It is reported, that Lorenzo left Ferrara "too late" for unknown reasons, at least his father was not satisfied with him. Naturally Ferrara could fulfill the wish for a few playing cards (they were known to solve such problems), but anyway, even that needs some time.
Art history later developed the opinion, that the additional 6 cards were made in Ferrara cause "Ferrarese style" was recognized.

So it seems, that 6 Medici cards, made in Ferrara, arrived more or less punctually the wedding preparations in Milan. Lorenzo left a good impression and accompanied the bride towards Florence, where the now greater delegation of the bride's entourage spend some time during the Giovanni festivities (24th of June). Things became complicated later, when Jacop Piccinino was killed by Ferrante in Naples and Sforza stoppped the entourage for some time. The bride arrived Naples very late in the year. Lorenzo had accompanied it only till the Florentine border.

... .-)
Another point that bothers me has to do with the CY Chariot. In a wedding procession, either both would be on top, or both would be walking with the parents on top. Yet here the man walks while the woman rides. It is as though the man were leading the woman in victory to her prize. Famously in that time, Francesco did not have a triumphal parade into Milan, but rode on horseback with his men, who were carrying bread for the besieged populace. The triumphal entry is on the Chariot card. It is Francesco on horseback leading Bianca into her rightful ancestral home, Milan. That event in 1450 makes the card memorable. Yet they are the same pair as in the Love card, which has the devices from 1428.
If the card is from 1441, it would hardly reflect an event which took place 1450 ... and the bread was distributed at an earlier opportunity, Francesco surely didn't wait till 23rd of March 1450 to distribute it.

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