Isabella d'Este and playing cards


Extracts with playing card notes ... 6_djvu.txt

P. 48 / 1490 (?)

With the more immediate members of her hus-
band's family Isabella soon became a great favourite.
Both her brother-in-law, Monsignore il protonotario,
as Sigismondo was styled, and the young Giovanni, a
merry lad of sixteen, were from the first her devoted
slaves. Giovanni especially took part in all Isa-
bella's amusements, and kept up a lively corre-
spondence with her when she was absent from
Mantua. But, of all her new relations, the one
whom Isabella admired the most and loved the best
was her sister-in-law, Elisabetta. From the day when
the young Marchesana arrived at Mantua, a fast
friendship sprang up between these two princesses,
which was destined to prove as enduring as it was
deep and strong. " There is no one I love like you,"
she wrote to Elisabetta in the ardour of her affection,
" excepting my only sister, the Duchess of Bari "—
Beatrice d'Este. And through all the changes and
turmoil of the coming years, through the political
troubles and fears and plots which tore Italy in
twain and divided households against each other,
Isabella's friendship for her beloved sister-in-law
never altered.
The two princesses had much in common. Both
of them took especial delight in music and singing.
Both were studious in their tastes, and showed the
same kindly interest in painters and scholars. Isabella
was more than three years younger than the Duchess,
who had reached the age of nineteen at the time of
her brother's wedding. She was more brilliant and
witty, quicker at gay repartee and merry jokes. And
she was also more talented and many-sided in her
tastes. In future years she took an active part in
politics, showed herself a skilful and able diplomatist,
and was a match for Caesar Borgia himself. Elisa-
betta was graver and more thoughtful. She had
neither the physical strength nor the striking beauty
and high spirits of Isabella. But her sweetness and
goodness inspired those who knew her best with
absolute devotion. She was adored, not only by
her husband and brothers, but by the most brilliant
cavaliers and distinguished men of letters of the age,
by Baldassarre Castiglione and Pietro Bembo.

On this occasion Elisabetta remained at Mantua,
by her sister-in-law's especial wish, till June. Dur-
ing the frequent journeys of the Marquis to Venice,
the two princesses were inseparable companions. To-
gether they sang French songs and read the latest
romances, or played scartino, their favourite game at
, in the pleasant rooms which Francesco had
prepared for his bride on the first floor of the Castello,
near the Sala degh Sposi. Together they rode and
walked in the park and boated on the crystal waters
of the lake, or took excursions to the neighbouring
villas of Porto and Marmirolo. By the middle of
March, the Duchess's health was sufficiently improved
to venture on a longer trip, and on the 15th, Isabella
wrote to her absent lord : " To-day, after dinner, with
Your Highness's kind permission, the Duchess of
Urbino and I are going to supper at Goito, and to-
morrow to Cavriana, where the wife of Signor Fra-
cassa (Gasparo San Severino) will meet us, and on
Thursday we are going on the lake of Garda, accord-
ing to Your Highness's orders, and I have let the
Rector of Verona know, so that we may find a barge at
Sermione." A few days later she wrote from Cavriana
to inform her husband of the success of their expedi-
tion. " The Duchess of Urbino and I, together with
Signor Fracassa's wife, went on Thursday to dine
at Desenzano and to supper at Tusculiano, where we
spent the night, and greatly enjoyed the sight of this
Riviera. On Friday we returned by boat to Sermione,
and rode here on horseback. Wherever we
went we were warmly welcomed and treated with the
greatest attention, most of all by the captain of the
lake, who gave us fish and other things, and by the
people of Salo, who sent us a fine present. Tomorrow
we go to Goito, and on Tuesday back to Mantua."
So for the first time Isabella saw the lovely shores of
Garda and the lemon groves of Salo, and lingered in
the classic gardens of Sermione, charmed with the
delights of that fair paradise which she was often to
visit in years to come. "These Madonnas," wrote
one of the gentlemen-in-waiting, Stefano Sicco, from
Cavriana on the 20th, "have been indefatigable in
making excursions by boat and on horseback, and
have seen aU the gardens on the lake with the
greatest delight. The inhabitants have vied with
each other in doing them honour, and one Fermo
of Caravazo caused his garden to be stripped for the
Marchesana and her party and loaded them with
lemons and pomegranates."

p. 88 / ca. 1490

"But one little
looking towards the lake, in the corner
of the Castello, near the Palazzina or annexe
added on by Isabella's son, Federico, at the time of
his own marriage, still retains traces of the original
decorations planned by the young Marchesa. Here
we still find remains of gilding and ultramarine on
the barrel- vaulted ceiling, and recognise the Gonzaga
devices carved on the frieze of delicately inlaid wood-
work. Here too, finely wrought in gold on an azure
ground, are the musical notes and rests which were
Isabella's favourite emblem, the impresa or device
which she loved to wear on her embroidered robes,
and the playing cards tied in packs together with
the mystic numbers
to which Paolo Giovio and other
contemporaries allude. This charmingly decorated
little room was, there can be little doubt, the
which is so often mentioned in Isabella's
letters, the peaceful retreat where she and Ehsabetta
Gonzaga spent their happiest days, surrounded by
the books and pictures, the cameos and musical
instruments which they loved. "

p.123 / ca. 1495
"Francesco himself had little time to spare, and in a
short letter of the 28th of August he tells his wife
that he is continually on horseback day and night,
and wonders that his strength holds out, but asks
her to send him some playing-cards, that he may
occasionally distract his thoughts with a game of
. Besides the task of directing military
operations, he had great difficulty in keeping peace
between the Italians and Germans, who were con-
tinually quarrelling, and in a sudden brawl which
he describes to Isabella, as many as one hundred and
twenty men were slain."

p. 206
February 1502, wedding Alfonso-Lucrezia Borgia

Then the acting began. " My father," continues
Isabella, "brought in all the actors, and showed
us the costumes which have been prepared for the
five comedies, to show us that the dresses had
been made on purpose, and that those which were
worn in one comedy would not have to be used
again. There are in all one hundred and ten
actors, men and women, and their clothes are of
cendale (a fine silk) and camlet. The leader of the
troop appeared in the character of Plautus, and ex-
plained the argument of the five plays, the ' Epidico,'
the ' Bacchide,' the ' Miles gloriosus,' the ' Asinaria,'
and ' Cassaria.' After this we passed into another
hall, and about six o'clock the first play began.
Neither the verses nor the voices struck me as very
good, but the Moresche dances between the acts
were very well danced, with great spirit. . . . The
last was danced by Moors
with lighted torches in
their hands, and was a fine sight. It was not over
till past ten, and then every one went home to
The Marchesa evidently found these prolonged
festivities very tedious, and at the end of this
letter she adds a postscript in which her real feelings
are expressed.

"I will not deny that Your Excellency, in my
eyes, enjoys far greater pleasure in being able to see
my little son every day, than I find in these festes.
If they were the finest in the world, they would not
please me without Your Excellency and our little
boy. But I will not believe that he has forgotten
me already. If he does not remember me out of
affection, he must remember me if only because he is
kissed so often ! So I hope Your Excellency will be
sure to kiss him a few more times for love of me !
Don Alfonso and the bride slept together last night,
but we did not pay them the usual morning visit,
because, to say the truth, this is a very cold wedding !
I hope that my person and suite compare favourably
with those of others who are here, and we shall at
least carry off the prize of the card-playing, since
Spagnoli has already robbed the Jew of 500 gold
. To-day we are to dance till four o'clock, and
then see another comedy. — Your wife, Isabella."
Feb. 3.

p. 225 / 1502

"A week afterwards, Francesco left home to attend
some races in the neighbourhood, and Isabella's letters
as usual were full of fond allusions to the child's
cleverness and charms. "The boy always seemed
intelligent," she writes on the 4th April, " but since
Your Excellency's departure, he surprises me every
hour with his pretty ways, and seems determined to
keep me amused in your absence. He sits in your
place at meals, and plays a thousand other tricks,
which I do not tell Your Excellency lest I should
excite your envy." Again, two days later, she wrote :
" Yesterday, when I was saying my office, he came
in and said he wanted to find his papa, and turned
over all the cards till he found a figure with a beard,
upon which he was delighted, and kissed it six times
over, saying, ' Papa hello ! ' with the greatest joy

p. 262 / 1503
"While these strange events were thrilling the
heart of Italy, and one Pope was succeeding the
other at the Vatican, Isabella remained at Mantua,
directing the government in her husband's absence,
and much occupied with her little son. On the
12th of November, she took the three-year-old child
to see an Italian comedy, the " Formicone," adapted
from Apuleius, acted by some pupils of Francesco
Vigilio, who held a public school in Mantua, and
whom she had already determined in her own mind
to choose for Federico's tutor. The performance was
admirable, and Isabella in writing to her lord, tells
him that " a son of our steward distinguished himself
in the part of a servant, and will be of great use in
our comedies, while Federico was surrounded by a
fine troop of children." But the Marquis disapproved
alike of Messer Francesco and of his comedies, and
wrote back rudely that Isabella need not take
Federico to those plays and encourage Vigilio's
hopes of having the child for a pupil, since he meant
the boy to have little book-learning, and acquire that
little from other teachers, and hoped soon to take
him out to fight at his side and make a man of
The day on which Isabella attended the
representation of Messer Viglio's comedy was marked by
another event, as we learn from her brother-in-law
the Protonotary's letter to the Marquis.
" Yesterday I went with this illustrious Madonna
and Signor Federico to the school of Messer Franceso,
whose scholars recited a fine comedy exceedingly
well. It was a very pretty sight, and pleased us all
highly. Afterwards we drove as usual to take the air
in the town, and returned to the Castello about
five o'clock; and Madonna sat down to cards to
spend the evening after her usual custom, and played
till after eight.
Then she rose from the table and
told me that she would not come to supper as she
felt pains, and went to her room, and we sat down
to table, and I supped in the Castello. And before
we had finished, the said Madonna gave birth to a
little girl, and although we greatly desired a boy,
yet we must be content with what is given us."
This fourth daughter who was born to Isabella
received the name of Ippolita, and became a nun in
the Dominican convent of S. Vincenzo. "

P. 271 , 1505

Yet another member of this brilliant group,
whose name lives in Castilione's immortal pages,
and who, like him, sang the praises of the gentle
Duchess, was also intimately connected with Isabella
d'Este. This was the Venetian Pietro Bembo, who
came to Rome in the spring of 1505, on a mission
from the Doge and Signory, and was sumptuously
entertained by the Duke and Duchess, in their anxiety
to make some return for the hospitality which they
had received at Venice during their sad days of exile.
Isabella was already well acquainted with Pietro's
father, the old Podesta of Verona, and with his brother
Carlo, whose palace she had visited in Venice, and who
had lent her some portraits of Petrarch, Dante, and
Boccaccio, which she wished to have copied at Mantua.
In January 1503, Isabella begged Pietro to accompany
his friend Ercole Strozzi to Mantua, but at that time
he had been unable to accept her invitation, which
thus, in his courtly phrase, rendered him at once the
happiest and most miserable man in the world.
Again, in October 1504, Bembo was on his way to
visit Mantua, when he heard, on arriving at Verona,
that Isabella had been summoned to her dying father's
bedside. The Marchesa renewed the invitation early
in April, and Pietro wrote from Venice, saying that to
visit Mantua was one of the greatest wishes of his
heart, but regretting that as yet he is unable to wait
upon her. " Since, however," he adds, " I cannot come
myself, I send Your Highness, by Zuan Valerio, part
of my family, that is to say, three youths who have
not yet left the house, and commend them humbly
to Your Excellency's good offices." The three
sonnets of his composition, which Bembo enclosed,
were highly appreciated by Isabella. She was still
better pleased when, two months later, their author
presented himself at Mantua on his way back to
Venice, with letters from Elisabetta and Emilia Pia,
who availed herself of this opportunity to send the
Marchesa a flask of myrtle scent. On this occasion
Isabella showed her cultured guest the treasures which
she had collected in the little room in the old Castello,
with their delicately inlaid woodwork, and frieze of
music notes and playing cards
, and the new studio of
the Grotta in the Corte Vecchia, where her choicest
pictures and marbles were arranged. There Bembo
saw Michel Angelo's sleeping Cupids and Mantegna's
two priceless paintings, the Triumphs of Venus and
of Pallas, as well as Perugino's Triumph of Chastity,
which had lately arrived from Florence, and promised
to try and induce his friend Giovanni Bellini to
paint a similar fantasia for the Marchesa's camerino.
He saw Isabella's rare books and manuscripts, the
dainty Aldine editions of Virgil and Petrarch, in the
production of which he had helped the great Venetian
printer ; Messer Lorenzo's wonderful organ and viols
and ebony and ivory lutes, and all the rich stores
of antique cameos and medals which were Isabella's
proudest possession. Isabella herself, as she wrote to
tell Bembo's friend Tebaldeo, was delighted to see
how much her illustrious guest appreciated all her
treasures, and charmed him by singing some of his own
songs to the music of her lute. After his departure
Bembo sent her the following letter, beginning, after
his usual custom, with the words Jesus Christus : —

" I send Your Excellency, my dear Madonna and
most honoured mistress, ten sonnets and two some-
what irregular tramotti, not because they are worthy
to come into your hands, but because I wish that
some of these verses may be recited and sung by Your
Signory, remembering with what surpassing charm
and sweetness you sang the others, on that happy
evening which we spent together, and knowing that
my poor compositions can never attain to greater
honour. Most of the sonnets and both the tramotti
are quite new, and have not yet been seen by any one.
I must confess that they will not, I fear, answer Your
Signory's expectations, any more than they satisfy my
wishes. But I know that, if they are sung by Your
Signory, they will be most fortunate, and nothing
will be needed to delight the listeners except the
beautiful and charming hand and the pure, sweet
voice of Your Most Illustrious Highness, to whose
good grace 1 never cease to commend myself. Your
Signory will deign to commend me to my Lady Alda
Boiarda. — Of Your Illustrious Signory the servant,
PiETRO Bembo." Venice, July 1, 1505.


Whatever it means, it seems, as if Isabella was a collector of playing cards and she had them at her "holy place", her famous studiolo. It seems, that the cards parted a frieze with music notes and device and impresa ("frieze of delicately inlaid woodwork")

There is a German playing card deck of Floetner, which in its most elegant form survived, cause a person from Ferrara bought it and replaced the usual aces with cards with his own heraldic (probably Francesco d'Este, a brother of duke Ercole d'Este II., who had been 1541 in Nürnberg). The backside of these cards showed a collection of music notes with German folk songs. So again we have here music notes and playing cards together, and this in the collection of a nephew of Isabella d'Este.

The article says ... " the playing cards tied in packs together with the mystic numbers to which Paolo Giovio and other contemporaries allude."
Well, I would like to understand that ... which "mystical numbers"? And where to did Paolo Giovio (a biograph) and others allude?

Isabella is said to have shown a considerable engagement in music ... ... amme.shtml

... perhaps we have to understand, that the playing cards in this holy frieze were generally used as a notebook ... for instance for a music collection. At least this ...

"Ockeghem’s canon 'Prenez sur moy ' comes from an impeccable Mantuan source: Isabella so admired it that she had it painted as a frieze around the walls of her chamber!"

Here is something, but I don't know, if this is the true object .. ... 02+2+&cr=1

This is given as the studiolo, but the studiolo is said to have been moved after 1519. ... 02+1+&cr=0 ... 02+1+&cr=0

Re: Isabella d'Este and playing cards

From Cartwright, "Isabella d'Este, marchioness of Mantua, 1474-1539; a study of the renaissance", vol 2 ... j_djvu.txt

Francesco Gonzaga (end 1515 / January 1516)
The excellent tutor's description of Federico's
tastes and habits agrees with all we know of this
prince in after life. Without ever attaining to his
mother or brother Ercole's love of learning, he was
decidedly more cultured than his father or Gonzaga
uncles, and from his boyhood he inherited the Estes'
passion for chivalrous romances, of which he made
a large collection in future years. Now, at the age
of fifteen, he asked nothing better than to leave his
books and seek fresh experiences at the gay court of
Milan. Here he found a gracious reception and was
invited to accompany Francis I. to Vigevano. The
Venetian envoy, Contarini, describes Federico as a
handsome and graceful boy, who entertained the
young patricians in his suite at a feast that was
equally remarkable for good cheer and good com-
pany, and sent them away charmed with his courtesy
and amazed at his feats of horsemanship. The young
prince took an active part in the royal hunting
parties and games at palla. His letters to his mother
give a lively picture of His Most Christian Majesty
joining in the game of palla in as vigorous a fashion
as any football player of to-day, giving and receiving
blows in the scuffle, knocking over his courtiers,
and coming into violent collision with the tall and
athletic Gonzaga prince, Federico of Bozzolo, amidst
the laughter of the bystanders. But Isabella's son,
who had barely two hundred ducats in his purse,
found it quite impossible to accept the king's invita-
tion to play cards with him, and win or lose hundreds
of ducats in a single game.
(* M. Sanuto, Diarii, xxi. 296, 329).

The young king was much fascinated by the
beauty and rich attire of the Milanese ladies, and de-
sired Federico to ask his mother, of whose taste and
charms he heard so much, to send him a wax doll
clad in the Mantuan style, with the pattern of
robe, vest and sleeves worn by herself, and hair
dressed in the same fashion, so that the French
ladies might be able to copy them. Isabella re-
plied : " We will gladly send a figure arrayed m
all the fashions that we wear on our backs and heads,
to please His Most Christian Majesty, but fear he
will see nothing new, as here we dress exactly in
the same style as the Milanese ladies."^ It was a
more serious matter when Francis I. expressed the
keenest curiosity to see Brognina
, the fair but frail
maid-of-honour whose flirtations had already excited
so many quarrels, and actually sent the Bishop of
Nice with a forged papal brief to bring her from the
convent at Gdito. Fortunately a band of Spanish
cavaliers, whose help Brognina implored, waylaid the
party, and compelled this worthless prelate to beat an
ignominious retreat.^ In spite of this discreditable
affair, Federico succeeded in retaining the king's
favour, and Isabella consented reluctantly to allow
her son to return with him to France in January.
On this journey, as before, Federico was accom-
panied by his trusted servant, Stazio Gadio,
who in his letters to the Marchesa describes the
king's entry into Marseilles, where the life of St.
Louis was represented in a series of tableaux. At
Aix, scenes from the Old Testament were performed
in his honour, while at Avignon Federico witnessed a
dance of Jews and Jewesses, and a curious representa-
tion in which three figures, clad as St. Peter, Martha,
and Mary Magdalene, came out to welcome the
king's return, as of old " they had rejoiced over the
resurrection of Lazarus ! " During the next spring
and summer, Federico remained at the French court,
and accompanied Francis I. to Blois, Amboise, and
his other royal chateaux.
1523 (?)

To the same period we may ascribe the beautiful
suite of Camerini on the upper floor of the same build-
ing, known as the Paradiso, from the lovely views
which it commands over the terraced gardens and wide
lakes. These four little rooms which Isabella kept
for her private use still retain much of their original
decoration — ^the finely carved wood-work, the azure
and gilding of the ceiling, the delicately inlaid panelling
of the walls, and the doors of richly coloured marbles.
Here, between intarsiatura views of cities and palaces,
we recognise her favourite devices and mottoes, the
musical notes and rests, and the words Nev spe nec
which supplied Equicola with a subject for his
treatise, the altar supporting a lyre, the candelabra
with the letters U.T.S., which Paolo Giovio interprets
as Unum sufficit in tenehris, and the Lotto cards
with the mystic number XXVII., vinti sette, signify-
ing that she had vanquished all her foes
— which
motto, adds the Bishop of Nocera, " seems allowable
in so great a princess."^ Here we see the white
marble door adorned with medallions of antique
myths, of Orpheus and Athene and Calliope, by
the hand of the great sculptor Cristoforo Romano,
which was brought here from the Marchesa's Studio
in the Castello, as wll as another marble door of
later workmanship, which was probably executed by
the Venetian Tullio Lombardo in 1523.


1523, death of Giovanni Gonzaga [count of Vescovedi]

That summer [1523] Isabella and her family were once
more thrown into mourning by the death of her
brother-in-law Giovanni Gonzaga and his wife Laura
Bentivoglio, who both died in the same week, the one
in the last days of August, the other on the 4th of Sep-
tember. Giovanni had always shown himself the most
loyal of subjects to his brother and nephew, and his
house in the BorgoPradella had been the scene of many
pleasant family gatherings. The loss of this honest
and genial prince was deeply regretted by Isabella,
and even more by Duchess Elisabetta, who was ten-
derly attached to her youngest brother, and had little
in common with his sons. The eldest, Alessandro,
was chiefly notorious for his quarrelsome temper and
inveterate love of gambling, and wasted both his time
and patrimony at cards


Re: Isabella d'Este and playing cards

For the above mentioned text ...
1523, death of Giovanni Gonzaga [count of Vescovedi]

That summer [1523] Isabella and her family were once
more thrown into mourning by the death of her
brother-in-law Giovanni Gonzaga and his wife Laura
Bentivoglio, who both died in the same week, the one
in the last days of August, the other on the 4th of Sep-
tember. Giovanni had always shown himself the most
loyal of subjects to his brother and nephew, and his
house in the BorgoPradella had been the scene of many
pleasant family gatherings. The loss of this honest
and genial prince was deeply regretted by Isabella,
and even more by Duchess Elisabetta, who was ten-
derly attached to her youngest brother, and had little
in common with his sons. The eldest, Alessandro,
was chiefly notorious for his quarrelsome temper and
inveterate love of gambling, and wasted both his time
and patrimony at cards.
... I found, that this Giovanni Gonzaga, brother-in-law to Isabelle d'Este, met with Agrippa of Nettesheim according Henry Morley in his biography of Agrippa in 1856: ... ga&f=false
Giovanni Gonzaga = John Gonzaga, who was then in leading position at the university of Pavia.

Giovanni Gonzaga seems to be mentioned first at p. 281 and is then constant background till the end of the first volume of the biography. Gonzaga is the protector, when Agrippa's situation turns very difficult in Pavia after the battle of Marignano in September 1515, when Pavia became the center of French King Francis activities. With the help of Gonzaga Agrippa is welcome in Casale, Monferrat's capital (one year later - 1517 - there is a deciding marriage between Gonzaga and the reigning Monferrat-family).
compare: Gonzaga cardinals and Tarot de Paris article
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=755 ... second post

He's also given as background for the situation at volume 2.

Giovanni Gonzaga, Signore di Vescovado, *1474, +23.9.1525; m.1494 Laura Bentivoglio (+1523), dau.of Giovanni II Signore di Bologna by Costanza Sforza dei Signori di Pesaro;


From the context it seems, that Agrippa had opportunity to know about "Tarochi" by the Gonzaga connection ... which possibly explains Agrippa's dog name "Tarot".

Re: Isabella d'Este and playing cards

It might help if we understood lotto and scartino better, their origins and how they spread to France.

On Lotto, here is
Bingo's Origins in Italy

Most agree that Bingo was first played in an Italian lottery called "Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia". The game appears on record around 1530 in the late Renaissance Italy. It is said to have developed from a game known as Lotto. which in Italian means “destiny or fate”. It was first played in a period during a corrupt election that needed a fresh way to select a leader. Numbers were chosen randomly and the person who had that specific number would then be the new leader purely by fate.

The Game Moves to Europe

Bingo then moved to France where it became known as "Le Lotto". Bingo is still today played in France every Saturday in a similar fashion as we play nowadays. It is played with a playing card, numbers called live and tokens.,,
Dummett wrote about scartino. I gave the relevant passage at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=502&hilit=tarocus&start=20, as part of an argument that "tarocchi" might just be"scartino" with an Arabic-derived made-up name instead of an Italian-derived one, to give the impression that its funny-looking extra cards might be of ancient origin. Dummett's footnote 8 gives his sources, which might have other material of interest. Here is the passage and footnote, from Dummett, Game of Tarot pp. 426-427. Since the passage is rather long, I highlight the more important passages, to distinguish them from the fine points:
Now, with very few exceptions, it is characteristic of later Tarot games, of the most diverse kinds and whatever the size of the pack, that there is no stock of undealt cards, but that every card in the pack counts, at the end of the round, to one or another player or side. It is almost equally characteristic that there is a small residue of undealt cards forming a talon, which, in games without bidding, goes to the dealer, and whose distribution, in games with bidding, depends upon the final bid; in each case, those receiving additional cards must discard an equal number, under certain nearly constant constraints. This practice is not a mere device for handling the situation when the number of cards in the pack is not exactly divisible by the number of players, since it is observed in three-handed games, even without bidding, played with the 78-card pack; the most striking example is that of Tarok-Quadrille, played by four players with only 76 cards, in which the dealer still takes four extra cards. Even Minchiate is not a genuine exception to this rule, because, although the mechanics are different, there are still discards, and the principle is upheld that the players should know how many cards of each suit are in play, even though not every card belongs at the end of the round to one side or the other. Both the Bolognese and Sicilian games incorporate the standard practice. It therefore seems overwhelmingly probable that the practice is one going back to an early stage in the history of the Tarot games: the fact that it is found in both Bolognese and Sicilian Tarocchi debars us from supposing that it was invented outside Italy and introduced there only at the time of the invasion of the Tarot de Marseille pattern in the eighteenth century. This conclusion is reinforced by an etymological consideration. In the terminology used in Germany, the discard was almost always referred to as the Scat, and this name was also used, by transference, for the talon; the exception is the game of Cego, in which the talon is called the Blinde and the discard the Legage. In Austria, too, the term Scat, sometimes in the form Scar, was originally used, although it was later dropped in favour of the French word Talon for the talon, with no separate noun being used for the discard. The words Scat and Scar are obviously corruptions of the Italian word scarto, meaning 'discard', and it therefore seems likely that the practice itself is of Italian origin. It might be objected that the borrowing of the term Scat may have occurred only after the reintroduction of the 78-card game from France into Italy in the eighteenth century; we know that Viennese Tarot players of the mid-eighteenth century borrowed a specific form of play from Lombardy, and, with it, an Italianate vocabulary, and that this Viennese/Lombard game spread into Germany and as far as the Netherlands. But this objection appears unsound: classic Tarot games, in which the word Scat was used, were being played in Germany before the spread of the Viennese/Lombard game.

A possible source for the practice may have been a card game called Scartino, of which we hear much from a brief period around 1500: there are over a dozen references to it between 1492 and 1517 (footnote 8). We have no idea how Scartino was played, although it appears to have demanded a special type of pack; for instance, Lodovico il Moro wrote in 1496 to Cardinal Ippolito d'Este complaining that the latter had not sent him the carte de scartino that he had promised, and there are other references to orders for packs of Scartino cards. The game seems to have originated from Ferrara: it was a favourite game both of Beatrice d'Este, wife of Lodovico il Moro, Duke of Milan, and of Isabella d'Este, wife of Francesco Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua. The name Scartino is presumably connected with the verb scartare, 'to discard', and games are often named after their most characteristic or novel feature. It is therefore a possibility that this was a trick-taking game in which a new practice was introduced, namely that the dealer took some extra cards and discarded a corresponding number. If so, it could be that it was from Scartino that this practice was taken over into Tarocco games, in which it had been previously unknown, and that Scartino, after its short-lived popularity, died out, having made a lasting contribution to card play. This, of course, is the merest guess: Scartino may not have been a trick-taking game at all, but, say, one in which the winner was the player who first contrived to get rid of all his cards after the fashion of a Stops game.

If Scartino did influence Tarocco, it is possible that the practice whereby the dealer took extra cards and made a corresponding discard was not an original feature of Tarot games, but was incorporated into them about the beginning of the sixteenth century, in time for it to be imported, as a feature of the game, when Tarot arrived in Switzerland. In that case, the French games described in the Maison academique may represent a yet more ancient tradition; if our conjecture that they were derived from Piedmont is correct, Tarot playing in that region may go back to the very earliest times, the players remaining exceptionally conservative. But the hypothesis that the important feature of the discard was borrowed from Scartino should be treated with great caution, since it implies a continued mutual influence between the style of Tarocco play in all four great early centres, Ferrara, Milan, Bologna and Florence.

Footnote 8: For reference to Scartino, as played by Beatrice, Isabella, Ercole, Ippolito and Alfonso d'Este, Ludovico il Moro, and others, see: F. Malaguzzi-Valeri, La carte di Locovico il Moro, vol. 1, Milan, 1913, p. 575; A. Venturi, 'Relazioni artistiche tra le corti di Milano e Ferrara nel secolo XV', Archivio Storico Lombardo, anno XII (pp. 255-280), 1885, p. 254; A. Luzio and R. Renier, Mantova e Urbino, Turin and Rome, 1893, pp. 63-5, especially fn. 3, p. 63; the same two authors, 'Delle relazioni di Isabella d'Este Gonzaga con Lodivico e Beatrice Sforza', Archivio Storico Lombardo, anno XVII (pp. 74-119, 346-99, 619-74), 1890, p. 368, fn. 1, and pp. 379-80; A Luzio I precettori d'Esabella d'Este,, p. 22; G. Bertoni, 'Tarocchi versificati' in Poesie, leggende, costumanze del medio evoModena, 1917, p. 219; and the Diario Ferrarese of 1499 in Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, vol. 24, p. 376. A letter of August 1493 quoted by Malaguzzi-Valeri and by Luzio and Renier appears to imply that Scartino was a three-handed game. The earliest reference is from 1492; one is from 1509, one from 1517, and all the rest from the 1490's. Several concern the obtaining or ordering of packs of Scartino cards (para de carte da scartino or para de scartini), which appear all to have come from Ferrara; what was special about these cards there is no way of telling. It is just conceivable that Scartino was itself a particular type of Tarot game, and that these were therefore Tarot packs of a special type; but, unless they were very special, it does not seem very likely that Lodovico Sforza should have been having to obtain Tarot packs from elsewhere. Most of the references are about games of Scartino being played.

Re: Isabella d'Este and playing cards

Here is a description of Scartino ...
... naturally I don't know, if this is the old Scartino.

It's called a game from Naples ... in this context it might be interesting, that Scartino is by Dummett known between 1492 - c. 1517.
In 1489 Milan, which likely gave the most appearances of documents about the game, got a Duchessa of Naples and a little later Ludovico Sforza married Beatrice 'Este, who was grown up in Naples. Beatrice d'Este loved Scartino.
Naturally it was always of importance, what the reigning duchessa loved to play.

"Skat" in my youth was the expression for the game "Skat", not so much for the 2 cards, which were placed in that, what is called Talon or Skat. I know the expression with this meaning, but the common expression was "Stock" and "Blinde" was also known, but also not often used. Taon was not used. "Stock" was the expression for all cards, which were placed in the middle at the begin of the game, in various games.

Re: Isabella d'Este and playing cards

I attempted to locate the studiolo of Isabella d'Este. There are two, one, which she installed in the 1490s, and another, which she took after the death of her husband (died March 1519).

The website ... aeume.html ...
offers the following pictures:


The south-east tower of the Castello Giorgio (lower left arrow) was the place of the older studiolo, the Palazzo Vecchio was the place of the later.



Both pictures belong to the later studiolo. The webpage offers further explanations.


... based upon the picture given by ... al-palace/

At Google maps ... ... 10.7953692


Castello di San Giorgio ... _(Mantova)

Camera degli Sposi (other Tower)

Studiolo Isabella d'Este ... a_d%27Este

Re: Isabella d'Este and playing cards

The Bed and the Throne: The Life of Isabella D'Este
George Richard Marek
Harper & Row, 01.01.1976 - 263 Seiten


... referred to by Wikipedia in the context of ...
She [Isabella d'Este] did not lack company, however, as she passed the time with her mother and sister, Beatrice; and upon meeting Elisabetta Gonzaga, her 18-year-old sister-in-law, the two women became close friends. They enjoyed reading books, playing cards, and travelling about the countryside together. Once they journeyed as far as Lake Garda during one of Francesco's absences,[18] and later travelled to Venice. They maintained a steady correspondence until Elisabetta's death in 1526.

Vera Amicizia: Conjugal Friendship in the Italian Renaissance
ProQuest, 2008 - 218 Seiten ... 22&f=false



Isabella was then 7 years old, her future husband 15 years.

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