Tarot de Marseille - Italian or French origin?

#1
I'm personally leaning very much to Italy these days, but I'd love to hear where you believe the Tarot de Marseille developed, and why you think so.

So... Italy? France? or Somewhere Else??? Let's hear your thoughts.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Tarot de Marseille - Italian or French origin?

#2
Just some loose thoughts this morning Robert.

Naturally it comes down to the Cary Sheet. From the style of clothing for one thing, it appears older than any other "Tarot de Marseille-type". From the clothing, it is also Italian. So it seems to be a missing link in the evolution of Tarot de Marseille designs.

The differences from Tarot de Marseille, and the earliest hand-painted luxury cards, just struck me on looking again today. Instead of a Pope, we have what could be an Abbot. Perhaps the Popess is then an Abbess. This suggests to me that the figures might be deliberately altered to avoid offending the Papacy and Church authorities. If so, we might have here an indication of the process by which places like Florence and everywhere southward came to omit one of the Papal and Imperial figures, and ultimately to turn the three remaining all into Emperors. However, it is hard to believe that two such different Tarot patterns as the Cary Sheet and the Rosenwald Sheet could exist simultaneously, so the Cary Sheet should not be Florentine. Like Dummett, I'm inclined to make it Milanese (so let's say that Leonardo da Vinci made it!).

For the dating, I'm going a little earlier than Dummett, and say it has to be before the end of the 15th century. My impression is that Italian fashions changed very much after 1500, due to the French and Spanish invasions. The quality of the engraving puts it after 1470, if you can trust my knowledge of such things.

Thus, for the Cary Sheet, I'm willing to say northern Italian, between 1470-1500.

If this sheet represents a popular pattern in northern Italy between 1470 and 1500, and if the Papal figures were becoming obscured, then it seems that this sheet is a branch of the Tarot de Marseille tree, which left no descendants. If not, and if the Cary Sheet were in the direct line of Tarot de Marseille development in France, then it is hard to explain how the French *recovered* the Pope and Popess later.

So we are left with having to invent a hypothetical ancestor to both the Cary Sheet and the Tarot de Marseille. This ancestor should have had a real Pope and Popess, and this ancestor went over the Alps already by the late 15th century. Meanwhile, in Milan, things were changing. At least by 1543, the earliest Milanese list of the C order (the earliest of any C order evidence, actually), Andrea Alciato calls these two Papal figures "Priest" (Sacerdote) and "Priestess" (Flaminica). This might indicate that the Milanese standard that Alciato knew did not have an obvious Pope and Popess.

Ross
Image

Re: Tarot de Marseille - Italian or French origin?

#3
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ross. I'd like to add some additional "scattered" thoughts to this discussion.

The Cary Sheet is unavoidable when looking to the origin of the Tarot de Marseille; it seems to be very old indeed. While I have no training in dating art, from the many, many hours I've spent researching the sheet, I'd agree that it is probably 1480s-ish.

The similarity of the Moon and the Star to the Tarot de Marseille is obvious. The fact that it has no numbers and titles, I think, also suggests it age. Yet it is so different!

I was fascinated to find that Michael Dummett said:
"The Tarot de Marseille is descended from a particular type of design for popular Tarot cards used in Milan from the late fifteenth century, but acquired some of its features in France. The crayfish on the Moon card is found in the Milanese prototype, but the dogs are not; to my mind, the idea of dogs baying the moon is so commonplace that no resort to arcane pseudo-Egyptian symbolism, such as Dame Frances suggests, is needed to explain their presence."
He's obviously referring to the Cary Sheet, but he uses the words "descended" and "Milanese prototype" in his description of the Tarot de Marseille. Wow!

The question then becomes: "Did the Cary Sheet evolved into the Tarot de Marseille?"

If not, how can we explain the Cary Sheet? If so, how can we explain how so much the iconography changed in such a short time, while at the same time, some cards like the Moon and Star remained so consistent?

The "good" thing about the Cary Sheet is it shows that "something" related to the Tarot de Marseille existed pretty early in the development of Tarot.

We can also learn that there were no titles and numbers on those related images at this early stage. That sort of brings up the question "When did the titles and numbers get added? And why?"

It "makes a good story" to imagine that the Cary Sheet shows an Italian example of the early pattern, and that at some point when the pattern moves to France the titles and numbers are added. It "makes sense" that the introduction of the game to France encourages the titles and numbers, in French, so that the game is easier to play, and in a sense, "transformed" into a "French game". We also see numbers being added early to other Italian decks.

It makes sense that, if it is early, it is Italian as, (as far as I know), all of the evidence concerning the evolution of Tarot points to Italy as the place of origin. The further back we put the origin of the Tarot de Marseille, the more likely it must be that it is Italian.

We've discussed on AT the unusual Devil on both the Cary Sheet and the Tarot de Marseille. I did find one very similar image similar to the Cary Sheet from a book of hours in Paris dated to 1407.
http://www.tarothistory.com/images/ms29433.jpg
Of course, that's not to imply that the Cary Sheet is French; but to me, it does show that France can't be ruled out just based on the iconography. I can't find an Italian version of the Cary Sheet style Devil, yet. Of course, with the relationship of "Krampus" to the Switzerland and Germany, I think they have to be kept in mind when considering the origin of the Cary Sheet.

The Tarot de Marseille devil, as you've pointed out, is also fairly unique. I think it's interesting how similar the iconography is to some "eastern" statues, as shown in the thread linked above, and this exploration here: http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=77067

Regarding the Pope and Popess, it's hard to know which we are looking at on the Cary Sheet. I thought it was the Popess when I first saw it, but then it was brought to my attention (I don't remember by whom, you?) that the images generally run "backwards" on the sheet, and that it is quite likely to be the Pope. Now I am inclined to see the card as the Pope, and I think it's interesting that the crosier also appears on the Vieville, Noblet, and Dodal.

I think it is interesting to consider that if it is the Pope, he might actually not be a "Pope" after all. It's also interesting to consider that on the Visconti decks that the Popess isn't really a "Popess" either. Is it possible that in early tradition neither card was originally a pope or popess? It's interesting to think about, although, I suppose, it is probably unlikely.

I'm also, (and really, I'm getting terribly off topic), still inclined to wonder if originally there weren't simply "two popes" , and no popess at all. If the Cary Sheet shows the Pope, it's interesting that he looks so feminine, and similar to the Popess. I think again of the 15th Century mural in Sacro Speco of Pope Agatho, and how similar it seems to a "popess", at least to my eye. (right side of linked image):
http://www.romeartlover.it/Subiaco7.jpg

If we look to the Cary Sheet as an ancestor of the Tarot de Marseille, does it tell us anything about the genealogy of the Tarot de Marseille? How could we get from one to the other? On the other hand, perhaps (as I believe Michael Hurst has argued) the Cary Sheet is just another example of a "one off", "cousin", or simply unpopular pattern that would have faded completely from history had this one example not been found?

I have to believe that the oldest examples of the Tarot de Marseille didn't have titles and numbers on it. Not only does the Cary Sheet support this, but the Sforza Castle World card does as well. How can we explain a card like the Sforza Castle World card being found in Italy? I simply can't believe that the Tarot de Marseille had titles and numbers in French, and that these were stripped off and where they were, "additional" art work was added to complete the images for the Sforza Castles type deck. Instead, I have to believe that the Sforza Castle is an example of the older type of Tarot de Marseille, and that "for some reason" the French titles and numbers were added to the cards.

Where else can we look to help us learn more? What can we do to get closer to knowing if the Tarot de Marseille is originally Italian or French (or something else)?
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Tarot de Marseille - Italian or French origin?

#4
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: So we are left with having to invent a hypothetical ancestor to both the Cary Sheet and the Tarot de Marseille. This ancestor should have had a real Pope and Popess, and this ancestor went over the Alps already by the late 15th century. Meanwhile, in Milan, things were changing. At least by 1543, the earliest Milanese list of the C order (the earliest of any C order evidence, actually), Andrea Alciato calls these two Papal figures "Priest" (Sacerdote) and "Priestess" (Flaminica). This might indicate that the Milanese standard that Alciato knew did not have an obvious Pope and Popess.
That's really fascinating! So we have a 1543 list using Priest and Priestess rather than Pope and Popess. I've never heard this before!

Is there a historical reason that Milan would want to demote the Pope and Popess at the time?
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Tarot de Marseille - Italian or French origin?

#5
.

Doesn't the Sforza Castle World card have a number on it? Or has it been determined the 'XXI' was added after the fact? If the S.C. cards had indeed been numbered, then that would mean the French added only the names. I wonder if some Protestant minded Frenchman may have changed, or even misunderstood the TOWER card, since earlier titles like 'Fire' and 'Tower', it's imagery, and it's ranking just above the Devil seem to suggest 'Purgatory'.

Perhaps the 'Papess' was originally only a lower ranking clergyman, but the three 'Visconti' style Papesses that we have, clearly seem to be 'chicks', unless we're implying an even earlier pattern than the 'Visconti' types. If the Papess is only a a well-shaven cardinal or something, that would really de-mystify the whole 'stations of man' part of the deck, wouldn't it?


Cheers,

RAH
When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.

Re: Tarot de Marseille - Italian or French origin?

#6
R.A. Hendley wrote:.

Doesn't the Sforza Castle World card have a number on it? Or has it been determined the 'XXI' was added after the fact? If the S.C. cards had indeed been numbered, then that would mean the French added only the names. I wonder if some Protestant minded Frenchman may have changed, or even misunderstood the TOWER card, since earlier titles like 'Fire' and 'Tower', it's imagery, and it's ranking just above the Devil seem to suggest 'Purgatory'.

Perhaps the 'Papess' was originally only a lower ranking clergyman, but the three 'Visconti' style Papesses that we have, clearly seem to be 'chicks', unless we're implying an even earlier pattern than the 'Visconti' types. If the Papess is only a a well-shaven cardinal or something, that would really de-mystify the whole 'stations of man' part of the deck, wouldn't it?
I think it likely that the number was added on the Sforza Castle card. My books are packed, so I can't check again to see if there is confirmation in Kaplan. If you do look at the card though, you'll notice that the number is outside of the border. I'm under the impression that the card is made in the fashion where the back was folded over the image, if so, it would explain why the sides of the image seem to be cut off, like the face on the bull.

Sforza Castle, Vieville, Dodal:
Image


I do wonder about the naming of several of the cards. The Tower, The Hermit, and Judgement too, (rather than "Angel").

Regarding the Popes... Did Bologna always have two popes? Or was that a later change? It's my impression that the group of 2-5 were called "The Papi", how are 2 and 5 differentiated, if at all?

Here's the old deck (mid 1600s) from the BnF, as shown in Dummett's "Il Mondo e l'Angelo":
Image
Image


You'll notice that the numbers are added, and that "V" is probably "the Popess" (note the book).

The Mitelli Tarocchini (1664) clearly has two popes:
Image

Image


Of course, this probably has little to do with the Tarot de Marseille. I guess I'm just throwing it out there that **maybe** there is a tradition of two popes, and that it might show up in the Cary Sheet (we'll never know unless we find more of the images), and perhaps even the Tarot de Marseille itself. Of course, the argument is very weak, there's no way really to explain how the image so quickly became a Popess. The image on the Visconti is certainly female, if not a popess. The name Popess also is recorded early. I guess I still look at these and wonder "Avignon?" I believe Rosanne mentioned that the book indicated a Pope who was a "Doctorate of Canon Law".

I guess I'm also wondering if there is some significance to the fact that Noblet, Vieville, and Dodal have the crosier, while Conver and other Tarot de Marseille II decks have the triple cross? Throw in the figure on the Cary Sheet with the crosier, and without the triple tiara, and it gets more interesting.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Tarot de Marseille - Italian or French origin?

#7
le pendu wrote: That's really fascinating! So we have a 1543 list using Priest and Priestess rather than Pope and Popess. I've never heard this before!
The full quote is -

"Mundus habet primas, croceis dein Angelus alis:
Tum Phoebus, luna, & stella, cum fulmine daemon:
Fama necem, Crux antesenem, fortuna quadrigas:
Cedit amor forti & justo, regemque sacerdos:
Flaminicam regina praeit queis caupo propinat
Omnibus, extremò stultus discernitur actu."

Andrea Alciato, "[Parergon] Juris libri VII posteriores" (Lyon,
Sebastian Gryphus, 1543), bk. VIII ch. xvi (pp.
72-73)

C order.

Mundus - World
Angelus - Angel
Phoebus - Apollo
Luna - Moon
Stella - Star
Fulmen - Thunderbolt
Daemon - Demon, Devil
Fama - Fame
Nex - Murder, Death
Crux - Cross
Senex - Old Man
Fortuna - Fortune
Quadriga - Four-horse chariot
Fortis - Strength (or The Strong)
Justus - The Just
Amor - Love
Sacerdos - Priest
Rex - King
Regina - Queen
Flaminica - Priestess (wife of Sacerdos)
Caupo - Taverner, Inkeeper
Stultus - Fool, Idiot

Is there a historical reason that Milan would want to demote the Pope and Popess at the time?
I don't know. After the invasion of Charles VIII of France in 1494, there was a pan-Italian alliance formed to expel him, which included the Papal territories and Milan. So maybe there was some kind of self-censorship in some quarters based on nationalism, anti-French sentiment, and avoiding offense to the Papacy - but it seems far-fetched. The only known time in history where the Church actively interfered in changing the desgins of the trumps is in Bologna in 1725, and it seems that most people (including the Bolognese) just kept on making Popes and Popesses right on through. Although Alciato in Milan makes them Sacerdos and Flaminica, Susio in Pavia around the same time keeps them as Papa and Papessa.

Ross
Image

Re: Tarot de Marseille - Italian or French origin?

#8
Robert -

Thanks for pointing out the crosier aspect. I never connected that before. Not sure what to make of that vis-à-vis the French decks and Cary Sheet yet.

I personally believe that the "equal papi" rule was the original intention of the designer, and that the symbolism of the Popes and Emperors reflected the traditional rivalry between these two entities (in a nutshell). In play this rule means that, if two or more Papi are played to a trick, the last played wins. There is no inherent ranking among them; this is settled in a round or two of play, different in every game. It is a clever, even cute subtlety, I think, but one easily lost. (which it was everywhere but in Bologna and Piedmont/Savoy.) "Potestas Ecclesiastica" vs. "Potestas Imperialis." There are four Papi, because the game was designed for four players; theoretically, all of these cards could be played in a single trick, and the winner could be either a Pope or an Emperor - just like in real life political dramas (just an ad hoc theory of mine).

The attributes of the Church are Crosier, Keys, Cross, Book; all of these are used in the tradition. Mitelli decided to distinguish his Papi as a standing and a sitting Pope, and an old and a young Emperor. The more standard Bolognese tradition (like the cards you posted), seems to show two clean shaven popes, or a female and a male Pope, with different attributes. The Rosenwald sheet clearly shows a Popess and a Pope - the Popess has long hair.

So the symbolism chosen to distinguish the two Popes was arbitrary, as long as it reflected attributes of the Church, including symbols for faith and doctrine as well as the Papacy itself (keys).

Ross
Image

Re: Tarot de Marseille - Italian or French origin?

#9
Hi Ross,

I always appreciate hearing your thoughts, thanks.

The crosier is, I think, very interesting. It's just another connection between the Cary Sheet and the "Tarot de Marseille I". I think you've made a very valid point concerning the "symbols" of the Pope and Popess. If we look at the Geofroy Tarot which predates any existing sample of the Tarot de Marseille, we see an example of the mix that you describe:

Geofroy Pope and Popess (1557):
Image
Image


It's interesting to note that in 1557, around 100 years before Noblet, the Geofroy shows the triple cross that shows up again in the "Tarot de Marseille II".

I'm not sure what to make of this. I DO wonder sometimes if the "Tarot de Marseille I" is "Northern" and the "Tarot de Marseille II" is "Southern". There are connections with the Noblet to the Heri; with the Vieville to the "Belgian"; and of course, the Noblet and Vieville are both from Paris rather than in the "south".

Yet; the Dodal is SO close to the Sforza Castle World card; and the Dodal shows signs, to me at least, of being a copy of a deck without the titles and numbers like the Sforza World Card. The Payen's are originally from Marseille, and the Dodal, as far as I can tell, is just an export deck based upon the Payens or something terribly close.

I look at the Vieville, and I think it is based on something "earlier" than the Dodal or the Noblet. We can see him adding in the numbers, his pips still have the extra "foliage" from before the numbers are added, he has no titles, and we can see imagery at the top and bottom of his cards that show more detail than the Tarot de Marseille with it's "title and number" areas.

The Noblet is interesting because it has "reserved" space for the titles and numbers. Death is titled, all the Valets are titled. Did he make up the penis on the Fool? Or was he copying a tradition that was lost on all other Tarot de Marseille cards?

I can only assume that the Noblet and the Vieville show the entire bodies on the animals on the World because they "know" that's what the card should look like, like the Sforza Castle. I can easily imagine Dodal being based VERY closely on a deck like the Sforza Castle, but adding in the titles and numbers, and thereby losing part of the animal bodies to make room for the title.

I really like your description of playing the game with the four Papi. I think we're both inclined to throw a lot of weight to "Bologna", and that order. It's easy for me to imagine the gameplay with the four "equal" papi, and I agree there is a bit of humor that that makes a lot of sense with the environment of the time. I wonder if the Guelphs and Ghibellines had anything to do with this (not an original idea, I know, but still... one worth pondering).

On top of all of these thoughts, I also wonder if "originally" a similar circumstance existed for all of the cards? There is certainly a small part of me that wonders if when tarot was first invented, the game would be played with trumps without assigned values, and that the last player to play one in the round won the round? In a way, although it would go against so much of the "hierarchy theories", it would kind of explain how a rather random set of images could be grouped together. Perhaps soon after, the desire arose to order them, leading to different views in different regions? Yeah.. out there... but worth mentioning.

In the end, to go at least a bit back onto topic, we're left to try to figure out where the Tarot de Marseille fits into the development of tarot. I'm sure there are certainly a lot of people who would suggest that the Tarot de Marseille is THE original tarot, despite the evidence not only of an Italian origin to the Tarot, but perhaps even an Italian origin to the Tarot de Marseille itself. We've got the Cary Sheet sometime around 1500, and then a huge hole until Noblet around 1650. The Vieville adds an additional "testament" on most of his cards, and the Dodal/Payen seems to have ties to Italy yet to be fully explained. Sometime along the way, Chosson and Conver and all the other "Tarot de Marseille II" decks are born, and we still have to sort out which is really older, and to explain how two versions of the Tarot de Marseille came into being and existed side by side and mixed, at least for a while.

At this point in time, I'm less convinced that the Tarot de Marseille is "all that". I've personally come to love the Vieville, the Bologna, and to look at the Noblet and the Dodal as the "old" versions of the Tarot de Marseille, and the Chosson and Conver as the new kids on the block. I see the Cary Sheet, and see a relationship to the "Tarot de Marseille I", but yet I have no explanation as to how it came into being and what it means to history.

I've gone back and forth time and again trying to decide if the Tarot de Marseille is French or Italian, or something else. I've also flip flopped on trying to place it in history, does it come early, or is it based on other examples?

I'm not one to worship sacred cows; I'm more iconoclastically inclined. Yet, there is certainly a soft spot in my heart for the iconography of the Tarot de Marseille.

I'd love to have this discussion lead to reasons to consider one route or another as more probable. At the very least, I guess we can be amazed and delighted that a version of the game from at least the mid-1600s, if not a century or more earlier, still exists for our enjoyment today.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Tarot de Marseille - Italian or French origin?

#10
Hello Robert and Ross,

Robert, I do like your honnesty and Ross your are a real Historian in your ways.
And this two comments are both compliments from me.

I have also tendancy to prefer Tarot de Marseille to others.

Regarding a lost chain link Tarot Deck, I think that one day it will arised to surface of Time.
Why ? Because there is a gap and Nature will provide answer.

I am not a mystic but my intuition ask me to write this.

On an aestetic point of view, for me, it is clear that Tarot de Marseille are French originated, because I never saw Italians Tarot decks equivalent to French Tarots (except Visconti Sforza decks who are more luxious painting than Tarot Decks for me again).

I know that this is not scientific to say that but I am not a scientific isn' it 8-)

Best

Yves
Personne n'est au dessus de l'obligation de dire la vérité.
Nobody is above obligation to tell truth.

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