Collection "How Petrarca became famous" (till 1450)

I start the "collection "How Petrarca became famous" (till 1450)", cause I feel myself incompetent in this question, but I for my myself wish to know precisely, if one could safely assume, that the poem "Trionfi" short before 1440 and short later after 1440 became rather popular and got more attention as before. That's partly proven by the letter exchange Piero de Medici with Matteo de Pazzi in 1440/41 about the production of an edition with Trionfi pictures and through the many Trionfi pictures at Florentine Cassioni and in book productions. But my overview is not good enough in my opinion.

I would wish to know also about the general development of the perception of Petrarca ... I think, that the Trionfi work "arrived late" in the public attention. But I don#t know this for sure.

I would enjoy, if some could help in this enterprise.

Re: Collection "How Petrarca became famous" (till 1450)

Hi, Huck,
Huck wrote:I start the "collection "How Petrarca became famous" (till 1450)", cause I feel myself incompetent in this question, but I for my myself wish to know precisely, if one could safely assume, that the poem "Trionfi" short before 1440 and short later after 1440 became rather popular and got more attention as before.... I would wish to know also about the general development of the perception of Petrarca ... I think, that the Trionfi work "arrived late" in the public attention.
Let's see... I can offer a few comments on that.


Petrarch and Boccaccio were originally famous in Italy for their Latin moral works, most notably Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium and Petrarch's De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae. Other works, such as Petrarch's De Viris Illustribus and Boccaccio's De mulieribus claris were of the same sort, Latin moral works. These tedious Latin works were the foundation of the authors' fame in the late 14th and 15th centuries. Over the subsequent two centuries, other works became more prominent in waves, at different times in different countries.

It is worth pointing out that both works were encyclopedic treatments of Fortune. Bocaccio's Casibus was an encyclopedia of moralized biographies, each narrative showing the rise and fall of a great figure. Petrarch's Remediis was an encyclopedia of contingencies, both good and bad, and the conflict they generate between Reason and the four Stoic-Christian Passions of the Soul. (It was, in effect, a litany of rationalizations, sour grapes and sweet lemons.) The lesson of all examples was that the gifts/punishments of Fortune are not to be celebrated nor lamented -- with the proper contemptu mundi spirit all the fickle activities of Fortune were to be treated with indifference.

Tarot is likewise a contemptu mundi meditation on the triviality of this world in light of the next. For the last 6-8 years I have argued that the trump cycle is an allegorical summary of the sensibilities and themes reflected in these Latin moral works. Moreover, even the specific design of the trump ordering is based on these works. The Casibus narrative arc -- a rise, reversal, and downfall -- is present in most archetypal decks... in fact, any deck with the standard 22 trumps. The pair of Love and the Chariot precede pair of Time/Hermit and Fortune in most orderings, while the pair of Traitor and Death are always last. In the Milanese (Tarot de Marseille) ordering, the Remediis motif is neatly depicted. Each turn of Fortune's wheel is met with virtue, specifically the three Moral Virtues answering the three turns of Fortune. This is the design of the middle trumps, while the lowest trumps are clearly a representation of Mankind in all guises, culminating in the Emperor and Pope -- as in many other works. The highest trumps are an eschatological epilogue, also characteristic of moral allegories in art, literature, and drama. An early example of this argument is on TarotL.

The middle section of the trump cycle (Feb 18, 2005)


With regard to whether the Trionfi were too late to have influenced Tarot, the short answer is no. I'll get to that below, but first there is a sense in which they may seem to be a late arrival. It is certainly true that their period of greatest popularity was later, and their illustrations were mostly later. But that later tradition is worth talking about because it coincided with the popularity of Tarot. Petrarch's Trionfi became popular, and then extremely popular, over the course of the 15th and 16th centuries. In the later part of the 15th century the pictorial summary -- six triumphal cars -- became prominent, and many copies of the Trionfi were illustrated. Many variations on that were created, using one or more of these triumphal cars. Sometimes, as in the Bentivoglio Chapel, the triumphs were changed and elaborated a great deal, and even had their ordering changed. The popularity waned, but additional examples continued to be made. A more restrained tradition of using only the final four, Death, Fame, Time, and Eternity also arose. This is exemplified in the Château de Chantilly, the tomb of "Henry II Conde (d. 1646), the last work of Jacques Sarrazin."
Triumphs of Death, Fame, Time, Eternity
(155.06 KiB) Downloaded 503 times
It is also important to understand that Petrarch was not the only source for triumphs, just the earliest and most influential, and that Petrarch was never slavishly copied. The most typical examples of the six-triumph illustrations owed very little to his poem. Tarot was created at a time and place where all manner of triumphs were just beginning to become popular. Among the expressions were decorative arts including works intended for civic purposes, domestic art, and ecclesiastic display including private chapels as well as monumental works for the great cathedrals. The private works took many forms, notably including cassoni (chests), deschi da parto (birth trays), maiolica (ceramic bowls, plates, ewers, etc.), spalliera panels (wainscoting), tapestries, restelli (mirrors), and so on. Many of these decorated works depicted trionfi, some historical or legendary and others allegorical. Examples of all these are available online. Triumphs of one sort or another are a natural choice of subject matter, and Petrarch is always in the background as a seminal work.

However, the rule was non nova, sed nove. No one actually illustrated Petrarch directly. The iconographic tradition made its own rules, and even included types of allegory (such as the symbolic draft animals, e.g., swans, unicorns, buffaloes, etc.) which Petrarch despised as medieval corruptions.


Getting back to the question of pre-1440 influence of Petrarch's Trionfi, there is more to be considered. First, there is the distinction between general influence and specific influence. The universal influence of Petrarch's Trionfi came after Tarot's invention, and the popularity of Tarot paralleled the larger popularity of Trionfi as a mode of allegory and a form of homage. However, for anyone who was creating a new work of allegorical art or literature in early 15th-century Italy, based on a triumphal theme, there were only a handful of prominent works available. That is the type of work represented by the Tarot trump cycle, so those would be the influential works for the artist creating Tarot.

The Tarot cycle is a morality lesson in the form of an allegorical hierarchy. This type of work traces back to 14th-century literary sources like Francesco da Barberino’s Documenta Amoris, Giovanni Boccaccio’s Amorosa Visione, and Petrarch’s Trionfi. It is worth noting, in the context of the Documenta Amoris and Amorosa Visione, that Petrarch’s initial design was likewise a Triumph of Love, including a Triumph of Chastity. (It was subsequently expanded after the Black Death took Laura, and again when Petrarch became an old man.) Likewise, the middle trumps of the Tarot cycle begin with the Love card. Moreover, Petrarch’s Trionfi incorporate both an Ages of Man structure (which was codified in the long commentaries every printed version included), and a Triumph of Death design, along with an eschatological conclusion. These are central design elements of Petrarch's Trionfi and Tarot's trumps, which were created over a half century after Petrarch's poems. The influence is inescapable.

Another aspect of influence is the iconographic tradition of Petrarch's Trionfi. That tradition began in the 14th century, with a painting by Giotto. Here is a short passage from "Petrarch and the Decoration of the Sala Virorum Illustrium in Padua", The Art Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Jun., 1952), pp. 95-116. It is worth noting, because Giotto's painting may describe the origin of the Petrarchian style of allegorical triumph.
In about 1332 [Giotto] executed for King Robert of Naples a number of paintings which included the decoration of "la sala dei uomini famosi" in Castelnuovo, a work which unfortunately was destroyed in the fifteenth century. 142 These frescoes portrayed nine heroes who, however, were not identical with the traditional Nine Worthies, there being among them no Christians, only two Hebrews (Solomon and Samson), and seven pagans (Alexander, Hector, Aeneas, Achilles, Paris, Hercules, and Caesar); their wives were probably also represented. A few years later, in about 1340, Azzo Visconti commissioned in his newly built palace in Milan "a large hall ... in which Vainglory was depicted and also illustrious pagan princes of the world, such as Aeneas, Attila, Hector, Hercules, and several others; but among them is only one Christian, Charlemagne, and then Azzo Visconti."
[P.S. The iconography of Gloria or Vainglory or Fame derives from Boccaccio's Amorosa Visione, of 1342. Also, "well before and long after Petrarch wrote his Trionfi, triumphal imagery, in the form of Christian triumphs and non-Petrarchian secular triumphs, were pervasive in medieval and Renaissance art." Barbara Dodge, Petrarch's Triumphs: Allegory and Spectacle.] Later, in the late 14th century, a similar image of Vainglory (Fame) was used to illustrate Petrarch's De Viris Illustribus. There are several surviving illustrations of this. I have collected them, along with a large number of examples of the six-image Trionfi cycle from three centuries, on this Wikimedia Commons page.

Petrarch's triumphs

Anyway, those are the things that come immediately to mind. The best book to begin with is probably Petrarch's Triumphs: Allegory and Spectacle.

Best regards,
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

Re: Collection "How Petrarca became famous" (till 1450)

A discussion took place between Ross and myself at 01-13-2008 and 01-14-2008 about Matteo di Pasti and a "Petrarca's Trionfi poem with pictures" project in 1441. It's considered the oldest realization of the typical Trionfi pictures with Love, Chastiy, Death, Fame, Time and Eternity.
The discussion is this one: ... ost1323343


A letter of myself, 01-15-2008 (2 days later) ... ost1328225

let's assume there was no pictured Trionfi-edition before 1441.

Lorenzo il Vecchio di Medici died September 1440 and left to his nephew Pietro the function to watch over the university.

Pietro used the Trionfi-edition (with pictures and so naturally with a representation of Fame) and the literary competition in 1441 to approach this function and also to motivate humanistic ideas.

- It would be interesting to know just these pictures of the Matteo-di-Pasti-edition of Petrarca ...
... it seems, that they unluckily were never located

... but somehow it's strange, that Piero used an artist in Venice to paint a Trionfi edition, although this artist seems to have been young and unexperienced or not famous. Matteo might have haved the advantage, that he already painted these motifs and that his commissioner was satisfied with his work (?)

Matteo di Pasti lived (before Venice) in Verona, and Verona is too from Arqua, where Petrarca finally died (interestingly very near to Monselice, where Marcello liveed later), but Venice got the books of Petrarca (ergo likely the oldest Trionfi edition, too, the original manuscript). And Matteo di Pasti was in Venice.

The political condition (1441) between Venice and Florence were well, the Medici had a bank there. Naturally Piero would have written to his filiale and asked, if there were older pictures of the Trionfi or not corrupted texts of the original manuscript (which might have been the central problem) or a complete edition (which didn't exist), the chief of the filiale would have made some researches (library with Petrarca texts) and perhaps had found some old pictures, but he was in need of an miniatore to copy them ... and then a procedure might have started, in which the unknown Matteo di Pasti got a commission, cause he had the luck to be at the right location at the right time with the right abilities (miniatore) .

... but ...
The Britannica site on Matteo di Pasti says that the 1441
commission, in Venice, has never been located.

Well, perhaps it's worth to hunt this letter or letter-exchange.

Ross wrote 01 - 25 - 2008 (10 days later) at ... ... ost1338079
... in a conversation with Michael J. Hurst:
Ross wrote:Hi Michael,
Originally Posted by mjhurst
On the other hand, given that Carnicelli's conclusion re an early date is consistent with common sense whereas the idea that the iconography was novel in the 1440s seems unreasonable, and given that this business seems to have no particular impact on any question related to Tarot, which does not rely on the Petrarchian iconographic tradition in any substantial way, and given that it appears to be a very specialized investigation requiring a better library than I have access to, I'll let others research it.
I wouldn't give up so easily (and I know you don't). It wasn't a trick question, I don't know what Carnicelli knew/knows.

But I *do* know that as late as 2004, Colette Nativel in her article "L'Iconographie des Triomphes" (in the peer-reviewed journal "Europe: revue litteraire mensuelle" (nos. 902-903 (Juin-Juillet 2004) pp. 173-185)) says on the first page that the first known instance of manuscript illumination of the Trionfi is the letter of Matteo de' Pasti to Lorenzo de Medici in 1441. I imagine she couldn't make this claim in a prestigious journal, perhaps one of her debut articles, without having researched the question to the bone.

When I presented this finding to Lothar in 2004, he wrote the owner of the site of (a different name then, I think), asking about what he knew. He had this response -
"I've looked into your questions, and *my* answer is that I am not certain, except that the traditions seem to go back into the 15th century (I haven't seen any 14th century codices with illuminations). The site "I trionfi" from the University of Pisa seems to be off-line, but a newer version appears in the works:

Enciclopedia petrarchesca: i Triumphi. Prototipo di enciclopedia ipertestuale petrarchesca. Responsabile scientifico: Marco Santagata (Università di Pisa). Testi critici: Laura Paolino. Realizzazione informatica dell’ipertesto: Francesco Carnera (Università di Roma Tor Vergata).
CIBIT's new site, incidentally, will be:, and it has a wonderful interface for both the RVF and the Disperse/Corrispondenza.

I think the below should be helpful in establishing the codices and their iconographic traditions:

Donati, L., "Un capitolo iconografico sui trionfi del Petrarca," Gutemberg Jahrbuch, 19-24, 1944-1949, 118ff.

Venturi, Adolfo, "Les Triomphes de Petrarque dans l'art representatif," Revue de lart ancien et moderne, 1906, 81-209.

Battaglia Lucia, I "triumphi" di Francesco Petrarca, Immaginario trionfale: Petrarca e la tradizione figurativa, vol. I, pp. 255-, Gargnano sul Garda 1998

"Il Petrarca latino e le origini dell’umanesimo" (Atti del Convegno
internazionale, Firenze 19–22 maggio 1991), Quaderni petrarcheschi IX–X (1992–1993),
pp. 793, 58 tavole. Casa Editrice Le Lettere, Firenze 1992–1993. Direttore Michele Feo.
"The iconography of Petrarch in the age of Humanism" (pp. 11–75) di
J. B. TRAPP presenta l’immagine iconografica del P. soprattutto nelle illustrazioni dei
manoscritti e nelle incisioni. Più illustrate risultano le opere volgari, l’autore presenta
le coincidenze fra l’iconografia petrarchesca e quella cristiana. Grande spazio è dedicato
alle raffigurazioni dei Triumphi. Il testo è accompagnato da 54 tavole.

See also the just released (July 2004):
Petrarca, Simone Martini e le carte
di Rolando Fusi e Rosalynd Pio, premessa di Francesco Adorno
Editore Bonechi-Edizioni Il Turismo, 2004
160 p., ill.
EURO 18.00
In 1938, Dorothy Shorr also says "Although the earliest pictorial representations of the series does not appear until about the middle of the fifteenth century..." - she is obviously alluding to Matteo's 1441 letter.

1441 is the earliest known evidence of a depiction of the whole series, that's all.

The point of interest is the date, combined with the earliest imagery, and the new interest in Florence. The particularly "Petrarchan" trumps of the earliest preserved sets do very much reflect the imagery of the Trionfi just then (as we have discovered) being illustrated - Love, Time, Death, Fame, Eternity (in the A tarot order).

Naturally, it's not the Petrarchan order, and it's not Petrarch's story that's being illustrated in the tarot trumps. But the imagery is being shared among the genre of "trionfi"-things at just this time, so it strongly suggests a relationship. That's why the date of 1441 - and we have just begun to think about Florence here - is so important.

Petrarch's order is obviously not inviolable, as you have shown in the flow Costa's paintings. For his occasion, Petrarch's order and imagery was changed, expanded, adapted one way (even to Death triumphing over Fame), while in the tarot, the same family of ideas was adapted and expanded for another purpose, with another story.

But I don't think it is possible to ignore the coincidence of dates and provenance of either the fad or the earliest imagery of "trionfi". That is, in the close-knit courtly world of 1440s Italy, when somebody heard "the Trionfi", they probably had a bit of Petrarch in their mind.

Best regards,


It would be nice to have his letter between Matteo Pasti and Piero de Medici.

Here is a Jstor article, which is interesting in this context: ... 2470154377

Re: Collection "How Petrarca became famous" (till 1450)

Hi, Huck,
Huck wrote:
The pictures are great, Michael. Are the dates reliable?
They are as reliable as the sources in which I found the images. I made no particular effort to verify any of them, simply taking them as they were presented.

On the one hand, one image of Vainglory is dated with the manuscript, 1379. That is both precise and probably accurate. Another image might be dated only to the 14th century, very far from precise, and even that might not be accurate -- there is some possibility that it is early 15th-century.

Best regards,
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

Re: Collection "How Petrarca became famous" (till 1450)

The date of 1442 for Apollonio di Giovanni's Trionfi is in the manuscript itself.

It contains two colophons, "che ci informano sul nome del propretario, Giudo di Francesco di Messer Niccolo Baldovinetti... sul nome dello scriba, Bese Ardinghelli, e sulla data di realizzazione, il maggio 1442."
("informing us of the name of the owner, Guido di Francesco di Messer Niccolo Baldovinetti... the name of the scribe, Bese Ardinghelli, and the date it was finished, May 1442")

(Andrea Staderni, "Il confronto con le novità rinascimentali: pittori di cassoni nella Firenze di metà quattrocento", in Claudio Paolini, Daniela Parenti, Ludovica Sebregondi, eds., Virtù d'Amore: pittura nuziale nel quattrocento fiorentino (Firenze, 2010), pp. 115-125. Apollonio's illustrations are on page 117)

Re: Collection "How Petrarca became famous" (till 1450)

Huck wrote: It would be nice to have his letter between Matteo Pasti and Piero de Medici.
Gaetano Milanesi, "Lettere d'artisti italiani dei secoli XIV e XV", in Il Buonarroti, series 2, volume 4 (April 1869), pp. 77-87

Matteo Pasti a Piero di Cosimo de' Medici. Di Venezia li 24 del 1441.
(Archivio detto: Carteggio privato de'Medici - Filza 16, car. 15).

Spectabilis ac maior honorande. Per questa mia vi fo noto come io ho inparato da' poi ch'io son a Vinesa cossa che al vostro lavoro non poria essere cossa più singulare, come sarano; e questa cossa è oro masinato, ch'io lo dipingho come ogni altro collore, e ivi cominciato ad ornare questi, che son fatti per modo che non vedisti mai sì fatta cossa. Quelle verdure son tutte tochate d'oro masinato ch'ò fatto mille ricamuci a quelle damiselle. Si che caramente vi priegho, che vui mi vogliate mandare la fantasia degli altri, a ciò ch'io ue li conpischa; e s'el vi piace ch'io vi mandi questi, io velli manderò; si che comandatime quello vi piace ch'io facia, ch'io son pronto a ubedirvi in qualunque cossa a vui sia grata. E caramente vi priegho, che vui mi vogliate perdonare di quello ch'io ho fatto, perchè vui sapete che mi fu forzia a far quello ch'io feci. Si che terminate come piaze a vui: s'el vi piaze, mandatime ch"io facia quello della Fama, perhi"io ho la fantasia, salvo non so, se quella dona che sede, la volete in camora (gamurra) di piciolato o pur in manto, come a me piacesse: el resto so tutto quello v'à andare, cioè el caro tira 4 lionfanti: e si non so se vui volete scudieri e damiselle driedo, o pur omeni famosi vechi: si che avisatime di tutto, perch'io farò una bella cossa, per modo che sarete contento. E perdonareteme tutto, e valerà più un di questi ch'io farò hora, che non valle tutti queste che son fatti. Si che fatime tanta gratia; dignative di farmi risposta, e de essere contento ch'io gli conpischa, a ciò che vui vediatte una cossa che mai a questo modo non la vedisti fornita di questo hora (sic, leggi: oro) masinato, come sarà questa. A vui me ricomando. Data in Vinesa a di 24, 1441.

Per lo vostro minimo servitore
Mateo di Pasti .S. (scrisse)
a vui se. aricomanda.

(Fuori) Spettabili et generoso viro domino Piero de Medicis maiori honorando. ... letter.jpg ... 22&f=false

Also - ... 22&f=false

It has been reprinted a few times, but I'm not sure if it has been translated. I'm not going to start it today, but perhaps we can work on it. ... edir_esc=y

Re: Collection "How Petrarca became famous" (till 1450)

While we're at it, here is the letter from Francesco Sforza to Antonio Trecco asking for "uno paro de carte da triumpho" for Sigismondo Malatesta in October 1452.

Emilio Motta, "Altri documenti per la libreria sforzesca", Il Bibliofilo, X (1889), pp. 107-111. ... letter.jpg

"Antonio Trecco.
Perchè el Mag[nifi]co Sig[no]re Sigismondo ha rechesto ad la Ill[ustrissi]ma Madonna Bianca nostra consorte uno paro de carte da triumpho per zugare, ti commettimo et volemo che subito ne debij fare fare uno paro de belle quanto più sarà possibile pincte et ornate con le arme ducali et al insigne nostre et mandaraile subito como serano facte. Apud Calvisanum XXVIIJ octobris 1452.
Non obstante quello dicemo de sopra de mandarne qui le dicte carte volemo le retegne lì et ne avisi como serano facte et similmente retegni tre berrette quale te mandarà Mattheo da Pesaro. Dat[a] utsupra."

Re: Collection "How Petrarca became famous" (till 1450)

Good, that we have the letter of Matteo di Pasti, thanks.

I see, that 1440 September 16 (Giusto Giusti document) and 1441 January 24 (Matteo Pasti document) are close to each other in time, especially if one considers, that the communication between Piero de Medici and Matteo Pasti should have started earlier and that the letter exchange Florence - Venice likely took its time, so that Piero's decision to commission such an edition should be searched for a considerable earlier date.

The battle of Anghiari (1440 June 29) is close to the Giusto date. The issue of the battle likely caused euphory in Florence and for the current war with Filippo Maria Visconti it - together with a heavy loss at Soncino (near Cremona; when precisely ?) in the same month - likely urged, that Filippo Maria Visconti compromised with a truce. (When it was agreed on this ? Good question.) Either the victory or the publication of the truce might have given the signal to organize an official celebration (? is there a date) of the victory, and it possibly caused the production of a Trionfi deck. As a consequence Piero de Medici might have considered to commission a wonderful "Trionfi" edition with Petrarca's poem.

Pietro might have chosen an artist in Venice (Matteo di Pasti) with conscience to make this an "international" act, demonstrating "friendship with Venice" (in the war Florence had an alliance with Venice), on the other hand Venice had (likely ?) Petraca's original, cause Petrarca's library had gone to Venice (and the Trionfi text was considered to be not finished, so it likely wasn't spread elsewhere, at least till his death). But also it might be, as the letter seems to indicate, that Matteo di Pasti knew a special technique to work with gold on paper, and that Matteo di Pasti was chosen cause of this technology.


Matteo di Pasti's biographies are often short, and start often with this 1441 activity. Usually he's given as being born c. 1420, but somewhere I saw a 1418. And I found this (at a German article ... F/rath.pdf ) :


made by Matteo di Pasti c. 1438


from Leon Battista Alberti in 1438, "Della famiglia" (given with the footnote remark, that Alberti used the symbol already in 1424 in the first Alberti text of the "Philodoxus")


made by Matteo de Pasti 1446/48

If this is true, then Alberti (major occupation later : architect) and Matteo di Pasti (also occasionally: architect) knew each other very early (1438). Matteo had relation (later - since when?) to Leonello d'Este and the both Malatesta ... as Alberti. And Sigismondo Malatesta got in the critical time a new helper from Toscana/Florence, Giusto Giusti, who introduced himself with a Trionfi deck ... and short time later Matteo di Pasti has a commission for a "Trionfi poem" edition. So there's the question, if a relation existed between Matteo di Pasti and Giusto Giusti or if this observation just meets accidental conditions."

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 37 guests