Re: Petrarca Trionfi poem motifs in early Trionfi decks

#11
I wrote:... "The chess pieces are like rorschach blotches upon which you continue to map any number and order of themes ...",
Huck wrote: ... but I would add, that this is a quality, which they have in common with Tarot symbols.
Au contraire: Tarot are quite detailed paintings, albeit miniatures - chess pieces are even less substantial than blotches: they're just names (e.g., "queen"; a tarot queen on the other hand will hold the symbol of her suit, have a specific hairstyle and dress datable to a certain time period, etc. the trumps get even more interesting). Petrarch is equally just names/words that one can project whatever image one likes (his Trionfi get illuminated after Anghiari).

Re: Petrarca Trionfi poem motifs in early Trionfi decks

#12
Phaeded wrote: Au contraire: Tarot are quite detailed paintings, albeit miniatures - chess pieces are even less substantial than blotches: they're just names (e.g., "queen"; a tarot queen on the other hand will hold the symbol of her suit, have a specific hairstyle and dress datable to a certain time period, etc. the trumps get even more interesting). Petrarch is equally just names/words that one can project whatever image one likes (his Trionfi get illuminated after Anghiari).
Look through the many different interpretations in the course of the past centuries, and you should recognize, that are a lot of differences between the way, how one could see these symbols.
But naturally a system with 22 elements has more place for internal differentiation than a system with 6 elements. The I-Ching has 64 elements and the big advantage of a connection to a mathematical system, which gives each hexagram a specified place. Far more elegant ... :-)
Huck
http://trionfi.com

Re: Petrarca Trionfi poem motifs in early Trionfi decks

#13
Hi, Huck,

Phaeded pointed out the obvious, which I have emphasized for years: the Tarot trump cycle is different than most moralized games. From Bishop Wibold through the 13th century Innocent Morality, Alfonso X’s Book of Games, allegorical impositions on the suit signs like Brother John, Meister Ingold, Galcottus Martius, Pietro Aretino, Innocentio Ringhieri, Jean Gosselin, Claude François Menestrier, and so on, people asserted more-or-less arbitrary meanings. That sort of imposition is endlessly varied, as you suggest, and childishly self-indulgent. Like most Tarot "interpretations", they tell us of nothing about any intended meaning or original design.

This was the first paragraph of The Riddle of Tarot at least as far back in 2004.
Many interpretations can be—and have been—concocted to accompany the Tarot trumps, just as various moral allegories have been attached to chess and regular playing-cards. The thing that sets Tarot apart from other games that have moralized content associated with them is that Tarot actually had immediately recognizable, specific and systematic allegorical content designed into the tokens of play, the pictures on the cards. The presence of subjects such as the Emperor and Pope, Justice, Temperance, Death, the Devil, and the Angel of the Last Resurrection indicate moral content at a glance, even though generations of occultists have failed to see it. The Tarot trumps exhibit a remarkable didactic design, a schematic outline of Christian salvation, in the same Triumph of Death tradition as many other medieval and Renaissance works of art. They present this summula salvationis via traditional medieval concepts such as the three estates, the Fall of Princes motif, and Revelation’s eschatological triumphs over the Devil and death. Deciphering that original moral subject matter, the meaning of the cards and their sequence, is the riddle of Tarot: interpreting the images and their order in such a manner as to make sense of the whole, honoring the “author’s message” rather than rewriting it.
You suggest that we take fools as our role models:
Huck wrote:Look through the many different interpretations in the course of the past centuries, and you should recognize, that are a lot of differences between the way, how one could see these symbols.
Other people's incompetence is no justification for additional incompetence.

A better suggestion would be to IGNORE most of the many different interpretations from 1781 till today, because they range from merely misguided to laughably loony. (Few "theories" appear sillier than this Chess nonsense.) We should attempt to learn from those who have developed art-historical methodologies that span a wide range of subject matter, rather than Tarot writers who have written nonsense for over two hundred years.

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

Re: Petrarca Trionfi poem motifs in early Trionfi decks

#14
hi Michael,

I've to say, that themost interesting stuff, that I read in matters of allegorical models from this early period, is the Echecs Amoureux of Evrart deConty. Well, it's old French, and I couldn't read it very well (and I attempted only snippets, to say the truth), but alone the 900+ pages were really impressive. More an encyclopedia. But the model, 32 figures in the style of the Roman de la Rose plus 16 gods makes 48 figures, which is more than 41 figures in the Minchiate and 22 in the Tarot. Well, less than the 50 figures in the Mantegna Tarocchi, but the Mantegna Tarocchi has no accompanying text.

In matters of length of text it has more to say than all the documentary evidence of Trionfi decks in a full century. That's a fact one should see. And much more people played likely chess than persons, who played Trionfi during 15th century.

Well, I'm not a Chess player, and I prefer Go. And actually I found the I-Ching more interesting than Tarot in my youth. Unluckily the I-Ching is not part of Western history and a study, if one proceeds in the research, demands some Chinese, and that is not my repertoire. And history or understanding something of the past is also interesting, so I found in my later life. It's not bad for studies of history, if one hasn't a fixed idea about the object.
Many interpretations can be—and have been—concocted to accompany the Tarot trumps, just as various moral allegories have been attached to chess and regular playing-cards. The thing that sets Tarot apart from other games that have moralized content associated with them is that Tarot actually had immediately recognizable, specific and systematic allegorical content designed into the tokens of play, the pictures on the cards. The presence of subjects such as the Emperor and Pope, Justice, Temperance, Death, the Devil, and the Angel of the Last Resurrection indicate moral content at a glance, even though generations of occultists have failed to see it. The Tarot trumps exhibit a remarkable didactic design, a schematic outline of Christian salvation, in the same Triumph of Death tradition as many other medieval and Renaissance works of art. They present this summula salvationis via traditional medieval concepts such as the three estates, the Fall of Princes motif, and Revelation’s eschatological triumphs over the Devil and death. Deciphering that original moral subject matter, the meaning of the cards and their sequence, is the riddle of Tarot: interpreting the images and their order in such a manner as to make sense of the whole, honoring the “author’s message” rather than rewriting it.
I never asked you: Which of the many different sequences of Tarot or Trionfi or related games is in your opinion the true one, for which you claim, that it wasn't understood?
Huck
http://trionfi.com

Re: Petrarca Trionfi poem motifs in early Trionfi decks

#15
Hi, Huck,
Huck wrote:I never asked you: Which of the many different sequences of Tarot or Trionfi or related games is in your opinion the true one, for which you claim, that it wasn't understood?
If by "not understood" you mean "by the occultists", I would answer, all. They were silly people, obsessed with nonsense like counting the number of images rather than looking at the subject matter of the images and their meaning in sequence. Dim-witted numerologists....

If by "the true one" you mean the original design and its intended meaning, I believe that there are two plausible candidates... but that is a conclusion based on hundreds of hours of study rather than an assumption or preconception. My view was expressed in The Riddle of Tarot, so I'll quote another passage.
[Dummett wrote] “The search for a hidden meaning may be a unicorn hunt; but if there is a meaning to be found, only a correct basis of fact will lead us to it. The hidden meaning, if any, lies in the sequential arrangement of the trump cards; and therefore, if it is to be uncovered, we must know what, originally, that arrangement was.” If this were the case, we would have a serious difficulty. Dummett identifies a dozen different early orderings of the cards, based on a variety of sources.
Dummett wrote:There are three types of source that we have for the different orderings of the trumps observed by Italian card players. First, there are the three variant types of pack, the Tarocco Bolognese, the Tarocco Siciliano, and the Minchiate pack. The Minchiate pack has, of course, twenty additional trumps: but since these were inserted en bloc at a certain point in the sequence of standard trump subjects, we can remove them and study the resulting order in reasonable confidence that it represents an order observed for the trumps of the 78-card pack at the time the Minchiate pack was invented. Second, there are the early packs that survive to us…. Finally, there are literary sources. (GT 389.)
Dummett wrote:Of the orders which we known in complete detail, only two agree exactly…. All the rest have at least minor differences between them. … we thus have eleven distinct orders, all differing from the Tarot de Marseille order…. (GT 396.)
Based on the fragmentary historical evidence, several of those orders are plausible candidates for being the original, but in fact, there is no guarantee that the original sequence even survived. Fortunately, Dummett was mistaken. We do not need to know what the original order was to pursue such studies. We can look at what the various early orders have in common, and attempt a generic iconographic interpretation consistent with all of them, employing additional explanations of the specific differences. Such a study might suggest to us a meaning that was commonly recognized in the fifteenth century, perhaps even by the people who were simply playing the game, but certainly by the individuals who created the various orderings. This is the approach of the present essay.

A second possibility is to study all of the variations and attempt to decipher each separately, looking for the one that shows the best evidence of integrated design. Rather than knowledge of the original order being a prerequisite for such a unicorn hunt, it may be the unicorn itself. Such a study might find that one particular sequence, and its corresponding iconography, appears exceptionally well designed, while the others are most easily explained as derivatives which, while making intelligible changes, nonetheless failed to maintain much of the overall meaning and coherence. (Such an approach is analogous to that of textual criticism, by which biblical scholars attempt to reconstruct the evolution of texts.) If such an approach proved successful, then we might actually learn something with important implications for the origin of Tarot, we might indeed gain some enlightenment by studying the iconography.
In fact, those two approaches are complementary. Seeing the generic meaning is crucial, providing guidance in interpreting each individual deck with its own ordering and iconography. Relating the individual analyses to the synoptic design tends to confirm (or refute) both interpretations. The key point here is that Dummett was mistaken: certainty about the original order is not a sine qua non for Tarot iconography.

If the task of interpreting each and every archetypal deck, (as best we can reconstruct them), seems too daunting, then at a minimum one should select an early exemplar from each of the three families of ordering and do the best possible interpretation of each. These interpretations should be compared with the Two 16th-Century Italian Essays, and with what Moakley had to say on the subject. Finally, this should be compared with what Ross and I have written on the subject.

BACKGROUND READING

Although the approach does not presuppose any "true one", it does presuppose some knowledge of art history and moral allegories. This naturally includes books on iconography by art historians like Panofsky and Gombrich who specialized in iconography. Beyond that, there is another small shelf of books which should be studied to provide background for understanding the trump cycle. Everything by Dummett and the first two volumes of Kaplan's Encyclopedia are essential Tarot-history references. In terms of previous iconographic studies of Tarot, the two mentioned above, (Caldwell et al. and Moakley), exhaust the list. In terms of the subject of this thread, trionfi and Petrarch, there are a few essential titles. I'll include Petrarch's friend Boccaccio here too, as his works are just as important to understanding early Tarot, and in crucial ways they parallel and complete Petrarch's works.

The Triumphs of Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca, Ernest Hatch Wilkins
Univ. of Chicago Press, 1962.

Lord Morley's Tryumphes of Fraunces Petrarcke
Francesco Petrarca, Henry Parker Morley trans., Lord, D.D. Carnicelli ed.
Harvard University Press, 1971.

Petrarch's Triumphs: Allegory and Spectacle
Amilcare A. Iannucci, Konrad Eisenbichler eds.
Dovehouse Editions, 1988.

Petrarch's Remedies for Fortune Fair And Foul:
A Modern English Translation of De Remediis Utriusque Fortune, with a Commentary

Francesco Petrarca, Conrad H. Rawski
Indiana University Press, 1991.

Enter the King: Theatre, Liturgy, and Ritual in the Medieval Civic Triumph
Gordon Kipling
Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press, 1998.

Imago Triumphalis:
The Function and Significance of Triumphal Imagery for Italian Renaissance Rulers

Margaret Ann Zaho
P. Lang, 2004.

Roman Monarchy and the Renaissance Prince
Peter Stacy
Cambridge University Press, 2007.

The Medieval Heritage of Elizabethan Tragedy
Willard Edward Farnham
Blackwell, 1956.

The Fates of Illustrious Men
Giovanni Boccaccio, Louis Brewer Hall
Ungar, 1965.

A Mirror for Magistrates and the De Casibus Tradition
Paul Vincent Budra
University of Toronto Press, 2000.

As long as I'm posting a Required Reading list for Tarot Iconography 101, we can add a few texts concerning perverse interpretation. You mentioned the fact that Tarot has been subjected to centuries of bullshit; it is not the only work of art to be treated so rudely, (although Tarot has probably suffered more abuse of this sort than any other work). Both art and literature are routinely revisioned, made relevant to a new era and different sensibilities than those in which they originated. This is both good and bad: good in that old works are given new life by being "misread"; bad in that the historical significance of the work is falsified. Here is some challenging reading for cold winter evenings.

Agon: Towards a Theory of Revisionism
Harold Bloom
Oxford University Press, 1982.

The Open Work
Umberto Eco
Harvard University Press, 1989.

Interpretation and Overinterpretation
Umberto Eco, ed. Stefan Collini
Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?
On the Modern Origins of Pictorial Complexity

James Elkins
Routledge, 1999.

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

Re: Petrarca Trionfi poem motifs in early Trionfi decks

#16
hi Michael,
mjhurst wrote: If by "not understood" you mean "by the occultists", I would answer, all. They were silly people, obsessed with nonsense like counting the number of images rather than looking at the subject matter of the images and their meaning in sequence. Dim-witted numerologists....
... :-) ... I don't feel like an occultist or a numerologist, but I think it rather important, what game structure is used, and to this belongs card counting ...
In Chinese terms I would declare, that quantity is yang, and quality is yin.

So I look more on structures than on iconographic messages usually. Content can be easily changed or redefined by following artists, game structures have more stability.

... well, you've presented a long reading list, which surely includes some treasures, but I've only a small cup for a little coffee, and I asked for this and not an ocean ... :-)

I get, that you haven't decided, which of the given orders you take as the original, which in its simplicity and real message is overlooked by (all or some ?) others, especially occultists.

Well, I see more a big dialectical development between the producers, who had the eager wish to produce that deck form, which should sell so often, that they could reach a sufficient life with the help of this enterprise.So in my opinion there were many opinions, and these differences between the opinions generated the creative pool, which was the "true source" of all, what happened on this small paper-pieces called playing cards. For our interest to interpret something, we have only that, what survived, so naturally our view is limited. We can build hypotheses about the true development, that's all.

I think, that chess took an influence. I take this mostly from the structure (16 motifs) and the iconographical study is used to judge, if this is possible or totally nonsense. I don't claim, that all Trionfi card deck ideas (which might have been very many), were obsessed by the idea of a chess allegory on cards. Some of those, which have survived, give the impression, that chess played a role. That's all.

Thanks for your detailed explanation.
Huck
http://trionfi.com

Numerology versus Iconography

#17
Hi, Huck,

Let's first touch base on the ostensible topic of this thread: comparing the themes and subjects of Petrarch's Triumphs with those of archetypal Tarot decks, or at least decks with the standard trump subjects. (I'm assuming that decks like Sola-Busca and Boiardo-Viti are not part of the discussion.) You argue about numerology, posting things like "...the model, 32 figures... 16 gods... 48 figures... 41 figures... 22 in the Tarot... 50 figures in the Mantegna Tarocchi..." And always lurking, at least implicitly, is the phantom 5x14 Tarot deck.

I argue that the way to approach questions of subject matter, themes, and cultural sensibilities is via iconography. Panofsky defined iconography precisely as the study of subject matter in the visual arts, and iconology as the study of that subject matter's significance within the historical, cultural context. In a work like the Floreffe Bible illustration of the children of Job, numerical correspondences play a central role. In most works, not so much.
Image
THE NUMEROLOGY APPROACH
Huck wrote:... :-) ... I don't feel like an occultist or a numerologist, but I think it rather important, what game structure is used, and to this belongs card counting ...
You don't feel like an occultist, but let's compare. We'll start with the decks referenced. The original Tarot fabricators began with the most historically common Tarot deck. It was one of the oldest designs, and it was the most long-lived and geographically widespread. It was also one of the most typical or characteristic decks: it has the Latin suit signs, the standard 22 subjects, and the full complement of 56 suit cards.

On the other hand, you begin with the most obscure, least well-known, or even imaginary (e.g., 5x14) decks, decks which were not used to play Tarot games, and things which are not even playing cards. This means that you generate additional numbers to become obsessed with, several worlds of fantasy in addition to the traditional occultists'. Most notably, you focus on 14 and 16 as well as 22, but other numbers as well. And you refer all of this fantasy to "Tarot history".

The obscurity or, in some cases, imaginary nature of these decks is itself a problem. Manly P. Hall explained the import of obscurity in his 1978 booklet, The Tarot, (associated with the Knapp-Hall deck). He pointed out that the less information is available upon a subject, the more likely people are to make stuff up, on the presumption that if nothing is known then anything may be true, and few will dare to contradict their tales. (The Tarot, p.7.) That is why serious researchers follow the method of Descartes, beginning with the easily and directly known, the most reliable knowledge available, and only proceeding carefully to more difficult questions after having established a foundation of solid fact.

As an example, many posters prefer to begin their interpretations with the most ambiguous subjects among the trumps, like the Fool, the Popess, the Chariot, the Hanged Man, the Tower, etc. These are taken as Rorschach inkblots, and some meaning is selected from the endless possibilities. Then the rest of the cycle is forced to fit that preferred subject matter. That is, occultists begin with a secret, concealed "key" (e.g., "the Fool is really the wise Fool...") that is used to "unlock" (distort) the meaning of the cycle. Conversely, rationalists begin with open keys, knowledge that was available to virtually everyone of that time and place. The rational approach is to begin with the most conventional and least ambiguous subjects, such as the commonplace Emperor-Pope pairing, allegories of Love, Virtue, Time, Fortune, Death, and Apocalyptic subjects like resurrection to a New World. The intended meaning of the work, in general terms, can be ascertained with ease and certainty from those conventional subjects, and then the more malleable subjects can be interpreted so as to make sense within that general framework.

This methodology, working from the known to the unknown, was endorsed by art historians of the Warburg school, and has been continued by later iconographers such as Rosamond Tuve. The underlying assumption is that allegorists intended to inform rather than to deceive or mislead, to communicate meaning rather than conceal it. The only approach worse than beginning with an obscure and ambiguous trump subject, which tells us virtually nothing about the meaning of the cycle, is to begin with the number of trumps subjects, which tells us absolutely nothing.

And again, you go even further afield than that. You take things that were not Tarot at all, (like the 16 Heroes deck), or not even playing cards, (like the E-Series model book), and twist them into the same fictional narrative. Rather than look at each work in its own right, you make a jumbled hash of everything.

The original occultists' great blunder involved the "happy coincidence" of 22 trump cards, and their relative indifference to the conventional meaning of those cards. Quoting Hall again:
Manly P. Hall wrote:The happy coincidence that the Hebrew alphabet contained 22 letters has already been mentioned. It is inevitable that this apparently supporting fact should excite a wide field of speculation, but we must not jump to conclusions. Almost any number can be fitted into some system of philosophy. Once we have addicted ourselves to a concept, it becomes our duty to protect and expand that concept in every possible way. Sometimes defense becomes a light obsession, and we begin to disregard such details of our hypotheses as fail to conform with our dominant convictions. (The Tarot, p.31-32.)
Jumping to a conclusion and becoming addicted to it; sound familiar? You talk nonsense, year after year, and never seem to seriously think about what you write. For example, your Chess obsession is self-evidently empty as an explanation for the Tarot trump cycle. Wrong number, wrong subjects, no similarities in the game. It is pure silliness unless and until you find a medieval chess set that has a fool, emperor, and pope, along with allegorical subjects like Love, Virtue, Time, Fortune, and Death, as well as eschatological subjects like the Devil, falling towers, celestial lights and resurrection to a New World. And your only point? "Sixteen."

Riddle me this: How is 16 = 22?
Answer: Neither explains anything about Tarot.

You make a single inane assumption, and then bend the rest of the world to conform. That is empty numerology. Consider this footnote by Waite, in his translation of Transcendental Magic. Levi stated that "without the Tarot, the Magic of the ancients is a closed book and it is impossible to penetrate any of the great mysteries of the Kabalah."
Waite wrote:There is a sense in which this statement represents the main thesis of Levi respecting the Secret Tradition in Israel. It must be taken therefore as his serious and considered view, but its sole foundation is that there are 22 Hebrew letters and 22 Tarot Trumps Major. They belong to one another as much and as little as the 22 chapters of the Apocalypse connect with either. So also the analogies instituted between the word Taro and the Monogram of Christ are referable to the world of fantasy.
It doesn't matter how many tens of thousands of words you write, or what graphics you construct, or how many years you beat this dead horse, it's still not going to get up and run. You still have only one point: "Sixteen!"
Huck wrote:So I look more on structures than on iconographic messages usually. Content can be easily changed or redefined by following artists, game structures have more stability.
Yes, you do ignore the iconography, but no, you don't pay any attention to "game structures". You ignore them too.

Fourteen isn't sixteen. Sixteen isn't twenty, or twenty-two... or twenty-one plus a Matto with special rules. The rules of the 16 Heroes game are not the rules of Tarot, nor anything like them. The rules of Chess are nothing like the rules of Tarot. The E-Series wasn't a game of any kind; they were not cards of any kind; and it therefore was nothing like a Tarot deck used to play Tarot games. These things are all different, and the 5x14 Tarot deck isn't anything real at all -- it's a figment of your imagination.

Regarding your indifference to the meaning of the Trump cycle, this is precisely my point regarding numerologists: you have nothing to say that is the least bit informative about the trumps. You can offer nothing but, "sixteen!" Your lack of interest in the meaning of Tarot is exactly the same as the traditional occultists -- you want complete freedom to make stuff up, and numerology gives you that. Iconography does not.
Huck wrote:I think, that chess took an influence. I take this mostly from the structure (16 motifs) and the iconographical study is used to judge, if this is possible or totally nonsense. I don't claim, that all Trionfi card deck ideas (which might have been very many), were obsessed by the idea of a chess allegory on cards. Some of those, which have survived, give the impression, that chess played a role.
Your sole argument is "sixteen!", and it is false. Tarot decks don't have sixteen trumps. The trumps likewise don't have the same or similar subject matter as Chess -- the suit cards do. And the games offer little if any parallel in gameplay.

THE ICONOGRAPHY APPROACH
Huck wrote:I get, that you haven't decided, which of the given orders you take as the original, which in its simplicity and real message is overlooked by (all or some ?) others, especially occultists.
No, you don't seem to get it at all. My point is that the question is not a simple matter of opinion, where one choice is as good as another, regardless of how it may have been arrived at or how it may be defended. You ask only for the conclusion rather than the means by which one may approach a reasonable conclusion. You have your conclusions, and your methods, which I characterize as numerology and blind guesswork. I was attempting -- failing as usual -- to communicate the importance of sound method over results. It's not a matter of a pet theory, but rather of pet methodology -- rational analysis of objective evidence. That means, look at the cards!

It's what Sherlock would call a three-pipe problem, something to be worked through in detail, rather than a demitasse guessing game. You say you have only a small cup for a little coffee -- so I will give you an even longer answer than before.

I came to a conclusion about that question 12 years ago, and wrote about it -- then and many times since. Since then, when new facts are discovered or made more accessible, (such as the Caldwell-Depaulis-Ponzi translation of the two 16th-century essays, or Depaulis' finding re Giusto Giusti and Gismondo, or Pratisi's findings about playing-cards in 15th century Florence), or when new arguments are made, (such as Ross' analysis and interpretation of the trump cycle), then the old conclusions are reviewed to determine how well they hold up in light of new information.

There are two reasonable ways to approach the Ur Tarot question, (and indirectly, the question of parallels between Petrarch's Triumphs and the origin of Tarot). From the perspective of historical documentation, there are positive arguments for a few decks and locales, and there are negative arguments against many old favorites. For example, there are good arguments against ancient Egypt and 14th-century France as the birthplace of Tarot. Sadly, books presenting such horseshit are still being written and published. Robert Swiryn's sad cry for help, The Secret of the Tarot: How the Story of the Cathars Was Concealed in the Tarot of Marseilles, and Morgan DuVall's absurd Archaeology of the Tarot, both deserve mockery precisely because historical evidence revealed them as false decades before they were written. (They should come with red-ball noses and big floppy shoes.)

Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence or argument by which to prefer Milan, Bologna, Ferrara, or Florence. For the last three decades, each has had historical arguments in its favor while none can be ruled out. Each locale would suggest a different type of deck as the best representative of the Ur Tarot. So the documentary approach is limited to excluding most times and places. As Dummett et al. have long concluded, Tarot was invented as a card game in Northern Italy around 1440, or shortly before.

The other approach, which I discussed in the previous post, is iconography. It terms of the Ur Tarot, our first question is whether we can find a coherent design to any of the early decks associated with those for four locales. If not, then we should acknowledge that the surviving decks do not offer any good support for a systematic design, and Tarot was always a meaningless hodge-podge of subjects. (See The 1603 Pastime of Andrea Ghisi for some examples of games with seemingly random and eclectic images.)

What would constitute a systematic cycle of subjects? A coherent design might be something as simple as an allegorical chain or ladder, where one subject leads naturally to the next. Petrarch's 6-part cycle is itself of this nature. This is patently not the case in any existing Tarot sequence, so we need to look for something more complicated.

THREE SECTIONS and AFFINE GROUPS

The basis for a more complicated iconographic study is two-fold. The first, an absolute sine qua non for Tarot iconography, is recognizing the division of the cycle into three sections. It is obvious that the Emperor and Pope are the highest-ranking subjects of their kind. The Pope is an absolute boundary, as any card trumping him must be of a different kind, i.e., a conventional allegory like Love, Fortune, or Death. It is almost as obvious that, iconographically, the highest-ranking trumps are also of a different kind than the middle trumps. The highest trumps, beginning with the Devil, are eschatological subjects rather than allegorical personifications. This analysis was explained by Dummett in 1980, based on his comparison of the different orderings, and clarified in 1985 in his FMR article, with reference to the subject matter as well as the orderings.

One conclusion from this is that decks with Justice promoted to the eschatological group are clearly derivative, rather than being candidates for the earliest design.

The second basis for an iconographic study is the observation of affinity groups within the trumps. These are meaningful subdivisions within each of the three sections. For example, the Emperor and Empress are clearly a pair, as are the Emperor and Pope. (Ambiguity already!) The three Moral Virtues are a well-documented group, known to anyone familiar with St. Thomas Aquinas. The Star, Moon, and Sun group are another affine trio. And so on.

There is another structural observation Dummett noted, one based on these affinity groups. Within the middle section, the affine pair Love/Chariot almost always precedes Time/Fortune, and Traitor/Death is always the last pair. This pattern is strikingly meaningful when we consider the subject matter of the three groups. The first group shows iconic examples of good fortune; the second group shows reversals of fortune; the third group shows the ultimate bad fortune of betrayal and death. This observation is the fundamental meaning of the Tarot trump cycle -- a Wheel of Fortune or De Casibus cycle.

One conclusion from this is that decks which do not maintain this meaningful allegorical design are derivative, rather than being candidates for the earliest design.

What other patterns can we find in known decks? What should we look for?

The basic criterion for well ordered design is that the elements of each affine group are either adjacent or equally spaced. Equally spaced might be something like alternation, where each pair seems matched in some way. The sequence Empress-Popess-Emperor-Pope is an example. Another example of equally spaced elements is the virtues in the Tarot de Marseille ordering. This might be compared to a rhyme scheme in the middle trumps, AAB-CCB-DDB, where B represents one of the three virtues.

Adjacent elements are like couplets: AABBCC. At first glance, this seems like a possibility in some decks. For example, the ordering of the Steele manuscript (and the Bertoni and Garzoni poems) begins promisingly: Matto/Bagatto, Empress/Emperor, Popess/Pope. This is clearly a well-designed pattern. However, such a simple alternating scheme fails beyond that point. Despite the fact that there are over a dozen different orderings, most of them do not yield such a systematic design.

TWO PLAUSIBLE ORDERINGS

While that simplest pattern fails, there might be some more complicated arrangement of related subjects, a kind of rhyme scheme built on related subjects. Again, this might be built on equally-spaced affine groups or adjacent ones. As an example of the former, there is the Milanese/Tarot de Marseille ordering. This structure is not perfect, but is sufficiently apparent and meaningful that it has been noted by writers including Ronald Decker and Tom Tadfor Little. Here it is, within the three sections, with the rhyme scheme spelled out.

AAB - Matto/Bagatto/Popess
CCB - Empress/Emperor/Pope
--- --- --- --- --- --- ---
DDE - Love/Triumphal Chariot/Justice
FFE - Hermit/Fortune/Fortitude
GGE - Traitor/Death/Temperance
--- --- --- --- --- --- ---
HHI - Devil/Tower/Star
JJI - Moon/Sun/Resurrection to Judgment
I - World

Popess/Pope are clearly an affine group, but they are not adjacent -- they are equally spaced, every third card. The three Moral Virtues are not adjacent but equally spaced, every third card. Each pair of cards preceding these "third cards" is itself an affine group, making the first two sections coherent. The structure is neat, to the point of being obvious.

However, it is far from obvious that the third section continues that rhyme scheme. To argue that the Star/Judgment/World form an affine group is, at best, not easy. To interpret it as coherent one must come up with something subtle and/or complex regarding the highest-ranking cards. Tarot de Marseille is therefore rather like an imperfectly crafted poem, where things begin well but end with forced choices. However, the analysis I would offer is not unique with me. It was sufficiently clear in the Tarot de Marseille decks that even some occultists noticed it. The designer was telling a basic eschatological story but overlaid a rather clever hierarchy of light motif. Not obvious, but present and sufficiently explanatory to clean up the mess.

As conflated and therefore confusing as that is, however, it is still better than all-but-one of the alternative orderings. Most orderings just suck. In terms of being well designed iconographic compositions, they totally suck... all but one.

The simplest of all orderings is an example of the second possibility, where all affine groups are kept together. This is the Bolognese ordering. If we take the Rosenwald deck as our exemplar for the lowest trumps, the early Bolognese decks would show this pattern.

AA - Matto/Bagatto
BB - Popess/Empress
CC - Emperor/Pope
--- --- --- --- --- --- ---
DD - Love/Triumphal Chariot
EEE - Temperance/Justice/Fortitude
FF - Time/Fortune
GG - Traitor/Death
--- --- --- --- --- --- ---
HH - Devil/Tower
III - Star/Moon/Sun
JJ - World/Angel

This is by far the easiest ordering to explain in a reasonably coherent manner. The only gross failure of this ordering is the World/Angel reversal. Resurrection to the Last Judgment properly comes before the New World. The defeat of the Devil via fire from Heaven is from the beginning of Rev. 20. The signs of the second coming (Ecc 12:1-5, Lk 21:25-28, etc. -- signa in sole et luna et stellis) are properly next, followed by Resurrection. The New World is from Rev. 21.

So the Tarot de Marseille ordering seems clumsy and requires conflated meanings for the highest trumps, while the Bologna ordering seems clearly derivative, based on the World/Angel reversal. Nonetheless, they remain the strongest contenders for the title of most coherent extant design. In my opinion... based on the approach outlined above.

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

Re: Petrarca Trionfi poem motifs in early Trionfi decks

#18
Hello Michael,
thank you very much for your detailed comparison of the Tarot de Marseille and Bolognese oderings. I find your analysis very helpful in making clear the structure behind these two families of Tarot.

About the influence of Petrarch's Trionfi, I wonder if the idea of a sequence of allegories in which a higher allegory wins a lower allegory is to be seen as derived from Petrarch. So, my doubt is if there is an influence from Petrarch that has contributed to the structure of the trumps and is independent from the specific allegories. Is the idea of a fight between ranked allegories something that existed before Petrarch's poem? Did Tarot derive this idea from Petrarch or from a common source that influenced both Petrarch and Tarot? I understand that Petrarch's hierarchy is a simple ladder, while Tarot's structure is more complex, but this complexity also includes the fact that higher allegories win (i.e. trump) lower allegories.

Re: Petrarca Trionfi poem motifs in early Trionfi decks

#19
Michael,
I was hoping you’d be joining one of these threads (and hopefully Ross inputs some more himself). I agree with the iconographic program you outlined (especially applying the fruits of the Warburg school – more on that some other time), but there are inconsistencies within your “three sections” and “affine” pairings, particularly in regard to the timeline of the surviving tarot evidence. The timeline counter-points:
1. The earliest known tarot order includes the theological virtues (which I date to Sforza/Bianca’s wedding); the premise that this is an outlier with no relationship to the standardization of the tarot is simply unfounded. More on that below.
2. All evidence for the standardization of the 22 trumps comes with and after the PMB deck (which I date to 1450/1). The fact that there are numerous fragments of additional copy decks of the PMB (with variations) is an argument for standardization with the emergence of this Sforza deck (e.g., the large Duchy of Milan ensured its popularity by means of disseminating it throughout Northern Italy…plus it had an urgent reason to do so: to proclaim/legitimate the new duke Sforza). The premise that the original tarot had 22 trumps is based on retrodating the PMB series back to ~1440 merely because there is a preponderance of its decks and thus “obviously” the standard from the beginning. In fact there is zero evidence for positing 22 trump subjects before 1450 and there is nothing obvious as to why the CY deck was an outlier in the face of no competing decks before 1450.
an absolute sine qua non for Tarot iconography, is recognizing the division of the cycle into three sections.
I agree, but for different reasons. The earliest evidence of the CY deck has he seven virtues, of which I identify the “World” card as Prudence holding fama’s trumpet (or rather Prudence directs the other virtues, per Bruni, and a virtuous life leads to good fama and ultimately salvation; Prudence’s round mirror becomes the circular “World” or rather the geographical principality over which the dedicatee of a given deck ruled over with Prudence: Florence’s contado subsumed into Florentia [Anghiari deck, perhaps resembling the CVI World card showing a hilly Tuscan landscape], the dowry of Cremona [CY deck], and an idealized/rebuilt Milan [PMB deck]).

We then have all 7 virtues in the CY deck: this series cannot be added to or detracted from without rhyme or reason (unless Humility was present, but it is not) therefore 7 is the fundamental subset upon which one must break down the tarot into three sections. I know you disagree with the 5X14 theory (to which I include Giusti and CY, a type I see dying out by 1457 at the latest [the 70 card notice] – only seven years after PMB emerges and renders the earlier CY-type decks unfashionable), but the only clearly identifiable subset of tarot cards is the seven virtues in the CY and that does not depend on whether there were ultimately 14 or 21 cards in the deck + the fool. I further argue that the seven virtues were retained in the PMB deck but with the theological virtues replaced with cognates or an antitype:
* Faith with cross becomes “Papess” with cross (there is no way these two can appear in the same deck – they are too similar);
* Hope becomes the antitype of the Hanged Man, which is Giotto’s vice opposite Hope in the Scrovegni chapel (there is no denying Giotto’s influence on the PMB – his “foolishness” in Scrovegni is obviously the model for the Fool);
* Charity becomes the Pope, the latter being whom directs the benefices and charitable works of the Church.

The problem of the Fool and affine pairing: Given the card playing status of the Fool and its zero designation I don’t see how it could be paired with any other card; it is truly an outlier (if Prudence can embody Virtue itself in the highest card of the “World” the Fool is its antithesis which indeed it is as the opposite of Prudence in the Scrovegni – this allegorical “anti-Virtue” is signified in the CY by the 7 feathers upon the Fool’s head). So my proposal is straightforward: 7 is the basis of the three sections, yielding 21 cards plus the anti-virtue of the Fool which ends up standing outside of the three series of seven subjects in tarot. And I’m sure I don’t need to go into how omnipresent the number 7 was in medieval Europe.

Your three sections – 6 cards / 9 cards / 7 cards - are supposedly internal to the PMB deck and I know numerology is meaningless to you but why uneven groupings? Moreover, your themes for these three uneven groups – “good fortune”, “reversals of fortune” and “ultimate bad fortune” – are simply descriptive catch-alls in an attempt to inclusively fit said groupings, but these themes have no clear allegorical parallels in medieval Europe. These three themes can’t be tied to other known iconographical thematic orders that is the basis of your proposed methodology. To quote you again: “The underlying assumption is that allegorists intended to inform rather than to deceive or mislead, to communicate meaning rather than conceal it.” Without an historical precedent how do your thematic orders inform? You’ll look in vain for parallel groupings of Matto/Bagatto/Popess/Empress/Emperor/Pope anywhere else in medieval art or literature, so how could that group possibly have meaning?

The Virtues were writ large in the Florentine urban fabric and were fundamental to the Florentine’s conception of themselves and their place in the world, particularly in the quattrocento. It is inconceivable that the seven virtues were modified in Florence – but that’s not what I’m proposing: the theological virtues were modified in Milan due to the needs of the new duke there (and unlike Cosimo/Florence in 1440, Sforza was not militarily allied with the Church in 1450/1…but he certainly had internal enemies/”traitors” in Milan and thus the hanged man was more appropriate than Hope).

To reiterate what is the absolute basis for all interpretations - the surviving evidence: The earliest surviving deck features the 7 virtues (and I understand Ross and others will dispute World=Prudence…for now ;-) and there are no historical references to 22 trumps nor a surviving deck that indicates the same prior to 1450/1. The evidence itself strictly suggests an original series of seven virtues that must have been matched by complementary "affine" exemplars, thus Giusti/CY’s 14 trumps were augmented to 21 + 1 in the PMB (at the very minimum one has to explain away the self-evident subset internal to the CY - the 7 Virtues). There are three missing cards in CY that are easily explained: the Wheel from the contemporary Brambilla and the missing virtues of Temperance and Justice, naturally completing Virtues’ series and the deck as a whole at 14 trumps. There is no other subset in the CY like the Virtues that begs to be completed – no reason to add another card (besides completing Virtues’ series), much less all of the additional trumps from PMB (which modern game companies have shoddily done in “reproduction” decks that have helped foster the notion that CY somehow equaled PMB instead of being a precursor).

Phaeded

Re: Petrarca Trionfi poem motifs in early Trionfi decks

#20
Hi, Phaeded,
Phaeded wrote:1. The earliest known tarot order includes the theological virtues (which I date to Sforza/Bianca’s wedding); the premise that this is an outlier with no relationship to the standardization of the tarot is simply unfounded.
By "earliest known Tarot order" you seem to mean the Cary-Yale deck, although we don't know what ordering it might have had. (Something related to the Milanese/Tarot de Marseille tradition, but what exactly...?) It is clearly derived from standard decks, and it is the most grande of luxury decks. It is the largest, the most extravagantly lavished with gold and silver. The set of suit cards was expanded from 56 to 64, and the set of trump cards was expanded, to at least 26, with the inclusion of all seven Cardinal Virtues. This makes it at least a dozen cards larger than standard decks, at 90 cards.

The design principle is obvious -- Best Ever!

You say that there is no basis for thinking it a unique one-off design... except for the fact that it IS a unique, one-off design. There is nothing earlier, nothing later, nothing else at all until the Minchiate expansion that compares to the added cards. It is the very definition of an outlier.
Phaeded wrote:2. All evidence for the standardization of the 22 trumps comes with and after the PMB deck (which I date to 1450/1).
No. The Cary-Yale deck is powerful evidence for the standardization of 22 trumps, and proof that Huck's fantasy 5x14 deck, with the 14 original Visconti-Sforza trumps, is nonsense. One of the standard trumps which Huck claims did not exist circa 1450 (the V-S deck) was the World, yet it does exist in the earlier Cary-Yale deck. We know that Tarot spread early and widely, and yet all surviving decks appear to be derived from the standard trumps. There is no reasonable explanation for that other than the fact that Tarot was invented in the form that we know it.
Phaeded wrote:The problem of the Fool and affine pairing: Given the card playing status of the Fool and its zero designation I don’t see how it could be paired with any other card;
You are mistaking the iconographic cycle for the rules of the game and, in effect, throwing away one of the cards. If it were a cipher card, something like the Visconti Biscione emblem by itself, this would probably make sense. However, it is clearly another allegorical figure like the rest of the trumps, so it must be taken into account. The Fool is a natural member of a "ranks of man" motif, and in fact occurs in various examples of moral allegories, most notably in Dance of Death cycles. In the game, he is a member of the trumps in that he may be played in lieu of them but he is so lowly that he takes no tricks. So as the lowest of the set, and as the lowest figure in a ranks of man series, he clearly has his place exactly where one would expect.
Phaeded wrote:Your three sections – 6 cards / 9 cards / 7 cards - are supposedly internal to the PMB deck and I know numerology is meaningless to you but why uneven groupings?
Because your personal biases and preconceptions were not theirs. They did not make even groups nor uneven groups -- they made meaningful groups, with meaningful sub-groupings.

Moreover, it is not just one deck. The divisions at the Pope and Devil are necessary to understanding every deck that has the standard trumps. In the Eastern orderings the division is 6/8/8, because Justice has been changed from one of the conventional allegories to a representative of the Last Judgment and moved to the appropriate position.

They did what they did, and our task is to understand it rather than dispute it and claim that we know better than they do. The modern occultist's fixation on septenaries in Tarot is rather like their fixation of the "missing virtue" and other blunders. The mistakes and pseudo questions of the occultists blind most Tarot enthusiasts to the actual design.

You want septenaries because... "seven!" Good for you, bad for historical Tarot.

I want divisions that make sense because... because that is the basic question: Does the Tarot trump cycle make sense? If we force a septenary division on it, then the answer is, no.
Phaeded wrote:Moreover, your themes for these three uneven groups – “good fortune”, “reversals of fortune” and “ultimate bad fortune” – are simply descriptive catch-alls in an attempt to inclusively fit said groupings, but these themes have no clear allegorical parallels in medieval Europe.
First, you completely misunderstood what I wrote. The three groups you refer to here are NOT the three sections of the complete cycle. They are the three groups within the second section, the middle trumps.

Second, calling victory in Love and War "good fortune" is not a catchall. Calling Time and Fortune "reversal of fortune" is not a catchall. Calling Betrayal and Death "bad fortune is not a catchall. These are iconic subjects in each category, and represented in much art and literature.

Third, the notion that the Wheel of Fortune or De Casibus narrative cycle, the rise-turn-fall cycle, is unknown in 15th-century Italy is absurd. I'll talk a bit more about that in my reply to Marco, probably tomorrow or Saturday, but I don't have time this evening.
Phaeded wrote:These three themes can’t be tied to other known iconographical thematic orders that is the basis of your proposed methodology.
Nonsense.

The historical precursors are Boccaccio's Casibus and Petrarch's Remediis. Virtually every story in The Examples of Famous Men is an example of a great man's rise, his reversal (a so-called "tragedy of Fortune" or "medieval tragedy"), downfall and death. It was one of the most popular works in late 14th-century Italy and continued in popularity, in various translations and imitations, for centuries. In the Tarot de Marseille/Milanese ordering, each turn of Fortune's Wheel is capped with one of the three Moral Virtues. This is the theme of Petrarch's Remedies for Good and Bad Fortune. While Boccaccio wrote an encyclopedia of moralized biographies illustrating Fortune's Wheel, Petrarch wrote an encyclopedia of circumstance, good and bad, and the way in which the four Passions of the Soul were mitigated by virtue. These two Latin moral works were the main reasons for the fame and respect of Petrarch and Boccaccio at the time Tarot was invented.
Phaeded wrote:To quote you again: “The underlying assumption is that allegorists intended to inform rather than to deceive or mislead, to communicate meaning rather than conceal it.” Without an historical precedent how do your thematic orders inform? You’ll look in vain for parallel groupings of Matto/Bagatto/Popess/Empress/Emperor/Pope anywhere else in medieval art or literature, so how could that group possibly have meaning?
You mean Tarot before Tarot was invented? Yes, that would be miraculous. If something never appeared before in precisely the same form, then it must be meaningless... surely you must be joking? If not, then the previous sentence must be meaningless because, until I wrote it, it had never been written. Here is a ranks of man picture. It never appeared anywhere, before or after this single occurrence, so it must be doubly meaningless.
Image
However, it seems perfectly meaningful to me, and it even has a fool as the lowest member, on the left, with his monkey. (FYI, that's Petrarch enthroned in the middle.) The critical, characteristic element of many (not all) such groupings is the presence of an emperor and pope as the highest members.

I seriously doubt that anyone has offered MORE salient iconographic precedents to support their interpretations of Tarot than I have. Ask around. I have included a number of links in this thread, but I will not repeat 12 years of posts here.
Phaeded wrote:The Virtues were writ large in the Florentine urban fabric...
But that is not the question.

What was writ large in Tarot?
Phaeded wrote:To reiterate what is the absolute basis for all interpretations - the surviving evidence: The earliest surviving deck features the 7 virtues
To reiterate the absolute basis for the use of evidence - cherry-picking is bad.
Phaeded wrote:(and I understand Ross and others will dispute World=Prudence…for now ;-)
And they will be correct.

Prudence was without doubt a card in Cary-Yale, yielding a total of 26 trumps, at a minimum -- the standard 22, including the World, plus four additional virtues adding to the noble decorum of this uniquely magnificent deck. As Brother John might phrase it: "This manner of distributing the cards and this number pleases me most, for three reasons: first, because of its greater authority; second, because of its royal fitness; and third, because of its more becoming courteousness."

Look at all the early decks, in context, rather than taking one of them out of context and spinning elaborate speculations about it. Those speculations add nothing to our understanding of either that particular deck nor any of the standard decks. Conversely, if you understand the iconographic reasons behind the 6/9/7 analysis, you will have the explanation for Dummett's finding about the three sections: variations, decade after decade in all locales, were restricted to moving cards within groups rather than between groups. If the three sections were not meaningfully distinct, that would be a most bizarre factual finding, but if you understand the meaning of the cycle, it makes perfect sense. Even the single exception to that rule, the placement of Justice between Resurrection and the World, makes perfect sense. It has been revisioned as Judgment, echoing the iconography of Michael in Apocalyptic art, rather than being merely one of the Moral Virtues.

I'll try to get something written up for Marco which repeats a few of the key points from the last 12 years.

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

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