Marcello's Letter and Marziano's Text (BnF ms. lat. 8745(A))

#1
Due to the constant interest in this subject, I thought it best to start a thread for everything concerning the text of Jacopo Antonio Marcello, and his copy of Marziano's "De deificatione sexdecim heroum".

First, Marcello's letter to Isabelle of Lorraine, followed by my transcription and translation. They are from 2003; I know my Latin has improved since then, and I hope other eyes will make suggestions as well.

As always, for larger versions of these images, click on the URL below each picture.


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Re: Marcello's Letter and Marziano's Text (BnF ms. lat. 8745

#2
Diplomatic transcription:

Serenissimae Isabellae Reginae Augustissimae. Iacobus Antonius Marcellus humiliter se commendat.

Cum superiore anno in agro Mediolanensi in summi & clarissimi ducis Francisci sforçe castris essem : Ibique illustrissimae rei publicae nostrae, copiis: quas ei auxilio summiserat praefectus essem : & una aduersus mediolanenses bellum gereremus : Accidit eodem tempore : Ut Scipio caraffa ex prouintiae regionibus nuper rediret : quo cum iucundissimae et humanissimae cum de Serenissimi regis confortis uestri et vnici ac obseruandissimi domini mei optimo ac felicissimo statu sermonem haberem: casu quodam ex eo ludo: quem triumphum apellant : cartae quaedam oblatae mihi ac dono datae fuerunt : Eas cum idem scipio uidisset :
commotus homo prudens ac diligens : cum eas uehementer uestrae regiae maiestati placituras dixisset : suasit ac inter magnopere hortatus est ut eas primo quoque tempore ad uos mittendas curarem. Sic enim affirmabat fore : ut cum rei diuinae operam dedissetis : & muneribus curisque regiis : quibus magnae res:
quales uestrae sunt : administrari solent: aliquando uacaretis : huiuscaemodi ludis fessam multis ac uariis cogitationibus & rebus mentem quodammodo reficeretis & recrearetis. ob eam rem nihil uobis quicquam
gratius aut jucundius sua oppimone afferri posse. Sed cum eiusmodi cartas tanta maiestate indignas esse ducerem (neque enim pro regio fastigio ornatae & excultae esse uidebantur) Cupidus uobis satisfaciundi: & animo ac studio uestro obsequendi: diligenter operam dedi ut siquis aut ubi inter gentium solertissimus harum rerum artifex reperiri posset : exquirerem. Quae me cogitatio & ingens animi cura cum uehementius angeret : & omni opetotoque ut aiunt pectore in eam rem incumberem : cognoui illustrissimum illum mediolani Principem nouum quoddam & exquisitum triumphorum genus : Ut erat omnium : qui unquam fuerunt in omnium maximarum rerum Inuentione acutissimus : excogitasse. Quod idem uobis paucis exponere uelim. Erant enim sexdecim caeli principes ac barones. his aduingebantur quatuor reges diversarum auium generi praesidentes. Hanc deinde totius
ludi rationem doctissimo cuidam hominem: & syderum ac caeli peritissimo componendam describendamque dedit. Nec eo contentus princeps ille magno animo ac summo ingenio praeditus : Michelinum pictorem
aelegantissimum adhibuit : alteram hac nostra tempestate Polycletum : qui totum hunc ludum artificiosissime ornatissimeque depingeret. hoc igitur summi Principis inuentum: hanc tantam illius aelegantiam uestra maiestate dignam fore cognoscens : relicto superiore instituto omnem meam curam. cogitationem. diligentiam. studium. animum. mentem in hanc potissimum remcontuli. huc totam ingenii aciem intendi id noctes diesque agitare coepi : quo pacto post illius mortem eruere uobis potissimvm ualerem. Erat enim longe difficillimum in tanta rerum perturbatione sparsa atque disiecta copiosissimi ac luculentissimi ducis suppellectile librum unum & cartas
illas reperiri posse. et eo difficilius quo illis de rebus non nisi ex hostibus ipsis quicquam inuestigare aut cognoscere poteram. Verum cum ita mihi persuaderem : nihil tam arduum : nihil tam difficile esse : quod ab
optimo ac fidelissimo animo in dominum ac Principem suum excogitari . inueniri. perfici. praestarique non posset. Ita laboraui ita omni ope enixus sum : ut id quod magnopere cupiebam atque optabam : fortunae
magis beneficio : quam ingenii uiribus et librum et cartas in potestatem meam redigerem : quodquam mihi gratum et carum esset : uobis Serenissima regina existimandum relinquo. Aequidem nulla oratione : nullis id uerbis consequi possem. Hunc ego librum : eas cartas Magnifico Johanni cossae ad te perferendas dedi. adiunxi
etiam eis cartas illas superiores : quamquam fastigio caelsitudinis uestrae longae impares sint. Sed tanta
est nobilitas uestra. tantus dignitatis splendor. tanta regiae maiestatis uis : tanta augustissimi Imperij dignitas : ut obscurissima Illustrare. humillima nobilitare. abiecta atque prostrata erigere atque in caelum extollere auctoritate vestra possitis. Nam horum beneficio : quos auctoritas ac maiestas uestra honestauerit effectum est ut ad eorum qui splendidiores sunt : inuestigationem peruenirem. Alioquin merito mihi succensere possent : nisi solita illa uostra clementia ac benignitate suscaepti uiderentur. Oro igitur maiestatem uestram Serenissima regina : ne mvnus meum non tam pulchrum ut vellem : sed studium atque animum metirj ac reputare uelit. & quotiens hoc ludo mentem summis laboribus arrisque lassam reficietis : et hoc nouo Italico inuento animum recreabitis : totiens miserum illud erumnosumque regnum quod oppressum. abiectum. perditum. quotidie regem suum tutorem parentem desiderat : exposcit implorat ad uiri uestri sacratissimi regis memoriam redigatis.

Ex monte sylice Pridie Idus nouembris.
Millo quadringentesimo quadragesimo nono.
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Re: Marcello's Letter and Marziano's Text (BnF ms. lat. 8745

#3
Translation of Marcello's letter (2003)

To the Fairest and Most Noble Queen Isabelle,
Jacopo Antonio Marcello humbly commends himself.

Last year in the field of Milan, when I was in the camp of the highest and most celebrated leader Francesco Sforza, I was put in charge of the troops of our most illustrious republic, which he had relieved with assistance while we were waging war against Milan.
At that time it happened that Scipio Caraffa had just returned from the region of Provence, where he had spent the most delightful and refined time in the fairest comfort of your singular realm; and I considered most observantly his conversation concerning the best and happiest conditions of my lords. By some chance the conversation turned to this game, which is called “Triumph”, certain cards that had been offered to me and which I give as they were given.
When Scipio had seen them, being a thoughtful and diligent man, he said your Majesty would be very much pleased by them: and he urged exceedingly and immediately that they should be sent to you at the first opportunity. Thus indeed he affirmed that with them you might give considerations to divine things, as such great things are the business of royalty. Yours are of this kind; they are accustomed to being conducted any time you are unoccupied with many and various thoughts and subjects by means of these pastimes, that you might restore and revive in some measure the wearied mind. On account of this fact, nothing should be able to bring you anything unpleasant or disagreeable.
But these particular cards I regarded as unworthy of so great majesty (as indeed only the highest ornament and decoration ought to be seen by a king). In the desire of being satisfying to you, and being concerned for your spirit and study, I diligently set to work inquiring into how someone among the class of most highly skilled artisans of these things might be found. With the thought of such an enormous undertaking anguishing me vehemently, and taxing my resources, all the while my heart told me I should press on with it.
Now I was aware that the most distinguished, illustrious Prince of Milan had thought out a certain new and exquisite sort of triumphs, being, as he was of everything, at one time the keenest in the invention of all the greatest things. I would briefly explain them now to you. They were indeed sixteen celestial princes and barons, to which were added four kings presiding over different kinds of birds. Afterward he gave the plan of this entire game to someone most learned among men, most expert in both the stars and the heaven, to be set up and described. Nor with this was that prince content, being provided with a great spirit and highest ingenuity: he summoned Michelino, the finest painter, another Polycletus of our time, that he should paint this entire game with greatest artifice and ornament. Therefore by the highest Prince was this invented: such great elegance as these being worthy to be known by your majesty.
With the above in the back of my mind especially for this reason, I brought together in planning all my care, thought, industry, study, spirit, and mind. I exerted all of the keenest ingenuity for it, I started to pursue it night and day, how by negotiation after the death of the former prince, I might be influential for you. Indeed, for a long time it was difficult for one book and deck of cards to be able to be found among the furniture, so much of the riches and splendours of the Duke being scattered as well as destroyed in the disturbance. And because of the difficulty of things I would not have been able to investigate and to know, in any way whatsoever, unless I had depended on the enemy himself. Truly, seeing that I myself am persuaded, that nothing is so arduous, nothing so difficult, that it should not be able to be thought out, discovered, accomplished and fulfilled, by the best and most faithful soul for his Lord and Prince.
Thus I laboured, thus by all means it was striven for, that for which I so greatly longed and desired, so that, benefitted to a great extent by good fortune, by the resources of character I rendered that which was so pleasing and precious to me, both book and cards, into my power. I leave it to you, fairest Queen, to be the judge.
For my part, by no speech, by no words, would I be able to convey it. This book, these cards I greatly prize, will be carried by Giovanni Cossa to be given to you. Also attached, the cards mentioned above, although they might be unequal to your Boundless Highness; the splendour of such dignity, the power of such royal majesty, the dignity of such most august authority, as to light up the most obscure, and bring the lowliest to nobility, that by your authority you may be able to raise up the abject and prostrated, and extol them in heaven. For to the benefit of these it has been done, whom your authority and majesty has honoured, as to those who are brilliant among them. For this reason I undertook this search. Otherwise they would deservedly have been angry with me, unless they should have seen your customary mercy and kindness.
I beg therefore, your Majesty, Fairest Queen: my gift is not so beautiful as I wished, but it is to be wished that the dedication as well as the spirit be esteemed and reflected upon. And as often as you will restore the mind wearied by the highest labours by means of this game, and to revive the spirit by this new Italian invention: so many times this one, poor and wretched, ruled by oppression, abject, lost, daily longing for the king, his protector and parent: he requests, implores you to remember him to your husband the most sacred King.

From Monselice, November 12, 1449.
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Re: Marcello's Letter and Marziano's Text (BnF ms. lat. 8745

#4
Ross,
Along with the Visconti Hours that came into Bianca’s possession sometime after her father’s death in August 1447, is it not possible Marziano’s deck came too (i.e., wouldn’t cards have been kept with other bibliophile materials even as they are today, especially as the cards game with a brief manuscript explaining them with rules of play)? A minor detail compared to Marcello’s use of them - but the timing of Marcello’s gift is all important towards understanding the significance of his own commission.

Marcello saw the Marziano deck sometime in November/December 1448 when he rejoined Sforza from Brescia, for these are the only months in 1448 that the Venetians were not incurring loss after loss to Sforza (notably Casalmaggiore and Caravaggio) . So when Marcello writes at the end of 1449 to Rene’s wife that he saw the cards “last year in the field of Milan” it had to have been after the October 1449 Treaty of Rivoltella when Sforza switched sides back to the Venetians who agreed to support him in taking Milan against the Ambrosian Republic. But that new Treaty had started to disintegrate by September 1449 when the proposed peace with Milan and Venice is not to Sforza’s liking and Venice cuts off its funds and orders Colleoni to withdraw with the Venetian troops. Good friend Marcello must have known exactly where Sforza was headed (breaking with Venice) by November when he wrote to Rene’s wife. Sforza’s siege of Milan begins in earnest in December.

So why was Marcello commissioning a Marziano deck for King Rene’s wife at this moment? Surely a token of foreign relations to keep Rene neutral as both he and Sforza had just been enrolled in his Order of the Crescent and thus might have seen himself – as the representative of Venice – on an equal footing with Sforza, but now Marcello was required to do only Venice's bidding.

The trionfi-like illumination – oddly having the general aspects of a playing card – that Marcello subsequently sent to King Rene in 1453 (an illuminated page within his commissioned life of St. Maurice, patron saint of Rene’s new order) was to keep Rene, once again, from joining Sforza against Venice. This image has received little attention, as far as I am aware, in regard to the milieu that produced the PMB. Without proposing my own take on this item at this time, just posting scans of the image (could not find it on-line) and Margaret King’s text that describes it in detail (The Death of the Child Valerio Marcello, 1994):
Marcello King text_Page_1.jpg
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Marcello to Cossa-Rene.jpg
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Marcello King text_Page_2.jpg
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9/8/14 Edit - a color scan of the Marcello image:

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