The meaning of the first six trumps

#1
This originated in another thread
The original subject of this thread was: 'Lydgate's "Popess" and Wheel of Fortune'

mjhurst wrote: If we can accept that the Popess in Tarot is an allegorical personification closely related to the Roman Catholic Church, then the Tarot card becomes just another example of this large body of woodcuts, paintings, drawings, illuminations, engravings, coins, tapestries, ceramics, and sculptures. The question of her precise meaning remains unresolved.

This is where the sequential context is paramount. What do the lowest trumps, as a group, represent? If the trump cycle as a whole has a coherent meaning, then the Popess must be directly related to the adjacent cards in sequence, and at least indirectly related to the entire sequence of subjects. Taking her out of context and spinning tales about legendary, pseudo-historical figures (like the fictional Joan or semi-fictional modern version of Manfreda) tells us little about early Tarot. (It does tell us why early writers might confuse her with Pope Joan, but that's about all.) Both were good hunches, decades ago when they were new. Both are now modern folklore, but not viable explanations for the Popess card.

What is the gist of the lowest trumps, and what allegorical identification of the Popess can make sense of that? This is the meaning which can explain the designer's choice of subject matter, why a female figure with papal attributes was put into the sequence originally.
mjhurst wrote: Different versions of De Remediis include extremely varied versions of the Wheel of Fortune and Ranks of Man motifs. All are significant parallels for Tarot, because the theme of Tarot and De Remediis are identical. Both detail the fickle turns of Fortune and the use of Virtue as a remedy for those circumstances.
Hello Michael,
taking together your last two posts, I think it would be interesting to consider an analogy with Lydgate's Dame Doctryne, since she appears in a Wheel of Fortune. Another interesting coincidence is the fact that Lydgate's works are contemporary to the invention of tarot.
From what I have found online, the Dame Doctryne illumination comes from a manuscript of “The Siege of Troy”, but the image seems to be based on the text of “The Assembly of Gods, or the accord of Reason and Sensuality in the fear of Death” (pag.44). The illumination (and the text) can be understood as you explained on pre-gebelin:
The Wheel of Fortune is held/turned by the Quene of Fortune. On the left, Dame Doctryne is accompanyied by two male figures, Holy Texte and Scrypture, and two female figures, Glose and Moralyzacion. They are shown helping people rise on Fortune's Wheel because, Lydgate says, scripture is about that which shall fall. Nobles, clerics, and commoners are shown falling. Once again, the popess is an essentially and emphatically Christian allegory.
So the other crowned figures on the left of the illustration are not kings waiting to climb the Wheel of Fortune, but they are other allegories. But while Lydgate's allegories are about the interpretation of literary works, the context of the first trumps is that of a “ranks of men”. So the analogy can only be pushed to the hypothesis that both Lydgate's and tarot's allegories “put people on the Wheel of Fortune”. I think that accepting the Popess as an allegory implies that also the Empress is an allegory. The Fool also can be seen as allegorical. So possibly the first six cards could be taken as three couples representing powers that shape human life, with the ranks corresponding to a life based on such powers:
  • * the Bagat (a person of little value) is the example of a life shaped by Foolishness (“Stultitia”, in Giotto's Scrovegni fresco)
  • * the Emperor (a person of great temporal power) is the example of a life shaped by Authority (Potestas, the Empress)
  • * the Pope (a person of great spiritual power) is the example of a life shaped by Faith (the Popess, Fides in Giotto's Scrovegni fresco)
Possibly, in the ordering of the trumps, the rank follows (trumps) the power shaping it not because the rank is "superior" to the power, but because it is a consequence of the power.

Re: Lydgate's "Popess" and Wheel of Fortune

#2
Hi, Marco,

Lydgate is a great writer in terms of the substance of Tarot. Like Petrarch and like Boccaccio, whose Casibus he "translated" for the English, he wrote moral treatises which were popular and influential at the time but which are considered dreck according to modern sensibilities. This is like Tarot. The actual meaning, and the reason why it was such an appropriate allegory for a popular card game, is painfully boring to the people who come to Tarot for the romance and mystery.
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Like Petrarch and Boccaccio, Lydgate devoted a great deal of writing, including his massive The Fall of Princes, to man's lot in life, namely, Fortune and Death. Again, this is Tarot. The middle trumps are a Wheel of Fortune or De Casibus narrative cycle, ending in Death. Boring as hell for the alchemists and other mystagogues, but profound to the sensibilities of the 15th century.



And, for those who seek only to find isolated images to compare with Tarot, there are plenty of them to choose from in the illustrated manuscripts and printed editions of Lydgate. Given the fondness for distorting things taken out of context, these folks can even find a Hanged Man image, in the form of the child Oedipus, illustrated in Lydgate.
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More pertinent, there are Wheels of Fortune and the Danse Macabre, including Emperor and Pope, and more. One image has a collection of Casibus stories depicted, including a falling tower representing Nimrod. Fun for all!

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

Re: Lydgate's "Popess" and Wheel of Fortune

#3
mjhurst wrote: ... sequential context is paramount. What do the lowest trumps, as a group, represent? If the trump cycle as a whole has a coherent meaning, then the Popess must be directly related to the adjacent cards in sequence, and at least indirectly related to the entire sequence of subjects …What is the gist of the lowest trumps, and what allegorical identification of the Popess can make sense of that? This is the meaning which can explain the designer's choice of subject matter, why a female figure with papal attributes was put into the sequence originally.
Trying to understand the meaning of the Papess – nay, any card - from an unrecoverable original order of the trumps is no less speculative than reconstructing the Anghiari deck from the remnants of the CY deck (based on the hypothesis that they both were created within a year and a half of one another).

But since you brought up the Papess and Wheel of Fortune, let me point out that it is in fact the Pope that shares an iconographical connection within the PMB (the Papess shares no attributes with the Wheel).

The Pope’s gold and blue mantle has been transferred to the person of blind Fortune – they are the only two figures in the trumps to don that same colored/patterned mantle. The only other figures with the same mantle in the rest of the deck are the Coin Suits, which connects money to the negative theme of Fortune but implicates the Pope as well. The association of the Pope with coins, versus the poverty of Faith/Papess, had to have been negative. But then look who is under the wheel, the most negative position: A white-haired/bearded man now in thread-bare white clothes – the Pope himself wears only white without his blue/gold mantle (white-bearded Time/Hermit wears solid blue, which does not match Fortune, thus Pope/Wheel). The Pope as a temporal power was railed against by the likes of Dante in both his Commedia and Monarchia and appropriately the old man under the wheel “has no reign”, per the inscription. If the white bearded man beneath the Wheel can be construed as I have here (and why not?), then the memento mori theme of the CY Death card, with the Pope and his inner circle cut under the sickle, has been retained but in a much more subtle way.
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Phaeded

Re: Lydgate's "Popess" and Wheel of Fortune

#4
Thank you for that last image, Michael. I've been trying to remember for years where my colored version was from. Yes, Lydgate.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Lu-6PwakMv0/S ... 280det.JPG

How do you like the little red devil inside the tower? It seems to me that he corresponds closely to someone in the Sforza Castle card's doorway. Or is that too speculative or out of context?

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Also, more clearly, the figure inside the Minchiate's Tower.

These are things I posted a few years ago on an old blog, http://22invocationsofdionysus.blogspot ... -dieu.html).

Interesting idea, Phaeded.

The three ranks of men with their duties and functions

#5
Hello Mike and Pheaded, thank you for pointing out those details. I can see the similarity between the Pope and the old man at the bottom of the Wheel. The devil inside the tower is lovely and I had completely missed him: those Lydgate image is so full of great details!

A few weeks ago, Michael Hurst published on his pre-gebelin blog a wonderful engraving that perfectly applies to the subject of the role of the Popess. I hope Michael will share with us his thoughts about it.

Re: Lydgate's "Popess" and Wheel of Fortune

#6
I assume you mean the one of the Madonna of Mercy, Marco: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-XXrMgLw2nPg/U ... -sheet.png

Yes, it is beautiful. That would be recognized as an Empress's crown. See e.g.
http://www.bridgemanart.com/asset/36882 ... h_context=
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Another example is at http://www.gogmsite.net/grand-ladies-of ... ia-of.html

I have some images from a picture book of 1491 Augsburg where an empress has a crown just like the one in the engraving, which I can scan if you need more.

Looking on Google, I find that Madonnas of Mercy with crowns are very rare. From before the 16th century, I only see her with a Queen's crown, and even that is rare, i.e. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lippo ... rvieto.jpg

I do see an imperial crown on the coat of arms of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy; but I don't know how old that is, and none of the paintings of Mary on that site have her with one. ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Blessed_Virgin_Mary_of_Mercy

Usually Mary gets a crown at her Coronation, but not much otherwise, at least that I can see on Google.

I don't doubt that it is a Madonna of Mercy; but I wonder who the artist is, and when it was done. Michael had Jean Pichore as one artist, but says he didn't do all the ones he posted there.

Madonna Misericordia from the NGA

#7
Hi, Marco,
marco wrote:A few weeks ago, Michael Hurst published on his pre-gebelin blog a wonderful engraving that perfectly applies to the subject of the role of the Popess. I hope Michael will share with us his thoughts about it.
It's a cool one, isn't it?

This fragment combines several fairly common themes, the rosary Madonna, the Madonna Misericordia, and the Plague Misericordia. There were quite a few rosary prints, including several variations on one particular style that I've posted on before. Erhard Schoen did a version of it. These often had the pope, emperor, and lesser ranks of Christendom included. The Misericordia prints also often included that ranks of man motif, although perhaps even more often they showed a particular segment of society, the audience for whom the work was intended. And the Plague images are pretty obvious, with God throwing darts at the people. Here's a much better version, the 1200px version available online.



It's from the National Gallery of Art, in Washington.

Regarding crowns, there are many variations seen on the Virgin and on religious allegories. The papal tiara with three bands is the most obviously comparable to the Popess in Tarot. However, the imperial crown is fairly common, as is an ordinary open crown. The most interesting is the conical crown usually given to the Queen of Heaven on her coronation. This was an early, pseudo-papal attribute used by Gaddi and others, and is the hat shown by Giotto in his Fides at the Arena Chapel. Finally, there is the single-tier papal tiara, which appears on the Lord's Mercy figure in Florence. But it isn't the hat that matters, it's the subject matter being depicted. The Queen of Heaven can wear a triregnum or a simple band, an imperial crown or whatever. The image is still a Coronation of the Virgin.

P.S. Given that the allegory of the Lord's Mercy in Florence (School of Daddi, 1342) is the earliest allegory I've found where a female figure wears a papal tiara, let me include a few links. Google gave me my own page first:

A Florentine Allegory of the Lord's Mercy
http://pre-gebelin.blogspot.com/2009/03 ... mercy.html

The Allegory of Mercy at the Misericordia in Florence, by William R. Levin
http://books.google.com/books?id=1ERBa-XQOhEC

La Madonna della Misericordia, Firenze
http://www.umilta.net/bigallo.html

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

Re: Lydgate's "Popess" and Wheel of Fortune

#8
Hello Mike and Michael,
I must apologize because I failed to link the specific image I was referring to. I translated the Latin text in the title of my previous post, but that definitely isn't the best way to specify an image :)

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Thank you for commenting those other great images. The pre-gebelin blog is so full of visual documentation that it is difficult to choose on which one to focus. The School of Daddi fresco is also great!

I was attracted by this one, because it seemed to me to be an appropriate description for what I had written in my previous post:
marco wrote: possibly the first six cards could be taken as three couples representing powers that shape human life, with the ranks corresponding to a life based on such powers:
* the Bagat (a person of little value) is the example of a life shaped by Foolishness (“Stultitia”, in Giotto's Scrovegni fresco)
* the Emperor (a person of great temporal power) is the example of a life shaped by Authority (Potestas, the Empress)
* the Pope (a person of great spiritual power) is the example of a life shaped by Faith (the Popess, Fides in Giotto's Scrovegni fresco)
I first read of the first six trumps as a depiction of the “three estates” on Michael Hurst's old site (emphasis mine):
“The first group consists of the Bagatto (the “trifle”, aka Mountebank,
Juggler, or Magician) and the four “papal and imperial cards”. The Fool
is not included in most early lists of the trumps, it is generally not
numbered, and it has a unique role in the game. However, as part of
the allegorical design of the series, its place as the lowest of the low
is obvious, and essential to the design. The Fool considered as an
allegorical figure belongs in this group, and these six cards form a
social hierarchy, a “ranks of man” design, showing two representatives
from each of the “three estates” of medieval society
. In every ordering
of the Tarot sequence, the Mountebank is the lowest of the trumps and
the Pope is the highest. This clearly suggests a rather simple, very
intelligible design is present.”


The complete translation of the texts on the engraving is:
Title: “The three ranks of men with their duties and functions”
God says: “Pray” to the Pope, “Work” to the peasant, “Administer Justice” to the Emperor.
The lower caption: “God assigned as appropriate duties the law of the sword to the King, work to common people, prayers to the Pope".

The image illustrates very well the structure of the first six trumps. My statement that this engraving “perfectly applies to the subject of the role of the Popess” is also misleading. I had mistakenly interpreted the angels at the left as an allegory of Faith (related to the Pope) and those at the right as an allegory of Strength (related to the Emperor). But they obviously are all symbols of the passion of Christ (I must apologize for this mistake too). So, the whole higher part of the engraving is an allegory of Christian Faith (as the Popess may also be). The fact that in the trumps each of the three ranks is represented by a couple (with the Popess specifically linked to the Pope) is something for which I have not yet seen a visual parallel (it might well be one of the original elements of tarot).

Re: Lydgate's "Popess" and Wheel of Fortune

#9
Hi, Marco,

Sorry for the misunderstanding. I had no idea which one you were referring to, so I followed Mike's lead.
marco wrote:The fact that in the trumps each of the three ranks is represented by a couple (with the Popess specifically linked to the Pope) is something for which I have not yet seen a visual parallel (it might well be one of the original elements of tarot).
I believe that the Tarot ranks of man design is unique, in several ways, although there are parallels.

The concept of Emperor-Empress and Pope-Popess is shown in various forms, wherever a pope and emperor are shown with their subordinates. It is shown with multiple representatives, however, rather than in an allegorical personification. The personification is shown in Tarot via the sponsus-sponsa metaphor, itself a commonplace.

There are various examples where the Christ-Ecclesia relationship is depicted, including long before the invention of Tarot, and there are some where it is shown via the Vicar of Christ, a Pope-Ecclesia pair.

Ross found an example where Popess and Empress were used to represent Church and State, but even though it is a simple and obvious idea, it was very rarely depicted. And their rulers were not shown with them, so it still isn't a perfect match for the Tarot grouping.

The corresponding relationship between Bagatto-Matto is something for which I've found no near parallel. The concept is simple: Deceiver and Fool, the leader and the followers. The interpretation of the individual subjects is direct, and they form a direct parallel with the other two pairings. As a third social group, this makes the lowest trumps another example of the tripartite Ranks of Man motif.

A Tripartite Ranks of Man
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=770

It makes the lowest cards a unique but beautifully coherent and perfectly meaningful design. Most Tarot enthusiasts, unfortunately, have trouble with allegory, and with novelty, except when they apply these terms loosely to their favorite alchemical, astrological, Kabbalistic, or other preferred meaning. When it comes to interpreting something as referring to the Battle of Anghiari, anything will do. However, when interpreting a professional illusionist as a personification of deception and a fool as a personification of fools, that is too much of a stretch.

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

Re: Lydgate's "Popess" and Wheel of Fortune

#10
Thanks for reminding me of the Potestas Imperialis and Potestas Ecclesiastica images, Michael. Here they are for those who haven't seen them -


http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/taro ... oryweb.jpg
Title page of Jacques Merlin "Quatuor Conciliorum Generalium" (Paris, 1524)

Details -

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Here are the other two from the AT thread you noted in the thread you linked -

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From Antonio Albizzi, "Principum Christianorum Stemmata", Strasbourg, 1610


http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/taro ... lepage.jpg

Title page of the same


http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/taro ... ytome5.jpg

From the dedication of the Bollandist's "Acta Sanctorum", July volume 5 (1727), to Princess Maria Magdalena, sister of Emperor Charles VI (1685-1740).

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