Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

#21
robert wrote:A simple question: Does the fool belong at the beginning of the sequence or not?
Hello Robert,
Michael's gallery provides examples of the “genre” of the ranks of men. The Pope and the Emperor are typical members of the ranks of men and the Fool is also frequent. These are some fools that appear in the gallery:
the warning fool
Petrarchian ranks of men (fool / bagat at the extreme left)
triumph of Death fool (bottom right)

I think one could also take the ass-eared people on the Wheel as fools or at least as related to the concept of foolishness.

I particularly like the Warning Fool, because I think that the peculiar role of the Fool in the game, his special 0 numbered position, the fact that he likely is at the origin of the name “tarot” suggest that the card was actually seen as the key to the ranks of men and to the vanity of the wheel of fortune. So, also the Tarot Fool seems to have a warning function.
According to the XVI Century Anonymous Discourse:
Anonymous wrote:The wise author [of the game] considered how the course of human life is always entangled with mundane delights. However short, it is never satisfied and always desires something more; and these things are lost in death in a very short time: all this is clear and manifest foolishness. He places those things before our eyes, with diverse beautiful figures, in order to make everyone know his passions and his errors and, leaving aside vanity and the very short and harmful pleasures, to raise his mind to the contemplation of God. Therefore he added to his game XXII hieroglyphic figures that represent different subjects ... Fifteen of them, together with the above described four professions [i.e. the suits], describe human life from its beginning to its extreme end, and the other seven describe contemplative life with its end, which is God. He assigned the Fool as the Captain of the first group...

Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

#22
mjhurst wrote
The term "close reading" is commonly used for any form of extravagantly detailed analysis. That includes postmodern types of analysis in which some meaningful text is deconstructed (pieces taken out of context) and revisioned (falsified by being placed in an alternative context). The proper term for that, of course, is bullshit. Close reading also refers to pretty much any and all forms of excessive over-interpretation that occurs on Tarot forums, whether it is rational, systematic, and historically substantiated or arbitrary, incoherent, and wholly delusional....In terms of a rational analysis, you do not appear to have taken the first step. Instead, you have pulled details out of context, retreated into a world of personal fantasy, and made up some stories. At its best this is historical fiction, and even that is probably too charitable a term.
Instead of providing a single example of where I veered out of context of the Visconti-Sforza cards in examining the PMB Pope/Fortune you instead stand pat in regurgitating your smug and condescending bile that you apparently find all too cute.
Art-historical approaches may elicit only snarky dismissal by typical Tarot enthusiasts, but the Warburg guys developed the most successful and, to some extent, objective and codified methodology available. Iconography is that branch of the history of art which concerns itself with the subject matter or meaning of works of art.
That's truly what's so unwittingly funny about your "genre" thesis, that has failed to explain why the tarot's 22 themes were chosen and placed into a triumph cycle, because the Warburg school does in fact explain at least a subset of seven of the tarot cards as related but you have failed to discover that. I will be posting on that soon enough. Until then, stay smug....I know you will.

Phaeded

Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

#23
Phaeded wrote: Instead of providing a single example of where I veered out of context of the Visconti-Sforza cards in examining the PMB Pope/Fortune you instead stand pat in regurgitating your smug and condescending bile that you apparently find all too cute.


Actually, Michael addressed four of your comments with examples directly, explaining why he thinks they veered out of context (I have bolded his responses). I thought they were clear and illuminating responses, whether you agree with them or not -
mjhurst wrote:
Phaeded wrote:- no digressive parallels - in keeping with the original subject line of this thread; well, a minor variation thereof (Pope for Papess). I'm still curious on your thoughts on that. To reiterate those unique PMB parallels between those two cards:
1. Same patterened blue material on both the mantle and dress on the persons of the Pope and Fortune; no other trump card wears this material.
My first response is to point out a couple other trumps with that, or a closely similar pattern. The short guy in the miniskirt on Love has that pattern, and God the Father on the Angel card has a similar pattern. My second response is that your dismissal of the main elements and your focus on what seem to be irrelevant incidentals suggests that your interests are far removed from the actual meaning of Tarot.
Phaeded wrote:2. White undergarments are on three figures in the PMB:
White clothes. My thoughts on that are the same as on the blue clothes: this trivia is a great way to pass the time while ignoring the meaning of the cards.
Phaeded wrote:3. Outside of the trumps, the Pope also wears the same blue pattered materials as that of the coin suits. Why?
That is a fairly legitimate question, only because the suits seem to be associated with family heraldry. Perhaps the Pope is being associated with the Visconti family in some not-very-subtle way. Perhaps the Pope is being associated with money in a rather more subtle way. Perhaps, and this is the a priori or default hypothesis, it was not intended to convey a systematic meaning. If you can't make a VERY compelling case for some clear-cut meaning, then the default hypothesis wins. And you also need to ask why are the short guy on Love and God the Father on the Angel wearing similar blue patterns.

A more profitable question for you to reflect on might be, what drives you to focus on incidentals rather than the authentic subject matter of the cards? You clearly don't understand much about the trump cycle, so why not start with "the Pope is a pope", and see where that takes you? If you cannot do arithmetic, why pretend to know calculus?
Phaeded wrote:Coins seemingly gestures with a rejecting hand and a turning away of the head from an offered coin, indicating that he is above being influenced by the coin. The coins and cups are Visconti stemmae (fountain and quince/pomegranate Sforza) in the CY, so this highest card of the Visconti coin suit would speak towards a symbolic representation of Filippo. The Duke bestows coins (benefices and everything else that can be gifted) but does not receive as such, unlike his condottiere; I can't see any other meaning for this odd court card. If the pope is associated by manner of dress with the PMB coin suit, the only other context is the coin suit of CY. So can we say the Pope is tainted with guilt by association with "filthy lucre"/coins if he does not offer up the same rejecting gestures of trhe CY king of coins? The Pope card is itself neutral in that regard. The only other connection, however, and it is a negative one, is the transference of his robe to Fortune and the similarly white clad/bearded male under the wheel/fortune (and that utilizes the very methodology you proposed - the context of nearby cards within a deck). How is the censuring Dantean theme of papal power exercizing secular power - e.g., charges that the papal throne was occasionally up for sale and corrupting patronage ("coin") - not implicit in the iconographical details shared between the Pope, coin of suits and the Wheel (ergo, the Papacy has submitted itself to the vagaries of Fortune by accepting money...in vast sums, needing papal bankers to manage it all)?
This is all wild-eyed fantasy, and it has nothing to do with any methodology I would endorse. This appears to be scatterbrained apophenia, random "connections" that make little or no sense of the actual composition under consideration.

Best regards,
Michael
Art-historical approaches may elicit only snarky dismissal by typical Tarot enthusiasts, but the Warburg guys developed the most successful and, to some extent, objective and codified methodology available. Iconography is that branch of the history of art which concerns itself with the subject matter or meaning of works of art.
That's truly what's so unwittingly funny about your "genre" thesis, that has failed to explain why the tarot's 22 themes were chosen and placed into a triumph cycle, because the Warburg school does in fact explain at least a subset of seven of the tarot cards as related but you have failed to discover that. I will be posting on that soon enough. Until then, stay smug....I know you will.

Phaeded
Every work of art, every creation of the human mind, does in fact have a genre, there is nothing exceptional in that claim. One of the first steps to make when interpreting a work of art is to determine its genre, because every genre has conventions. Knowing these conventions will save the interpreter from applying an inappropriate hermeneutic methodology to an image or text. One of my favorite examples comes from the obscure art historian Ernst Gombrich:

"It is because there are genres such as altar paintings, and repertories such as legends, mythologies, or allegorical compositions, that the identification of subject matters is at all possible. And here, as in literature, an initial mistake in the category to which the work belongs, or worse still, ignorance of possible categories will lead the most ingenious interpreter astray. I remember a gifted student whose enthusiasm for iconology so carried him away that he interpreted St. Catherine with her wheel as an image of Fortuna. Since the Saint had appeared on the wing of an altar representing the Epiphany he was led from there to a speculation of the role of Fate in the story of salvation - a train of thought which could easily have led him to the postulation of a heterodox sect if his initial mistake had not been pointed out to him."
("Introduction: Aims and Limits of Iconology", in Symbolic Images. Studies in the Art of the Renaissance (Phaidon, 1972) pp. 5-6)

My point is not to berate some obscure Warburgian like Gombrich for his smugness and condescension in presuming to "correct" this student, but rather to show that when details are taken out of context, whether by ignorance or just preference, then fantastic ideas might well result. And this, I think, is the case with much of the (over)interpretation of the VS Tarot deck here.

The genre of the deck is "card game", the genre of the trump sequence "moral allegory". The conventions of these genres determine the interpretation of the content of the images, and the meaning of the sequence, whether or not a specific detail in a specific deck might be taken to represent something outside of those genres - such as "heraldry" or "coded message".

"Card game" takes out most of the political calculations you claim to see in the images. "Moral allegory" takes out the esoteric sectarian parts, because all of the images are conventional representations of their subjects.

To your last point, that Michael has "failed to explain why the tarot's 22 themes were chosen" - which I think means "explain the sequence of 22 images" - then he has done so very well all over the place, but most recently here -
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&start=10#p13735

No one is obliged to accept his interpretation as it stands, without qualifications, not least because there are parts you may object to, whether in the choice of sequence or some particular images (for theoretical historical reasons rather than art-historical interpretation reasons), but as a moral allegory it is certainly the best interpretation ever offered. My own quibbles with Michael's theory don't stray from what we both recognize as the proper genre of the trump sequence.
Image

Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

#24
There are many questions about tarot history that are ignored or dismissed as out of bounds on this forum.

I believe I am not alone in thinking: Just because tarot depicts a moral allegory doesn't mean it's ONLY a moral allegory. And while it is a card game, this doesn't mean it is ONLY a card game.

I like that people want to explore other dimensions of tarot art and history, other possibilities. If someone doesn't agree, that's their perogative and, I think, their loss.

Speaking of disagreements in interpretation: Gombrich's recounting of the mistake made by his gifted student is neither condescending nor smug, as I read it. If anything, the tone is affectionate.

Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

#25
debra wrote:There are many questions about tarot history that are ignored or dismissed as out of bounds on this forum.
Right then, I suppose I shouldn't continue to ignore your ongoing criticisms of this forum. Since you're obviously frustrated and unhappy with either the way the forum is moderated, the regular members, or both, perhaps you'd find more satisfaction by posting elsewhere where you'd be free from all of the above? There's a huge hole over here where a forum used to be:
http://www.tarotforum.net/forumdisplay.php?f=78
I suspect that there would not be any dismissal of the 'many questions about tarot history' that you would like to discuss but feel are out of bounds here, although I can't guarantee that they won't be ignored.
debra wrote: I believe I am not alone in thinking: Just because tarot depicts a moral allegory doesn't mean it's ONLY a moral allegory. And while it is a card game, this doesn't mean it is ONLY a card game.
This again? I could troll through the old posts looking for the many times this has been thrown down and then dismissed, but do I really need to? Or do we just want Michael to go off on this yet again?

Anyone who thinks that tarot is ONLY a moral allegory, or ONLY a card came...raise your hand.

No one?

No one?
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

#26
marco wrote:
robert wrote:A simple question: Does the fool belong at the beginning of the sequence or not?
Hello Robert,
Michael's gallery provides examples of the “genre” of the ranks of men. The Pope and the Emperor are typical members of the ranks of men and the Fool is also frequent. These are some fools that appear in the gallery:
the warning fool
Petrarchian ranks of men (fool / bagat at the extreme left)
triumph of Death fool (bottom right)

I think one could also take the ass-eared people on the Wheel as fools or at least as related to the concept of foolishness.

I particularly like the Warning Fool, because I think that the peculiar role of the Fool in the game, his special 0 numbered position, the fact that he likely is at the origin of the name “tarot” suggest that the card was actually seen as the key to the ranks of men and to the vanity of the wheel of fortune. So, also the Tarot Fool seems to have a warning function.
According to the XVI Century Anonymous Discourse:
Anonymous wrote:The wise author [of the game] considered how the course of human life is always entangled with mundane delights. However short, it is never satisfied and always desires something more; and these things are lost in death in a very short time: all this is clear and manifest foolishness. He places those things before our eyes, with diverse beautiful figures, in order to make everyone know his passions and his errors and, leaving aside vanity and the very short and harmful pleasures, to raise his mind to the contemplation of God. Therefore he added to his game XXII hieroglyphic figures that represent different subjects ... Fifteen of them, together with the above described four professions [i.e. the suits], describe human life from its beginning to its extreme end, and the other seven describe contemplative life with its end, which is God. He assigned the Fool as the Captain of the first group...
Hi Marco,

I raised the obvious question because to include the Fool in the "first six trumps" requires us to accept that the Fool belongs in the first six trumps. While I wouldn't argue the point against that, it might need to be explained why the Fool, if included in that "set", doesn't have a number like the others in the set.

Personally, I like to focus instead on the Bologna tarots, as in the rules there is a special relationship between the Fool and the Magician (as explained to me a long time ago by Ross... Ross, can you describe it?). I also wonder about the Bologna because of the traditional lack of numbering. I'm under the impression that in the Bologna rules, there is a special relationship between the Fool and the Magician, and another special relationship between the "Papi", the next four trumps. So in that grouping, we have rules to support the idea that there is a relationship between these cards beyond just the iconographic. But so often, when I read about tarot, the Fool is considered *outside* of the trumps, and I think it might be harder within that frameset to place the Fool into a group at the start of the sequence.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

#27
robert wrote: Personally, I like to focus instead on the Bologna tarots, as in the rules there is a special relationship between the Fool and the Magician (as explained to me a long time ago by Ross... Ross, can you describe it?). I also wonder about the Bologna because of the traditional lack of numbering. I'm under the impression that in the Bologna rules, there is a special relationship between the Fool and the Magician, and another special relationship between the "Papi", the next four trumps. So in that grouping, we have rules to support the idea that there is a relationship between these cards beyond just the iconographic. But so often, when I read about tarot, the Fool is considered *outside* of the trumps, and I think it might be harder within that frameset to place the Fool into a group at the start of the sequence.
The Fool is an interesting card, and as a wildcard (as he can be in Bolognese games) or a one-off substitute (as he is in Bologna and most other places), his role is always unique among the added cards. Since wildcards have been invented independently in other card games - the Chinese "money packs" have one, and of course the Joker came later, in the 19th century - and, the Jack of whatever suit was sometimes given special powers, like in Karnöffel where he is highest of the "chosen" suit (equivalent to a suit of partial trumps), or the Juker in Euchre, which is probably the origin of the Joker in American card decks - it might be theorized that the Fool existed independently as a wildcard or substitute card before the full trump sequence we know was invented. There is no specific evidence for this, but it is good to remember that Tarot also preserves the 4-court deck (56 card) deck, that was apparently well-known in Italy in the early 15th century, which disappeared in all the games we know that are played with standard decks in Italy (I don't think there is a kind of Tarot anywhere that uses only 3 court cards, nor a regular deck that has 4 court cards (have to check the Hofjagspiel, mid-15th, it might have it, but it is not standard)), so, if a theory needs it, it is not implausible to suggest that other such "fossils" might have become subsumed in the standard trump sequence. Fernando de la Torre's Spanish deck, created around 1450, only has one trump, an Emperor. From what he describes, it was only a trump, a card which beat all others, not a wildcard that could substitute for another in a combination. But what is interesting about Fernando de la Torre is that he spent at least a couple of years in Florence in the early 1430s, so it is natural to wonder, since he was a card game inventor, whether he knew Tarot then? If it existed then, and he saw it, why didn't he make a game with more trumps? Or, is it possible that in Florence at the time, some kind of game existed with only one trump, perhaps an Emperor?

We can't know, but there is a basis for speculation.

Taking it the other way, that all of the special cards in Tarot (excluding the Queens, which did pre-exist) were invented at once, then your question again demands that the interpreter make explicit his various paths of reasoning.

One important premise is whether the trump sequence can be interpreted on its own, as a sequence of images not necessarily part of a card game, or whether the order and icongraphy reflects some rules of the play itself, and can only be properly interpreted by reference to those rules. Michael and I differ on this fundamental point, he representing the former and I the latter opinion.

On the one hand, with Michael, we can note that the Fool makes an obvious pair with the Bagatto - at least in the earliest types of A and B, where he is a performer. This is not so obvious in the Visconti and C types, where he might be better interpreted as a beggar or vagabond, rather than a magicians's assistant. So is he supposed to be a professional fool, or is he really a madman? The answer might affect our interpretation of the sequence, since it seems to have affected the iconography of the various early decks. We can note in general though that magicians doing table-top tricks in many Children of the Planets illustrations of the Children of the Moon are accompanied by assisstants whose role is no doubt to soften up the crowd, by playing instruments, telling jokes, juggling, and whatever else is necessary to help get the crowd to the table.

In any case, the common point between insane vagabonds and professional fools is that they act crazy, and that they are entertaining. The Bagatto is an actual entertainer in all cases, and is not insane. Hence Michael's explanation that this pair represents "fools and conmen" in general.

On the other hand, we can note that in all (but one, the "Belgian Tarot" where he is numbered XXII) Tarot games known the Fool is unnumbered and plays the special roles noted above. He is not fixed in the sequence as it is played. This suggests why the image of a Fool may have been chosen for this role, since Fools move around freely in a crowd and do what they want, outside of the normal bounds of decorum and order. So we can distinguish him from the Bagatto, who always has a fixed place and must obey the rules. They do not form a natural "ludic" pair.

But, to address your question about Bologna, he does form a ludic pair of a sort in the classic form of this game, where both cards are wildcards - they can substitute for others in a combination (for which reason they are called "contatori" - counters, since they "count" for others), as long as they themselves are not sequential in the substitution. And, the Bagatto (Bégato in Bologna) has no number. The papi, unnumbered, are four, but Love is 5, which means that the Begato has no number (as he does not, but even with the numbered decks, the numbering starts at 5). But as is the universal habit, only the Fool can be used as "excuse", a chance to save a valuable card (like a high trump or a king) that would otherwise have to be played.

So, in Bologna both are unnumbered, but the place of the Begato is fixed - he is the lowest trump. He has ordinal but not cardinal value in this form of deck.

In the A types from Florence and Bologna (and the Este deck), the Fool can obviously be taken as the complement of the Bagatto, since he is a performer, not a vagrant.

I'm not sure if this has helped sort out the problem for you (since I haven't addressed the papi). If I go with the theory that all of the trumps were invented at once, it seems most probable that he forms a pair with the Bagatto, I think, but one which reflects their actual roles in society. If he is a wildcard from a former kind of game that survived into Tarot, then it could be theorized that he inspired the Bagatto, since these professionals were accompanied by such figures.
Image

Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

#28
Hi, Ross,
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:One important premise is whether the trump sequence can be interpreted on its own, as a sequence of images not necessarily part of a card game, or whether the order and icongraphy reflects some rules of the play itself, and can only be properly interpreted by reference to those rules. Michael and I differ on this fundamental point, he representing the former and I the latter opinion.
You have kindly stated my position as an option -- "the trump sequence can be interpreted on its own", which also allows for an interpretation in which the Fool's role in the game is related to his role in the allegory. Either way seems reasonable. Because we have even less facts about early rules than about early cards, this is fun to talk about but no firm conclusions seem warranted.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:On the one hand, with Michael, we can note that the Fool makes an obvious pair with the Bagatto - at least in the earliest types of A and B, where he is a performer. This is not so obvious in the Visconti and C types, where he might be better interpreted as a beggar or vagabond, rather than a magicians's assistant. So is he supposed to be a professional fool, or is he really a madman? The answer might affect our interpretation of the sequence, since it seems to have affected the iconography of the various early decks.
This is the point where we part company. To me, this is already too far down the path of over-interpretation. It is as unnecessary to the explanation of the choice of subject matter and ranking as is a discussion of Orpheus or Diogenes to the subject of the Tower or Sun cards.

Unless we get really deep into the weeds, I usually make no assumptions about the details of the Ur Tarot. It was the basis for later decks, so it was probably a lot like them, but even that is just parsimony, a rejection of theories about phantom decks and their hypothetical evolution.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:In any case, the common point between insane vagabonds and professional fools is that they act crazy, and that they are entertaining. The Bagatto is an actual entertainer in all cases, and is not insane. Hence Michael's explanation that this pair represents "fools and conmen" in general.
That, and 2) the claimed parallel between this pair and the other two pair, Empress and Emperor, and Popess and Pope, and 3) the claimed parallel between those three groupings and other works of art which show a tripartite division with the third group being outside the fold.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:On the other hand, we can note that in all (but one, the "Belgian Tarot" where he is numbered XXII) Tarot games known the Fool is unnumbered and plays the special roles noted above. He is not fixed in the sequence as it is played. This suggests why the image of a Fool may have been chosen for this role, since Fools move around freely in a crowd and do what they want, outside of the normal bounds of decorum and order. So we can distinguish him from the Bagatto, who always has a fixed place and must obey the rules. They do not form a natural "ludic" pair.
This seems to be just another way of saying that the Fool isn't (usually) a trump, per se, and therefore must be outside of the allegorical series. That seems to be question begging -- simply defining the allegorical series by usage in the game, and defining the usage in terms of taking a trick.

One alternative view would be to define the identifying game usage as being able to be played when one cannot follow suit. Any of the 22 cards (usually) fit that definition, don't they?

Another alternative is their mere existence as an identifiable set in the game. There are four suits and these other 22 cards. Although you speculate on the possibility that the Fool appeared in other decks and games, the evidence indicates that the 22 standard Trionfi cards seem to have appeared as a group. This is another fundamental ludic identity.

But again, I think that the inherently ambiguous, polysemous Fool is perfectly suited (pardon the pun) to fill all these roles. He is not to be excluded, and although he could be played anywhere, there is nowhere he meaningfully fits except at the bottom. This corresponds to the fool's social status as reflected in many other places.

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

Panofsky

#29
I need to comment on a post of Michael's (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&start=10#p13735), which I have a hard time understanding.
mjhurst wrote:
Phaeded wrote:I have offered a close reading of the iconography of the PMB Pope and the PMB Wheel
Perhaps. The term "close reading" is commonly used for any form of extravagantly detailed analysis. That includes postmodern types of analysis in which some meaningful text is deconstructed (pieces taken out of context) and revisioned (falsified by being placed in an alternative context). The proper term for that, of course, is bullshit. Close reading also refers to pretty much any and all forms of excessive over-interpretation that occurs on Tarot forums, whether it is rational, systematic, and historically substantiated or arbitrary, incoherent, and wholly delusional. In any case, the term is not an unqualified honorific.

In terms of a rational analysis, you do not appear to have taken the first step. Instead, you have pulled details out of context, retreated into a world of personal fantasy, and made up some stories. At its best this is historical fiction, and even that is probably too charitable a term.

Art-historical approaches may elicit only snarky dismissal by typical Tarot enthusiasts, but the Warburg guys developed the most successful and, to some extent, objective and codified methodology available. Iconography is that branch of the history of art which concerns itself with the subject matter or meaning of works of art. Panofsky's approach with its three levels of analysis seems a useful starting point. In terms of the formal level of analysis, the Visconti-Sforza Pope shows a bearded figure, seated on a platform, wearing rich robes, holding a cross-topped staff in one hand and making a gesture with the other. He also wears a large three-tiered crown. Because this is a well-executed and well-preserved artifact, the formal level is dead-easy.

In terms of the conventional level of analysis, (iconographic analysis), it's a pope shown with conventional trappings. Because this is such a commonplace subject, the conventional level is also dead-easy.

In terms of the third level (iconological analysis), we need to look to the larger context of the image: 1) the composition in which it appears and 2) cognate images in art and literature. This particular pope appears in a hierarchy with 21 other subjects, two of which are missing in this particular deck. This is the starting point for any rational iconological reading of the trumps. In that context, given an appropriate ordering for a Milanese deck, the Pope is adjacent to an Emperor, and both outrank four other cards with figures of lesser status than Emperor and Pope. This creates an extremely familiar topos.
And so on. Well, I don't get it. Reading the quote from Panofsky, it seems to me that Michael's "third level" analysis is still on the level of Panofsky's "second level". While it is difficult to summarize, the first sentence will do (http://pre-gebelin.blogspot.com/2012/03 ... raphy.html):
3: INTRINSIC MEANING OR CONTENT. It is apprehended by ascertaining those underlying principles which reveal the basic attitude of a nation, a period, a class, a religious or philosophical persuasion--unconsciously qualified by one personality and condensed into one work.
Here is how I understand this: To analyze a work on this third level, we need to take into account very particular circumstances of period, country--sometimes even region, in the case of Italy--class--to which I would add gender--a religious or philosophical persuasion--e.g. allowing for Joachimite, Neoplatonic, Jewish, Protestant etc., coloration--unconsciously qualified--well, I have a hard time with "unconsciously" in regard to tarot cards, but it's possible, especially for things like class and gender--by one personality--for the tarot, that is just one possibility--and condensed into one work--except that in the case of the tarot, we don't have one extant 15th century work, we have many, in fragments of varying completeness answering to varying patrons or markets, in which images from other totally unrelated works in the illuminator's model book have been used as needed, and put in their simplest form when made into woodblocks. Instead of looking at Panofsky's "unconscious qualifiers," perhaps thinking of Freud with Leonardo and Michelangelo, for the tarot I would look at conscious determinants among artists, workshops, clients, patrons, humanists, merchants, markets, families, record-keepers, record-destroyers, card-preservers, card-destroyers, preachers, inquisitors, forgers, writers on cards and other subjects, etc., with results, and perhaps even determinants, of which none may be conscious. It's that level of analysis that I think Panofsky is talking about; and indeed, when art historians talk about the tarot, they sometimes take us to that level, in a limited way (e.g. Bandera's 1991 catalog, Kirsch on the CY Love card). Tarot history, on the third level, is the uncovering of these elements to the extent they illuminate our understanding of the cards, through a careful and detailed consideration of them in their manifold particularity.

What Michael gives us, it seems to me, is a theoretical construct (for the 15th century) of 22 cards as a single work of art (with type A, B, and C variations) illuminated by a variety of similar images of his choosing, put together without much regard to period or place, then dealt with on Panofsky's second level, but calling it his third, as though "context" meant "this image in the context of the rest of this single A, B, or C work of art we have before us and these other images I am showing you and their conventional symbolic meaning", and not the myriad of particular historical considerations that shaped how particular cards (including all 78) were made, seen, recorded, and preserved--in relation to other interpretations of the whole, or none. Such constructs as Michael's are OK on a theoretical level, but need to be be recognized as such, and as still on Panofsky's second level.

As to whether Michael's construct, which claims to cover the origin of the tarot and perhaps also its entire pre-de Gebelin history, is the most reasonable one, given the facts, remains to be seen. That's what I hope we're we're working on: getting facts and systemetizing them. Panofsky is pretty clear that the second and first levels are conditioned by the third. That is, on the second level, whether a knife in someone's hand means they are St. Bartholomew or a potential murderer (as they say in film school, if a gun is introduced in the first act, it has to be used by the third), is in part a matter of historical context. Such considerations are less relevant on the natural level, Panofsky's level one, but even here they enter in. Whether someone would identify a man's tipping his hat as a courteous gesture is in part a matter of nation, culture, class, etc. (Aside from aborigines, in Panofsky's time it sometimes was used in mockery of people identified by them as upper-class hypocrites. In my own place and time, such a gesture would be seen as a humorous affectation or a charming anachronism.) To know whether Michael's second-level construct is reasonable, we have to investigate the historical situation in all its Panofskian complexity, looking for counterexamples to our ideas as well as confirmations. I do not believe this has been done to anything like a sufficient degree. Historians are bringing to light many relevant facts just about 15th century Italy, much less the next three centuries in Europe generally; and new books and essays are published every year, in a variety of languages.

Re: Panofsky

#30
Hi, Mike,
mikeh wrote:I need to comment on a post of Michael's (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&start=10#p13735), which I have a hard time understanding.
Indeed.

I showed how to start an analysis.

I began at the beginning, and correctly identified one card. Is there a problem there? I offered a sketchy summary of how it can be done. Very limited, and rather limiting. If I was supposed to include in that one post a multi-volume encyclopedic history of Italy, covering every aspect of the culture, yada-yada blah-blah-blah, I didn't get the memo. That doesn't mean that I don't want to read it, when you get done writing it for us.

But until you do write that definitive history of everything, why don't you write a post like mine, on how to begin? That way we can see how our approaches differ. What guidelines do you suggest to constrain the blather which dominates fora such as this? Or is that endless, haphazard, speculative chatter a good thing, to be encouraged? My own view is that after generations of such chit-chat, little progress has been made. But perhaps you can set me straight, and explain the great iconographic strides have been produced in the last three decades of Tarot. Thousands of books and online forums -- who moved the ball forward?

Regarding your expansive view of Panofsky's third level, many people share it. I've talked about that difference of opinion on occasion. My concern was summarized by Panofsky himself: "There is admittedly some danger that iconology will behave, not like ethnology as opposed to ethnography, but like astrology as opposed to astronomy. There is, I am afraid, no other answer to this problem other than the use of historical methods tempered, if possible, by common sense. (Panofsky, Meaning in the Visual Arts).

Best regards,
Michael

P.S. IMO the best book for understanding the iconology of Tarot, its place in the larger cultural scheme of things, is Willard Farnham's The Medieval Heritage of Elizabethan Tragedy, (1936). If the trump cycle is anything like what I suggest, then this is also the medieval heritage of Tarot.

P.P.S. I would also recommend Eco's Interpretation and Overinterpretation (1992).
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 19 guests

cron