Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

mikeh wrote: I wouldn't think of putting any corrections into Tarotpedia. It's your translation. You have to approve any corrections. I don't know of anything else in that passage, but I'd have to read the whole thing carefully in a Word 97 document to be sure.
Hello Mike
I really can't see why you don't want to correct the Tarotpedia translation. From what I see, your comprehension of Italian is excellent, you have my rough translation as a starting point, and when you are in doubt you can just leave things as they are. Correctly my English would certainly be an improvement. The idea of Tarotpedia is that all the people interested in the contents are free to contribute.

But what about the meaning of the first six trumps? Michael and Ross have kindly shared their theories with us. Would you present yours as well?

Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

Marco wrote,
Hello Mike
I really can't see why you don't want to correct the Tarotpedia translation. From what I see, your comprehension of Italian is excellent, you have my rough translation as a starting point, and when you are in doubt you can just leave things as they are. Correctly my English would certainly be an improvement. The idea of Tarotpedia is that all the people interested in the contents are free to contribute.
I am not excellent in understanding Italian. I need an online Italian-English dictionary at every turn, and if what I need is not there, or is wrong, I'm lost. I need paraphrases and discussion with an Italian-speaker in order to be sure I understand, especially with something from the 16th century. Then, yes, I can get it. The only language I know well is English. However after our discussion of this one passage in Piscina, I think I can rewrite the translation of that passage on tarotpedia, following what you've written here for the most part. I will be happy to do it, if I can navigate the mechanics. If not, I'll pm you. Please check my work! I'll tell you when I'm done.

Marco wrote,
But what about the meaning of the first six trumps? Michael and Ross have kindly shared their theories with us. Would you present yours as well?
I thought I did present my ideas on the first 6 trumps.

I did the Bagat in this thread, as an exercise, at
and more at
And trumps 2-5, in the C order, with a little about the Fool, at:

And some more on all of them at:

And of course more on the Bagat in commenting on Decker recently.

I have said more about all the first six trumps going through Decker on the Unicorn Terrace, and will say more. But perhaps I should keep it there, at least until I am done with Decker.

I should perhaps say, for people new to this thread, why I have been focusing so much on the Bagat.
Michael had suggested that I pick one of the first six and write on it using the methods outlined by Panofsky (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&start=20#p13753). So I picked the Bagat and found reasons for both a negative and positive interpretation of that card (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&start=30#p13784). After I wrote it, Michael wrote something on another thread about how, in regard to the Fool and the Bagat (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=940#p13789),
The ironic usage of fools and folly, as in the "fool for Christ", is particularly significant. That is why only a fool (or deceiver) would begin their analysis of the trumps with either of them. Context is required to understand their significance. As the lowest figures in the trump cycle, these specific two characters were clearly not intended to be honorific, despite centuries of Tarot folklore.
"Fool" is a hard one. I haven't said much about him, yes, he's too hard, not because of irony, i.e. intending the reader to believe the opposite of what one says, but rather of "in one sense yes, in another sense no". The word "matto" had an ambiguity that is mostly not present in the modern English "fool", which means mostly, "someone who exercises poor judgment". "Matto" (httpp://, would have had the sense of divine madness, divine drunkenness, divine furor. That is not simply irony, as in Shakespeare's Mark Antony's "Brutus is an honorable man". (I did not make this point in my earlier posts, so I make it now.)

The case of the Bagatella, and the word "bagatella"--trifle-- is simpler: there is both a literal and an ironic sense, in the context of the sequence as a whole, as I clearly delineated. In the ironic sense--as no trifle--the Bagatella is a positive symbol. I do not wish to repeat the details here, as I have already done so at great length. That both senses coexist is no impediment to starting with that card, because there are positive and negative meanings to all the first 6 trumps, carrying on the same "coincidentia oppositorum" perspective (Cusa, 1440) as in the case of the Bagatella. That perspective is most clearly indicated in the case of that card. That was the point of viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&start=30#p13791

So I did indeed start with the Bagat. Was I a fool, or a deceiver, to do so? Naturally I was overjoyed when I saw in a new book by Ron Decker, a well-known tarot historian, a similarly positive interpretation of the Bagat, calling him the "Agathodemon", Good Spirit, and at the very beginning of his book, his first example (out of two) in the Introduction. He even referred to the Egyptian god Khnum as a possible source of the broad-brimmed hat, just as I had (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&start=30#p13790). So that is why I focused on Decker's discussion of that card, because the positive part of my interpretation of the card's meaning had been so negatively received here. Maybe we could learn something from him. And because I think that understanding the Bagat is crucial to understanding the other members of the first 6.

So now I'm pretty much onto something else, namely, seeing the sequmce in terms of texts such as the ones Decker brings up, as opposed to Christian texts such as Petrarch's De Remediis, which is what I dealt with in the current thread. The first six trumps are part of this new discussion. Perhaps I can write something particular to the first 6 after I am done looking at Decker's analysis of the sequence as a whole, I don't know.

In the meantime, I have a few things to say on the "Innkeeper", that is, on the Bagat as Innkeeper and the sequence as the guests or employees of the inn (more likely the Inn of life than the "Inn of the Fool", as Piscina speculates). It might be relevant to speculate on what the card might have looked like that Piscina and Alciato gave that title.

Since Piscina was in Piedmont, close to Alciato's Lombardy, I looked first at the so-called "tarocco piemontese". Thierry Depaulis gives this figure for the Bagat, dating from 1880 ("Il Tarocco Piemontese" in Il Castello dei Tarocchi, ed. Vitali, p. 127):

It seems to me that one could easily take this figure as an Innkeeper, especially if that was the title given for the card. He is holding up his glass in a toast to his guests or employees. There is a rich allegorical meaning, the inn as life, of which he is the builder and manager. I do not know what the items are on his table, but I would not associate them with a slight--of-hand artist. Andy Pollett ( identifies a similar set of tools in the 19th century "Lombard tarot" as a shoemaker's; but the tools are not identical. They might easily be taken as tools by which someone would repair things in an inn, again, given the title of the card. For Piscina, it has the titles both of "Bagato" and "Innkeeper", but that in itself means nothing. Even if associated with "Bagatella", that only means that he is the lowest of the trick-taking trumps, the insignificant one (Dummett, The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards, p. 102). At the same time, an Innkeeper is not insignificant, and even less so in the metaphorical sense.

So the question is, how prevalent was such an image in Alciato's time, in which the Bagato was taken as an Innkeeper, such that the title "The Innkeeper" is not inappropriate? Thierry says in his article:
Questo matto é originato da un modello più vecchio, dove le figure erano intere e i numero sul Trionfi erano romani; stranamente, questo modello non era italiano, ma francese! Come vedremo, la storia del tarocco in Piemonte é più complessa di quel che si potrebbe credere.

(This deck is derived from an older model, where the figures were whole and the number on the Triumphs were Roman; oddly enough, this model was not Italian, but French! As we will see, the history of tarot in Piedmont is more complex than might be believed.
Thierry doesn't seem to answer my question directly in the next few paragraphs. I will have to translate the essay. All I can find out on the internet is that these double-ended cards were based on a single-headed version, the change occuring around the middle of the 19th century, and that the earliest single-headed ones are Ottone c. 1736, or maybe a little earlier ( But that ATF discussion seemed to be comparing them to the Tarot de Marseille, with nothing about the "Innkeeper" design.

I start again. The Innkeeper is sitting at his table. I noticed one other deck in which he is sitting down, namely, in the "tarocco siciliano" put out by Modiano: (

It looks to me like men discussing their bill with an innkeeper. Again, there are Arabic numerals, and again we don't know how old this image is. The story as written in the 18th century is that the deck was brought from Rome in 1662 (Dummett at, which I get from an ATF post by Michael) In 1750 some images were radically changed on orders of a certain duchess: the devil to a ship, the lightning-struck tower to just a guard-tower, the World to Atlas, perhaps Judgment to Jove. These images derive from minchiate, probably by way, Dummett, theorizes, of a Roman tarot which survives only in a few fragments. Many of the trumps are seemingly unique variations on old themes. But it is striking that the one we are examining, trump 1, called I Picciotti, the lads, is so similar to the Piedmontese. According to Domenico Starna,, the man who brought this tarot to Sicily, Francesco Caetani, had been governor of Milan immediately before (and near Rome before that). The Caetani family was one of the great feudal families of Rome, per Wikipedia. His uncle had been a cardinal. The family fief was Sermonetta, of which Francesco became duke in I assume 1667, after Sicily.

Piedmont and Sicily are on opposite ends of the peninsula. They have in common that they are relatively isolated from the rest of the country, and in fact much of Europe. So perhaps that image of the Bagat, sitting down and looking like an Innkeeper, was once widespread. Alciato was well traveled; he taught in Avignon and Bourges, published books in Lyon, Basel, Paris, and numerous other places, mostly outside Italy. But there are no surviving specimans from that time.

[Note: the following paragraph was revised on June 16, 2014 from what I wrote originally.) A look at Milanese cards of c. 1850 shows the same motif, this time as a "cobbler", as Andy characterizes it ( Since these cards are so distinctive, they may be derived from an old Milanese model. I know of no other way to explain how Piedmont and Sicily got similar designs.

So Sicily and Piedmont's trump 1 of the 19th century might well accurately reflect those of Milan and Piedmont c. 1570 or before (based on Piscina's description). On Aeclectic, Ross suggested "a deeper common ancestor, at the beginning (at least) of the 17th century" ( ... stcount=20). That was 2006. Has there been any more information since then?

Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

I have been looking for antecedents to the Bagat, so as to clarify what is depicted on the early versions. Until recently, all I have found of people at tables prior to the 1440s have been images of gods in manuscripts: Jupiter at an altar, Mercury at a lecturn, Aesclepius at an apothecary's table. But recently I have found two of something else, pictures of innkeepers. Levi Pisetsky's Costumas di Italia has the one below, "dated to 1416", the caption says:



Then in Bellosi's book Come un prato fiorito, studi sull-arte tardogotica, I find this one, not quite as close because the table is not on legs:


But the hand positions particularly resemble those of the d'Este Bagat of c. 1473 ( Also, up to now I had only associated monkeys with Fools (Cary Sheet) and Conjurers (Bosch's painting). For the caption and similar works, allowing Bellosi to associate the drawing with works around 1437 in Pesaro, see my scan of the full page at ... i273-5.JPG, There is also Bellosi's comment on p. 201:
Ma gli aspetti di ordine più strettamente stilistico pongono questo disegno in capporto con gli affreschi dipinti nel 1437 da Antonio Alberti nella chiesa del cimitero di Talamello.

(But the more strictly stylistic aspects connect this design more with the frescoes painted in 1437 of Antonio Alberti in the church of the cemetery of Talamello.)
In the PMB, as someone pointed out, the Bagat holds his "wand" (whatever it is) as though it were a writing quill. It is otherwise close to the prestidigitator we see in De Sphaera done for the Sforzas in the 1460s (again

Bellosi identifies the 1437 sketch as from Pesaro, c. 1437. That city had been recently conquered by Alessandro and Francesco Sforza (, but controlled by Galeazzo Malatesta until Alessandro bought it in 1444 ( These are all families associated with the early tarot. Urbino was not far away.

Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

I want to pursue further some ideas that I put out in this thread a little earlier, but primarily as they relate to the PMB. Since that deck is Phaeded's special interest, I wanted to post this before we lose him to his novel-writing. Also, it is a good deck to focus on, especially if he's going to be posting something.

My proposals are in the context of Plato's Republic, as translated by the Decembrios (two versions, one in 1404 by the father and the other by the son in 1437-1440), the Phaedrus, as far as it was translated by Leonardo Bruni (published 1424 and again in 1426), and the beginning of the Timaeus, as far as it had been translated into Latin in the ancient translation available in the Middle Ages (until p. 28, I read somewhere). In addition, I want to bring in other imagery from Bembo art.

The tarot virtue cards, of which there are none in the first 6 trumps but are in the next group, are those Plato articulated in the Republic. Well, I don't think anybody believes in a rigid separation between groups. These 3 virtues, 3 of the 4 cardinals were so widely known as a group that it cannot be assumed that anyone in the 15th century got them from Plato in particular. Some people must have been surprised when they found them in the Republic, now that they could finally read it after it had been inaccessible in the West for almost a thousand years. In Plato the virtues are among what Philo later termed "archetypes" and pseudo-Dionysius called "paradigms". Plato called them by the Greek word "idea", which in English is usually translated "forms"; the archetype or form of Justice, for example, is the perfect exemplar, which humans can realize only imperfectly. In the Timaeus, even Time is an imperfect copy, in particular it is "the moving image of Eternity". For Plato they not only exist, but in fact are more real than their instantiations in the world. For later Platonists and in Christianity, most notably pseudo-Dionysius in Divine Names, they become aspects of God, who is "eternity" and also, like the Old Man in the PMB "the ancient of days". God is also the perfectly just "King of Kings", perfect love or beauty (the perfect object of desire), perfectly in balance and self-controlled (i.e. Temperate), perfect holiness ("holy of holies"), the source of all, and so on.


In the tarot, the Emperor is an example of justice, more or less well achieved; I expect that the white hair (a change from the CY and BB) connotes not only justice, but justice administered with wisdom and experience. The Empress is an image of the perfect mother of the most perfect offspring, and an image of the most perfect nurturer; she corresponds to God when He was imagined with breasts. The Pope can be seen as an earthly representative of holiness, more or less well achieved.

The Godly aspect of the Emperor seems to have a visual equivalent elsewhere in the PMB. He looks like a somewhat wearier version of God the Father, in the card depicting the Last Judgment. An intended association could explain why this Emperor looks so much more like the conventional image of God the Father than those in the Cary-Yale and Brera-Brambilla. Certainly the then-reigning Emperor looked much different; in 1452 he was 37 years old and clean-shaven ( ... an_Emperor). The preceding emperor, Sigismund, did have a beard, but it was shorter, and more gray than white (, ... an_Emperor).



The PMB's Old Man ("Vecchio", the preacher of the Steele Sermon called him) holding the hourglass ( ... 2x1024.jpg) has much the same beard as the Emperor. In his case, I would guess it mostly connotes accumulated time, with perhaps a suggestion of the divine presence.

I do not see any figure in the deck quite like the PMB Pope. Like the Emperor and God, he has a white beard, but it is a shorter one. It is perhaps like Sigismund's would have been, if he had lived longer.

We can find better comparisons to the PMB Pope in other Bembo art. Marco Tanzi, in Arcigotissimo Bembo, 2011, shows us a couple of examples of Bonifacio Bembo that seem to me to resemble him. in a group of "progenitors of Christ" on one wall of the Cavalcabò Chapel of Sant'Agostino in Cremona (below bottom). Since other Bembo works of the time show King David wearing a crown (below top), it may be that neither of the bottom two is him. I would guess Jesse for the one on the right, the one with the most similarity to King David. The hat is similar to that on the PMB Old Man. Another of the progenitors is probably Solomon, based on his sumptuous clothes. His hat is reminiscent of that worn by Emperor Sigismund in his portrait. If the commissioner and recipient of the deck, as I believe, was the Sforza family, then they would have been familiar with these images, at least the ones in the chapel, and noticed the differences in their presentation (the following are scans from Tanzi, 2011, p. 79):



Bandera and Tanzi, 2013 (in "Quelle carte de triumphi che se fanno a Cremona"I Tarocchi dei Bembo, p. 24), date these frescoes, and the rest of that group in the Cavalcabò Chapel, to 1440-1445; they date the illuminations to 1442.

I found an explanation of the dating of the illuminations in Kaplan; much the same reasoning is endorsed by Bandera and Tanzi. The illuminations are in a diurnal very similar to a psalter now in Rimini; that one has a papal bull on its last page dated Oct. 11, 1441, transferring "the convent and church of Saint Gabriel in Cremona to the jurisdiction of the Minor Observants in Cremona", as Kaplan puts it (vol. 2 p. 135). (Previously it had been Benedictine, Bandera adds.) Kaplan says that the Minor Observants were favored by Bianca Maria Sforza, as she founded the nunnery of the order, under the jurisdiction of Santa Maria degli Angeli (which I assume, from the context, was in Cremona and by then already had jurisdiction over Saint Gabriel and its scriptorium). Bianca Maria and Francesco were married in Cremona on Oct. 24 of that year, with the city as part of her dowry. I am not sure whose nunnery she founded, as more than one order used the term: the Franciscans and Dominicans for sure, but maybe also the Augustinians, who after all did run the church that Bonifacio decorated.

Kaplan compares the illuminations, of which he gives some poor reproductions, to the kings at the bottoms of the CY Hope, Faith, and Charity cards, as well as to the Magician card of the PMB. I notice that of these Kings, two of them have white beards. It is not clear who the ones with white beards are supposed to be: the usual ones were "Machomet" (Dorez, Canzone della Virtù e della Scienze, p. 52) or "Arius hereticus" (p.82) for the opposite of Faith, and "Herodes" for Charity (pp. 52, 82). Arius was an ancient heretic. The "king" with a red beard is Judas, identifiable by the rope. The Magician also has a red beard, Kaplan observes.

Some might think I am over-interpreting, but I think people then would have asked themselves what the symbolic meaning of white vs. red was. I tend to think at least in part it has to do with the age or vigor of the person: Judas was young, whereas the others lived to be old men. David was youthful and even when older had a lot of vigor; he danced before the lord, went after Bathsheba, etc. The CY King of Cups also has a red beard. I will discuss these in connection with the Bagatella and some other red-bearded folks by Bembo.

There is one fresco attributed to Bonifacio in the Cavalcabò Chapel that has beards of both colors in one scene: St. Mark is on the left and St. Gregory on the right, done c. 1440-1445. I tend to think that there is a reason for Mark's red beard, namely, to associate him with the fiery lion. And like David, Mark was not afraid to be bold (Tanzi 2011, p. 70)


The Popess, if she embodies a virtue, would have to be either Prudence (also called Wisdom) or Faith. Both were considered "names of God" by pseudo-Dionysius. (He doesn't explain why God would need Faith. Perhaps it is from looking at those He created!) She has attributes of Wisdom/Prudence, a book and a staff-cross (see below, from an early illuminated manuscript). Sometimes Prudence/Wisdom had just a book: Adolph Katzenellenbogen, in Allegories of the Virtues and Vices in Medieval Art, 1939, lists 12 with a book. But these attributes, less often, were also used for Faith (in Giotto, a staff-cross and a scroll). She might also have been considered the Church, an imperfect instantiation of the perfect Church, if she was looked at as the Pope's wife. Her tiara suggests also that if she is Wisdom or Faith, it is as embodied by the Church.

In the Bembo workshop's art, she seems to me to resemble certain paintings of the Virgin, One is in a "Coronation of the Virgin" for a portable altarpiece now in Avignon, attributed by Tanzi to Ambrogio Bembo c. 1445-1450 (Bandera and Tanzi p. 69); Tanzi considers Ambrogio to have collaborated with Bonifacio in producing the PMB. Bembo Coronations are unusual, perhaps unique, in having their Virgin crowned by the Father instead of by the Son. According to Tanzi, this is because the Virgin was seen as the embodiment of Wisdom, personified in the Hebrew Bible as God's creation "in the beginning of his ways", as Proverbs 8:22 has her say (Bandera and Tanzi p. 66). Tanzi says that Mary's conception had been part of the "turmoil" at the Council of Basel, which only closed in 1439; he thinks that the interpretation of which the Bembo coronations were the "figurative solution" was suggested by Augustinian fathers in Cremona. Of the three Bembo crowned Virgins, this one resembles the Popess most (the others, which Tanzi attributes to Bonifacio, look to me younger; you can compare them at the end of this post). I had never seen this one before looking at Bandera and Tanzi's book, p.69. I give the image down to the faces, after which I put the PMB Popess's face:


This painting is also an example of an elevation of the feminine aspect of God, in that the Virgin is on the same level as Christ, and the Father is crowning both at the same time. In most other Coronations, in fact in all that I know of not by the Bembo workshop, the Virgin is crowned by Christ, an action that puts him at a higher level of authority than her. In contrast, the Bembo did three of their unique type.

In the previous surviving Milan tarot deck, the Cary-Yale, I see a corresponding elevation of the feminine--the idealized feminine, at any rate--in that the deck had as many female court figures as male. In contrast, most standard four-suited decks at that time had no female court cards at all (Dummett, 1986 FMR article). By the time of the PMB, it seems that tarot decks standardly had only one female court card, the Queen. It may well be that the presence of the Queen, first in tarot decks and then in French-suited normal decks, is due to decks like the Cary-Yale. (To be sure, the feminine courts may just have been done for the sake of a female player; I am merely suggesting an alternative.)

Other examples of a face in Bembo art reminiscent of the Popess are from a "Madonna della Cintola" and an "Ascension of Christ" that Tanzi attributes to Bonifacio Bembo c. 1447-1452. In the first, a now youthful Mary floats above the saints in a mandorla held up by angels. In the second a Virgin looking more like someone in her 40s, with others, are looking up at the ascending Jesus, not shown in this detail. (For the whole of both paintings, see the end of this post.) The presence of the wimple, the part of the nun's costume that covers the chin and sides of the face, is not unprecedented in 15th century Ascensions, but it is unusual.



We cannot draw definite conclusions from such resemblances; the artists might not have intended parallels to be drawn but might simply have been drawing faces in the style to which they were accustomed. Yet they must have known that the commissioner of the cards, and anyone else who knew their other work, would bring images from one context to his or her understanding of similar images in another context by the same artists.

This association to the Virgin is specific to this deck in relation to people who knew the other art of the Bembos, who at that time were surely unknown outside of Lombardy. In Florence, however, it seems that there were Virgins whose crown was a papal tiara. So the Sforzas and their friends and artists may not have been unique in how they looked at the card. Such an association may also explain the blue and red clothing of the later "Marseille" Popess, those colors being associated with the Virgin.

This association does not exclude others, for example the Visconti Manfreda of the 13th century, which we have discussed at length elsewhere. Here I only want to emphasize that the Manfreda interpretation is a continuation of the the elevation of the feminine of the CY (another example is the female Charioteer in both decks). Guglielma was considered by her followers as the embodiment of the Holy Spirit. If so, Manfreda, as Popess, is the equivalent, in the Age of the Holy Spirit, of the Pope in the Age of the Son. The dove of the Holy Spirit is as prevalent in the CY as it is absent in the Bembo Coronations. Tanzi thinks that it is because Mary as Wisdom was created before the Holy Spirit. If so, that is a point of Catholic dogma that has escaped me. The Western version of the Apostles' Creed says that the Holy Spirit "proceeded from the Father and the Son"; but that says nothing about when a Mary as Wisdom was created. It seems to me that the reason for the Bembos' omission of the dove might well be that Mary herself represents the Holy Spirit, the feminine side of God. In that case, if "proceeding from" is represented by who does the crowning, the Bembo depiction is more consistent with the Eastern version of the Creed, in which the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, than with the Western (; but it escapes such heresy in that what is shown is only a crowning, not a creation.

While consistent with other meanings of the Popess, this line of associations would have been specific to the Sforza and other descendants of the Visconti family, who would surely have known about Guglielma and Manfreda, if only from the periodic papal bulls during the 14th century condemning various Visconti dukes and family members as followers of the cult (documented in Lea, History of the Medieval Inquisition, vol. 3, and elsewhere), thereby perpetuating her memory. Nonetheless the association may have played a role in the choice to use this particular image, certainly not one one would expect in a card game, [this next part added a couple of hours later] and even if the tiara suggests just the opposite, a Wisdom or Faith within the Church of the Pope. It is one way (out of several) of answering the question, Why are there two cards both representing the Church?

I have left out the Fool and the Bagatella from this discussion. If the perspective outlined here applies to 4 of the first 6 cards, especially in a controversial way to one of them (Popess), it should apply to the other 2, or at least to the Bagatella (since the Fool isn't actually numbered). That is the virtue of considering all 6 as a unit. I'll address them in later posts.

Here are the complete pictures from Bandera and Tanzi, "Quelle carte de triumphi che se fanno a Cremona": I Tarocchi dei Bembo, Milano 2013,of which I have so far only given details:

1. p. 69, Ambrogio Bembo, Incorinazione di Cristo e di Maria da parte di Dio Padre, 1445-1450 circa, Avignone, Musée de Petit Palais: ... age-48.JPG

2. p. 68, Bonifacio Bembo, Incorinazione di Cristo e di Maria da parte di Dio Padre, angeli e Santi (particulare), 1445-1450 circa. Cremona, Sant'Agostino, Cappella Cavalcabò: ... age-49.JPG

3. p. 65: Bonifacio Bembo, Incorinazione di Cristo e di Maria da parte di Dio Padre, 1445-145- circa. Tavola, 101.5 x 68 cm, Cremona, Museo Civico "Ala Ponzone", inv. 40. ... age-50.JPG

4. p. 70. Bonifacio Bembo, Madonna della cintola, 1447-1452 circa. Ubricazione ignota (gia Lucca, collezione Vangelisti): ... age-56.JPG

5. p. 71: Bonifacio Bembo, Ascensione di Cristo, 1447-1452 circa. Tavola, 71.3 x 49.5 cm. Milao, collezione privata: ... age-54.JPG

And from Marco Tanzi, Arcigotissimo Bembo, 2011:

6. Bonifacio Bembo, San Marco e San Gregorio, 1440-1445 circa, Cremona Sant'Agostino, cappella Cavalcabò: ... age-52.JPG

Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

How is it possible to interpret the Magician card, the Bagatella or Bagatino as it was first called, as a "Name of God" reflecting a Platonic archetype? As one who engages in tricks, either to deceive or to entertain, the Bagatella’s morality was not exactly divine. Where does he belong? With the archetypes, the virtues, or with their antitypes, the vices?

From one standpoint he is the archetypal trickster. Plato did not write about that exemplar: the term "archetypal trickster" is too modern. His archetypes (a term invented by Philo of Alexander, 1st century b.c.e., but it fits) were not psychological categories but perfections, noble and good. Whatever the origin of the word "bagatella", it does not designate a Platonic perfection, even of one who is flawless at his art.

The historian Ludovico Muratori (1672-1750), researching the history of the word, quotes a poem of 1298 in which the word clearly means "trickster" and "illusionist" (Dissertazioni sopra le antichità italiane, t. 2 (1751), pp. 171-172). On Tarot History Forum this text was cited by Ross Caldwell; Marco Ponzi translated the whole stanza:
Lassovi la fortuna fella /Travagliar qual Bagattella...
(I leave to you wicked fortune/ who acts like a bagattella:
whenever she seems most beautiful,/ she slips away like an eel.)
That is a characterization of an illusionist. Plato's main examples of illusionists are scene-painters and dramatists, who create imitations of people and things in the material world, without regard to what is truly beautiful or good Such works are not allowed in his Republic (401b-c), as they are merely the illusions of illusions. Plato argued that what people ordinarily call reality is in fact partly illusion, in the sense of a mixture of truth and falsity. You see a stick partly in water that looks bent, but when you take it out, it is not bent at all. If reality is partly illusion, an illusion of an an illusion is even worse. Card-painters would of course fit in this category. A prestidigitator also creates the semblance of reality without its substance. Plato in fact denigrates imitative painting through just such a comparison with conjuring (Book X, 602d, Grube translation; to see this in context, find "magic" at
Scene painting relies upon this weakness in our nature and is nothing short of magic; so does conjuring and other such trickery.
The "weakness in our nature" he refers to is our tendency to get confused by what appears to our senses, as by a stick in water (his example). However Plato himself presented illusions: chariots flying through the sky and above it (Phaedrus), magic rings (Republic), people with four hands and two heads (Symposium). These, however, are illusions that convey truths in memorable ways. What. then, is the Platonic truth conveyed by the Bagatella, that would justify such an image?

On the one hand, he can be seen as an example of the morally bad and ugly, put there for our desire to climb above him on the ladder of truth. But even what appears to our senses, such as a stick in water, is itself a confused mixture of truth and falsity. From a Platonic perspective, the world is a combination of truth and falsehood, filled with illusions. In the Republic, Plato even compares the world to a cave in which unseen hands deceptively move cut-outs in front of a fire to create the illusion, on the cave wall, that the cut-outs' shadows are reality.

We may ask, then, who created such a world? We hear about him at Timaeus 28a-29b. He is a Demiurgos, an “artificer” or "artisan" who, because the world is so well made, must have used the archetypes themselves as his model. In 31b-32b we learn that the four "elements" were his materials (he holds that they are not really elements because they themselves are made up of more basic structures, which he holds can only be described mathematically; his guess is that they are triangles). The result, Plato seeks to show us, is a world constructed on precise mathematical principles. Its creator, a world based on the archetypes, is himself an image of the creator of the archetypes.

Humanists already knew that text (although I am not sure when pp. 31-32 got to them). Now they had before them the Republic--translated first in 1402 Milan, improved in the late 1430s (Hankins, pp. 104, 124). There Plato said other things about the world, not as it is in itself but as it appears to us. It is in the Republic that he argues that the world is one of illusion, where good and beautiful things look bad and ugly, and courses of action that look like roads to happiness end up making us miserable. From that perspective the world is a deceptive one where things are not as they seem. It is like the street game with balls and cups, which looks easy and is easy until one invests some real money. And if what we take to be real is actually like shadows on a wall, the Demiurgos must be the one responsible for the cut-outs that made these shadows.

From here a number of implications may be developed. The Christian God, in so far as he has created this state of affairs we call the world, is, from a Platonic perspective, a Demiurgos. There is even a specific culprit within the Trinity. The Gospel of John starts by declaring that "in the beginning was the Word" (1:1), and "all things were made by him" (1:3). To this extent John is a Platonist; his Demiurgos is the Logos, Christ. But if he made all things, he is, by Plato's standards, and however beautiful this world may appear, a creator of a world in which it is all too easy to mistake false for true; it is a world of traps for the unwise. This world is one of trial, and there is no virtue unless vice and its illusions are also a choice.


As the Gospel of John develops, Jesus is a wonder-worker, different from a bagatella in that his miracles are true and convey spiritual lessons. There is also the "last supper", prototype for the mass. On the table of the first known Bagatella (above), part of the 1450s "PMB" deck for the Sforza ruling family of Milan, there is an odd woven, probably straw, white hat on one end. In appearance it resembles the covered communion cup of the Eucharist, with which the priest does the magic of inviting Christ to come into the wine and bread. The Eucharist in turn is like, in appearance, a magician's trick. "Hocus Pocus", some Protestants said, making fun of "Hoc est Corpus mea", that archaic Latin formula. Just in looking and hearing, in the world of the senses, there is no difference between the priest and the conjurer. It is in the soul and the mind that we know the difference.

The word "Bagatella" fits an application to Christ in another sense, too, its sense of "trifle". The Word came to earth as a man of low position, a mere carpenter (a different kind of demiurgos), who then appears to sink even lower, becoming a wandering beggar. The Good appears bad., and he is eventually considered a heretic to his faith. For Plato, his demiurgos, like the Bagatella, is lower than any of the archetypes, which he copies. At the same time the Bagatella is more powerful in trick-taking ability (an odd use of the word "trick") than any King, and so like the "King of Kings".

The Bagatella has on his table objects suggestive of coins, cups, knives, and, of course, batons. These objects, the four suits of Italian cards, were variously related at the time to the four elements and the four temperaments. An example is a woodcut of 1476 (my source is Laurinda Dixon, Bosch, p. 81).

So we might imagine the Bagatella not only as the Logos creating the world out of the elements, but as God assigning us our own little world, our "lot in life". We get good cards and bad cards. It is up to us to use the good to overcome the bad, and not be deceived by appearances.

The metaphor of Christ as a dealer of cards was not unheard of during the Renaissance. In 1529 England a priest of uncertain Catholicity preached "sermons on the cards", in which he imagined Christ dealing the cards for a game of "triumph": hearts were trumps (so it wasn't tarot). and some other cards were Christ's commandments. If people played these cards, everyone would win, including the dealer (Sermons by Hugh Latimer, Sometime Bishop of Worcester, edited by Canon Beeching, 1906). There is also the more severe poem that Marco posted at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1000
Hombre I Dios juegan al trunfo,
cielo i mundo es la baraja,
ponense ambos a la mesa,
i Dios reparte las cartas.

Man and God play “trunfo”,
the sky and the world are the deck,
they both seat at the table,
and God deals the cards.
Again, this is probably not tarot, as Marco observes, but the game imitating it with regular cards. "Cielo" also means "heaven". Here it might just means "sky", in reference to the Star, Moon, and Sun cards, or include both.



That an identification of the Bagatella with Christ might have actually been intended is suggested to me by the same "Coronation of the Virgin" I showed in relation to the Popess, attributed by Tanzi to Ambrogio Bembo of Cremona around the time the card was painted by him or his brother Bonifacio (Bandera and Tanzi pp. 50, 69). It seems to me that this Bagatella's face is similar to that of Christ in that altarpiece. The Bagatella's doleful expression (much like that of the Popess) is not one I would associate with an entertainer. It is also like another image of Christ, in the upper corner of the "Ascension of Christ" whose Virgin I showed in the previous section, attributed to Bonifacio Bembo in the 1440s (Bandera and Tanzi, pp. 69 and 71; the two artists had similar styles). Christ is rising into the air while looking down sadly at the friends and family he is leaving. These are not typical Christs. It is a powerful idea, that of a demiurge entering his own creation, delivering his message, and then going away.

As though to convey the allegory, the value of the Bagatella is reflected in the Milanese game of tarot not by its trick-taking ability, which is the lowest of any trump, but by the number of points it earns after the hand is over, higher than any other trump except the World, which it equals (also the same as the Fool, which is not strictly speaking a Trump, since it has no trick-taking ability).

In the earlier Cary-Yale deck, either there was no Bagatella, or the card is missing. But there is a similarity to the King of Cups. It seems to me that the suit of Cups was probably associated with the Church; its Ace of Cups is a baptismal font. And cups bring to mind water, which is associated with a man praying the Rosary in the engraving of the four elements and temperaments.

An ancient Greek text on a Platonic theme is the Tabula Cebetis, translated into Latin in 1497. In this dialogue, a visitor sees a puzzling fresco on the wall of a Temple of Saturn, and an old man explains it to thim. What is depicted on the fresco is another old man, this one at the gateway to a garden loaded with various temptations (i.e. Fortune, on the right of the engraving) and virtues, rather like the tarot sequence. He is handing out pieces of paper to souls about to be born, which in fact are maps of instructions about how to triumph in this maze. In Plato's philosophy, these are the archetypes with which every soul is imprinted before birth. It is similar to the dealer of cards: there are bad cards--in the garden, temptations--but this dealer gives everyone the cards he needs to win, symbolized by the papers he is handing out.


Hans Holbein (1497-1543) did an illustration of the scene in around 1523, of which I give a portion above. The old man does not look much like our Bagatella: there is no table, his hat is wrong, his stick is not a wand, his beard is too long, and he's too fat. But one could imagine him dealing cards. as in the preacher's sermon, instead of handing out scrolls.

The old man at the gateway is not so far the creator of this garden. He is merely its "Genius", i.e. guardian spirit. But it is not much of a leap to suppose that the garden full of traps is his creation, and that he is the proprietor, now also Demiurgos, the artisan who made it. Christ in the Gospel of John is both the ordering principle of the world and also the one who tells us how to get out of it alive, so to speak, by heeding his Word.

In about the late 1460s, in Venice or Ferrara, a series of engraved cards was produced later known as the "Tarot of Mantegna"; many of them are similar to those of the tarot. Its third card, after one for "Il Misero", Poverty, a wandering beggar similar to the tarot Fool, and another called "The Servant", comes "the Artisan", with a worker standing at a table. While this word fits the context of the sequence, as the next card is "Merchant", the title "artisan" also precisely translates Plato's word Demiurgos.

The Bagatella card also seems to have acquired a title corresponding to the old man of the Tabula Cebetis. Andrea Alciati (1492-1550), writing in 1544 or Milan, listed the Bagatella card under the title "Innkeeper" (Parerga iuris: libri VII. posteriores, p. 90). And in c. 1565 the Piedmontese writer Francesco Piscina used the term "innkeeper" as part of a metaphorical account of the card's meaning (in Explaining the Tarot: Two Italian Renaissance Essays on the Meaning of the Tarot Pack, edited, translated and commented on by Ross Sinclair Caldwell, Thierry Depaulis, and Marco Ponzi, p. 15). He explained that people used to go to the "Inn of the Looking-Glass"--meaning self-knowledge, reflection, and prudence--but now they go to the "Inn of the Fool", who makes fun of the Mirror; this inn's Innkeeper, Piscina says, is the "Bagato", as the Bagatella was known (he seems to use that term without knowing any meaning other than the card). By "Inn of the Fool" Piscina is referring to the unreflective life of the player who doesn't stop to think about the allegories in front of his face, but instead is dazzled by the prospect of fame and fortune.

While there are no surviving cards from Piedmont of that period, one from c. 1830 does show what appears to be an innkeeper holding in his upraised hand his illusory happiness; at the same time, he has on his table the tools of an artisan, in this case a cobbler (image and dating from Depaulis essay in Il castello dei tarocchi, edited by Andrea Vitali, p. 151).

The modern Sicilian card (above, called I Picciotti, Sicilian dialect for "The Young Men") shows what looks like an innkeeper arguing about money with two customers. Tarot was reportedly introduced into Sicily in the 17th century by a governor who had just before been governor of Milan (Dummett, Il Mondo e l'Angelo p. 277). Although the Sicilian deck and game has much in common with those of Florence, Bologna, and Rome, this card is not like theirs.

These may be pure coincidence. But the Bagatella is an unprecedented figure in art before his appearance in the tarot. When I look for representations of a slight of hand artist in earlier Italian art, I find nothing. When I look for a man standing at a table, all I find are people drinking at an inn (first below, dated 1437 Pesaro by Bellosi, Come un prato fiorito, studi sull'arte tardogotica, fig. 273), and gods, such as Jupiter as a priest (second below, from Panofsky, Meaning in the Visual Arts, fig. 14, 14th century), These are both close to a Platonic interpretation of the card: the inn as this world and the god-priest as the Word that provides entry to a higher world. I posted them earlier, but here they are again, to be seen in the present context.


Finally: Teofilio Folengo (1491-1544), in chapter 13 of his mock-epic Baldo (1517), combined the demiurge/artisan/innkeeper and the sleight of hand artist in one comic character named Boccalo, who both cooks for Baldo's gang (one of the innkeeper's services) and performs magic tricks, including one with balls on his cook's table. The name "Boccalo" is also interesting, in this poem of twisted Latin. There is the Latin "baculum", stick, and the Italian "bocca", mouth. In connection with the tarot, Folengo is best known for presenting, in his work Triperuno, a series of sonnets incorporating the titles of the tarot cards.

Re: The meaning of the first six trumps

There is also room for the Fool in the "Names of God". The card was usually called "Il Matto" in the early lists, which is not quite the same as our modern English "Fool" (although it might fit the modern Italian "folle".) Foolishness, in modern English, is lack of wisdom, poor judgment, even lack of intelligence; but is not literally an indictment of one's sanity. Foolishness is something one can do something about: think things through, acknowledge one's ignorance or confusion, and so on. Insanity is a condition that overtakes one. One can do nothing about it; it is there whether one will or not. The most one can do is act or not act according to its dictates. But an Italian Matto, I believe, can be either of those things.

The same lack of distinction is in another word that seems to have meant something similar (although perhaps coined later than the game was invented) namely, tarocco. Its first early use seems to imply the sense of "furore", although hardly of a divine kind. The passage, cited by Andrea Vitali in his essay About the Etymology of Tarot ( ... 20&lng=ENG), was found and translated by Ross Caldwell:
Erat mecum mea socrus unde putana
Quod foret una sibi pensebat ille tarochus
Et cito ni solvam mihi menazare comenzat.

(My mother-in-law was with me, and this idiot thought he could get some money out of her, so he started threatening me)
This tarochus is aggressively agitated; whether he is unwise depends on the rest of the story. Another poem, from the same region a little later, has "Ancôr gli è - d'i taroch", which Andrea translates as "there are still some fools", adding that the reference is probably to betrayed husbands. If the husband is in blissful ignorance, the suggestion would be one of dullness, lack of thought, and passive acceptance of appearances. If the husband has found out and is doing crazy things, then it is a different story. Both sorts of fools play tarocchi, the passive who begin playing because it's an easy game, and the more agitated when they find out its difficulties.

However other similar words express more the "furore" than passivity. The verb taroccare means, according to an 1840 dictionary cited by Andrea, "to shout, become angry" and derives from the Greek "tarachos", tumult. I looked in the 1497 Aldine Greek-Latin Lexicon (top of p. 152, reproduced below) and found for "tarachos" the definition perturbatio, i.e. disorder, confusion. The English word ataraxia, meaning calmness, has the same origin. For another example see Andrea's essay Theroco wind: the wind that leads to madness (

Plato does seem to distinguish between lack of wisdom and lack of sanity. On the one hand, there are people with a great reputation for wisdom, but if you and ask them questions, in fact they are not wise at all (Apology 21c-22c). There are also people who because they are expert in one area think they are expert in all (22d). Such people are not insane, only unwise. It is here Socrates enunciates the well-known paradox that he is perhaps, as the Oracle at Delphi claims, the wisest person in Athens, because at least he does not think he knows what he does not know (21b) and is "neither wise in their wisdom nor stupid with their stupidity" (22d-e, Tredennick translation).

Besides lack of wisdom, there is also madness, which can be either an affliction or a visitation from a divine source. This madness or insanity is what Plato describes in the Phaedrus: love as affliction can drive people to do despicable things, as he recounts in detail both there and in the Republic; but it can also lead people toward the divine.

Leonardo Bruni published the relevant part of the Phaedrus in 1424 and again, with the Apology and other dialogues, in 1428. These translations would not have gone unnoticed. Bruni, sometime Chancellor of the Florentine Republic, "was, on good authority, the best-selling author of the 15th century", Hankins says in The Humanism of Leonardo Bruni (p. 45). He continues:
Bisticci reports that there were in Florence squadrons of scribes continuously employed in copying his work for sale at home and abroad. (n. 156: Vite, ed. Greco, 1:478) These statements are amply borne out by the evidence of the manuscripts.
The total number is in the thousands, far more than anyone else, Hankins says. In footnote 157, p. 353, he adds that his own census of manuscripts revealed 232 copies of Bruni's translations of Plato. Since no one had ever seen these dialogues before, there was a demand. If nothing else, the sexuality in the Phaedrus, condemned by some, would have stirred some interest. Bruni also popularized its ideas, in letters and at least one vernacular poem (Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, pp. 70f). Hundreds of manuscript copies of the final version of his collected letters were produced, as well as five print editions in the half century after 1484 (Hankins, Humanism and Platonism in the Italian Renaissance, vol. 1, p. 64).

Rather than summarize Plato on madness myself, I will quote Bruni, from a 1429 letter, Ep. 6.1 (in Hankins Plato in the Italian Renaissance pp. 70f). Where he gives the Latin, I will add it in critical spots. Hankins says that this letter had "already circulated widely even before Bruni published the first version of his collected letters around 1440" (Humanism and Platonism in the Italian Renaissance vol. 1 p. 149 n. 21).
For, as we know from Plato, there are two species of madness, one flowing from human diseases--an evil and detestable thing of course--; the other from a divine alienation of the mind. Again, of the divine madness there are four species: prophetic, Dionysiac, poetic, and erotic. Now, however, it must be shown that these four kinds of madness [furore] are not evil [malas]. ... The madness [furor] of lovers is from Venus, and arises from the contemplation of true Beauty, whose image we gaze at with penetrating sight, amazed at the extreme violence of our senses, and, as though beside ourselves [extra nos positi], we are drawn to it with every passion. So it is no less truly than elegantly said that the soul of the lover spends it life in another [alieno] body. This violent seizing and capture of the mind is called Love, a kind of divine alienation [alienato] and forgetfulness [oblivio] of self [in id], a transferal into that whose beauty we admire. If you call this madness [furorem] and insanity [vesaniam], I would wholly agree, so long as you understand that no poet can be any good who is not seized by a "madness" of this sort [huiuscemodi furore correptum], nor can God be well and perfectly worshiped, except through this kind of mental alienation.
I see nothing in the original to suggest the quotation marks around this last "madness"; madness is madness. I don't understand all of Bruni's poem (see the end of this post), but it speaks of one who loves fervently as "insano e furente", and the Sibyl as needing to be "furente, matta e grama"--in a furor, mad, and wretched--in order to receive the "divine contriving" that enters the "disordered and not the healthy breast"; so the same would seem to hold for the poet and the partaker in Mysteries.

For Plato the madness of a lover, afflicted in various ways, was especially important. Left unchecked, it leads to quite despicable actions and misery to oneself and others; but with proper discipline and thought it initiates a path toward the experience of less and less adulterated images of Beauty, ascending step by step by means of its passion. The game of tarot can thus be the “game of the Fool” in a laudatory sense, that of the madness of being possessed by spirit, in which the sequence itself shows the way forward.

That the PMB Matto is afflicted by divine madness is suggested by the white feathers in his hair on the first known card, in the hand-painted card of the PMB, forming something a little like a halo (like the feathers in a Native American headdress, to the same effect). There are seven of them, which Moakley associated with the seven weeks of Lent, a time of purification before Easter (The Tarot Cards Painted by Bonifacio Bembo for the Visconti-Sforza Family, 1966, p. 114). It is also a time of penance, befitting someone who has earlier acted foolishly. (The club seems inspired by a "Stultia" with feathers by Giotto.) Is the PMB Matto brought to this state by remorse over his former folly (not the put-on folly of Carnival, but of his culpable mistakes in life), or is he so intensely "responding to internal stimuli" (in the language of the modern mental health clinician) that he is unaware or uncaring of how he appears to others, his outer state mirroring his inne? Both seem likely. Madness entails disintegration of the personality, in Greek drama exemplified by Euripides' Orestes or Hecuba. But there can also be reintegration, most memorably exemplified in the case of Oedipus at Colonus. For a Renaissance example, we need only think of King Lear on the heath, spouting truth in madness, experiencing in scattered images his foolishness when sane. A crisis in one's mode of being leads to a disordered mind, which can allow a new way of being to emerge.


In this connection I notice a certain resemblance between the PMB Matto's face and two "Martyr Saints" attributed to Bonifacio or Ambrogio Bembo, c. 1450 (above, from Bandera and Tanzi, p. 81; for the complete images see ... ge-03a.JPG). These gaunt faces of unfathomable inwardness are not the way saints were normally portrayed.It reminds me of ps.-Dionysus's account of Moses' ascent on Mount Sinai at the end of his Mystical Theology (which had recently been given a new translation). He interprets Moses's climb as that of "walking the heights of those holy places to which the mind at last can rise" (1001A). But then:
...he breaks free of them, away from what sees and is seen, and he plunges into the truly mysterious darkness of unknowing. Here, renouncing all that the mind may conceive, wrapped entirely in the intangible and the invisible, he belongs completely to him who is beyond everything. Here, being neither oneself nor someone else, one is supremely united to the completely unknown by an inactivity of all knowledge, and knows beyond the mind by knowing nothing.
Ps.-Dionysius makes this point in another way in a passage in Divine Names. Citing St. Paul in I Cor. 1:25: “The foolishness of God is wiser than men” (865B), he explains (865C):
And here the divine apostle is said to be praising God for his “foolishness,” which in itself seems absurd and strange, but uplifts [us] to the ineffable truth which is there before all reasoning.
Correspondingly, the Fool card is without number, as though to indicate its lack of confinement or limitation in human concepts. In the Jewish Kabbalah, a similar idea, that of God as "En Sof," meaning without number or limit. This same idea runs through the later Platonists of antiquity: above the Good is the One, above that perhaps something else, but eventually nothing that can be described. In ps.-Dionysius’s “negative theology”, God is not anything that can be said or thought. So, however strange it appears, “Foolishness” or “Fool”--in the sense of "emptiness of concepts"--is for pseudo-Dionysius one of the names of God. Yet I think the "furor" of Plato's Phaedrus is also implied, because he speaks at the end of Celestial Hierarchy about wheels, rivers of fire, chariots, and so on. In their biblical contexts, these are parts of ecstatic visions and what drives Moses' upward climb. Then the furor subsides.

In I Corinthians, the Vulgate's word translated into English as "foolishness" is "stultum", not "furore"; and it is the opposite of wisdom, "sapientius". The rest of the sentence is "...and the weakness of God is stronger than men". From this it seems clear that it is God as Jesus that Paul is talking about, and also the God who possessed him on the road to Damascus. Like Socrates heeding his "daemon", Jesus was indifferent to the wisdom of the world, which would have cautioned against his angering the authorities.. In the same way, the martyr saints cared more about their unity with God than for their lives on earth.

In the game that went with the cards, as far as can be determined from later descriptions, the rule for using the Matto card suggests an allegory in the context of Christianity. First, it was so weak in power it could not win against any other card, even the lowest number card. Second, to save a more valuable card from being taken by an opponent, it could substitute for that card at any time, a kind of sacrifice that also is not a sacrifice (because the card then usually returned to the one who played it), just as Christ, an aspect of the ineffable God itself, sacrificed himself for God’s most valuable creation. In sacrificing this card, however, the player also--unless he played so foolishly as not to win a single trick--gets it back at the end, when in the scoring it not only gets as many points as the Bagatella and the World, but also, in some versions, earns points for other cards by substituting for missing cards in combinations.

Bruni's poem, Canzone a laude di Venere, Stanza 5:

Chi amor crede biasimare, il loda
quando insano e furente in suo dir chiama
colui che fervente ama;
perchè divin furore è ben perfetto.
La Sibilla non mai il vero isnoda,
se non quandà è furente, matta e grama.
è la divina trama
cerne il commosso, e non il sano petto,
e gli vaticinanti ch 'àn predetto
furente vider. Sicchè non è rio
il furor che da Dio
discende nella mente. E così amore
da Vener nasce, ed è divine furore.

My unsatisfactory translation, with apologies for the parts I couldn't quite figure out (added 2 days later: I made a few alterations that at least make sense of the poem):

He who thinks love to blame, praises it
when in his speech he calls insane and in furor
one who loves fervently;
because divine furor is very perfect.
The Sibyl never the truth unloosens,
except when she is in furor, mad and wretched;
it is the divine contriving that
discerns the disordered and not the healthy breast,
and the prophesiers what is predicted
to see in furor. So that it is not evil,
the furor that from God
descends into the mind. And so love
from Venus is born, and is divine furor.

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