An important discovery by Andrea Vitali abiut the Bagat

#1
:-bd
An important discovery by Andrea Vitali on the reason of the Bagatto
presence as first card in the Triumphs.

The essay is now in Italian but it will be soon in English.



Title of the essay:



El Bagatella ovvero il simbolo del peccato (El Bagatella or the symbol of
sin)
Sul motivo della presenza del Bagatto come prima carta dei Trionfi (On the
reason of the Bagatto presence as first card in the Tiumphs)



Link: http://www.letarot.it/page.aspx?id=386
<http://www.letarot.it/page.aspx?id=386&lng=ITA> &lng=ITA

“On appelle la bagatelle le péché qui degrade plus la nature humaine, qui
l'énerve, qui l'aveugle, qui la depouillant de sa noblesse et d'une fierté
legitime, l'asservit aux plus humiliantes sensations. C'est bien avec raison
que le Sage nous avertit, que l'homme insensé commet le crime, par manière
de badinage: Quasi per risum stultus operatur scelus. Prov. X. 10”

There was a conception inside the Church that begins in the XVIth century
and continues to XIXth century that considers the Bagatella a great sin.

The lowly Matto and Bagatto

#2
Hi, Alain,
Alain BOUGEAREL wrote:There was a conception inside the Church that begins in the XVIth century
and continues to XIXth century that considers the Bagatella a great sin.
It appears that there are some interesting sources cited. I look forward to an English translation.

Some of us have long argued that entertainers were despised by the Church, and continued to be considered disreputable folk well into the 20th century. Long ago, O'Neill pointed to this tidbit from an important and early source, the Elucidarium. (Cf. Minstrelsy.)
O'Neill wrote:But perhaps the greatest insight into the strange juxtaposition of Fool and Trickster may be found in the popular religious tracts. The Elucidarium was written by Honorius of Autun at the turn of the 11th/12th century. The intent was to translate the complexities of orthodox theology into terms that the layman could understand (Gurevich 1988). This "Catechism" was used by clergy for centuries and was a major source for instruction and explanation. In this popular and well-known work, we find the Fool and Trickster as another duality of basic good and evil: "Do jongleurs have any hope? None, for they are servants of Satan... As for madmen, they are like children and shall be saved" (Gurevich 1988, pp154f). So it is feasible that the Fool-Bagatto pairing is a deliberate juxtaposition of good/evil or innocence/deceit that might have been familiar to the card-player.
Discipulus: Habent spem joculatores?
Magister: Nullam; tota namque intentione ministri sunt Satanae; de ipsis dicitur: "Deum non cognoverunt; ideo Deus sprevit eos et Dominus subsannabit eos, quia derisores deridentur.
(cf Ps. 2, 4; voir aussi Ps. 36, 13 et 58, 9, Prov. 1, 26, Sap. 4, 18)
And a translation:
N. Daniels wrote: ...at the end of the eleventh century, Honorius Augustodunensis wrote in his Elucidarium what is often held up as representative of the medieval Church’s “unwavering” stance against jongleurs:

Student: Do joculatores have any hope for salvation?
Master: None. For in fact, by their whole intention, they are servants of Satan; concerning these people it is said, "They did not recognize God; therefore God scorns them, and the Lord will mock them".

The continued denial of salvation and the sacraments to jongleurs effectively placed them outside of the Church, and consequently on the margins of society. Here, they were joined by a growing urban poor along with other prominent marginal figures—none of whom fit into the traditional tripartite schema of bellatores, oratores, and laboratores.
(From Jongleur to Minstrel: The Professionalization of Secular Musicians in 13th- and 14th-Century Paris)
Bob was still wedded to the Fool being an honorific character. However, this was not the most prevalent view of fools. They too were commonly entertainers, sharing in that infamy, and the "natural fools" were sometimes used as entertainment and always held in contempt. The most common depiction of them was in illustrated Bibles where they symbolized the rejection of God. The most common depiction of the Bagatto is as an exemplar of the Children of the Moon. This is also a pointedly negative association in that the lowly Moon, (like the Bagatto), epitomizes mutability, inconstancy -- characteristics opposite of the divine.

Fools and deceivers and, specifically, magicians, are condemned throughout the Bible. From the atheist fool of Psalms, through the foolish virgins in the parable of Jesus, to the magicians outside the gates of New Jerusalem in Revelation, these figures have the most dire associations. That is, they are going to Hell.

Entertainers have always been held in low esteem, and a magician is a professional deceiver, even in those cases where he isn't also a cheat and con artist. What does the Bible tell us about deceivers? They are in fact disciples of Satan, the Father of Lies. This is the figure's identity, who he is, and it is hugely significant information given that he is also the lowest of the trick-taking trumps. His significance in the cycle of images parallels his disreputable social status as a scoundrel. His pairing with a fool is perfectly natural in this context, as the Bagatto attempts to make fools of us all.

As entertainers, they are also exemplars of frivolity. This seems harmless or even beneficial to us, today. This is, however, an anachronistic view to impose on 15th-century Roman Catholics.

The theme of virtues & vices was common and profound, and in a number of ways Folly was a root vice, one from which other vices grew. (Or a cardinal vice from which others depended, or some such metaphor.) The fool was the living epitome of Folly, and that leads to Hell, as illustrated by Giotto and others. Entertainers and entertainment were symbols of sin, associated with sex, and used to symbolize worldly concerns which lead Mankind astray. This is depicted in countless Vanitas pictures. Then there is the tradition of Falò delle vanità, bonfires for "vanities". People like Bernardino, Capistrano, and Savonarola were very serious about frivolity.

Fools and magicians are inherently ambiguous figures. In addition to the things noted above, they are also figures of fun. 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. Therefore, cognates and connotations like those I've mentioned are the most salient. Because Tarot was primarily a game, the playful aspect of these two characters is perfectly appropriate. Because the trump cycle is a moral allegory, the sinful aspect of these two characters is also perfectly appropriate. They represent Temptation, just as the games burned in the bonfires did.

Here are a few old posts which talk about the Fool and Magician as lowly figures, rather than the exalted representatives of Kether and Binah which the occultists and their followers have suggested.

Iconography and the Order of the Cards (November 25, 2007)
The Ranks of Man in Tarot (December 13, 2007)
The Bagatto in Context (July 28, 2010)
The Bagatto in Context Redux (August 21, 2010)
Some Low-Lifes by Lucas van Leyden (August 23, 2010)
Close-up Magic (September 7, 2010)

And how might these two characters fit into the larger design of the trump cycle? I have offered a reading of Emperor and Pope as heads of State and Church, and the Empress and Popess as personifications of Imperium and Sacerdotum. Consistent with such a sponsa/sponsus design, the Matto personifies the world of fools while the Bagatto is the illusionist, leading them astray.

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

If more people like Vitali pursue this line of thought about the Matto and Bagatto as symbolizing negative aspects of society, it seems likely that more examples will continue to be discovered.

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

Re: An important discovery by Andrea Vitali abiut the Bagat

#3
MJ Hurst wrote,
Fools and magicians are inherently ambiguous figures. In addition to the things noted above, they are also figures of fun. 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.
Given that I had the day earlier posted the beginning of an analysis of the first six trumps focusing on Trump One of the Rosenwald, which combines the Matto and the Bagatella, in the context of this Forum people caught up on their reading would naturally assume that I am the one, or a one, being alluded to by the words "only a fool {or deceiver)" above. I always appreciate feedback, of course. I just want to clarify that I did provide context (although perhaps not the type desired), and moreover, I did not say that either of these two characters, the Matto or the Bagatalla, was intended to be honorific. [Note added next day: Thinking about this some more. I can see where Michael is coming from. He is reacting to my speculation that the PMB cards might have been meant in a positive way, as one of their meanings. See note below.] Please refer to viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&p=13791#p13784 for what I did say. I do not think a detailed response from me is appropriate in the current thread. But I did post one today, with more context, covering the other four of the first six cards, at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&p=13791#p13791.

I, too, eagerly await a translation of Andrea's piece.

Added next day: About the Bagatella or Matto as honorific, thinking again about what I wrote. I see that I forgot part of what I had said. I did say I wondered if perhaps the PMB Bagatella might have been intended in a positive way, as one of its meanings, given the expensive dress, weary expression and the visual similarities to Jupiter and other gods at their tables and Ammon with his horns. I still wonder. And I wonder also about the PMB Matto, due to the seven feathers in his hair, suggestive of the seven days of Lent. So I apologize for over-reacting to Michael. That the Matto and the Bagatella would have been interpreted positively as well as negatively, regardless of how they were intended by their designers, I feel more confident about, given the historical context of Renaissance writings.

Idiots and Hustlers

#4
Hi, Mike,
mikeh wrote:
Michael wrote:Fools and magicians are inherently ambiguous figures. In addition to the things noted above, they are also figures of fun. 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.
Given that I had the day earlier posted the beginning of an analysis of the first six trumps focusing on Trump One of the Rosenwald, which combines the Matto and the Bagatella, in the context of this Forum people caught up on their reading would naturally assume that I am the one, or a one, being alluded to by the words "only a fool {or deceiver)" above.
There's an old adage which begins, "When you assume...."

Allow me to excuse myself from what some unspecified readers of a Tarot forum might hypothetically conclude about a comment I've made many times on different fora. Yes, I realize that speculation about hypothetical or even contrafactual events is irresistible to some posters here. It seems to be the only way that Tarot history can be made interesting to them -- by turning it into Tarot fantasy. However, my comment stands -- alongside many previous, closely similar comments -- as a critique of failed methodology and an endorsement of better approaches.

This conversation regarding goals and methods has been going on, my part at least, for 15 years now. Various people join and depart, but the most common approaches remain the same. (Unsurprisingly, they continue to produce the same sort of results, which is why Tarot history remains in about the same sorry state it occupied before Moakley and Dummett.) Because these faulty methods continue unchanged, my criticisms and endorsements tend to remain the same.

More specifically, that particular criticism, a rejection of founding an interpretation on the shifting sands of the least-certain trump subjects, has been repeated many times. It varies as to which specifics are cited, but to illustrate the point it requires either an obscure or ambiguous trump. Generally, that means one or more of the least conventional subjects (Magician, Popess, Hanged Man) or the most ambiguous subjects (Fool, Chariot, Time/Hermit/Old Man, Tower, etc.) Second, among their assorted meanings, Matto and Bagatto constitute an archetypal summary of all falsehood -- blunder and bullshit. I use them as such, in Tarot posts, routinely. In the post above, these two recurrent themes of my criticism were combined. (After 15 years of this exercise, mixing and matching old motifs is also standard practice.)

Then there is the matter of what prompted my post. Alain drew my attention to a post by Andrea Vitali which, as I spelled out in some detail above, is very much to the point which I have been making for years. Many of the quotes he presented are revealing, giving particular examples of a sensibility which was apparent to all even without them. (By "all", I mean all those with some historical perspective on the reputation of performers.) His post was the subject of my post. Your post, on the other hand, did not seem to require any comment. So no, it's not all about you.

Conversely, of course, "if the cloak sitteth fit,..."

On a more general note, starting with the known (like Emperor and Pope in a ranks-of-man motif) and working toward the unknown (the subtle, ambiguous, obscure, or novel, like the Fool or Popess) is a recognized rationalist methodology for making sense of both texts and challenging works of antique art. It is discussed, although not in precisely those terms, by writers including Warburg, Panofsky, Wind, Gombrich, Tuve, and most notably by Eco, to name some of those whom I have quoted at one time or another.

It is an ancient and perennial observation. For example, Rene Decartes in his Discourse on Methods: "to conduct my thoughts in such order that, by commencing with objects the simplest and easiest to know, I might ascend by little and little, and, as it were, step by step, to the knowledge of the more complex; assigning in thought a certain order even to those objects which in their own nature do not stand in a relation of antecedence and sequence." The Tarot trumps, of course, do have such a natural sequence. Each deck with the standard trump subjects has its own particular order, and the entire constellation of such decks and their orderings exhibit many generic similarities which suggest a generic meaning.

Attempting to make sense of the whole may be a challenging process, and sometimes a futile one. Not every assemblage was created with a well-ordered design or coherent meaning. However, sapientis est ordinare, as Aquinas suggested. St Augustine is another I've quoted on the subject, but the point is simple: Work from the known to the unknown. The other approach is a fool's errand (or Fool's Journey, if you prefer to make it an honorific label). It is discussed by Eco under terms including "suspicious reading", "unlimited semiosis", "Hermetic semiosis", and so on. I call it "bullshit", using the term as defined so usefully by Harry Frankfurt.

In addition to coining descriptive terms and explaining the broken, misleading methodology they refer to, Eco wrote at least four books discussing this type of faulty methodology. I usually recommend The Open Work and Interpretation and Overinterpretation, but Foucault's Pendulum is especially illustrative -- and damning, if understood. These methods are divergent rather than convergent, because they offer no criteria for selection or distinction between good ideas and bad. They lead to what I have termed kitchen-sink syncretism, the magpie-miscellany school of Tarot history.

Or, to put a happy face on it, the "It's All Good" school of Tarot history. :D

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

Re: Idiots and Hustlers

#5
MJ Hurst wrote,
On a more general note, starting with the known (like Emperor and Pope in a ranks-of-man motif) and working toward the unknown (the subtle, ambiguous, obscure, or novel, like the Fool or Popess) is a recognized rationalist methodology for making sense of both texts and challenging works of antique art.
Certainly it is necessary to work from the known to the unknown. But there is more to it. For example,let us take a picture of a young man with a hunter's bow standing to one side of a pool in the woods, looking over at a naked lady standing on the other side. What is it? I think of Acteon and Diana, and that in the next moment he will be transformed to a stag and killed by his own dogs. But then I see three nymphs also in the pool, with their arms around one another in a manner characteristic of the Graces: something known. So it is Cupid and Venus that I saw, not Acteon and Diana.

But it is not clear that the other interpretation, Acteon and Diana, thereby goes away (just as in "Get thee to a nunnery," the Elizabethan slang "nunnery" = "whorehouse," does not go away when Hamlet adds "thou wouldst not be a breeder of sinners"). If in our picture we hold both meanings, the scene becomes one of the the apparent self-destructiveness of love, putting everything at risk at the sight of the beloved. If the beloved is God, it is a metaphor for the abandonment of the world for the sake of the spirit.

I get this reading from somewhere in Bruno. But my authority for this type of reading is Alberti's essay "Rings," written in the early 1430s well known starting 1438, when it became especially fashionable for nobles to choose personal devices and put them on medals. Alberti put his own "winged eye" on a medal in 1450. (For historical context, see http://books.google.com/books?id=hOs2zX ... ye&f=false). Here is Alberti's explanation, in "Rings." He is imagining a series of rings, each with a different image on it:
On the first ring is engraved a crown, the center of which is occupied by an eye adorned with an eagle's wing. Do you understand?...
The crown is an emblem of gladness and glory. There is nothing more powerful, swift, or worthy than the eye. In short, it is the foremost of the body's members, a sort of king or god. Didn't the ancients regard God as similar to the eye, since he surveys all things an dreckons them singly? On the one hand, we are enjoined to give glory for all things to God, to rejoice in him, to embrace him with all our mind and vigorous virtue, and to consider him as an ever-present witness to all our thoughts and deeds. On the other hand, we are enjoined to be as vigilant and circumspect as we can, seeking everything which leads to the glory of virtue, and rejoicing whenever by our labor and industry we achieve something noble or divine. Have you understood this? In describing this first ring, I have chosen to be brief, for it would take too long to discuss all the aspects of a matter so rich in lessons. Besides, since you are wise, you will be able to appreciate their value clearly and plainly if you reflect on them. (Dinner Pieces, Marsh translation, p. 213f).
So from the physical eye we go to the eye of God, and from there to the soul's eye that swiftly discerns the path of virtue. And we are enjoined not to stop there; he has not discussed all the aspects of the image. Others, and their combinations, will be recognized by the wise, he says.

Alberti's method was not new. The same would apply, in a perhaps more limited way, to the image that Petrarch suggested to Giangaleazzo Visconti, of the radiant dove/turtledove with the motto "a bon droyt", which also has multiple meanings.

From the side of the Middle Ages, a problem with the Bagatella and Matto is that they don't have medieval artistic correlates; their first appearance as images is in the PMB. From the standpoint of the 16th century and the Rosenwald, they are simple enough, known from representations in the "Children of the Planets" series and other popular illustrations. That's why I started there. And it doesn't take a detailed analysis of the later cards to know that they are the lowest trumps and the beginning of the sequence. From the perspective of the Middle Ages, however, it makes sense to start with the Pope and, Emperor.We can go from the known to the unknown, from 5 and 4, back to 1 and 0. The 5 to 0 sequence gives us a structure, a framework: 0 and 1 are at the low end, which is also the beginning. From that, and the content of the 5 and 4, we have a basis for looking at the earlier cards.

But we also have to bear in mind the Albertian multuiplicity of interpretations for each image, including the 5 and 4. That is clear even in Petrarch's discussion of popes and emperors in De Remediis: Pope and Emperor have both very negative and very positive significations. The popes used to be martyrs, but now they are greedy, vicious charlatans, ruling an institution as corrupt as they. A few of the Roman emperors were virtuous. But most weren't; and today those bearing the Roman eagle are simply pretenders (neither Holy, nor Roman, nor ruling over an Empire, as someone said), holding sway over a hierarchy of illusions. The tarot images of Pope and Emperor, allegorically, are from this perspective ambivalent images, in an extreme way: evil temptations and models of virtue. (For specific quotes from Petrarch, see my post at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&start=30#p13791).

So let us take such a perspective on 5 and 4 and apply it to 1 and 0. What is very positive about the Bagatella, what is very positive about the Matto? That is, what is positive about them besides the fact that the Bagatella is entertaining and skillful, and the Matto perhaps good-hearted if he is a Natural Fool, or, if he is a professional, clever and funny in his parodies of others? From the perspective of the ambivalence of Emperor and Pope, we can see the lowest cards from another perspective, yet very much within the Renaissance, as containing opposites and also going from the below to the above as Alberti does: they become images of the divine at the beginning of creation, recalling us to our own origins, and how we may attain to the divine (through the sacraments) as well.

MJ Hurst wrote
I usually recommend The Open Work and Interpretation and Overinterpretation, but Foucault's Pendulum is especially illustrative -- and damning, if understood. These methods are divergent rather than convergent, because they offer no criteria for selection or distinction between good ideas and bad. They lead to what I have termed kitchen-sink syncretism, the magpie-miscellany school of Tarot history.

Or, to put a happy face on it, the "It's All Good" school of Tarot history.
Not all interpretations are good. Some interpretations don't fit the images, in the context of the sequence; also,when we are doing tarot history, some interpretations don't have verified historical correlates in the thought or imagery of the specific period in which they are meant to apply.

But Michael's pre-Renaissance and post-Reformation approach to tarot history is simply too narrow. It oversimplifies the very period in which the tarot arose. The Renaissance was a complex time, in which Aristotelians contended with Platonists, and Thomists with Neoplatonists. And these people were all Catholics! It wasn't that the Platonists denied Aristotle or Thomas, but that they said that there was more, and the other side said there wasn't, that the Renaissance Platonists and Neoplatonists were just wrong. The former is what I say about Michael's theory of the tarot: I don't deny that it applies to some audiences in the Renaissance. But in the humanist milieu there was more.

Especially there was more in the context in which the tarot is first known to have been used: the humanistic culture of not just Dante and Petrarch, but also Guarino (in Ferrara), Filelfo (in Milan), Plethon (in Florence and Mistra), Poggio (in Florence), Cyriaco (everywhere), Bessarion (in Florence, Bologna, and Rome), Alberti (Ferrara, Florence, Rome, Mantua, Rimini), Cusa, etc., followed quickly by Ficino, Pico, and Boiardo, among others. If you want to understand something, you have to look first to the ideas of its own milieu, in the context of which some, at least, of the early decks were made.

I am happy to read more Eco. Perhaps Michael will offer some guidance, at least in the proper understanding of Foucault's Pendulum. I did read Interpretation and Overinterpretation. The book includes responses by a few others, including Richard Rorty and Jonathan Culler, Rorty, who reflected also on Foucault's Pendulum and "Intentio lectoris", is probably the pre-eminent American philosopher of his generation. Neither was persuaded by Eco. Nor am I.

I recommend reading books like Wind's Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance, Cumont's Surivival of the Pagan Gods, Hankins' Plato in the Italian Renaissance, as well as primary sources such as Alberti's writings, Plethon's edition of the Chaldean Oracles (translated in Woodhouse's Plethon), Ficino's Three books on life, Pico's Oration and 900 Theses, the Hypnerotomachia, and Reuchlin's Art of the Kabbalah, as well as the Greco-Roman texts newly read or newly appreciated at that time: Plutarch, Diodorus, Lucan, Apuleius, "Horapollo," Pausanias, Proclus, Plotinus, Philostratus, much of Plato, etc.

Added later: On Michael's suggestion, I did read Foucault's Pendulum, a book I had tried to read when it first came out but found too tedious to stay with. I wasn't very interested in Templar Secrets. But this time I managed to plow my way through.

The two main characters in the novel are charlatans taking advantage of gullible authors, whom they consider fools. As part of their work they read books they consider either foolish or deliberate deceptions, although gullible people do buy them in large quantities. So they construct, on the same principles as the books they read, inclusive of all of them, an imaginary but absurd decoding of the Secret of the Templars.

Indeed, I have myself read such books as those Eco is satirizing, including ones that seem to me intentionally deceptive (e.g. Christian's History of Magic, Mathers' "translation" of the Sefer Yetsirah), while others seem just foolish (e.g. a lot of what is in Etteilla's Cahiers, such as his absurd numerology that comes out of nowhere and justifies little).

How well Eco has parodied Western Esotericism I don't know. Have his characters mastered the genre? It is difficult to tell, without footnotes to specific works. As far as presenting methods for distinguishing valid from invalid interpretations, I don't think he has said anything he has not said in "Interpretation and Overinterpretation" or "Intentio lectoris."

There are a few sections in Foucault's Pendulum that lead me to think that Eco is not entirely negative about esotericism. One is the "numerology of the body" that the narrator's wife Lia delivers to him at the end of the "Gevurah" section (Eco divides his novel, I don't think satirically, into sections corresponding to the sefiroth). Not only is it written with genuine feeling (as opposed to most of the book, which is intellectual gamesmanship), but it is straight Neopythagoreanism, as in the 4th century Theologumena Arithmeticae, in its materialist/microcosmic aspect, something Nichomachus himself could have written.

Another (the narrator even calls it his "key text") is the chapter where his friend Belbo volunteers to play taps at the funeral of some dead partisans.(This is the culmination of a subplot dealing with Belbo's recall of his childhood.) The narrator describes Belbo's feelings in explicitly Gnostic and Kabbalist terms, as though these systems' metaphors really meant something after all, and they had been too facile in playing with them. Since the narrator also says things in support of Catholic imagery (the passage about the simple, non-secret nature of the Christian message), I take him to be seeing, and feeling, how orthodox Christianity, Gnosticism, and Kabbalah all express something genuinely important and meaningful, in which the latter two supplement the first.

If so, I resonate with such passages. I do not spend time interpreting tarot imagery simply for intellectual entertainment. I think that they capture something important, fundamental enough that it cannot be said in any one verbal framework or ideology. It takes mutually exclusive verbalisms to get a feeling for them. The Renaissance was very much aware of this need and saw ancient esoteric frameworks (in the sense of not known by many, but not secret codes) as valuable supplements to medieval Christianity. So do I. And the tarot doesn't stop there. Each age can redo and reinterpret its images, without deception or, hopefully, foolishness, in so doing making them live again,

Re: An important discovery by Andrea Vitali abiut the Bagat

#7
I want to say a little bit about Andrea's essay, if only to stimulate discussion. Unlike most discussions of the card, his essay focuses on the use of the word "bagatella" in Italian up through the 19th century. It appears never to have meant the person portrayed on the card, but rather his actions, his tricks, or the small things he used in these tricks. In footnote 6 he documents its use as "thing of little value"; in the year 1389, in 1280, as well as in the 15th century, the word "baccatella" is used in that sense, a word that originally meant a small berry, and related to "baccatino," meaning a small coin.

If so, it seems likely that the word also applied to the small objects, usually round, that the prestidigitator (i.e. slight of hand artist) used in his performances, as it did in later centuries.

In the late 15th century, starting with Pulci's Morgante, it is also seen having the meaning of "fradulent action", probably a generalization from the tricks of prestidigitators,

Whether this additional meaning was already in the language before the tarot, or whether it came into being because of the personnage depicted on the tarot card is not clear, at least from Andrea's examples.

Dummett in The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards (1986) gave the opinion that the word "bagatella" got applied to the card because it was the lowest trump, the one of smallest value. Dummett said (p. 102):
In the early sources, including the Susio poem, it is almost always called il bagatella, probably referring to the feeble trick-taking power of the card, as the weakest trump, rather than to the subject it depicts.
Dummett's opinion seems in accord with Andrea's philologiical investigation. If so, however, why the prestidigitator was chosen as the image on the card remains unclear

What Andrea notices is that at least from the 16th century, the word is applied particularly to sins that some regarded as too trivial to endanger one's soul, a grave mistake, in the eyes of the preachers who criticized such an attitude. One example is wearing fine clothes with much ornamentation; another is "eating an apple", which I assume refers to the Garden of Eden. The word was also used to characterize the attitudes of some people to things which the preachers regard as highly valuable, but which were regarded by some as things of little value; notably, the wafer and wine in the mass, which for the preachers were the body and blood of Christ.

In the context of the tarot sequence as a mystical ladder to God, then, the first card represents the initial position of the person for whom such a sequence is intended, his status as a sinner. Then:
To the question, "why the figure of a prestidigitator and not another sinner", I respond by saying that the Church understood the bagatella as one of the greatest expressions of sin, so as to create a topos in the fifteenth century, the era in which the term appeared, which was perpetuated in the history of the Church until the nineteenth century.
It was the prestidigitator who worked with the small, trivial objects, bagatelle, in small acts of illusion, also called bagatelle, which are deceptions even if done for the amusement of spectators. Hence he is eminently suitable for the lowest trump, the bagatella, the trivial thing that is also the seed of sin and the road to hell.

I hope I have understood Andrea properl and not oversimplified what he says too much.

It is an interesting hypothesis, and one that fits what Michael has said about the card, and I myself, in part. But I also find in Andrea's examples support for the additional meanings I see in the card, not only negative but also positive. First, there is the self-referential aspect of the person on the card, not only a prestidigiator but a card-player, putting down cards in what in English are even today called "tricks".(Is that also true in Italian?)

Second, on the positive side, it is precisely the great boon of the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, to which some give the name "bagatella"; and that is what, in one interpretation I endorse, we see depicted on the card thus called. And as the least powerful trump, like Jesus hanging helplessly on the cross, it is apparently a thing of small value. However it scores many points when the hand is done, for the one who gets it. In that way the card so titled is an allegory for the rite in which Jesus's redeeming act is re-enacted for the salvation of the participant.

Re: An important discovery by Andrea Vitali abiut the Bagat

#8
Hi, Mike,
mikeh wrote:I want to say a little bit about Andrea's essay, if only to stimulate discussion.
I'll offer my view of it, but first, thank you very much for the translation. (And thanks again to Andrea Vitali for this project, searching out some references to magicians and related performers in textual sources.)

There is a lot of good material. For example, the notion of Familia Diaboli versus Familia Christi directly parallels my analysis of the lowest trumps.
John of Salisbury (1120-1180) advised Princes even to exterminate, rather than nurture, all members of the "Familia Diaboli", among them the prestidigitators (prodigiis hominum).
Bertoldo da Ratisbonda, in the 13th century, rejects from Christian society only the jumble of vagabonds, wanderers, the "vagrants." They form the "Familia Diaboli," the family of the devil, in front of all other trades, all other "states" now admitted into the family of Christ, the "Familia Christi".
In this way, individual fools and deceivers (along with other low-lifes) are personally outside of Christendom, just as figuratively these two symbolize all those who reject salvation. The fools are followers of deceivers, and together they form a natural pairing, just as the sponsa/sponsus pairings led by Emperor and Pope. This distinction between those who will be saved versus those who are damned is crucial to understanding the historical meaning of the trump cycle.

DON'T OVERLOOK THE OBVIOUS

Vitali begins by acknowledging the obvious: the Bagatto is a magician. No, not an exalted magus, heir to ancient Egyptian wisdom, initiate of secret Kabbalistic societies, Neoplatonic mystic, Renaissance humanist, or other esoteric bullshit. He is a street performer. He is the shifty guy shown in the Children of Luna manuscripts and prints, whose tricks make things appear as changeable as the Moon. He is the conjuror depicted by Bosch and Bruegel, one of the low-lifes shown by Girolamo Porro.

That recognition may seem a small thing, admitting that the Magician is a magician. However, failure to accept that fact renders worthless 99% of everything written about the figure by Tarot enthusiasts. Most of them cannot escape the perverse and pervasive folklore surrounding the subject. Conversely, accepting that fact makes plain what historical information is relevant and revealing. Because of that small thing, Vitali can meaningfully address the social status, the fama or reputation of entertainers in general as well as magicians in particular.

This is a second area of insight. As I have argued, entertainers in general were a famously disreputable class of society. They were explicitly associated with sin and damnation. Worse, they were doubly damned because they also led others to sin. On the one hand, this is a commonplace, known to everyone who knows anything about the history of performing arts from medieval times through the early 20th century. It is implicit (sometimes explicit) in endless Vanitas paintings and famous sermons by Bernardino, Capistrano, and Savonarola. On the other hand, Vitali offers additional documentation, some excellent quotations. Observations like this should be taken for granted but, in Tarot, the only things taken for granted are esoteric folklore. Therefore, it is very valuable to have a prominent writer produce such an essay.

These are crucial observations for anyone interested in the historical meaning of the trump cycle: The Magician was a magician, and magicians -- like other performers -- were low-lifes and exemplars of sin. They were walking, talking examples of vanity, as well as being embodiements of the magicians condemned by the Bible and Fathers of the Church. Then there is the philology of the Bagatto.

THREE CONGRUENT MEANINGS

Much of Vitali's essay concerns the usage and etymology of the bagatto family of words -- how the related terms were used, and numerous quotations are produced. Bagatella refers primarily to trifles, things of no consequence, and a bagatello is a person who engages in such trivial activities. (I forgot to include what should always be remembered: this meaning for "bagatelle" has survived even today, even in English.) In Tarot, because the subject is depicted on the lowest-ranking trump, il bagatella has an inescapable second meaning. More generally, Vitali notes that these words tend to cluster around three meanings: "In its Italian and foreign diffusion are distinguishable three main areas: the first means 'small thing of little value', the second 'sleight of hand or skill' and the third 'fraudulent actions, fraud'."

The NAME of this particular entertainer and his art, and related words, refer to trifles. They therefore imply the vanity of inconsequential diversions. This is the stuff seen in Vanitas paintings and denounced by preachers like St. Bernardino of Siena, St. John of Capistrano, and Girolamo Savonarola. This meaning and etymology is not new, but there appear to be some new references in Vitali's essay.

The PERFORMANCE of this particular entertainer, what he does, is legerdemain. This is the deception inherent in sleight of hand illusions. Stage magic necessarily entails an association with the supernatural and the "real" magicians condemned by preachers and in the Bible. (Famously, the creator of uber-analytical Sherlock Holmes was so blinded by the supernatural that he believed Houdini dematerialized to do his tricks.) This meaning, legerdemain, is also dead obvious but, again, it is not widely recognized and Vitali has new references related to it.

Finally, the Bagatto's deception naturally SYMBOLIZES all forms of deception and fraud. This symbolism is a direct and obvious extension of the subject depicted: a deceiver represents deception as surely as a fool represents folly. Sins of fraud are among the greatest: they are sins which lead to the penultimate ring of Dante's Inferno. (Malebolge is also home to alchemists, astrologers, assorted diviners, con men, hypocrites, liars and deceivers in general. As such, it seems that "Malebolge" would be a great name for a Tarot forum.) Again, not a new idea, but Vitali offers new references.

The name, the performance, and what it inescapably suggests as an allegory, are the three meanings of the bagatto family of words that Vitali summarized in the quote above. None of the general conclusions appear to be new. However, they are all well grounded and the documentation is wonderful, and most of it is new to me. None of the findings are inconsistent with each other, with the subject's place as the lowest trump, or with the Matto and Bagatto being a perfectly understandable pairing to be grouped with the Empress/Emperor and Popess/Pope.

Thanks again for the translation.

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

Re: An important discovery by Andrea Vitali abiut the Bagat

#10
While Vitalli does not address the PBM Bagatto, his essay can help illuminate that oldest one to have survived, but not in the terms Hurst has summarized: “[A]cknowledging the obvious: the Bagatto is a magician.” This places too much weight on the second of the three meanings outlined by Vitali: 'small thing of little value', the second 'sleight of hand or skill' and the third 'fraudulent actions, fraud'" in regard to the PMB Bagatto. The PMB Bagatto is clearly not a magician or entertainer as we find in depictions of the Bagatto in later decks (e.g., Ercole I d'Este, henceforth EE). In fact the third definition, fraudulent action, best fits the PMB Bagatto in terms of both its unique iconography and the earliest uses of “Bagatto”, although we can’t be sure this term was applied to this card when the PMB deck was first painted c. 1450.

While the PMB Bagatto is reaching for a straw hat the significance of that gesture cannot be “sleight of hand” nor “entertaining” when there is no audience. The next oldest bagatto, again, the EE, where the standard street performer has been mapped over the original PMB Bagatto and thereby inflected its meaning, retained in later decks.

So let’s move on to the specific attributes of the PMB Bagatto:
1. Four objects lie near or in the left hand of the Bagatto: a knife, 2 coins, a glass cup, and scepter, held almost like a stylus to the table. A case for the latter day conceit that the objects before the bagatto represent the four suits can actually be made here. However, the scepter is singled out as the one being held…
2. The scepter is identical to the scepters held by several of the court cards and trumps with the notable difference that only the Bagatto holds his a sinistra.
3. With his opposite right hand the bagatto does not hold but rather reaches for a straw hat. A straw hat could be worn by nobility (such as one finds in in the central figure in the month of May in the Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry (c. 1416) but it was much more common as natural colored or white on the peasantry, such as one finds in the month of July in the same work (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Les_T ... uillet.jpg). The rumpled hat here clearly indicates a peasant’s hat and, agreeing with the premise that the Fool and Bagatto form a pair, should thus mean that the hat belongs to the Fool.
4. Most interesting is the large unusual hat on the Bagatto himself, which - to my understanding - has not been identified before. In fact it is the same hat worn by the surviving suit of coin court cards of the Brambilla deck, although rather shabby by comparison (its ends droop) in the PMB Bagatto:
Image
Image

My interpretation is based on the internal evidence of the card and in the context of the Visconti-Sforza decks: this Bagatto is indeed committing an act of fraud – sedition to put it more clearly – by reaching for control of the popolo (signified by the Fool’s hat). This was an utmost concern to the newly installed Sforza regime following the Ambrosian Republic, run at the end by common people (notably a weaver and notary) who carried out murderous proscriptions of Milanese nobility (e.g., Filelfo Ode I.10.89f). Put in this light the PMB deck is in fact related to the genre of a Mirror of Princes (e.g., John of Salisbury’s Policraticus), with this card being a cautionary tale; the Hanged Man the rememedy for such persons.

The relevant documents produced by Vitali showing the Bagatto as one who employs a web of stratagems, not simple parlour tricks, are the earliest ones.
In the Morgante of Pulci (1432-1484) are two examples of 'fraudulent action, cunning, deceit': … and, still with reference to Gano: "Think, Reader, if the traitor[u/] [my emphasis] put in order / All his bagatelle and lies, / And his mandrakes (poison) and snakes (envy) and dice-shakers (deceptions) / And showed his dust and bags and tricks / And showed them to all..." (11) (Text 4)

We have a similar meaning in the Novellino of Masuccio Salernitano (of Salerno) (c. 1410-1475) (Novella XX), where a gentleman of Salerno, madly in love with a widow, was finally punished, he who "never was punished for any of those tricks and bagatelle that he had all employed all his life" (12). (Text 5).

Continuing, so Macchiavelli (1469-1527) in Clizia, where Nicomachus, an old man, in love with Clizia, responds to Sophronia (Act II - Scene III):
Nicomachus: You threaten me with your chatter; don’t make me say it. Do you think perhaps that I am blind and I do not know the games (the plots) of these your bagatelle? I indeed knew that mothers cared for their children, but I did not think they wanted to support their children in their dishonest actions” (Text 6)

Most germane to the PMB Bagatto’s aristocratic airs put on via his dress is this quote from Vasari:
Vasari (1511-1574), referring to Giovannantonio, the painter called "The Sodom of Verzelli", also Mattaccio, says of him: "But he always had the spirit of foolishness and worked at his whim, caring for nothing more than dressing pompously, wearing doublets of brocade, cloaks all ornamented with gold cloth, the richest caps, necklaces, and other similar bagatelle and things of buffoons [buffoni] and charlatans [ciarlatani]" (7) (Text 1)

That one who actively engages in intrigue – whether for love or political gain (often the two were the same) – could be lumped in with the buffoni e ciarlatani, and thus fall under the general rubric of bagatelle, is clear from Vitali’s study. It is also clear as tarot developed, particularly for the mass market, that the Bagatto figure naturally tended towards the simpler figure of the conjuror, but the PMB Bagatto is quite simply not a conjuor of the street perfomer sort. By wearing the garb of his aristocratic betters and literally reaching out to control the common man he is overtly a political allegory in the PMB deck. Yet Hurst would have us believe this is impossibility:
[T]he trump cycle is a moral allegory rather than an occult manifesto, political propaganda, rites of initiation to a secret society, etc. note 1 from his February 20, 2013 blog post: http://pre-gebelin.blogspot.com/

I do indeed see the PMB deck as manifestly political propaganda and not just the attributes of its Bagatto show this but the Fool as well. The PMB Fool has long since held to hold a club over his shoulder in accordance with its primary model, Giotto’s “Foolishness” in the Scrovegni Chapel; Giotto in turn borrowed that motif from the God-denying Fool medieval manuscript tradition in which a Fool often brandishes a club mindlessly upwards towards God, sometimes with David present as it is based on Psalm 52 (see V.A. Kolve, Telling images: Chaucer and the imagery of narrative II, 2009: 223f). A Milanese parallel: The peasantry in the exact same threadbare dress as the Fool but holding such a curved or gnarled club is also seen in the first illuminated copies of the Tacuinum Sanitatis commissioned by Giangaleazzo Visconti:
Image

But the object slung over the Fool’s shoulder is perfectly straight, unlike a peasant’s club, until it flares out at the very end…like a trumpet. Look at the Berry Hour’s month of May previously referenced – a trumpeter on the far left wearing a straw hat leads the nobles, the long trumpet slung over his shoulder: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... roject.jpg
I could reproduce countless examples of such trumpters carrying their trumpets in this way (see Mantegna’s famous Triumph of Ceasar cycle for a famous one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trium ... icians.jpg), but why when its much easier to just point to the Bologna deck – the closest in form to the ur-deck per Ross – which retained the Fool with trumpet down to the present day (a 17th century exemplar):
Image

The significance? Trumpters are always shown announcing nobility and wear the nobles’ livery (e.g., the Berry example with the colors attached to the trumpet itself or the manuscript illumination showing Sforza and Bianca getting married beneath a phalanx of crossed trumpets). The PMB Fool-as-peasant – whether rural or lumpenproletariat (to use an anachronistic Marxist term) - without livery is categorically a rebel outside of aristocratic circles or rabble with pretensions to be wary of. The Bagatto and Fool are a pair in representing the Ambrosian Republic (the Artisan class directing the masses) – the one thing Sforza could not have Milan revert to. That the Ambrosian Republic lost its meaning even for Milan and the Sforza Dynasty meant these cards were bound to evolve to a more generic appearance.

That tarot has moral allegories within its sequence does not define its overall intent as a moral allegory per se, at least not the PMB. That a moralizing tendency was foisted onto tarot is clear by the many missing Devil trumps and the conversion of the papess into an Emperor in some decks. The last third of Vitali’s essay is taken up with this very theme of church moralizing, particualry the meaning of ‘Bagatto’, turning it into virtual sin. That sedition is a ‘sin’, Sforza would accede to, but we have lost the original meaning of the card by looking at the Fool as the original God-denying Fool or simply as a sinner. That the aristocracy saw themselves as aligned with God’s directives does not mean that they were also not keen observers of the political condition well before Machiavelli put quill to parchment. The PMB is a post-Ambrosian Republic species of political propaganda, a card version of a Mirror for Princes: virtues to emulate, forces to be dealt with (Fortune, “star”/sun/moon = astrology), and an artisan class and peasantry to control – the Bagatto and Fool. Finally, it is worth mentioning that besides the condottieri Malatesta and Sforza, the first recipients of tarot are Ferrarese princes.

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