Earliest diffusion of tarot from Florence to Venice?

#1
In one of the numerous pieces of scholarship recently produced/e-published by LeTarot (and tr. By Michael H) and posted here under Huck’s “News” thread, this one reproducing a Venetian law seems relevant to the problem of the diffusion of the earliest tarot:
MCCCCXLI, on the XI. October. Whereas the art and mystery of making cards and printed figures, which is used at Venice, has fallen to total decay [deffaction]; and this in consequence of the great quantity of playing cards, and coloured figures printed, which are made outside of Venice; to which evil it is necessary to apply some remedy; in order that the said artists, who are a great many in family, may find encouragement rather than foreigners. Let it be ordered and established. “Tarot and Inquisitors: In the Serenissima and Trentino, between ‘witches’ and ‘Diabolical Priests’” http://www.letarot.it/page.aspx?id=323&lng=ENG
Whether or not you believe tarot preceded the battle of Anghiari, at all events we can assume a place of origin in Florence, c. 1440.

From there a possibility in Ferrara on 1-1-1441, with two definite purchases by that court in 1442. Intervening in that time period is Sforza/Bianca’s wedding to which many, self-included, date the oldest surviving deck – the CY. And now we have this sudden interest on the part of the Venetians to control card selling and production within the city, per this statute from 10-11-1441; why?

Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti were wed on 10-24-1441, but there was another major wedding already planned in December of that year as well for Doge Francesco Foscari’s beloved son Jacopo. So if tarot cards were being made for the Sforza-Visconti wedding is it any stretch of the imagination to see the Venetians following suit and doing the same for the 12-18-1441 Foscari-Contarini wedding? At that time a certain hat worn by Sforza was all the rage in Venice - so the objection that the Venetian patriciate would not mimic a “lowly” condottiero is not a valid one; the bride’s brother, Giacomo Contarini, wrote to their brother in Constantinople in the following January as follows: “We wore the stocking of the Company (Della Calza), mantles of Alexandrian velvet brocaded with silver, doublets of crimson velvet with open sleeves, zones of the same color, and squirrel-fur linings, on our heads caps alla Sforzesca” (W. Hazlitt, The Venetian republic: its rise, its growth, and its fall 421-1797, Volume 2, 1900: 74-75). Also note Sforza was given a palace in Venice and the famed Bucentaur picked up Bianca herself up the Po River to transport her to Venice.

To sum up the simple idea of this post: Sforza could have been the means of dissemination of tarot from Florence to Venice. What of Ferrara? I believe the theory is well known, thanks to Huck, that the 14 painted images for Bianca in Ferrara could have been tarot (still a novelty so perhaps just the trump cards), but the political context needs to be underscored: Borso of Ferrara had just been captured by Sforza in Soncino with the allied papal/Florentine army also winning at Anghiari, both in 1440. To the point: Visconti/Milan and Ferrara were allied at the time while the once-betrothed-to-Bianca Sforza was at odds with this political axis. Huck’s suggestion that the “painted cards” were part of a wooing attempt to land Bianca for Ferrara while the Sforza-Visconti relationship was in one of its periodic ebbs, is quite plausible. How then the CY deck? Bianca returns home with her “painted images” and her dad commissions decks based on these for himself (Brambilla) and one for his future son-in-law once things were patched up and the marriage with Bianca was set for that autumn.

To connect all of the dots: Ferrara would have borrowed tarot from Florence, but as they were enemies at the moment the appropriation must have been an attempt to redress whatever pro-Florentine message was contained in the original (the two cities’ relationship was in a constant flux; e.g., for a time of better relations: the famed condottiero celebrated by Leonardo Bruni with a funeral oration (1427), Nanni Strozzi, actually served Ferrara even though from a famous Florentine family). Filippo Visconti, a card connoisseur as we already know from the Marziano deck, caught the idea either from his daughter Bianca or directly from the Ferrara court. Sforza may have received decks from both Florence, after Anghiari, and from Visconti for his wedding. Venice could have known about tarot as a means of celebrating an event (the CY) via dispatches/correspondence with Sforza well before the Foscari-Contarini wedding; (on a related note, long-time Sforza friend, the Venetian Jacopo Marcello who also writes of the Marziano deck, served with a Contarini in controlling the Venetian terra firma army around Padua – I have seen a monumental marker [just text and their coat-of-arms] to the two of them in the Eremitani Civic Museum’s courtyard there). Finally, the Venetian law to protect the local production of cards just precedes the Sforza wedding (so perhaps decks were circulated before the wedding as a means of promoting the union, thus prompting Venice to indulge and control in the production of the same).

Phaeded

Re: Earliest diffusion of tarot from Florence to Venice?

#2
Phaeded wrote:In one of the numerous pieces of scholarship recently produced/e-published by LeTarot (and tr. By Michael H) and posted here under Huck’s “News” thread, this one reproducing a Venetian law seems relevant to the problem of the diffusion of the earliest tarot:
MCCCCXLI, on the XI. October. Whereas the art and mystery of making cards and printed figures, which is used at Venice, has fallen to total decay [deffaction]; and this in consequence of the great quantity of playing cards, and coloured figures printed, which are made outside of Venice; to which evil it is necessary to apply some remedy; in order that the said artists, who are a great many in family, may find encouragement rather than foreigners. Let it be ordered and established. “Tarot and Inquisitors: In the Serenissima and Trentino, between ‘witches’ and ‘Diabolical Priests’” http://www.letarot.it/page.aspx?id=323&lng=ENG
Whether or not you believe tarot preceded the battle of Anghiari, at all events we can assume a place of origin in Florence, c. 1440.
The Venetian edict about foreign playing cards has a natural relation to the phenomenon of "end of war". In a German list about paper prices ...
Hildesheimer Stadtrechnungen (prices for a "Ries" of paper, generally imported from North Italy).

1411: started with 19-20 d in the years 1411 - 1428
reached a height of 26 - 31 d from 1433-1440
a rapid fall of prices in 1441 (from 31 to 19 d)
were lowest (14 - 16 d) from 1447 - 1450

Corresponding we've in North Italy peace between Milan and Venice till 1425, a general disturbance in German-Italian connections in the time of the council of Basel (connected to Lombard wars in Italy), in 1441 a "great peace" between Venice and Milan, and since 1447 a new "book loving pope Nikolaus V."
Generally a factor of inflation is involved (later prices have less real worth than earlier). Without this factor it seems, that paper becomes slightly cheaper at the begin of 16th century and reaches higher prices in the 2nd half of 16th century. "Source", p. 118, refers to Doebner, Urkundenbuch der Stadt Hildesheim, Bd. 5 und 6

[Source = "lost in the web"]
http://trionfi.com/0/p/21/

The continued wars in Lombardy had an effect on German-Italian traffic. One of the important trading ways was blocked by Sforza-Piccinino fights. One of the many results seems to be high paper prices in Hildesheim. In the moment of peace, when trade and traffic operated properly again, German playing cards exports could become a problem in Venice. Well, it can be, that also imports from Italian cities could have been a problem. Since recently we know, that Florence also exported cards and was much stronger in production than earlier considered.

Another factor might have been, that the continued wars already had exhausted Venice. It's also said, that Venice lost ground in educative development after an economical splendid stand in 1423, before Foscari and the start of the Lombard wars.

Perhaps the high intensity of this war around 1440 had a causal connection to the intensive wish to celebrate the following festivities. And so these events became the model for the advancing Trionfi culture in the the second half of the century.

Population counting comes to the result, that around 1450 the number of living persons had reached the number of before 1349/50. Perhaps a general optimism had arrived in this time, in spite of continuing plagues and the wars.
Huck
http://trionfi.com

Re: Earliest diffusion of tarot from Florence to Venice?

#3
Huck,
I’m not sure why you interjected the problem of paper supply, but the Venetian edict was very clear on what the perceived problem was and it wasn’t paper: the local decline of the “art and mystery [I believe this word should read trade] of making cards and printed figures.”

The relevant question is: why did the Venetians decide to restore the local art of card making in the fall of 1441 and to have it tightly regulated within their city? The stated reason was to curtail foreign imports and provide local jobs; again, nothing to do with paper. But there is a hint that there is more than mere protectionism going on here – Mike H. translates the influx of foreign cards as “evil” but I don’t see which Italian word he is getting that from (hopefully he replies here). “Evil” or even a less potent word, and one can still guess at the age-old negative perception of the content in mass produced materials, just as the subsequent printing press and eventually newspapers were viewed as something that needed to be censored or controlled to a degree by the state (and this edict goes onto state exactly which piazzi and stores that cards could be sold in the future – total control over the media was sought here).

So again, what foreign message that could be circulated through painted media was Venice worried about in 1441? You strike at the heart of the matter with this statement: “The Venetian edict about foreign playing cards has a natural relation to the phenomenon of "end of war".” I’m assuming you are referring to the peace negotiated by Sforza between the ‘Holy Alliance’ of Pope/Florence/Venice and Milan right after his wedding that November in 1441 (the marriage to Bianca and dowry of Cremona were part of the peace conditions).

So at this point Florence was ally of Venice and there are tarot cards for a general of their Holy alliance (Malatesta; perhaps Sforza recived a deck as well with his arms). There is the strong possibility that the CY deck featuring Visconti and Sforza emblems was for his wedding that October. Is Venice unaware of the novel appearance of these tarot cards on the scene in connection with the most important commodity of the day - condottieri? If that is to become one of the fashions of propaganda, why not control it? The edict controlling card making comes out two weeks before the Sforza wedding (announcements and the like would have preceded the wedding well in advance) – and Sforza had been a frequent guest in Venice before and after that date. In fact the locals not only aped his fashionable hat alla Sforzesca but he also played a central role in the the Foscari-Contarini wedding:
…from the mansion of the Senator Leonardo (Contarini) the huge barge [Bucentaur] moved forward in the direction of the Palazzo Sforza, where the whole party landed. The bride entered the building between Count Francesco and the Florentine Ambassador. The visit was one of the stiffest formality; the procession soon re-embarked and returned to the Ducal residence. On the [St. Mark] Piazza, Lucreezia was met by the Doge, for whom room was found bdteeen his daughter-in-law and Count Sforza; and on the staircase of Saint Mark’s, the Dogaressa, with a train of fifty superbly-habited ladies, was prepared to welcome her”….[Sforza underwrites the a joust with an expensive gift and then the narrative continues:] “The whole capital whirled with excitement. Count Sforza joined with hearty zest and glee in everything. His mornings were spent in the lists, and his evenings in the saloons. Such was the pomp which attended the nupitals of the fair Contarini with the Doge’s son. (Hazlitt, 160-161).
At this point in 1441 Sforza was not simply some general in the field but embraced among the highest elites of Venetian society, with a Palazzo (of the Two Towers) on the Grand Canal to boot given to him along with citizenship. And yet he had just married their nemesis’s daughter - Bianca Visconti. Not only would he have had the CY deck in tow but perhaps both the Pisanello medals made for him and Filippo as well, the reverse of the latter featuring the campanile of St. Mark, a dome of St. Mark and a lance of Sforza heavy cavalry before the city on behalf of Visconti in order to crush that city someday. Instead Sforza went to Venice to party that winter. Is it no wonder that peace was fleeting and in less than four years Venice had to bail out Cremona for Sforza when it came under attack by his fatrher-in-law Filippo Visconti in 1445! To quote myself from a previous thread: viewtopic.php?f=11&t=917&p=13589&hilit= ... ice#p13589
Filippo Visconti had a victory of sorts in pulling Sforza away from the Florentine/Venetian/Papal “holy alliance” - this was the most pivotal coup in his geopolitical goals. He allowed (encouraged?) Sforza to broadcast that fact via Sforza’s Pisanello medal and I believe the reverse of Filippo’s own Pisannello medal definitely shows Venice in the background, with a Sforza lance in the foreground (wearing Visconti’s crest of course). Sforza was to defeat Venice for Filippo. The CY deck serves the same purpose in a different medium (one likely first used by one of his enemies, Florence, and thus serves in one sense as counter-propaganda)… So no, the CY is not principally a “wedding deck” per se - although that event “sealed the deal” with Sforza - it commemorates the political alignment of the most successful condottiero of his age, Sforza, with Visconti.
Image

And that condottiero quickly spurned Visconti by partying with the Venetians. But how would the Venetians look at tarot decks and medals that advertised belli that pointed towards a different master for Sforza? They needed to control these media in their own city (in fact the Venetian mint had helped pioneer medals before Pisanello, so would have had a keen eye for such innovations in that media – see Alan Stahl, “Mint and Medal in the Renassiance”, in Perspectives on the Renaissance Medal, edited by Stephen K. Scher, 2000: 137-138).

Finally, I would point out a connection between the 1441 card-making Venetian edict and to a family member of the 1441 wedding party to which Sforza was so central (and note that Sforza served with another Contarini on Lake Garda two years before) – an uncle of the bride is named as a justice issuing the edict in its closing statement: “And by the esteemed elder signori justices mis. Ieronimo Contarini, and mis. Nadal Malipiero, the third absent…”.

Phaeded

Re: Earliest diffusion of tarot from Florence to Venice?

#4
I want to address only the question of translation of the Venetian edict. As I said in the footnote to that passage, I lifted this translation from Tarotpedia, who got it from an 1816 English translation (http://www.tarotpedia.com/wiki/A_decree ... _of_Venice). I corrected what errors I saw, but obviously I missed some, right at the beginning. Yes, "mestier" should be "occupation" or "trade" and not "mystery" (although it also could have that meaning). And the word corresponding to "evil" is "cosa", i.e. "thing", which thing, however, in the context of the sentence is clearly considered a bad thing, since it needs to be remedied ("evil", in that sense, more common in 18th-19th century English than today).

Thanks for calling attention to these errors, Phaeded. In general, when quoting translations of documents, it is safest to include the original language as well, if it is available, especially in my case, as I am a total amateur, and no expert on 15th century Venetian dialect! Andrea is better on that side, and for some of the quotes in that essay he actually did consult a Venetian-Italian dictionary to help in the translation. There is such a dictionary online; I might be able to retrieve the link. But we do miss things. In this case, there was the additional problem, for Andrea, of checking early 19th century English. He left it up to me to alert him to problems. I will go through the rest of the edict and see what else I can find. And get a better translation of that sentence for you as soon as I have one approved by Andrea. Continue letting me know if you see other translation errors (preferably including a PM, as you did, since then I get notified by email). Of late, I fear, I have not even been looking at THF, because then I would jump into the fray and put aside the translations, which I wanted to make my priority. However I am not going to do all of them, and you will not be free of me much longer!

Re: Earliest diffusion of tarot from Florence to Venice?

#6
Phaeded wrote:Huck,
I’m not sure why you interjected the problem of paper supply, but the Venetian edict was very clear on what the perceived problem was and it wasn’t paper: the local decline of the “art and mystery [I believe this word should read trade] of making cards and printed figures.”
The law '(or administrative action) of Venice in October 1441 addresses mainly an import problem. If the problem wouldn't have existed, the law wouldn't have been made.

Your question addresses the reason for the parallel development of Sforza's wedding and the law ... both depend on the peace. Even the paper prices in Hildesheim (near Hannover, very far away and in a total different world) seem to have been influenced by the Lombard war and peace and shows a parallel development. In this time the number of paper mills in Germany was still low, so paper was still imported to a great part from Italy.

As long the war blocked one important trading way, which made the import very expensive, the problem couldn't exist.

Schreiber in 1938 had made a long list of known German playing card producers.
http://trionfi.com/0/p/20/

Nuremberg had (1938) 38 known card producers during 15th century, which had been for Schreiber's list the highest record in Europe. 8 of these were already active till 1450, likely also a record.

I don't know, how much recent researches since 1938 has changed the picture.

Since recently - by the Franco Pratesi researches 2011-2013 - we know, that at least Florence had a higher "known number of card producers during 15th century" than the "38" given at Schreiber's list.
http://trionfi.com/etx-playing-card-producers-italy

Well, if the people of Venice had an import problem, we don't know, where the decks came from. For the moment Nuremberg and Florence look "most suspicious".

Cosimo was preaching in Florence for some time, that Venice would be a problem for Florence (trade competition) and not Sforza.
From the silk dealer lists we have card exports to Ancona to traders from Bergamo (Bergamo belongs to Venice). Ancona might have been a good trade way for Florentine products to Venice.
http://trionfi.com/naibi-silk-dealers
From the Cambini export list we have 96 Trionfi decks delivered to Venice in 1462.
http://trionfi.com/cambino-trade-venice

From Nuremberg we have the condition, that they had the first greater German paper mill since 1390, likely a major advantage for the following position as greatest playing card producing city in Germany for some time.

Florence has about 160 km distance to Fabriano, first paper mill in Italy, much older than that of Nuremberg. If we have so much old documents (and archives) in Florence and Toscana, which can be found by Franco Pratesi, then this likely has also some reason in the presence of Fabriano nearby.
Paper transport likely had its difficulties. It must be protected against wed conditions, so long distances were a problem, expanding the costs.
Huck
http://trionfi.com

Re: Earliest diffusion of tarot from Florence to Venice?

#7
"Whereas the art and occupation of making printed cards and figures in Venice has fallen into total decay [deffaction], and this in consequence of the great quantity of playing cards and painted figures printed, which are made outside of Venice, to which thing it is necessary to apply some remedy, in order that the said masters, who are a great many in family, may have as soon as possible their advantage [or usefulness] , rather than foreigners."

I used "occupation" rather than "trade" so as to make it clear at the outset that it is not merchandizing, i.e. trading, that is at issue. Andrea gave me two possibilities for "utilitade". I have asked him to make these corrections in the online translation. Thanks again, Phaeded.

Another translation error--at least to modern ears--which I did catch, was that the 1816 translator appears to have the end of the ordinance saying that cardmakers could only sell their wares outside their shops, except two days a week in two squares. Obviously the ordinance intended that they sell their wares only at their shops, except on those two days in the two squares mentioned.

Re: Earliest diffusion of tarot from Florence to Venice?

#8
mikeh wrote: In general, when quoting translations of documents, it is safest to include the original language as well, if it is available, especially in my case, as I am a total amateur, and no expert on 15th century Venetian dialect! ...Of late, I fear, I have not even been looking at THF, because then I would jump into the fray and put aside the translations, which I wanted to make my priority. However I am not going to do all of them, and you will not be free of me much longer!
If you are an amateur then I am a Philistine (but that alits with my handle, so I'll take it). I was bugged by the possibilities of the word "mystery" and had to do several searches before stumbling upon the "trade" meaning; Ross's link and research shows this word has unfortunately been a pitfall with a long history. At all events, if I seemed at all like an ingrate, my apologies - we are all benefiting from your labors. Now get back to work translating and stop wasting time on the THF!
;-)

Many thanks Mike,
Phaeded

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