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.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 …
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).