First of all it has struck me as odd at how little focus Filelfo has received on the various tarot message boards – besides Bianca, he is the key link between Filippo Visconti and Sforza, and operated as what his key translator refers to somewhere as Milan’s “cultural dictator.” It has always been my primary premise that it is inconceivable that Filelfo did not have some influence on the design of the PMB. In fact I had worked out my theory with him as the humanist behind the deck, with the only problem as to what was Filelfo’s relationship to the CY? He was in Milan since 1439 and might have involved himself in such a project to curry favor with Bianca.
Well, Filelfo deserves some attention, that's sure. However, from my view he couldn't play too much the "cultural dictator" cause Sforza seems to have been a man with own opinions.
If I assume, that the Cary-Yale hadn't Fool and Magician (I assume that actually), I couldn't well imagine (at least for the moment) that Filelfo invented it. I could imagine, that the ""Shrewd scholars of the gaming table" of Cremona made it or simply followed an already given player tradition.
I can imagine, however, that Filelfo desired to create an educative noble Trionfi deck version, and perhaps he influenced one. If this would have been a successful deck we would know about it, likely by Filelfo himself. But we don't know about it.
When Filelfo arrived in Milan, there were also others. Shouldn't one ... with Filippo Maria, who is said to have played himself ... expect, that Filippo searched ideas from a person, that also played something ? I personally think, that the Cary-Yale was composed out of chess and Trionfi poem ideas. Filelfo got the job to write about Petrarca works, but in 1444 (Canzonieri). Before him Lapini, an earlier astrologer, had a Petrarca commission ... as far I got this. I hope, that it is right. I don't remember the references in the moment. Lapini's son later became Trionfi poem specialist, likely based on the earlier work of his father. His commentary was combined with Filelfo's Canzonieri commentary.
Should we expect (if my memory and earlier research should be right), that Filelfo stood in first row in c. 1441, when (possibly) the Cary-Yale was done? Was Filelfo a chess player? Or a card player?
Much more to my theory, but that is the broad outline; but to address one specific issue you broached:
The invective against Cremona in the Odes is rather angry, after Filelfo had been quite different in the other Ode, when he was very happy to approach Cremona..
Filelfo played a significant literary role in the welcoming terms with which Milan received Sforza(see Gary Ianziti. Humanistic Historiography under the Sforzas: Politics and Propaganda in Fifteenth-Century Milan
. Oxford: I988), but then was stuck in the city after Sfora took it. In the Odes Fielflo petitions Bianca to provide him with permission to leave plague-stricken Milan which apparently she obtained from her husband, as Filelfo was headed down the Po to Cremona (via Pavia) in 1451.
I was puzzled by the plague in 1451. I understood, that the Milanese plague had been in 1450, but you're right, as I see from storiadimilano.it
Which would make the 14 Bembo cards a post-plague deck. The death card has a bow, and it rides not on a horse, likely indicating death by plague and not death by war.
Cremona was “her city” so perhaps one could simply accept that as a reasonable destination provided to Filelfo. However, in the same ode, Fielfo points to services previously provided to Bianca (inclusive of the CY?) and asked if there isn’t anything else he could do right now as he was desperate for cash as well. Apparently inspired by the discovery of the Marziano deck, we know Sforza was obtaining tarot decks right before he took Milan and it is thus a reasonable hypothesis that he wanted one made especially for himself after the city fell.
Sforza had difficulties to get a Trionfi deck in December 1450, likely for the Christmas time, when gambling was common. He didn't get one. This doesn't seem to say, that he had already arranged a local production then.
We have, that Giovanni di Domenico in Florence and Sagramoro in Ferrara had in 1450 to do with Trionfi cards, no other name is known. I don't think, that there was already rather much with Trionfi decks in 1450. The big wave starts likely with the emperor visit in winter 1451/1452, perhaps earlier in Florence and Siena (which are known for public allowances).
Sure, there was another, likely much smaller wave 1440-1442 ... but it's followed by a big pause with one exception till 1449. As far we know it for the moment.
It is easy to draw conclusions from there, like Marziano for Filippo, Filelfo wrote up the program for a trionfi deck for Sforza and might have been asked to view the painter’s works who carried this out: thus one can posit the trip to Cremona was to view/approve Bembo’s painted cards. The fact that one of Filelfo’s servant girls came down with the plague and he was detained at the Po when trying to enter Cremona put a bad taste in his mouth in regard to the Cremonese, has nothing to do with his putative designing of the expanded tarot deck nor with the attribution of the PMB to Bembo (how Filelfo’s bile vented on Cremona went over with Bianca is another matter, but the Odes weren’t published – after being edited – until well after the facts they describe) .
Finally, Rudolf George Adam’s unpublished 1974 dissertation on Filelfo (still the primary reference source on Filelfo, but also see Robin’s Filelfo in Milan
, 1991, where she discusses the “Cremona Ode” at length), mentions payments made to Filelfo in 1451 not associated with his normal duties; one could relate these to payment for his program for the tarot. Luckily someone has provided an online scan of Adam’s dissertation, with the second part being the footnotes, here: http://www.medievalists.net/2013/04/08/ ... 1439-1481/
[otherwise this dissertation is unavailable unless you are in Oxford or willing to pay their press a small fortune for a facsimile]
All of this is circumstantial, but it does tie Filelfo closely to Bianca and Sforza precisely when the PMB was likely made. At the end of the day I return to this question: In light of the Marziano/Filippo deck that was discovered by then allied Sforza/Marcello, how likely was it that the particulars of the PMB weren’t at least vetted by a humanist? If yes, how was this humanist not Filelfo?
Rudolf George Adam at the given place noted ...
Francesco Sforza was rather indifferent to the court poet. For reasons of prestige he renewed Filelfo’s contract as court poet, but he never took any serious interest in what Filelfo was doing. Worse still were the irregularities in the payment of Filelfo»s stipend.
This leaves a lot of questions.
Nonetheless Filelfo is interesting.