Re: Collection: "3 Magi" and "3 theological virtues"

I think there is some indication that the "star of Bethlehem" version of the Star card reached Milan by the 1460s. I am thinking of the background of the Bembo "Adoration of the Magi" (Bandera somewhere says the Bembo workshop; Kirsch says Bonifacio Bembo). It is part of an altarpiece that was later split up into parts. Kirsch ("Bonifacio Bembo's Saint Agostino Altarpiece," in Studia di Storia del' Arte in onore di Mina Gregori, 1995, said of it:
In 1464 he [Bonifacio] was commissioned to paint "l'ancona dell'altare del Santo Grisante in la chiesa de sancto Augustino de la nostra Citta di Cremona" (S. Bandera Bistoletti, Documenti..., cit., p. 173) and was paid for this work in 1468/1469 (S. Bandera Bistoletti, Documenti..., cit., p. 163).
A fuller quote is in my post at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=917&p=13643&hilit=magi#p13643. The Denver Art Museum, inexplicably, dates it to 1455-1460. In any case, here is the "Adoration" section (image from ... 20332.html:

On the upper right, we see the three magi before they arrive, when they are following the star. To me it is reminiscent of the later d'Este and Rothschild cards.

Re: Collection: "3 Magi" and "3 theological virtues"

Phaeded wrote:The PMB "star", to state it again, clearly develops from the Paduan astrological tradition of depicting Venus (and the other planets) with a "star(s)" (usually one on either side, to indicate the planet's constellation "houses"; see image below). The "star"/venus in the PMB has absolutely nothing to do with Hope or the Star of Bethlehem. The PMB has reduced the two constellation stars to just one and changed its meaning to that of the planet Venus itself (so the star is no longer a stand-in for the all of the stars of either constellation that is a house of a planet). The allegorical woman in the PMB "star" has cleavage - the only female in the PMB with that partial nudity:
mikeh wrote: But I suppose if the Moon lady can be associated with Diana (holding the bridle of temperance), so can the Star lady with Venus, to those who can identify the reference to a fresco series done in the territory of their current enemy. But the card can have more than one association, surely. It can be in more than one iconographic tradition, too, perhaps an icongraphic tradition of cards as opposed to frescoes.

Perhaps you have more to say on this subject, such as the significance of Venus in the sequence, followed by the Moon and the Sun, perhaps preceded by a Tower.

Hope, Faith, and Charity are consistent with an eschatological and/or soteriological meaning to the sequence of the three celestials. And the visual similarities I've pointed to run through all three of the cards. The Padua Sun and Moon aren't a bit like the PMB's. And as you say, the stars on the Venus fresco aren't even unique to her. All five star-like planets had them, and they seem to have represented not only the zodiacal constellations, but the planets themselves, in another guise; if not, the Sun and the Moon would have had at least one. But Venus is the only female among them. So does the card show Venus reaching for herself? (That's not an issue when she's holding a mirror.) In a sense, there is no problem: a goddess can reach for her planet. Or is it just a star, any star? I guess what I am missing is an answer to the question: what's point of her being Venus? Why does it matter whether it's Venus reaching for her namesake, as opposed to someone else reaching for a random star, or Venus reaching for some other star? Of course, if it's just meant as decoration, I suppose it doesn't have to matter.
Hello Phaeded and Mike,
I agree that the Star in the Visconti-Sforza deck might be related to Venus, as a secondary, decorative, meaning. The Star holds (or “is reaching for”) a Star, like the Moon holds the Moon: just to indicate that the two women are personifications of heavenly bodies. The original meaning of the Star was a generic “star”, or "the stars" in general: this is clearly indicated by the name of the card.

Of course, as noted by Mike, Venus is the only female goddess among the five planetary gods corresponding to the movable stars: she is the obvious choice when thinking of a specific star personified by a woman. I have not made an extensive research, but I don't see any reason to connect this particular interpretation to Padua.

This illustration is from a Divine Comedy, North Italy, Genoa(?); 14th cent., third quarter.
venus_star.png (357.4 KiB) Viewed 8668 times

Re: Collection: "3 Magi" and "3 theological virtues"

I think, that nobody with the trivial information, that first Venus was understood as planet and second, that the same planet was ALSO understood as morning and evening star (without doubt likely one of the most impressive stars), doubts, that there were Venus representations with stars or with a star at her hands (this seems to be quiet common, so I wouldn't think of a "Padovan style").

But actually the theme is not about a simple star, but about the relation of three (or four) compositions, once Sun-Moon-Star, second the 3 Magi and 3rd the theological virtues (and the theological colors).

Steve M. in the thread, where the theme opened, had the relaxed view, that ...
(in a shortened dialog)
Huck wrote: Perhaps some "older source" connected the 7 virtues (cardinal and theological) to specific colors?
SteveM wrote: I've always presumed the theological colours at least to be an old one - Dante's dressing of Beatrice in red, white and green has long been interpreted as representing the theological virtues - as have representation in painting such the three angels in red, white and green in for example Sassetta's 'Mystic Marriage of St. Francis' (c.1450), or the theological virtues in 'The Triumph of St. Aquinas' in the Spanish Chapel of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Florence by Andrea da Firenze (14th century), or in Botticelli's 1501 Nativity (with it's illustration of the angels from Savanarola's (last?) Lent sermon, c.1498). Also note that the three Magi were associated with the theological virtues (as the 'Three gifts of baptism'), and as such were sometimes portrayed wearing their colours, as they are in the Procession of the Magi in the Medici Palazzo (in which the three feather device is also to be seen). The Medici were patrons of the Confraternity of the Magi, who held an elaborate annual procession in fancy dress.
Huck wrote: Hi Steve,

I've argued in the past for a relation between 3 theological virtues and the symbols Sun-Moon-Star and the 3 Magi, just following my own analysis of "Trionfi card facts".

It's new to me, that " the three Magi were associated with the theological virtues (as the 'Three gifts of baptism')". That's interesting and confirming my own ideas. Who said so?
SteveM wrote: I'll have to look that up for you - but in general it was typical of medieval number symbolism to associate anything of the same number together - in the case of the Three Magi this can frequently be found reflected in their representation in several ways, for example as well as dressing them in the colours of the Medici/Theological colours, they were also associated with the three ages of Man, and one might be represented as a youth, one middle aged and one as on old man for example, they were also associated with the three (known) parts of the world, which might be represented by a variety of caps and/or skins tones, with one as a black man for example to represent Africa, the other two representing Europe & Asia.
On the base of this a rather interesting (and productive) collection was done to connections between the 3 or 4 compositions.

Now we have a difference of understanding: Ross thinks, that Faith relates to Star, and Hope to Moon, whereas Steve before had given some sources, in which Faith was ordered to Moon and Hope to Star.


Which context or relevance has now the question, if the Star was made in Padovan style or not? Isn't this more part of the general Star iconography?

Somehow this is a collection about "compositions", greater units, not about the representations of specific cards.

As we speak about compositions ... we have "Hope" (and also "Love") in a double role, and both are object to Tarocchi productions:

1. Hope and Love in the 4-elements scheme of Stoic passions: Hope, Love, Fear and Jealousy ... an object for Matteo Maria Boiardo and his deck.

2. Hope and Love as part of the 3 theological virtues ... object for Cary-Yale and Minchiate productions.

(3.) Isabella d'Este's personal motto "Nec spes nec metu" "("neither hope nor fear") seems to address stoic passions and was given to the Ace of cups at the versions of the Viscont-Sforza cards, which contained the Visconti viper and a falconer (in my opinion a deck of 1512).

Is there a relation between Hope (Stoic passion) and Hope (theological virtue)? At least in the mind of 15th century?

Stoic passions as a Quadrivium, made from the theological triad Love-Faith-Hope, in the manner, that Faith triumphs over Fear and Jealousy (and uniting these wild forces of the human soul to the better positioned "Faith")?

Then we have, that "2 forces become one" as a description of Faith, which fits well with the idea, that Faith was related to moon (with its natural dualistic appearance of full moon and new moon).

Re: Collection: "3 Magi" and "3 theological virtues"

marco wrote: Of course, as noted by Mike, Venus is the only female goddess among the five planetary gods corresponding to the movable stars: she is the obvious choice when thinking of a specific star personified by a woman. I have not made an extensive research, but I don't see any reason to connect this particular interpretation to Padua.
Cosimo de Medici was in Padua in 1430 during a plague (with Donatello and humanists in tow) and again during his 1433 exile (before moving on to Venice); both Filelfo and Alberti were graduates of Padua University and both demonstrated an interest in astrology no doubt because of having been educated in Padua; Fielfo was in both Florence and Milan. Filelfo even made a Greek translation into Italian (the first ever) for F. Visconti, c. 1445, and it was of a poem about the planets by "ps. Empedocles": "'Empedocles' et alii in Filelfo's Terza Rima", Ernest H. Wilkins, Speculum, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Apr., 1963), pp. 318-323. His Odes are littered with references to the planets. At all events, the Paduan astronomical tradition, a speciality that trumped Bologna university or Florence's studio, was not some obscure astronomical/astrological tradition but widespread and well known. Sforza's interest only grew in the planets as witnessed in the illuminated De sphaera (1460) and the horoscope for his son he received from Vimercate in 1461 discussed here viewtopic.php?f=11&t=976&p=14361. Condottieri relied on astrology for initiating most of their movements, marriages, etc....just like every other ruler. Thus it is with good reason to think the PMB reflected that interest, given his own use of astrology and that Filelfo was his primary humanist advisor, providing yet more link, in addition to Bianca, to the dynasty and traditions of the Visconti.

Venus in the PMB is just that, the planet Venus, but there would have been another important mythological reason for depicting her in the PMB as the Visconti claimed they were descended from her - no small "decorative" factoid:
Visconti genealogy 1403, detail.jpg
Visconti genealogy 1403, detail.jpg (97.38 KiB) Viewed 9772 times

Re: Collection: "3 Magi" and "3 theological virtues"

3 steps towards debunking the Magi/”Star of Bethlehem” once and for all - at least for the PMB:

1. Compare Madonna del Parto paintings (the first example is by Nardo di Cione, c. 1350, in Florence, and the 2nd by Piero della Francesca, 1460, in Monterchi [not far from Anghiari BTW]) who has a hand on top of her pregnant belly – to the exact same spot/gesture as the PMB “Star”; thus one would rightly assume both are pregnant (or being impregnated in the case of “the Star”).

2. The Magi appear at the manger 12 days after the birth (the Epiphany, also the date of Jesus’s later baptism) so this ‘pregnant gesture’ removes them from consideration in the PMB altogether, unless one can argue this impregnating star (the woman of the “star” is clearly not already pregnant - the belly is not full like the other two shown above - so she is being “impregnated”) is the same one that later led them to the manger. That, however, would then mean “the star” is an Annunciation that marks Jesus’s incarnation. But now consider the utter impossibility of anyone deviating from the well-worn Annunciation iconography where at least one or all three of these items are depicted: dove, the angel Gabriel, and/or a beam of light from God (usually combined with the dove). And immaculate Mary would never be shown without a halo. The PMB “star” has nothing to do with either Mary or the Magi.
3. So who is this woman with one hand on an impregnating belly and with the other reaching out to a “star”? See my comments above, but to restate it here with all ramifications: the “star” is Venus in an explicit astrological context – gesturing to her “star” - as related to her role of genetrix of the Visconti dynasty, inclusive of Bianca (a rather novel astral layer of meaning mapped on to what had previously mainly been a mythological meaning in the middle ages, as in the Besozzo illumination of 1403). Thus in the PMB the Visconti (and by implication, Sforza's offspring - his two kids already born by the first half of 1451, Galeazzo and Ippolita, may be indicated in the "World" card beneath the stars) are descended from the stars – referencing the scienza of astrology instead of just pagan mythology, which had been ridiculed often by the Church.


Re: Collection: "3 Magi" and "3 theological virtues"

Phaeded wrote:Compare Madonna del Parto paintings (the first example is by Nardo di Cione, c. 1350, in Florence, and the 2nd by Piero della Francesca, 1460, in Monterchi [not far from Anghiari BTW]) who has a hand on top of her pregnant belly – to the exact same spot/gesture as the PMB “Star”; thus one would rightly assume both are pregnant (or being impregnated in the case of “the Star”).
Many thanks to Phaeded for posting this illustration of the Woman of the Apocalypse. I never noticed before that the Visconti Sforza Star card is directly influenced by the iconography of this subject.

As suggested by Ross, I found a sermon by Saint Bonaventure (XIII Century) that discusses the association of the Stars, Moon and Sun with the three cardinal virtues. He does so while commenting a passage from the gospels describing the End of Times (Matthew, 24) that we recently discussed in another thread (in square brackets, the hypothetical associations with the last trumps):
Matthew wrote:For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets [the Antichrist i.e. the Devil], and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be [the Tower / Lightning]. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun [the Sun] be darkened, and the moon [the Moon] shall not give her light, and the stars [the Stars] shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory [the World as the Glory of God]. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet [Judgement], and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Here is Bonadventure's comment:
Bonadventure wrote: -Sermones de Tempore, Domenica Prima Adventus-

Nam discipulis interrogantibus, Quod est signum adventus tui et consummationis saeculi? respondit: Post tribulationem dierum illorum sol obscurabitur , et luna non dabit lumen suum , et stellae cadent de caelo. Ex intellectu horum verborum et hodierni Evangelii potest colligi, quod tria erunt signa secundum adventum praecedentia, ad quae omnia alia poterunt reduci. Nam primo erunt signa deceptibilium miraculorum ad subversionem veritatis fidei; secundo erunt signa carnalium delectationum ad refrigerationem incendii caritatis; tertio erunt signa multiplicium tribulationum ad evulsionem longanimitatis spei. Signa carnalium delectationum intelliguntur per lunaris luminis privationem , signa deceptibilium miraculorum intelliguntur per solaris radii obscurationem , signa multiplicium tribulationum intelliguntur per stellarum casum et declinationem.

“Sermons for specific liturgical feasts: First Sunday of advent”

When his disciples asked: “Which are the sings of your coming and of the end of times?” He answered: “After the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light and the stars will fall from the sky”. From the comprehension of those words, the gospel of today, one can understand that there will be three signs preceding the second coming, to which all other signs can be reduced. So first there will be the signs of the false miracles in order to subvert the truth of faith. In the second place, there will be the signs of the enjoyment of the flesh, to dampen the fire of charity. In the third place, there will be the signs of many troubles, to disrupt the patience of hope. The signs of the enjoyment of the flesh are indicated by the privation of the light of the moon. The signs of the false miracles are indicated by the obscuration of the rays of the sun. The signs of the many troubles are indicated by the fall and descent of the stars.
So the associations proposed by Bonadventure are:

Faith – Sun (obscured by the false miracles)
Charity – Moon (obscured by the enjoyment of the flesh)
Hope – Stars (falling to announce many trouble)
bonaventura.png (273.58 KiB) Viewed 9745 times
I am more and more convinced that the explanation of the Stars, Moon and Sun in terms of the Signa Coeli (signs in the sky) and an End of Times narration (as proposed by Michael J. Hurst) makes sense of this section of the trump sequence.

Re: Collection: "3 Magi" and "3 theological virtues"

You have some good arguments, Phaeded. The Padua Venus is also pregnant (unlike her manuscript copy). She was a fertility goddess. Botticelli's Primavera Venus was also pregnant, and according to a 1499 inventory it hung in a Medici bedroom, to work her sympathetic magic, in the same room with a Madonna and Child (see Barbara Deimling, Botticelli, pp. 39ff), probably a wedding present. It also fits my interpretation that the card is one of three (others being Moon and Temperance) memorializing Elisabetta Maria Sforza, a Venus descendant. Less likely, because of the expression on the lady's face, it could also have been a fertility charm for Ippolita on the occasion of her wedding. The card is not from 1451, as it is by the second artist and in a later style, I think influenced by the Schifanoia, which is especially evident in the Fortitude card's theme from Pietro d'Abano.

But I don't think your arguments are strong enough to exclude other interpretations at the time. I still maintain that the card is a composite, an amalgamation of different themes, Venus being one of them. Fertility is connected with hope, the hope of a child. And hope is connected to Christ.

Another point: the expression on the PMB Lady's face is not at all typical of Venus; it is more like someone trying to overcome despair, the antitype of Hope, depicted on the Cary-Yale Hope card by Judas. Elisabetta Maria, only 15 and with a body probably too young for childbirth, had died as a result (and hence would not look pregnant at the time of her death and after, just as the lady on the card does not look pregnant).

Also, the gesture of pointing upwards that Phaeded found in Padua is not confined to Venus. That gesture typically represented Astrologia/Astronomia, one of the liberal arts. Huck showed a bunch of them at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=869&p=14557#p12628

Typical is Bartolomeo's representation in "Song of the Virtues and Liberal Arts," 1350s Bologna, which would have been in Milan, which is where Pellegrin's inventory of the Visconti-Sforza Library finds it; it was owned by family that had had recent archbishops of Milan. ... _0484a.jpg

Of course the difference is that there is just one star, not a globe of them. It is "star" rather than "stars".

The card is definitely not an Annunciation. But the Star can still be the Star of Bethlehem in the sense of representing Christ, who came once and is expected to come again. Some representations of the Magi then had Christ superimposed on the star. (I saw one yesterday at the library but didn't make a copy.) The star of his first coming leads to the "bright and morning star" of his second coming.

Re: Collection: "3 Magi" and "3 theological virtues"

The application of the specific texts (Bonaventure and his text in Revelation) that Marco cites is refuted by the PMB cards themselves. I just can't imagine that nobody would pay attention to what is depicted when trying to figure out what the cards are about. There are no falling stars on the Star card, no darkened moon and sun--although admittedly the Moon lady looks troubled, and it could be by desires of the flesh, of which Diana is a good antidote (though I wouldn't have guessed that otherwise, from her body language); but it seems to me she is more likely threatened with Inconstancy, an antitype of Faith, because of something that has happened, or a certain dragon of Rev. 12:1. I applied that text to the PMB cards a couple of weeks ago (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=975&p=14436&hilit=clothed#p1443. I see on the Star card thread in Bianca's Garden, posting.php?mode=reply&f=23&t=400#pr14560 that you agree on that at least. Without a dragon, no sun on her clothing, and the moon not at her feet, that interpretation is a bit forced, but so are many; it fits the next card and the one before.)

Looking at that child on the PMB Sun card, the last thing I would think of is false miracles. The only Revelation text I have been able to associate him to is the child born to the woman clothed with the sun, the Moon-lady. The PMB Sun-child looks much the same as many of the Madonna and Child children, and Christ was routinely associated with the sun. That is probably enough.

Re: Collection: "3 Magi" and "3 theological virtues"

marco wrote:
So the associations proposed by Bonadventure are:

Faith – Sun (obscured by the false miracles)
Charity – Moon (obscured by the enjoyment of the flesh)
Hope – Stars (falling to announce many trouble)
Well, after ...

Sun = Charity
Moon = Faith
Star = Hope
(Steve's collection)


Sun = Charity
Moon = Hope
Star = Faith
(idea of Ross)

... we have now with St. Bonaventura a third way of correlation, which is considered as the "correct equation".

3 elements crossed with 3 other elements has logically 6 possibilities. Perhaps there are other opinions about "correct equations".

A=A1, B=B1, C=C1
A=A1, B=C1, C=B1
A=B1, B=A1, C=C1
A=B1, B=C1, B=A1
A=C1, B=A1, C=B1
A=C1, B=B1, C=A1

St. Bonaventura's interpretation might be close to the "15 signs of last judgment", which we discussed last year ...

15. sign 11: the dead rise from their tombs
Things, which were low or buried before the earth quake, might have come to the surface
... well, one sees the typical dead corpses in action ... Death symbol


16. sign 12: the stars fall
Star symbol


17. sign 13: the living die, so that they can rise again with the dead


18. sign 14: earth and sky consumed by fire
Fire symbol


19. sign 15: sun and moon await the coming of Christ
Sun and Moon at one picture


20. 005 The Last Judgment

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