First of all, the SB is still a card game and the pips/courts primary purpose is to provide an ordinal value; looking for an explication of a element/humour in each pip or court card was undoubtedly beyond the program and artist’s abilities…but there should be enough attributes littered throughout a given suit to identify the element/humor. I’m going to leave Swords for last as it appears the most arcane to me.mikeh wrote:
In all that, you never actually say what humors go with what suits, so as to see if your idea works.
Having stated that caveat, the source I am proposing is Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535); his de occulta philosophia (c. 1509 to 1510) is a "systematic exposition of ... Ficinian spiritual magic” (I. P. Couliano in Hidden Truths, 1987: 114). Below is a schematic of his "Scale of the Number Four", in Book II, chapter 7 of de occulta philosophia COINS: The Ace of Coins features melancholy itself and an Atlas-like Putto (Fortitude); the coin itself is the earth being held aloft. The naked/pregnant four of coins, blacksmith/metallurgist of the six of coins, the nude Promethean figure (chained to the earth in the myth) with eagle in 7, bones on the earth in 8, all point to EARTH.
STAVES: The Ace of Staves is a Herculean club (related to the Herculean theme in the Ace of Coins) held up in the air where the cuirass’s head should be (the similar ace of swords, by contrast, has half of its shaft buried amongst the entwined bodies holding it); the 3 of staves is the epitome of air – a winged head floating in the air (the similar 3 and 4 of swords do not have these wings); 9 of staves are borne above the water in the air (perhaps water is shown as evaporation into the air is a basic fact of nature’s processes).
CUPs: . The Ace of Cups’s first putto is practically a symbol of Aquarius, pouring water from a jug; the 9 of cups features a triton, the page of cups’ urn has a spout for pouring a liquid. Coppa begs the inference of liquid – this suit has to be water.
SWORDS: The King of Swords has Apollo’s animal, the griffin, four times – clearly linking the suit to light/fire (already known via Dante’s use of the griffin pulled chariot), but the suit sign of swords easily ties into the virtue of Justice, especially as Venice’s own emblem featured the upright sword held by a allegory of the city as seen on the Doge’s palace itself:
The two entwined figures about the Ace of Swords might also be related to the same emblem of Venice where two figures, “discord” and “sedition” (“Notes on Italian Medals”, G.F. Hill, The Burlington Magazine, Volume 18, 1911, 13-20, p. 20), are flattened beneath Justice. On the ace of swords one of the men is red and looking outwards while the other one seems frozen in an odd posture, with arm bent around the sword and his eyes closed. The negative figures figures on Venice’s emblem may have had their specific poses from a negative “hieroglyph” in Horapollo: “81. The Rapacious and idle man: When they wish to indicate a rapacious and idle man, they draw a crocodile with an ibis feather on his head. For if you should touch a crocodile with the feather of an ibis, you should stun him into immobility.” (Hieroglyphics of Horapollo, Tr. George Boas, 1993: 89). In fact one of Ficino’s protégés, Poliziano wrote a treatise on Osiris in his Miscellany in 1489 and had already given lectures in Venice and Verona in the early 1480s on the son of Isis and Osiris based on Plutarch, inspiring Ermolao Barbaro the Younger to translate that work of Plutarch into Latin. (Karl Giehlow, The Humanist Interpretation of Hieroglyphs in the Allegorical Studies of the Renaissance, Translated with an Introduction & Notes by Robin Raybould.1915/2015: 151-152). Also note that Horapallo “was certainly known to Marsilio who, engaged at that time in preparing an edition of Plotinus, makes here an explicit refenrce to the author of the Hieroglyphica. On the other hand, the Horapallo was known to Demetrios Chalcondylas who in 1486 had returned Filelfo’s codex to the work to the Medicean Library.” (ibid, 156-157). To the point: the themes I am reading into the SB would have been very current in both Venice and in the writings of Ficino.
Perhaps the most enigmatic card of the swords is the two, where an upright man has his hand around the horn(s) of another man with noticeable pubic hairs (I,e,, a reference to sex) on his knees, while birds or insects swarm upwards in the background. Like the Panfilo and Marsyas, I believe this too can be traced to Boccacio, which Ficino would have known all too well. Boccacio, in his Genealogy of the Gods, quotes Ovid in describing Bacchus as “you are considered the most beautiful in the high heaven, then you appear without horns.” (V.25.6, tr. Solomon, 2011: 707). No longer the earthly leader of maenads, he has become a fiery allegory of transformation in Boccacio’s hands (and his allegorizing predecessors). In Ficino’s schema, purgating one’s material-ness, here indicated by Bacchus’ horns, is closely related to the Orphic cult which fascinated Ficino as being connected to the prisca theologia. Boccacio goes on to relate that the process of growing vine and wine fermentation are what is behind the allegories of Jupiter’s fiery immolation of Semele and the rebirth of the then horned god in fiery Jupiter (V.25.22, p.717). Boccacio then gives us an idea as why insects would appear in this trump featuring a horned man, in the context of the same immolating heat:
Again, I am proposing a Ficiean take on Macrobius' commentary to the Dream of Scipio as the basis for understanding the SB, so these are relvant lines in Boccacio.Some again also add to the fiction that even though he [Bacchus] was dismembered and then buried, he rose again whole. I think that this must be understood in that after many imbibings, the heat of the wine produces small insects, and the combined result is drunkenness; from this it is quite clear that Bacchus lives and does something. About this Albericus said:
’Bacchus should be understood as the spirit of the world which, although it is divided into members throughout the bodies of the world, nevertheless seems to reintegrate itself when emerging from bodies, reforming itself, always remaining unique and the same, not suffering its single nature to be subdivided.’
He says this. But I think this Bacchus of Albericus must be understood as Macrobius’ sun, to whom Macrobius transfers the divinities of all the gods.( V.25.24, p. 719)
More on Ficino/SB specifics in a separate post, but otherwise….wow.Mikeh wrote:
I don't know what else is Ficinian about the SB. The ascent through the planets is not Ficinian at all; it is in Macrobius, Dante, the cosmographs, and many other places.
“Ficino owned a copy of the Dream [of Scipio] as recorded in Macrobius’s commentary on it from the very early in his studies [MS Ricc.581, , from 1457 or earlier]….the Dream itself, which Ficino could read in Macrobius long before he learned Greek, was an important text for him, in its affirmation of the principle of the immortality of ther soul….” Valery Rees, “Ciceronian Echoes in Marsilio Ficino” in Cicero Refused to Die: Ciceronian Influence through the Centuries, 2013: 157
There are 19 references to Macrobius, implicit or otherwise, in the I Tatti index to Ficino’s Platonic Theology (6.1.3, 6.1.5, 6.1.6, 8.13.1, 9.1.3, 10.2.13, 13.4.15, 15.2.3, 15.3.2, 17.2.10, 17.2.11, 17.2.12, 17.2.13, 17.2.15, 18.1.12, 18.4.7, 18.5.2, 18.5.3, 18.9.3), but this one should suffice to show just how far off base you are on Ficino:
“From what part of heaven do they [souls] descend? Principally from Cancer, according to the Platonists [such as Macrobius from whom he is taking this], and they suppose they ascend in turn through Capricorn, opposite Cancer; hence they call the first gateway of men, the second the gateway of the gods.” (PT, 18.5.2, 2006: 113). Ficino goes on to list the gifts imparted by the various planets and ends by saying, souls “after many centuries they descend at length towards the elements and pass in the fire and air a demonic life an on earth a human and bestial life; and then they return at length by similar degrees towards things supernal.” (18.6.3, p. 115)
Marco already provided a likely pre-Renaissance source popular in the middle ages, Paulus Orosius: Historiarum Adversum Paganos in which books 4, 5 and 6 refer to the 18 Roman figures. But considering that what one mostly had for entertainment was history and the Good Book, one should not be surprised at how conversant even a moderately educated merchant would have been with Roman history, particularly in Italy where cities and their nobles were tracing their origins back to the Romans.Mikeh wrote:
Somehow I think it is at least as relevant to ask who was expert enough on Roman Republican history to have thought of all these people. Or was it common knowledge among humanists then?
In this context, consider the somewhat famous letter of 1417 from the renowned Venetian humanist Francesco Barbaro to Santo Venier, podesta of Zara on the Dalamtian coast, encouraging Venier to follow the classical exemplars “which if our citizens hold before themselves in administering the republic, by that relfection upon illustrious men, they shall become more prudent and capable” (Margaret L. King, Venetian Humanism in an Age of Patrician Dominance,1986: 42-43). Barbaro sent along Cicero’s letter to Quintus on the administration of public office, telling him to read it daily and reflect upon it.
And yes, this is a Venier from the same family that would have a descendent mark his coat of arms on a deck of cards we call the Sola Busca, featuring Roman exempli.