Re: Cary Sheet

mikeh wrote: I agree that the tarot that we see, including the orders and writings about it, is a patchwork of different attempts to make sense of something that was not obviously clear.

When you say you "agree", I hope it's not me you think you're agreeing with, because I think it was clear to them. My evidence is that the players never, anywhere, felt the need to change it. It consistently made sense to them, even when, like in Bologna, there were no numbers on the cards for 300 years. They simply memorized it, and putting a thunderbolt under a conventional hierarchy of "Sun, Moon and Star" was no problem. Those three celestial lights are a no-brainer, so if anyone bothered to ask "why is there a thunderbolt here?", I think the best answer is that it is a lower light, in the atmosphere. So this brings us just one step from "what made the designer choose to put that subject there?" If the lights answer is good, then it should have been the designer's intention too, the reason for his choice. No other light fits the bill in such a hierarchy. Natural, in the sky, lower, easy to depict, something everybody knows...
There might also have been attempts to remove what sense there was in the tarot, too, if it was thought irreverent or nonconformist. That's a real possibility in Bologna once it was taken over by the Papacy, with the "four papi".
I'd like to hear more about how making two popes instead of one, and two emperors instead of that offensive empress alongside him, and a rule whereby a pope can take another pope, and an emperor can take either pope, was intended to assuage the offense to papal dignity of having a pope in the deck at all (where he could be at least at the top of the fixed hierarchy).

(in other words, I don't buy this "explanation" for the presence of two emperors and two popes and the equal-papi rule at all)

Re: Cary Sheet

When I said "the tarot that we see" I meant the different scenes besides the main subjects, the different titles, the different orders, and the various writings of the time, as I specified between the commas. Yes, I can see that you don't agree, given that what you consider the ur-tarot is what I consider a patchwork. In my view it is a reasonable view that all the tarot decks of which we have more than a few extant cards, and all the decks in the lists, are patchworks, with the possible but not likely exception of the Cary-Yale. I have elaborated this view at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=975&start=60#p14697.

On your other point, I was thinking that "papi" just meant "fathers", more inclusive than "popes", meaning high authorities, sovereigns. The trumping rule would be then to emphasize that point, that they aren't popes, who are indeed at the top of the hierarchy, they're sovereigns, period, tout court. The trumping rule goes with the name change, part of the same innovation. Emperors don't trump popes; sovereigns trump other sovereigns.

If it has to have meant "popes", and that was the only possible 15th century term and meaning for these four cards taken as equal powers, then I am wrong about getting rid of the pope. But I don't understand why there would be four popes trumping one another other when they could. It seems like they would more likely sovereigns. And maybe even understood as not including popes in that term, since popes are the supreme mundane sovereigns, not trumpable by emperors. Please clarify this for me.

The empress is not an offensive card. She is just a casualty of the need to get rid of the popess, and not to have a situation in which female sovereigns can trump male ones given the new trumping rule.

Note: I made some changes in my first paragraph about 15 minutes after the initial posting.

Re: Cary Sheet

mikeh wrote:When I said "the tarot that we see" I meant the different scenes besides the main subjects, the different titles, the different orders, and the various writings of the time, as I specified between the commas. Yes, I can see that you don't agree, given that what you consider the ur-tarot is what I consider a patchwork. In my view it is a reasonable view that all the tarot decks of which we have more than a few extant cards, and all the decks in the lists, are patchworks, with the possible but not likely exception of the Cary-Yale. I have elaborated this view at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=975&start=60#p14697.
Yes, you've done a good job at analyzing Dummett's analysis. I've read it once, but I'll have to read it some more before I can comment.

So let me get your scenario straight -

0. Ur-Tarot(s) - no particular number, no particular order, no set list of subjects, but everyone agrees on the name "trionfi" for this disparate "family" of card decks (i.e. it just means "decks with added cards called triumphs that have power over all suit cards")
1. Gradual fixing of the order and subjects in a few locales, still no numbers.
2. Cards keep getting added, rejected or changed in various locales for some time.
3. Visconti invents a deck with 6 suit cards and x number of trumps - doesn't catch on.
4. Somebody somewhere invents a sequence with only 4 court cards and 22 trumps, still no numbers.
5. 22 standard trumps catches on, but different locales fiddle with it.
6. In each locale, people begin adding numbers to the cards, thus fixing the orders.

Can you give me a rough chronology for these steps, and the locales concerned, and the trump subjects concerned?

As an aside, even given this scenario, it seems to me that Bologna is still the default favorite, since they didn't add numbers to their cards for over 300 years (late 18th century). If adding numbers was to help players, the Bolognese demonstrate that they didn't need numbers, so their 22-trump game must have had some conceptual advantages, like being easy to remember (I mean within a couple of minutes before sitting down to play the game for the very first time, never having seen it before).

Re: Cary Sheet

Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: So let me get your scenario straight -
Here's mine, in the interests of fairness -

0. One-off experiments with additional "power cards", like Fernando de la Torre's Emperor (or private creations like Marziano) existed, but they weren't called Triumphs and they weren't compelling, in the same way that people can take or leave the Joker in modern packs. They can add spice, but regular players don't see the need for them.
1. Somebody invented the 22 trump version, within a few years of 1440, called it Triumphs, and it was compelling. The trump cards weren't just spice, they were the reason for the game.
2. When people of other locales got the game, some of them moved around different trumps to make what they took to be make better sense of some part of the story they saw in them. But they didn't change the number, because the game worked so well.
3. Rich people had show-off custom versions of the standard deck made, and because of their intrinsic beauty and value, fragments of many of these have survived to this day; FM Visconti or somebody close to him was inspired to "supersize" the standard game, adding physical size, two extra court cards, and extra trumps, to create what we call today the Cary-Yale (but was owned for a long time previously by the Visconti of Modrone family), in the mid-1440s, in the same way that Boiardo, the Sola-Busca, and ultimately the Minchiate were inspired by the standard game.

Re: Cary Sheet

Ross: I don't think I have to have a complete theory, with dates, places, details. That's like asking for an account of where maggots come from, if I want to challenge the theory of spontaneous generation of flies out of mud, when I don't have a microscope, can't do experiments, and all I have is my knowledge of how every other living thing I've ever seen is generated. It's just common sense--along with the reading of a few articles--that the tarot might have been the result of unrecorded development instead of all at once, given what we know about inventions generally, their documentation, and a few general principles modeled on those of manuscript transmission.

I have no original proposals for where and when tarot originated. Except perhaps for my lists of subjects when less than 22, my proposals are methodological (what Michael calls "nonsense"). My goal is not to defend any particular conjecture. It is to make progress, such as someone not in the right place or with the right language can do so. I do not believe that any of a definite number of possibilities, easily stated, can be discounted. Hopefully listing them can contribute to the obtaining of more information or reasoning that can rule one or another out of consideration. I will include yours, too.

I did give specific numbers and some suggestions for places and dates. But I could have said more. I can arrange the possibilities that I think worthy of consideration into as many as four stages, not counting the 25 card possibility in Milan. I use the word "or" a lot ("/" also means "or"). I did give definite card subjects for decks with each number of cards, which I can repeat if needed. I had not said when the earliest tarot could have been or where, or by when the tarot was definitely 22. So I added the first to the first stage, and made the second a final stage, somewhat redundantly. The earliest version with 13 would have had number cards as well as tarot subjects in its fifth suit.

Subjects: for 13 cards: Empress, Emperor, Love, Chariot, Fortune, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance, Death, Time, Fame, Judgment.

for 14 cards: Add Sun or Star. (in my post I said "Sun"; but "Star" has some logic, too, as a symbol of time and also as preceding Judgment).

for 16 cards: Add Hope, Faith, Charity instead of Sun or Star.

For 20 cards. Replace theologicals with Star, Moon, Sun. Replace Prudence with Popess. Add Matto, Bagatella, Pope, Hanged Man. Replace Fame with World.

For 21 cards. Add Arrow (probably either one of the celestials, or part of a pair with Devil)

For 22 cards. Add Devil.

For 25 cards (possible for CY): Add Hope, Faith, and Charity.

Times and places:

(1) 13 or 14 cards, many not figures at first. Earliest, 1410 (per Wicked Pack) to c.1422. Possible places: Ferrara or Bologna (Prince Fibbia), less likely Milan. Principle: same number of trumps as in each suit.

(2) 14 or 16 cards. Possible added places as candidates for first with that number: Milan, Florence. 16 in Milan as early as c. 1428 (Visconti marriage), but also 14 (Brera-Brambilla) At this early date, Florence less likely because they keep good records, and nothing found so far before 1440.

(3) 20, 21, or 22. Starting c. 1438 - c.1462. Possible places. Same. Most likely earliest: Florence or Bologna if started 1438-1450, but including Milan, for 20 or 21, if after 1450.

(3a) 25 in Milan, 1440s, if 22 deck already in place earlier, on 3:2 ratio principle.

(4) 22. Possible places: same. Possible dates: c. 1438 to as late as c. 1486-1490 (Boiardo poem and Sola-Busca). Most likely earliest: Florence or Bologna. Added next day: Probably there were already 22 by the early 1460s in Florence, going by the numbers on the Charles VI, which I think probably reflect the original cards.

I hope this clarifies things enough. To keep it simple, I haven't specifically removed all the obviously less likely permutations, e.g. going from 14 to 22 in Bologna without first changing somewhere else (because of conservativism in play, no changes unless necessary).

Also: On my suggestion that 1507 was when the "four papi" were introduced into Bologna. My analysis of the Sola-Busca, which has it fitting either the Rosenwald or the Bologna pattern, suggests a 50-50 chance that "four papi" decks existed somewhere in the Southern region earlier than 1507. (That's why I did the analysis.) I can see no political reason for a change in Bologna before 1507, unless when Bessarion was legate, 1550-1555. It might have started there, or somewhere else in the region at some point by the 1460s, because Esch's figures show a lot of exports to Rome then. Whatever political pressures would apply in Bologna in 1507 of 1550 might also apply in Rome of the 1460s. I remain with lots of ifs and ors.

Note: The next day I added one sentence to my stage (4) above.

Re: Cary Sheet

About the Cary Sheet, the distinguished medieval historian Franco Cardini ( has this to say, in his essay "I Tarocchi: strumenti da gioco e strumenti diviniatory fra 'cultura di corte' e 'cultura populare'", pp. 53-62 of Il Ludus Triumphorum o Tarot: carte di gioco o alfabeto del distino, ed. Rossi and Li Vigni. He has just been talking about the Alberician tradition of the representations of the planets, in the tractate (Vatican Reginense 1290) attributed to "Alberico", aka Alexander Meckham (p. 61) :
Poche sono, nei tarocchi del Quattrocento, le rappresentazioni per così dire "dirette" degli dei: il che è del resto logico, poiché le divinità antiche, quando figurano nei mazzi, lo fanno essenzialmente in quanto pianeti (Marte, Mercurio, Giove, Venere, Saturno), a parte i luminaria Sole e Luna che possono a loro volta avere i connotati di Apollo e di Diana: un'eccezione semmai è costituita dai Tarocchi detti "del Mantenga"14. Ma forse il crescere e l'articolarsi della cultura ermetica dopo le celebri versioni fìciniane del Corpus compiute nel 1463 furono uno degli elementi che contribuiscono a mutare tale stato di cose, come sembra di capire dal celebre foglio Cary, xilografie cinquecentesche, dove la simbologia adottata risente di altri contributi, ad esempio forse di origine mithraistica o isiaca (il che beninteso meglio si vede nelle raffigurazioni, rispettivamente, del Sole e della Luna).

(In the fifteenth century tarot, there are few so-called "direct" representations of the gods: that is, furthermore, logical, seeing as the gods of the ancients, when they appear in packs, do so mainly in so far as they are planets (Mars , Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn), apart from the luminaries Sol and Luna, which may in turn have the characteristics of Apollo and Diana: an exception is the Tarot so-called of the "Mantegna" (14). But perhaps the growth and articulation of hermetic culture after the famous versions of the Corpus that Ficino made in 1463 were one of the factors that contribute to change this state of affairs, as the famous Cary sheet seems to understand, sixteenth-century woodcuts where the symbols used are affected by other contributions, for example, perhaps, of Mithraist or Isaic origin (which is best seen in the representations, respectively, of the Sun and the Moon).
Footnote 14 is a reference to Seznec and to C. Cieri Via's essay on the "Mantegna" in Berti and Vitali, I Tarocchi 1987.

I would have like to have heard more, of course. The Mithraic influence, I take it, is from the two boys that stand underneath the Sun god in the Mithraic reliefs, one of whom has a raised torch. For the Cary Sheet, I assume Cardini is implying, a torch changes to a flag.

I am not sure what is "Isaic" about the Moon card, other than general Egyptianate scene; perhaps it is the Nile flood, with the moon and the lobster standing for the "gods above and below" described by Apuleius, the Moon representing Isis herself. I'd like to know if he, too, sees what I take to be two crocodiles next to the lake, and two ambiguously represented obelisks on either side of a temple, in the center of the card (; in Egypt temples with obelisks were characteristically next to artificial lakes.

But I am glad someone else has recognized the Egyptianate reference. I also see such reference in the Star, Fool, and Bagat (the three-tiered hats), and possibly the Arrow ( ... -sheet.jpg).

In what immediately follows the passage I just quoted, Cardini has what I think is a good explanation for why these references are not mentioned in 16th century discussions of the cards.
Le molte edizioni delle versioni fìciniane dei testi ermetici fornirono probabilmente spunti ai disegnatori e ai pittori di tarocchi, fino al Quattrocento inoltrato, abituati a seguire la semplice tradizione albericiana, in chiave di una "sopravvivenza degli antichi dei" alla quale tuttavia l'umanesimo incipiente aveva conferito il carattere d'un "ritomo" poco gradito ai cristiani rigoristi che già, da vari punti di vista, stavano preparando quèlla stretta riformistica che nel Cinquecento avrebbe avuto la meglio in tutta Europa sotto forma di Riforma protestante e di Controriforma (termine convenzionale, quest'ultimo, al quale si deve dare altresì - non dimentichiamolo - anche il significato di "Riforma cattolica"). Nel corso del pieno Rinascimento, almeno nei paesi cattolici, le raffigurazioni degli antichi dei avevano ormai perduto di forza contestativa: erano divenirti puri vocaboli d'una cultura diffusa, convenzionale. Invece le forme iòonico-simboliche ispirate più specificatamente e propriamente alla tradizione ermetica, a sua volta battuta in breccia dal sopravvento rigorista tardo quattrocentesco e primo cinquecentesco, potevano mantenere intatti valori nonconformistici i quali però, a loro volta, difficilmente potevano venire intesi dai fruitori del gioco delle carte. Sostanzialmente fallita la proposta ficiniana d'una composizione tra platonismo e cristianesimo, l'ermetismo si sarebbe trasformato in segreto linguaggio di élite, in proposta iniziatico-eversiva, mentre la simbologia cattolica ufficiale sarebbe tornata a più convenzionali tradizioni.

(The many editions of Ficino's versions of the hermetic texts probably provided inspiration to designers and painters of tarot cards until the late fifteenth century, accustomed to following the simple Alberician tradition,in terms of a " survival of the ancient gods " to which, however, incipient humanism had given the character of a "retum " unwelcome to rigorist Christians who already from various points of view were preparing that narrow reformism that in the sixteenth century would triumph in Europe in the form of the Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation (the latter a conventional term to which one must also give - lest we forget - the meaning of "Catholic Reformation "). During the Renaissance, at least in Catholic countries, the depictions of the ancient gods had now lost their dissenting strength, become merely words of a widely diffused conventional culture. Instead of iconic-symbolic forms inspired more specifically and properly by the Hermetic tradition, in turn defeated in breach of the supervening reformism of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, they could keep intact their nonconformist values which, however, in turn, could hardly be understood by users of the playing cards. Essentially Ficino's failed proposal of an agreement between Platonism and Christianity, Hermeticism would become the secret language of an elite, in a subversive-initiatory proposal, while the official Catholic symbolism would return to more conventional traditions.
If I have understood Cardini correctly, he is very much expressing what I suspect to be the case.

Even in the 15th century, it was not safe in many cases to express ideas that the papacy found threatening, at least not in a direct way. Even so distinguished a scholar as Filelfo could be imprisoned for five months, by a duke who could not choose to oppose a papacy that felt undermined by the scholar: Filelfo had criticized another pope who, in Filelfo's eyes, had failed to honor his commitments to him (Robin [Filelfo in Milan p. 119f):
In November 1464 the cardinals dispatched an official complaint to Francesco Sforza, urging the duke in the strongest possible terms to punish Filelfo. At the cardinals' behest, the duke incarcerated his poet and orator in the Castello for five months. (18)
18. For the evidence on Filelfo's five-month incarceration in the Castello, see A. Luzio and R. Renier, "I Filflfo e l'umaniesimo alla corte dei Gonzaga," in Giornale storico della letteratura italiana 16 (1890): 176; see also epigrams of P. C. Decembrio in Rosmini, Vita 3.160-61, and of Antonio cornazzano in F. Gabotto, "Ricerche intorno allo storiografo quattrocenta Lodrisio Crivelli," in ASO 7 (1891), 267-96.

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