Re: Who's in the Chariot?

I think that the wings on the horses are a tip-off that the designer had Plato's Phaedrus in mind, in its myth much discussed at the time, to refer to the chariots of the gods and eternal archetypes. The later Chariot images, with horses without wings, are a reference to a later part of the same myth, when the horses of the human chariots, one noble and one ignoble, have lost their wings and fallen to earth.
As to the soul's immortality then we have said enough, but as to its nature there is this that must be said. What manner of thing it is would be along tale to tell, and most assuredly a god alone could tell it, but what it resembles, that a man might tell in briefer compass. Let this therefore be our manner of discourse. Let it be likened to the union of powers in a team of winged steeds and their winged charioteer. Now all the gods' steeds and all their charioteers are good, and of good stock, but with other beings it is not wholly so. With us men, in the first place, it is a pair of steeds that the charioteer controls; moreover one of them is noble and good, and of good stock, while the other has the opposite character, and his stock is opposite. (246a-b)
(I am using Hackforth's translation, as fairly clear, compared to the old ones I find on the Web. It would be of interest to know how the 15th century Latin version read--I forget by whom, probably a Florentine, but it has been mentioned on THF somewhere; it was a partial translation, but it included this part. I expect that Filelfo would have assigned it as homework to his young Sforza charges. I give the standard pagination so that people can look it up in other languages.)

The PMB chariot, with its white, winged horses, is a chariot of the gods. The Issy and Maseille-style chariots, with their horses either of different colors or pointing in different directions, are the chariots of humans. In a later section Plato describes the humans' horses more fully:
He that is on the more honorable side is upright and clean-limbed; color he is white, with black eyes...and needs no whip, being driven by the word of command alone. The other is...with thick short neck, snub nose, black skin, and gray eyes; hot-blooded, consorting with wantonness and vainglory; shaggy of ear, deaf, and hard to control with whip and goad.(253d-e)
From scholarly discussions of the Phaedrus not presently at hand, I understand that it is not exactly clear what the Greek word translated as "black" actually means; it might be "dark" or "dun." (Well, I will never forget the time in Figueres when I was trying to clarify what kind of wine I was ordering, and the waiter pointed to his black shoes while saying the word in Catalan. We got a red wine.) So we have the two horses, one darker than the other. Since the darker one is hot-blooded, it is natural to paint him red. Some designers, perhaps not noticing the section on the colors, or being unclear about it, simply had them the same color.

The noble horse needs only the voice of the charioteer to direct him, no need for a whip; the Charioteer, Reason, commands the noble horse with his voice (perhaps assimilated to the Word of the Gospel of John). And although Plato does have a whip for the other horse, I imagine that the Marseille tarot designer has the noble horse controlling the ignoble one, or trying to, given that they look in the same direction even as their bodies point opposite. Since the horses have lost their wings, they represent the souls of humans who have fallen from heaven to incarnate in earthly bodies.

All that, however, pertains to the Marseille and Issy designs. The PMB is portraying a chariot of the gods or archetypes, as seen from afar by the charioteer of a human chariot still in the heaven. While in the heaven, some humans' chariots rise high enough that the highest part of the soul, reason, can catch glimpses of the gods in their chariots.
And behold, there in the heaven Zeus, mighty leader, drives his winged team. First of the host of gods and daemons he proceeds, ordering all things and caring therefor, and the host follows after him, marshaled in eleven companies. For Hesita abides alone in the gods' dwelling place, but for the rest, all such are ranked in the number of the twelve as ruler gods lead their several companies, each according to his rank. (246e-247a).
Some lucky souls even catch a glimpse of the eternal archetypes themselves.
And while she is borne round she discerns justice, its very self, and likewise temperance, and knowledge, not the knowledge that is neighbor to becoming and varies with the various objects to which we commonly ascribe being, but the veritable knowledge of being that veritably is. (247d-e.)
Then the humans' chariots fall, thanks to the ignoble horse and to wounds from inexpert handling, and the threesome incarnate in human bodies. Even then there is a dim memory of the other world, and especially of the sight of Beauty:
Now in the earthly likenesses of justice and temperance and all other prized possessions of the soul there dwells no luster; nay, so dull are the organs wherewith men approach their images that hardly can a few behold that which is imaged, but with beauty it is otherwise. Beauty it was ours to see in all its brightness in those days when, amidst that happy company, we beheld with our eyes that blessed vision, ourselves in the train of Zeus, others following some other god, then were we all initiated into that mystery which is rightly accounted blessed beyond all others....(250b-e)
While Beauty is what attracts the soul, the memory of other gods is also sought, depending upon which of the gods he takes after in his character.
Thus the followers of Zeus seek a beloved who is Zeuslike in soul; wherefore they look for one who by nature disposed to the love of wisdom and the leading of men, and when they have found him and come to love him they do all in their power to foster that disposition. (252e)
(The suggestion of homosexuality is one of the things that provoked controversy--and interest-about this passage. The way around it is to go directly to the appropriate goddess, rather than her earthly carrier.)

Who is the PMB charioteer? She is Beauty, i.e. celestial Venus, but, since Venus was usually painted in a state of undress, also other celestial archetypes, in particular, for a ruler, Sapienta, Wisdom, i.e. Minerva. For it is she who must guide leaders. Specifically, she is "Minerva Pacifica," who has put down her shield and lance and taken up the scepter and globe, symbols of her rulership in the well-governed state, perhaps after a hard-won victory. I don't know of any Milanese examples of her with these attributes, but in Florence there was a medal of her on one side in that way, as the goddess governing the city. The caption doesn't say she is Minerva, but the book (whose name I conveniently forget) does.


There was a Roman statue of Minerva as Dea Roma (scroll almost halfway down at ... enery.html). Perhaps Florentia is modeled on that one. In the late 16th century, there was a "Britannia Minerva."

There is also this detail, from Mantua early 16th century, with a globe-like helmet and a broken lance substituting for the scepter; a broken lance also suggests peace. It is Corregio’s “Allegory of Philosophy" (philosophy = love of wisdom) or "Allegory of Virtue”; this time Minerva, being crowned, presumably for chasing out, or at leas sitting on, some Vices. She is above another lady who represents the four cardinal virtues: the lionskin is for courage, the serpent for prudence, the bridle in her left hand for temperance, and I would guess the sword for justice.


As for the amalgamation of Minerva and Venus, there is an excellent article by Rudolf Wittkower, "Transformations of MInerva in Renaissance Imagery," originally in the Journal of the Warburg Institute II, 1938-1939, reprinted in his Allegory and the Migration of Symbols. For Minerva on the card, we have the dress, the globe, and the scepter. For Venus, there remains the face.

Minerva, of course, was famous for her chastity, even her virginity. The celestial Venus, Aphrodite Urania in Plato's Symposium, likewise is without carnal stain, as opposed to Aphrodite Pandemos, the common Venus. Thus we have, for the common people who know only the Petrarchan parades, a symbol of chastity even in as we celebrate the victory of beauty and wisdom. But I am only talking about the PMB in this assignment of a Petrarchan triumph.

Re: Who's in the Chariot?

I have just sorted out to my current satisfaction (6 months after my previous post) the issue of the CY Charioteer, and whether she is Chastity or Fame (if either). I think that it depends on what the occasion is that is being depicted. And that depends on when the deck was made.

A man is escorting a woman in a procession, even a triumphal procession. It could be a wedding procession, or it could be one after a military victory. It would also seem that the man and woman on the CY Chariot card are the same as the pair on the Love card.

There were important Milan weddings in 1428, 1441, and 1468. I rule out 1468 because nobody painted in the CY deck's style then. If 1428, it would be Filippo Visconti escorting Marie of Savoy into Milan, a triumph of Chastity. But the deck couldn't have been done in 1428, owing to too many Sforza devices, too consistently placed, and a rearing horse design in coins that didn't exist until 1437. So at best it is a copy of a 1428 design, for some other occasion. In 1441 Francesco could have escorted Bianca Maria into Cremona. But unlike the 1428 procession, the marriage city wasn't the possession of the groom. It was the possession of the bride, in fact, the dowry she brought from her father. So he's not escorting her into his city. So I don't think the scene fits that wedding, at least not as a triumph for anybody on that card. It would not be a point of honor for a husband to lead a triumphal chariot into the lady's own city, given to her by her father. It isn't his triumph. It might be hers, but she is just passively sitting there on the card, while he is doing the work.

Another factor is that the two horses seem to be the ones on the earthbound chariot in the Phaedrus, since they lack wings, one of them noble and the other ignoble. Here is more of what Plato says:
The right-hand horse is upright and cleanly made: he has a lofty neck and an aquiline nose: his colour is white, and his eyes dark; he is a lover of honour and modesty and temperance, and the follower of true glory; he needs no touch of the whip, but is guided by word and admonition only. The other is a crooked lumbering animal, put together anyhow; he has a short thick neck; he is flat-faced and of a dark colour, with grey eyes and blood-red complexion; the mate of insolence and pride, shag-eared and deaf, hardly yielding to whip and spur.
On the card, the ignoble horse is on the right and is insolently rearing its front legs. The noble one listens to its master. Unlike in the Phaedrus, the charioteer is not on the chariot; he is leading the horses, one directly and the other by the influence of the first (as in the Phaedrus). The Geoffrey Catelin card expresses the same situation, with the two horses actually colored red and white, red for ignoble ('red complexion") and white for noble. In this case, also, the woman on top is not an idealized virtue like Beauty, Truth, Chastity, or Temperance, as would be appropriate for a wedding. These goddesses are in heaven and ride on chariots whose horses have wings. The beauty on the CY chariot is of an earthly nature. If it is a triumph of chastity, it, too, is of an imperfect, earthly kind, involving a real struggle (with the ignoble horse) and so a real victory.

The occasion might have originally been the 1428 wedding, as a kind of weak suggestion that the charioteer--the husband--will restrain his baser instincts in favor of this nobler ones, so that the marriage will be an example of Chastity (well, considering that it wasn't consummated, perhaps it was) inspired by the bride, who is the image of Chastity. But the CY Love card wasn't made in 1428. So it might be that the cards, all of them, are copies of designs made for, or to commemorate, the 1428 wedding, perhaps given to the bride in 1441 or at the time of Galeazzo's birth in 1444. In that case it is still a triumph of Chastity, but commemorating something years earlier.

The final occasion for which the cards might have been made is the military victory of 1450, when Francesco gave the city of Milan to its natural daughter Bianca Maria. By restraining his ignoble instincts and achieving honor through the use of reason, Francesco has won a triumph that has made him and Bianca famous. The CY Chariot is then a triumph of Fame. Since the Catelin card is similar, and the Noblet is similar to the Catelin, in the colors of the horses--although the charioteer has displaced the lady on top--it, too, is a Triumph of Fame, and so are all the other Marseille-style Chariot cards. It can't be a triumph of Chastity, because chastity is a feminine virtue, and the woman no longer appears.


But the price for this conclusion, Fame, is that the card would have to have been made in or just after 1450. And the Love card would have to be made at the same time, although it might reflect a design done earlier. From the prominence given to Savoy and Visconti insignia on the Love card, I would say, originally in 1428 and perhaps redone in 1440-1444, to commemorate the 1441 wedding, but adding the Sforza insignia. And then done again in 1450.
What remains is that while the Issy chariot and the Marseille are triumphs of Fame, the CY may or may not be. If it commemorates a wedding, it's a triumph of Chastity. If it commemorates a military victory, it's a triumph of Fame. Personally, I think the CY card is indeed a triumph of Fame, because I think the CY was made around 1450. I also think that in the original deck with these designs, made in 1428 or thereafter, it would have been a triumph of Chastity.

Re: Who's in the Chariot?

Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:Don't forget the Chariot discovered in the late 80s and now in the Musée Français de la Carte à Jouer in Issy-les-Moulineaux (referred to as the "Issy Chariot") -


Thierry Depaulis identified this card as belonging with the Warsaw museum cards (Kaplan I, 109), and dates to about 1450, Ferrara.

It is much less overtly "mythological", unless the two different colored horses represent that they have different "natures".

There is a canopy over her head. It's tempting to consider it a "marriage" chariot, with all the symbolism that implies (after love, comes marriage, hence chastity/modesty, good qualities in a wife). For what it's worth, Bianca Maria was married in red, "her zodiacal color" (as noted by Pizzagalli - BM was an Aries. Leonello is also noted as considering the color of the planet for the day of the week in choosing his clothing, so symbolism like this might really be present). I don't know if this is Bianca Maria, but the clothing is outstandingly red.

She's holding an orb and a sword, in order to say "Be nice to me or I'll cut your balls off."

It's hard to interpret the gestures of the four girls around the main figure on the chariot.
I think the four ladies represent the four elements. The one pointing up is fire, because fire rises. The one pointing down is earth, because that's where earth is and goes. The one with her flat of her hand pointing toward us is air, because that's what's there, in front of her palm, going neither up nor down. The one with hands as though praying is water, because water is associated with religion (baptism), if you look at the early Aces of Cups and illustrations of the four temperaments, e.g.

Then the lady in the middle would be the Quintessence, naturally: the purest, most refined of substances, and the alchemist's goal, which was often described as rubedo, reddening. Purity of course is also associated with chastity, as in the Milan Chariots.

Re: Who's in the Chariot?

marco wrote:A while ago, Phaeded posted the photograph of a Florentine ceiling in which the globe and the sword are the attributes of Justice.
Interesting observation:

I looked up a dating, and it has 1466.
One of the finest and richest examples is the enameled terra-cotta ceiling (1466) of the Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal in S. Miniato, Florence.

Relatively near to suggested dates like "c. 1455", which I remember as given for the card (Issy Chariot).

The many cubes as background look rather modern to me.

Re: Who's in the Chariot?

There is a seldom-reproduced Scheggia sketch(?) of Justice that shows the same, supposedly in the Davanzati museum but I did not see it there when in Florence over Easter. The museum incorrectly calls it a Fortitude and I initially thought it a Fama but I believe it is in fact a Justice in light of the contemporary depictions of Justice with a globe (such as the Robbia).

The museum's description:
Guidi Giovanni di Ser Giovanni detto Scheggia
figura intera con spada, globo e aureola poligonale (dipinto), 1445-1460 ca.
inv. 1890, n. 10039
FI, Firenze, Museo di Palazzo Davanzati

I can't find the webpage that allows you to zoom in on this image and the version I previously saved is a bitmap which I can't upload here, but the grey globe definitely shows little towns/castles (i.e., it is not a simple orb). Obviously the globe could be associated with Fama and Justice and I would also harken back to our earlier conversations of Prudence conflated with Fama so that the globe becomes almost too ubiqitous of a symbol to define a single virtue/theme.

Case in point, the Zanobi Strozzi triumph of Time (c. 1450?) in the Bologna pinacoteca. I haven't uploaded my own detail photos from my visit there but Hurst's upload to Wiki clearly shows the same grey world with small towns at which Time is intently staring at (the corruptible sublunar world I suppose):
Zanobi Strozzi. Trionfo del tempo. Pinacoteca Nacional de Bolonia.jpg
Zanobi Strozzi. Trionfo del tempo. Pinacoteca Nacional de Bolonia.jpg (78.26 KiB) Viewed 4863 times

Re: Who's in the Chariot?

hi Phaeded,

I personally think, that the globe symbol was associated to the "world-idea", which later became a fixed playing card role in the Tarot sequence.
Father Time with a globe - my opinion - has the focus on the idea, that the "earth-globe" creates time. This is clear in the heliocentric world-view, bu might have connected a similar idea in the geocentric world-view. The Cary-Yale hadn't a "World card" (as far we know it), but "Fame" (as discussed earlier). In PMB we have a card, which was identified as "World" later, but actually we have a missing Prudentia and the presence of a card with two putti holding an orb or shield with a city representation. The hermit has not a world, but a sand-clock as symbol.
In the Charles VI we have a card, which by its polygonal halo belongs to the 4 virtues (so again might be the missing Prudentia), but it looks more like a "Fame"-picture.
In later Mantegna Tarocchi we have lots of circles or "round objects", especially for the Muses. It's clear, that they present spherical objects.

Generally we have a synchronicity for the appearances of these specific iconographic details with "interest in the work of Ptelomy", expansion of world exploration, development of world maps and finally globes with world map. I think, that "our confusing changes in the iconography of Tarot/Trionfi" objects mirror in a natural-chaotic manner the progress in the general World-perspective of the time.
Somehow we observe in our humble pictures, how Columbus very slowly got the idea, how he might find a shorter way to China or India.

Re: Who's in the Chariot?

I am not convinced that the figure in the Issy Chariot is Justice. I think it's more likely Fame. I don't know of any tarot Justice-lady on a chariot. The Charles VI Charioteer is a military figure, a condottiere, judging from the hat; military figures were one category eligible for Fame in Petrarch, and the whole under Fame in Boccaccio. Triumphs of Fame almost always have a female holding a sword in her right hand; and sometimes they have a female holding a globe in the left (e.g. Pessolino, at ... ernity.jpg), although I can't find an example with both together. One Fame even has a female with a sword in one hand and a scales in the other, Fame with the attributes of Justice (Zanobi at ... 1465-2.jpg). An engraving of Fame (workshop of Baldini?) has her holding a scales and sitting on a globe of the three continents ( ... orence.jpg).

If she's Fame (I retract my earlier suggestion of Chastity), she also can be the Quintessence. The Quintessence of something, according to, is "the most perfect embodiment of something." Only the warriors most perfect in skill and virtue deserve Fame's laurels.

Here's another approach to the card. Below is a niello by Finiguerra, usually considered a representation of Justice:


Instead of the four female attendants, there are four putti. And instead of horses, there are bears. John Goldsmith Phillips (Early Florentine Designers and Engravers p. 13) dates it to 1459-1464 (Finiguerra died in 1464) and says that the design was probably originally that of Antonio Pollaiuolo, based on the similar style of a silver plaque of Moses by him.
Moses has the same seated pose, the same haughty half turn of the head, the same robe with its characteristic folds, and the same position of the feet. In addition to details such as these, the general effect is the same. These several resemblances, both specific and general, would seem to indicate that the Justice also was after a design by Pollaiuolo.

A further, although indirect, indication of this results from a comparison of the niello Justice with the painted panel of the same subject by Antonio's brother, Piero Pollaiuolo. This work, which is now in the Uffizi, was executed about 1470 for the courtroom of the Mercatanzia in Florence. Although it has been so largely restored that its painterly qualities are indeterminable, it would seem to be a later and more mature development of the Pollaiuolan composition of Justice as represented in the niello print.
Here is the Antonio Pollaiuolo:

You can see Piero's painting at

A difficulty with this interpretation is the bears, which is the heraldic of the Orsini family. Goldsmith Phillips says:
at either side of Justice, two small bears as heraldic supporters display armorials of the Orsini.

What do the Orsini have to do with this scenario? Goldsmith Phillips:
Unfortunately no connection has so far been found between this niello print and any member of that family.
An interesting hypothesis has been advanced by Christophe Poncet, in "Un gioco tra profezia e filosofia: I tarocchi di Marsilio" (in Il linguiggio dei cieli, Roma 2012). He says (p. 273):
La figura del niello è considerata una rappresentazione della Giustizia per le sue analogie con un quadro più tardo di Piero Pollaiolo che rappresenta questo stesso soggetto (Poletti, 2001, pp. 187-95); ma le similitudini formali non inducono necessariamente l'identità dei temi. Alcuni particolari del niello infatti si riflettono anche nell'incisione della sibilla Eritrea di Baldini (TAV. 9): la posizione generale, la plissettatura della camicia sotto la cintura, il movimento del drappeggio sulle gambe, il disegno delle nuvole sulle quali le figure femminili sono sedute. Inoltre, lo scudo del niello sorretto dagli orsi è quello degli Orsini, la famiglia del cardinale che aveva fatto raffigurare le dodici sibille. In un manoscritto che descrive la famosa serie dipinta nel suo palazzo romano, si legge che "il cardinale gli Orsini abbia fatto raffigurare un orso sotto i piedi della prima sibilla" (M. Hélin, "Un texte inedit sur l'iconographie des sibylles," in Revue Belge de philologie et d'histoire, 15:2 (1936), pp. 359-360). Se consideriamo questi indizi convergenti (orsi, scudo della famiglia Orsini, analogie con la sibilla di Baldini), possiamo supporre che il niello sta una prima testimonianza grafica della serie di figure che decorava il palazzo Orsini.

(The figure in the niello is considered a representation of Justice for its analogies with a later picture by Piero Pollaiolo that represents this same subject (Poletti, [Antonio e Piero Pollaiolo, Milano,] 2001, pp. 187-95); but the formal similarities don't necessarily lead to the identity of themes. Some particularities of the niello in fact also are reflected in the engraving of the Erythrian Sibyl of Baldini (TAV. 9): the general position, the folds of the blouse under the belt, the movement of the drapery on the legs, the sketch of the clouds on which the female figures are seated. Besides, the shield of the niello supported by bears is that of the Orsini, the family of the cardinal that had the twelve sibyls depicted. A manuscript describing the famous painted series in his Roman palace reads: "Cardinal Orsini has made to be represented a bear under the feet of the first sibyl" (M. Hélin, ["Un texte inedit sur l'iconographie des sibylles," in Revue Belge de philologie et d'histoire, 15:2,] 1936, pp. 359-360). If we consider these convergences (bears, shield of the family Orsini, analogies with the sibyls of Baldini) signs, we can suppose that the niello is a first graphic testimony of the series of figures that decorated the Palazzo Orsini.
Here is Baldini's Erythrian Sibyl:

I wrote about the Orsini Sibyl series at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=917&start=150#p13782. According to Zucker they were painted shortly before 1432. Baldini's sibyls were done 1465-1480, per Zucker. Baldini was Finiguerra's pupil.

I agree that the formal similarities with the Piero Pollaiuolo painting of Justice does not mean that the niello is also of justice; and likewise for the Issy card, Whether it is a sibyl is another question. As far as the date of the niello, however, there is a lower limit much later than 1432. Finiguerra started doing niellos in about 1452, according to Goldsmith Phillips (p. xiii). If, as seems likely, the niello was influenced by a work in silver by Antonio Pollaiuolo, then the earliest date for it would be 1459. If the Issy card is influenced by the niello, then the 1460s is indicated, in a Florentine milieu.

Re: Who's in the Chariot?

I need to add something to my previous post. Looking at Zucker in The Illustrated Bartsch, Vol. 24 Commentary Part I, p. 205, I see that, talking about the Erythrean Sibyl, he says:
Both a sword and a starry circle, or globe, are among her standard attributes (Male, [L'art religieux de la fin du moyen age en France, 2d re. ed, Paris,] 1922, pp. 265-266; Reau [Ikonagraphie de l'art chretien, Paris, 1955-59], vol. 2, pt. 1, p. 427; Lexikon [der christlichen Ikonographie, Engelbert Kirschbum, ed., (continued by Wolfgang Braunsfels), Rome, Freiburg, Basel, and Vienna, 1968-76], vol. 4, col. 153.
Also, Finiguerra was in a position to have some familiarity with the Orsini paintings, given that his collaborator Pollaiuolo worked for Lorenzo de' Medici and Lorenzo appointed an Orsini as Archbishop of Florence in 1474 ( for the date of appointment; ... _dei_Pazzi for Medici role). So Poncet would seem to be on good grounds interpreting the Finiguerra niello as deriving from the Erythrean Sybil of the Palazzo Orsini.

On the other hand, I notice a distinct resemblance between the Charles VI Justice ( ... arles6.jpg) and the Baldini Erythrean Sibyl ( ... nSibyl.JPG), in the general pose and also especially in the face. It is as though Baldini borrowed from the image on the card, or vice versa.

I guess to know what this figure, female with globe and sword, is in a particular case, we have to know the context of its appearance in that case..

Re: Who's in the Chariot?

the shield of the niello supported by bears is that of the Orsini, the family of the cardinal that had the twelve sibyls depicted. A manuscript describing the famous painted series in his Roman palace reads: "Cardinal Orsini has made to be represented a bear under the feet of the first sibyl"
For the latest detailed discussion of Orsini's sibyl sequence and Baldini's adaptation see Charles Dempsey 's The Early Renaissance and Vernacular Culture (2012), chapters 3 and 4 and the Appendix. (at least half the book is given over to this subject). I actually bought the book for the earlier chapters, but its all of interest.

You can view some of it here via Google: ... CDYQ6AEwAQ

As for the globe - not sure how Ptolemy can figure too much into those gray representations where only towns/castles are shown (there is no "concentricness"). I believe the pairings with virtues merely means thay have universal applicability (e.g., Justice should mean the same thing the whole world over; same with Time of course...and Prudence or any other virtue; but each context begs the question as to why a given virtue is being elevated to a privledged/universal height over the others, if other virtues are present in the sequence).


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