Bolognese sequence

#1
The "synoptic" view of the tarot recognizes Michael Dummett's discovery that all the various orders, around 20, can be reduced to three families, which largely observe a threefold division of structure. His deductive arrangement is confirmed empirically by the fact that each family is identified with different geographical regions. With these observations he was able to identify three specific cities for each of the three families, which he called A, B and C. A for Bologna and everywhere south; B for Ferrara and everywhere east; C for Milan and everywhere west (and the rest of the European continent). Tom Tadfor Little coined the more descriptive terms Southern, Eastern and Western respectively for the families.

My own term, "synoptic", comes from seeing the trumps as a narrative, and likening the three families to the three synoptic gospels - the same basic form (the three parts), using the same sources (22 subjects of the cards) is presented in different ways, with different details (designs and orders) but still observing the same three overall divisions of subject matter.

I characterize these three divisions in the most general terms as -1) present state of the world (hierarchical or disordered); 2) moral example (or generalized as morality of active life until death); 3) the world to come (eschatological/apocalyptic).

These three divisions are expressed with three Petrarchan triumphs - triumphs of Love, Death and Eternity.

Here is an interpretation of the Bolognese sequence.

(Bolognese cards have been double-headed since the late 18th century, so our contemporary images are less informative than earlier ones. The images here are the earliest printed images for the Bolognese cards I know of - the Beaux-Arts and Rothschild sheets (c. 1500), a 17th century pack in the Bibliotheque national in Paris, and for Fortitude, an 18th century pack (around 1750).

The so-called Charles VI pack is very similar to the earliest printed Bolognese images, and is clearly of the A or Southern family, but lately opinion is leaning towards the cards being painted in Florence. However, please look at them as well, as the earliest examples of the Southern cards, perhaps as early as the 1450s.
)


http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/taro ... ries01.jpg

Triumph of Love - the Current State of the World
Love (concupiscible appetite, desire) triumphs over the whole world below - Popes, Emperors, the players of the game (Bagattino), Kings, and everyone below (the whole pack). Note that the Popes and Emperors are not ordered in listing the sequence - their "order" is determined in each round of play, thus illustrating the game of power in the current state of the world.


http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/taro ... ries02.jpg

Triumph of Death - a Moral Example (in de casibus form)
Death triumphs over everyone too, even those with the greatest virtue - the example of Caesar is shown. Although possessing all virtue and highly favored by Fortune, he imprudently ignored the oracles and signs and at an appointed Time he was Betrayed.


http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/taro ... ries03.jpg

Triumph of Eternity - the World to Come
Eternity triumphs over death and hell (Apocalypse 20:14). An apocalyptic scenario is shown in the final cards (each specific to the three families - in the Bolognese it is the Last Emperor).

The game is called “triumph(s)” because of the specific triumphs in it: Love triumphs over the unstable world (unordered Papi); Caesar triumphed (Chariot), but Fortune, at an appointed Time (Ides of March) betrayed him (Traitor, triumph of Death); finally the last Emperor will really triumph (World), and usher in the millennial age, before the resurrection (the ultimate triumph, over death and hell).

The game is in three parts – the present, the past (a famous exemplum), and the future. (This resembles the symbolism of three dice that Isidore attributes to dice players - the three dice represent present, past and future (Etymologies 18, lxiv ("The figurative sense of dicing")).

Game is a moral game with a political message. The rulers of the world (Papi), along with all of us, are playing a silly game (Bagattino – trifle). This is the confused state of the present world, and everyone is in servitude to Love (concupiscence).

An example is shown – Caesar the triumphator. He had all virtues – temperate, just, and courageous, but “he trusted in Fortune rather than Prudence” (Appian, Civil Wars 2,58) – so Fortune appears where we expect Prudence to complete the Cardinal Virtues (this is why they are grouped together - to make us anticipate the "missing" one). A specific Time, is uniquely famous in connection with his downfall (Ides of March (March 15) was prophesied to him (Plutarch Julius Caesar 63; Suetonius, Julius Caesar, 81), but he imprudently ignored it and was betrayed. Death ends the example (this is a moral example, not just a history lesson, so we should read it as a warning about trusting in fickle Fortune).

Then the next world is shown, and the world that is coming. Satan eats the damned (including Cassius, Brutus and Judas, the exemplary traitors). Satan will have power, but will be destroyed (Apocalypse 20:7-10; Gog and Magog). A new Emperor is coming, shown by the Morning Star, and signs in the heavens (eclipse (Moon)). Everything under the Sun is appointed a time by destiny (the Spinner symbolizes Fate); this Emperor will establish peace over the World. After that will come the end of time, at the Resurrection to judgment.

Ross
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Re: Bolognese sequence

#2
So you agree the underlying 'synoptic' story is a triumph of (Augustinian) Love - of Cupiditas (amor) and of Caritas (the Angel/judgment)?
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Bolognese sequence

#3
Hi Ross,

Thanks for this post, lots to think about here. One rudimentary question -- if the cards were originally unnumbered, when is the first evidence that this was the order used in the Bolognese version of the game? Are you using a later set of game rules, or are you using the cards once they are numbered, (or both)? In either case, are you then working inductively to conclude that they must have always been in that order?

Re: Bolognese sequence

#4
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:Game is a moral game with a political message...
An example is shown – Caesar the triumphator. He had all virtues – temperate, just, and courageous,
What is the basis for identifying the mercurial charioteer figure with Caesar? The type of devil (because the consuming devil is typically shown eating Caesars traitors) ?

I agree on the moral didactic nature of the tarot and its political nature; there are example of treatises intended for the 'education of princes' that are structured upon the cardinal virtuals and a famous exemplar (Charlemagne was a favourite) with which we might find comparison.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Bolognese sequence

#5
Hi RLG,
RLG wrote: Thanks for this post, lots to think about here. One rudimentary question -- if the cards were originally unnumbered, when is the first evidence that this was the order used in the Bolognese version of the game? Are you using a later set of game rules, or are you using the cards once they are numbered, (or both)?
The earliest listing of the full Bolognese order would be a copy of a manuscript detailing the rules for Partita, the oldest known Bolognese game, which persists today as "Ottocento". The manuscript's discoverer, Lorenzo Cuppi, dates the original on which the copy was based to the mid-16th century, while in their description of it, Dummett and McLeod suggest, to be safe, "late 16th century" (I don't know what difference it would make).

A transcription of the manscript is here, by Cuppi himself -
http://www.tretre.it/menu/accademia-del ... cento.html
In either case, are you then working inductively to conclude that they must have always been in that order?
Yes. But the circumstantial evidence of the conservatism of the Bolognese deck and game gives, in my opinion, a lot of weight to the logic. Briefly put, there is no reason to think otherwise.

In other words, we can't say "I don't know for sure, therefore they probably were in a different order." The weight of "don't know" should follow, in my opinion, inertia, or tendency - and that tendency is with stability of the order - just as it is with the designs, and the rules.

The Florentines move the Chariot up to immediately under the Wheel of Fortune by the end of the 15th century (a circa 1500 poem recently discovered by Thierry Depaulis - they have disposed of the Popess too here), and by mid-16th century they have rejected Tarot entirely for Minchiate, and have moved the Chariot to above the Wheel of Fortune. We see evolution at work in the changes in the order here in a member of the Southern family.
(of course depending on when the Charles VI and Catania cards were numbered (Florentine Minchiate order), they may have experimented with the Fortune-Chariot order earlier - in any case it seems big changes happened in Florence's version of the game around 1500, give or take a decade).

That's what I think, anyway.

Ross
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Re: Bolognese sequence

#6
Hi Steve,
SteveM wrote:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:Game is a moral game with a political message...
An example is shown – Caesar the triumphator. He had all virtues – temperate, just, and courageous,
What is the basis for identifying the mercurial charioteer figure with Caesar? The type of devil (because the consuming devil is typically shown eating Caesars traitors) ?
If you look closely he does not look so mercurial in the Rothschild sheet shown here (nor indeed in any Bolognese Chariot). He is holding an orb and a sword, and is fully armoured. No wings on the feet, no caduceus. The winged or tufted helmet is something I've seen on depictions of triumphators, but I hadn't thought to bring pictures proving that so I'll look.

It's the traitor himself - that was Julius Caesar's end, and brings an end to the exemplum, which is capped off by a triumph of Death.

Note that what I am calling the "Last Emperor" in the earliest Bolognese also is not mercurial - there is no caduceus nor wings on his feet. He has become mercurial by the 17th century though.
I agree on the moral didactic nature of the tarot and its political nature; there are example of treatises intended for the 'education of princes' that are structured upon the cardinal virtuals and a famous exemplar (Charlemagne was a favourite) with which we might find comparison.
I am less sure on the overtly "didactic" part now - but if it were invented in a court for a prince, then I would make that argument. I am thinking now that it is a moral example everyone would know and would find clever in a game, although what level of reflection was intended by the designer depends on the intended audience.

Ross
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Re: Bolognese sequence

#7
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:...if it were invented in a court for a prince, then I would make that argument. I am thinking now that it is a moral example everyone would know and would find clever in a game, although what level of reflection was intended by the designer depends on the intended audience.

Ross
Not sure what you mean, how would a moral example for a prince differ in particular from a morality that everyone would know?
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Bolognese sequence

#8
SteveM wrote:[...there are example of treatises intended for the 'education of princes' that are structured upon the cardinal virtuals and a famous exemplar (Charlemagne was a favourite) with which we might find comparison.

For example Karolinus by Giles of Paris, c.1200; in which Charlemagne is used as an exemplar for King Louis VIII:

“The Karolinus is a didactive model to the future King Louis VIII. The poem is divided into five books: the first four describe the way the emperor had been exercising the four cardinal virtues his entire life, while the last book invites the young prince to become a new Charlemagne...

“...First , ...the entire structure is arranged according to the scheme of the four cardinal virtues... Second (it) is constructed from beginning to end according to the portrait of Charlemagne...(a common figure in contemporary Chanson de Geste)....

"The four wheels of the chariot of contemplation symbolise the four cardinal virtues discussed in the first four books. The fifth book is the bodywork, with the reader of the poem as rider and the horse as the amor bene vide..

"...to each of the first four books he assigns one particular virtue, first announced at the beginning of the book and recalled at the end of it. In this way, Giles successively deals with Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance; showing attention to detail, he makes each book begin with the first letter of the virtue it describes."

Quoted from:
“Virtue and ethics in the twelfth century” edited by Bejczy and Newhauser
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Bolognese sequence

#9
SteveM wrote:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:...if it were invented in a court for a prince, then I would make that argument. I am thinking now that it is a moral example everyone would know and would find clever in a game, although what level of reflection was intended by the designer depends on the intended audience.

Ross
Not sure what you mean, how would a moral example for a prince differ in particular from a morality that everyone would know?
The former is intended for instruction through entertainment, the latter is only for entertainment, but in order to play it, or understand it, there is the presumption of already having the necessary instruction.

That's what I meant by the "level of reflection" intended by designer depends on the intended audience - young impressionable minds, in the process of education, might be expected to think about the meaning of the images and the play; a different audience might only be expected to be able to discern the reason for the symbols chosen for the order and think "how clever"!

I guess a good analogy is the educational comic-book versus the political cartoon.

Ross
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Re: Bolognese sequence

#10
According to Michael's reading of the Tarot de Marseille, the Star announces the Advent of Christ. In fact, Jesus seems to appear on the World card in the earliest TdMs - Sforza Castle, Noblet. He also seems to be represented in the Vieville.

There might be an interpretative key here - the Star announces the Advent of the figure on the World card. Thus there are progressive degrees of brightness - Star, Moon, Sun, ... - until one "brighter than the Sun" appears. Think of the four opening chords of Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" for the intended effect.

This figure may be linked with a prophetic title, Sol Iustitiae, "Sun of Justice", from Malachi 4:2 ("Sun of Righteousness" in the King James Bible). Christian tradition always identified this title with Jesus, but in the later middle ages it began to be applied to earthly rulers as well. It was closely connected with the idea of divine kingship.

Lorenzo Valla also characterized the beatified soul, in its Triumphal entry into Heaven, as "brighter than the Sun" in 1434 (in De Voluptate, xxv,9-13). This image of the triumphant soul had become personalized, and not limited to Kings or to Christ.

So I can see three possible ways of using the principle of progressive degrees of brightness, leading to one "brighter than the Sun", to interpret the A and C orders.

The Florentine cards, beginning with the Charles VI and Catania, then in printed form in the Rosenwald, seem to have the Glory of the Beatified Soul in mind (this may also be the case in the Cary Yale, while in the Visconti-Sforza it is the City, whether the Heavenly Jerusalem or a conflation of this with an idealized earthly city, perhaps Milan).

The early TdMs have Jesus, while the later ones have what might be interpreted either as the Bride (celestial Jerusalem) or the beatified soul (anima/psyche = female).

The Bolognese design in the Rothschild sheet appears to me to be a World Emperor (like Frederick II's title "Stupor Mundi", the Wonder of the World), while in later decks he has clearly become Mercury (with a Caduceus). As Mercury he makes no sense to me, but as an Emperor we can interpret it as an advent of the "Sol Justitiae".

Ross
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