Bolognese Magi frescoes

Huck wrote: Do you've any pictures in churches of Bologna, which focus the theme around this time?

Generally it's said, that Bologna worked into dependency of Florence after it it took Sante as regent. Cosimo/Piero set a big sign with their family chapel, there was even a 3 Magi triumphal activity in Florence in 1465 (precise date is not known). It's logical that Bologna took the 3 Magi of Florence - then, not earlier.
Here is the closest one I have temporally, from the Cappella Bolognini, dedicated to the Three Magi, painted by Giovanni di Pietro Falloppi (or Giovanni da Modena) around 1410 (there are others, it is part of a cycle of their whole journey):
Image ... _03/09.jpg ... 008_01_03/ ... _sirk.html
(I take them to be at the far right) ... urnma.html
Cappella dei Re Magi, già Bolognini: transenna marmorea gotica disegnata da Antonio di Vincenzo (1400); sull'altare Polittico ligneo con ventisette figure intagliate e altre dipinte, opera di Jacopo di Paolo. Le pareti furono affrescate da Giovanni di Pietro Falloppi con un ciclo raffigurante: Episodi della vita di San Petronio, nella parete di fondo; Storie dei Re Magi, nella parete destra, e Il giudizio universale a sinistra, con l'Incoronazione della Vergine in mandorla, in alto, Il Paradiso e l'Inferno, in basso, raffigurazione di tipo dantesco, con una gigantesca figura di Lucifero.

There are not many pictures of the Cappella Bolognini on the web - it is hard to photograph well since there is a grate and it always seems to be locked (and the frescoes go very high, so photography from the floor will always be distorted). This is the chapel with the infamous picture of Mohammed being dragged by a demon, so I guess that is part of the reason it is locked.

I don't know if it is necessary to accomodate Muslim offense, but if it is deemed worthy my solution would be to simply erase the letters "mahomet" spelled below the figure. There is no other way to really identify who it is supposed to be, just a generic victim of Hell.

Can we draw any conclusions from these images? At least one - these King-Mages were NOT the inspiration for the Bolognese Star card.

Re: Bolognese Magi frescoes

Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: Can we draw any conclusions from these images? At least one - these King-Mages were NOT the inspiration for the Bolognese Star card.
Well ... would be nice to know the precise circumstances, when the chapel got the name ... in which political situation, which was often changing in Bologna. Bologna got to Milan again in 1402 after the battle, but probably not for long. Do you have a good source about it?

Re: Bolognese Magi frescoes

Huck wrote:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: Can we draw any conclusions from these images? At least one - these King-Mages were NOT the inspiration for the Bolognese Star card.
Well ... would be nice to know the precise circumstances, when the chapel got the name ... in which political situation, which was often changing in Bologna. Bologna got to Milan again in 1402 after the battle, but probably not for long. Do you have a good source about it?
It seems to be common knowledge - Bartolomeo Bolognini left instructions for what was to be painted in the chapel, in his will (he died in 1408, and painting began then).

Besides being all over the internet (without citations), this older source - ... 2/mode/2up

seems to quote from his testament. I'll have a look at it after dinner (it also has better, fuller, pictures, if old and black-and-white, of the frescoes).


Re: Bolognese sequence

1408 (May) was the year, when Baldassare Cossa (who allowed playing cards in Bologna) and cardinal Peter of Candia (earlier as diplomat in Bohemia in 1395 for the interest of Giangaleazzo - he knew about Bohemian playing cards -, as archbishop in Milan and as master of Uberto Decembrio), plotted together against the current Eastern Pope. The result was finally a new 3rd Pope in 1409 as Alexander V. (= Peter of Candia) with personal Milanese history and personal experiences, how it was in Germany with the 3 holy kings.

And yesterday I made jokes about the Kölschen Bierbrauer, which had made a Peter of Mailand their patron for their guild in 1396 (one year after Peter of Candia was in Bohemia).

Peter of Candia died 10 monthes after his election, possibly poisoned by Baldassare Cossa ... in Bologna.

The dedication of the Bolognini chapel to the 3 holy kings in Bologna isn't so accidently, I would say. One could call it Milanese and German influences.

Baldassare Cossa had been rather often in Bologna:
(1) 1. COSSA, Baldassare (1360/1370-1419)

Birth. 1360/1370, Ischia, Naples. Son of Giovanni Cossa, signore of the isle of Procida, and Cicciola Barile. He had three brothers. The family had a reputation as pirates. His first name is also listed as Baldassarre and his last name as Coscia. Distant relative of Pope Bonifacius IV on his mother's side.

Education. Studied theology in Rome; obtained a doctorate in law at the University of Bologna shortly before 1389.

Early life. Canon of the cathedral chapter of Bologna by 1386. Papal chamberlain in 1392. Archdeacon of Bologna in 1396. Protonotary apostolic. Auditor of the Sacred Roman Rota.

Sacred orders. (No information found).

Cardinalate. Created cardinal deacon of S. Eustachio in the consistory of February 27, 1402. Named legate in Romagna, he left Rome March 17, 1403; he was charged with the recovering the city that was under the Visconti; the cardinal took control of the city in September 1403; Popes Innocent VII and Gregory XII confirmed his legation; later, in 1408, he was deprived of the legation by Pope Gregory XII; Antipope Alexander V reestablished his legation and named him vicar of Bologna. Did not participate in the conclaves of 1404 and 1406, which elected Popes Innocent VII and Gregory XII respectively. In 1408, he abandoned the obedience of Pope Gregory XII, taking with him in his defection many other cardinals, prelates and private persons. He worked strenuously for the celebration of a council in Pisa, which took place in March 1409; he was the grand elector in the conclave that followed the deposition of Pope Gregory XII and Antipope Benedict XIII by the council. Took part in the election of Antipope Alexander V on June 26, 1409. He left Pisa on July 11, 1409 and returned the following August 8. The new antipope was not able to enter Rome because of the support of Ladislas of Durazzo for Pope Gregory XII; in opposition to Ladislas, Pisa supported Louis II of Anjou as king of Naples; Cardinal Cossa led the battle against Ladislas and entered Rome in October 1409; after his victory, he returned home to Bologna; Antipope Alexander V joined him in Bologna; on December 26, Cardinal Cossa entered Pistoia, where the curia was. Antipope Alexander V died in Bologna of natural causes on May 3, 1410. Participated in the conclave of 1410 and was elected antipope.

Antipapcy. Elected antipope on May 17, 1410 in Bologna. Took the name John XXIII (1).

Priesthood. Ordained on Saturday May 24, 1410 in the Apostolic Palace in Bologna.

Episcopate. Consecrated, Sunday May 25, 1410 in the cathedral of S. Petronio, Bologna, by Cardinal Jean Franczon Allarmet de Brogny, bishop of Ostia and Velletri, dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals and vice-chancellor of the Holy Roman Church. Crowned on the same day in front of the door of the catedral of Bologna by Rinaldo Brancacci, protodeacon of Ss. Vito e Modesto.

Ross' Bolognese-origin Theory

Hi, Ross,

I just switched to Windows 7 and am (for some time to come, no doubt) spending my discretionary time trying to get things back to a semblance of normalcy. (My recommendation for those running XP -- you might want to wait until you buy a new computer.) Pardon any delays in responding.

Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:Let me try again.

No, the interpretation is not entirely different from what I was thinking of when I began writing Antonio da Rho's invention of the game for Bianca Maria.
As best I can tell from our emails, that name first came up about a year ago, two years into our conversations about your Bolognese-origin theory. It seems to be a minor element, involving only your illustrative but fictional origin myth. As far as I am aware it plays no part in either the historical or iconographic analyses.

When you first denied that I ever had or ever would support your theory I stated the obvious, that I supported it fanatically for years. In reply, you claimed that the only thing I liked was the imaginary part, like Moakley's "Undocumented Prelude". That is, I rejected all the historical findings and conclusions, all of your iconographic analyses, and only liked the origin myth. Your insistence on that astounding falsehood is the reason we're no longer on speaking terms offlist, and why the term "insane" is a charitable description. (Other characterizations seem significantly worse.)

If the corpus of historical findings and conclusions are an important part of whatever you now define as your Bolognese-origin theory, then the FACT is that I do not reject any of it, except for the final step, that Tarot originated in Bologna. IMO, your historical positions range from very sound to at least plausible, with that single exception.

If the constellation of iconographic findings and conclusions are an important part of whatever you now define as your Bolognese-origin theory, then the FACT is that I do not reject any of the "big picture" ideas you presented during the 2-1/2 years we were discussing it. IMO your iconographic ideas ranged from sound to at least plausible. Obviously, something like your denial of the obvious meaning of the Bolognese Star card is an exception. Fortunately, it appears that you are now couching your political allegory in terms of the actual meaning of the image, although you still consider that obvious meaning to be a possible secondary allusion. This is the opposite of a rational analysis, in which the obvious meaning is taken as primary and the far-fetched political allegory is offered as a possible secondary allusion, but it's a step in the right direction.

However, the most valuable element -- reading the genre of the trump cycle as speculum principis -- appears to be something you did not intend. In your mind it was just an entertaining bit of fiction as part of your origin myth, and I had mistakenly given you credit for far more insight than you were actually demonstrating. (LOL -- so both parts of "your" iconographic analysis that I raved about, the speculum principis genre that I projected on your interpretation, as well as the Third Advent parallels which I argued were great support for the S-P reading, were actually my own ideas. No wonder I liked them so much!)

When it comes to the origin myth about Antonio da Rho, I don't care much, one way or the other. I thought it was a very good story but, given the fact that I don't accept the central premise, it's a good fictional narrative serving to make your Bolognese-origin theory appear stronger than it really is. Is that a good thing or a bad one?

So your claim about the fictional part being the only aspect of your theory I liked is, as so many of your recent claims, almost the exact opposite of the truth. The facts are that I supported the historical and iconographic stuff for years, even before 2007 when I saw how the pieces fit together. You claim exactly the opposite, and then you object to my calling your claims "insanity", and accuse me of "ad hominem", yet another false and defamatory charge.

(I'll include an ad hominem addendum discussing this point at the end of this post.)

So I'm open to alternative terms. If this isn't insanity, what is it? Every alternative term I can think of, and I can think of many, sounds much worse. Just tell me what explains your bizarre claims and I'll use any term you want, as long as it accurately conveys that you are posting flagrant falsehoods about me along with some minor bits of silliness like denying the obvious meaning of the Bolognese Star card.

If you're just saying this stuff to annoy me, to stop me from posting, you should know it doesn't work that way. For example, back in the old TarotL days Christine posted stupidly false things several times a day and I had a ball just pointing them out, quoting what she and I had actually written, comparing her claims with the truth, over and over. For example, back in the old LTarot days I reviewed two years of Diane's posts and every other essay she had on the Web, then went to the library to check out every one of her claims re the fraudulent Gerson quote, and posted the results (including her quotes and my references) to catalog a dozen different deceptions on that single bogus "finding". You know that I feel an obligation to point out demonstrably false claims, even if I have better things to do with my time. (For example, this Win7 upgrade created a world of problems to be solved, files that need to be found, programs to be reinstalled and configured the way I had them, etc., just to get back to where I was last week.)
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:Wasn't it just my version of the "undocumented prelude", the suggestion that the game was intended to be a speculum principis?
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:You were never going to buy my interpretation - even in its Antonio da Rho incarnation, it was going to be essentially the Bolognese order and subjects - but I hadn't figured out the feminine changes and additions yet. The only difference now is that I have a better reason to believe it was Bolognese to begin with. Even without wasting my time any more on history, it was already going to be that.

... you didn't seem to mind [indirect evidence] when it was Antonio da Rho inventing Tarot as a game for Bianca Maria Visconti.
In terms of presenting these two ideas to me, the speculum principis interpretation of the deck was first mentioned on January 3, 2007, while the Antonio da Rho origin myth was first mentioned on December 23, 2008. They were not conjoined, and I've never made the literalistic association that you do, insisting that a literary genre was necessarily defined by details of a work's origin. Partly because the Antonio da Rho story was a very late addition to our conversation, and partly because the term "Mirror for Princes" is a title and a genre, indicating a type of work rather than the circumstances of its origin, I never considered them connected. I really don't care much about the origin myth, and its details are unimportant.

On the other hand, correctly identifying the genre of a work is crucially important. In this regard I highly recommend Gombrich's essay, "Aims and Limits of Iconology", the opening chapter in Symbolic Images: Studies in the Art of the Renaissance. Genre and the notion of decorum are central to what was most valuable about your former interpretation, or rather, what I thought was your interpretation. (It now appears that I gave you far too much credit, and that your interpretation never was what I had thought it to be.) Here's the short version:

James Revak had an interesting idea, that the trump cycle could be usefully interpreted in terms of a single triumphator rather than a succession of allegorical triumphs. Unfortunately, AFAIK, he never followed up on it in any detail. You had, I mistakenly believed, made a significant improvement on that idea, suggesting a single triumphator and a speculum principis genre for interpreting the trump cycle. This offered a number of paths for interpreting the trumps, but it created a problem because of the design of the series. It shows the triumphator being betrayed and dying, which seemed to violate decorum -- it was not fitting. I pointed this out and tried to explain why it was problematic. Then later, when I read Kipling, I answered my own objection, resoundingly. Kipling's examples were precisely on point, and made that weakness into a great strength. I had grossly overstated the supposed weakness to begin with. I should have known better, (from the pervasive De Casibus and Triumph of Death works), than to think that was a problem. But Kipling is spectacular. Not surprisingly, the perfection of his examples is precisely the reason you discount him. (See below for a discussion of that.)

But none of that had to do with the origin myth. It was a matter of genre.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:In particular the Papi interpretation remains, the Bagato remains as the trifler at the table at which the powers of the world play, and the final section is a Triumph of somebody other than Christ (in the World card, and counting the Angel as "Eternity" or the Godhead/Trinity, in an allusive way). What is significantly different is the middle section - it is still a Triumph of Death, but the cards Chariot to Traitor are a single exemplum.

In the earlier interpretation, which I still hold to be valid for the earliest Florentine cards, the final section is a Triumph of the soul.
I don't know what you mean by a single exemplum, unless you are referring to the single-triumphator idea, and I thought that was always the primary distinguishing feature of your interpretation. This sets your interpretation apart from Moakley or myself, who interpret the sequence as a series of triumphs rather than a single triumphator with accompanying audience, captives, allegorical supporting cast, etc.

As an aside, I've never liked any explanation of the Papi I've read. Personally, I doubt that there ever was any coherent meaning to decks which have that feature. It looks very much like a kludge, a corruption intended to solve a specific problem -- that nasty Popess. As such, Bolognese decks may be no more coherently designed than those which have Juno and Jupiter, Bacchus and the Spanish Captain, or four Moors. The Popess problem resulted in various substitutions and reorderings, but it is certainly worth making the attempt to find a good explanation for each of them. The "Triumph of the Soul" view of the highest cards works in a vague way, but you have yet to make a detailed presentation of the highest trumps that explains these subjects and their order. You have a big picture thesis, the Triumph of the Soul, and you have details but, as I've seen them, they don't add up. On the other hand, I have no good alternative explanation for the Papi and have not "rejected" either part of your interpretation. I would simply call them weak parts of the overall theory, nothing to be enthusiastic about. Then there is The Star.

Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:I interpret the Star with a principle you have always insisted on elsewhere (sometimes to absurd results like interpreting the Charles VI World as Prudence (I know, from Shephard)), namely, "context determines meaning over isolated interpretation."
Yes, I've often said, "context counts". And you give a good example: Four figures wear the polygonal halos most commonly associated with the virtues; three of the four are three of the four Cardinal Virtues; the fourth figure is on the highest ranking card while the missing Cardinal Virtue is the highest-ranking. It is a pretty obvious allusion, in context, and it has been independently noted by several writers, including even some occultists. The obvious answer may sometimes be incorrect, but it is never "absurd". Being quick to reject the face value meaning of images is the primary reason why the study of Tarot symbolism does not progress.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:So, you see a Star and three figures, and immediately recognize Magi. The fact that they do not bear gifts in the traditional way, but insignia of power, and the fact that only one is crowned as a King, and they are in a strange configuration, cannot override the primary reaction. So, it has to represent the Star of Bethlehem. Therefore, Christ must be coming, and must be represented later in the sequence.
I don't know about all that, but the Star has certainly been a symbol of Advent (entry or "coming") for about 2,500 years, (cf. the Star of Jacob in Numbers), which can be readily incorporated into an interpretation based on a single triumphator and a Third Advent procession. As for the imperial (closed) crown and the globus cruciger, these are conventional symbols of supreme power and sovereignty, often held by the King of Kings. These three kings of Orient are displaying them in recognition of the coming of a superior authority -- it is hardly obscure.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:In the Tarot de Marseille you find your Christ on the World card, justifying your Star interpretation, even if you have a different problem to interpret the vignette below, which looks like Aquarius. But in the Beaux-Arts and Rothschild sheets, and in all Bolognese decks, and in A in general, the figure that appears on the World card cannot in any sense be interpreted as Christ.

It seems like a good principle to suggest, for all coherent decks (those designed to tell a coherent story), that the Star should announce the advent of whoever appears on the World card.
A priori, it's an interesting idea. This rule or "principle" is something to look for, although it would seem to carry no weight. It either accurately describes a given deck or it does not.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:So in the earliest Florentine decks and the Rosenwald, I interpret the advent as the coming apotheosis or deification of the triumphant soul, portrayed as Glory/Fame (from the proverbial "new star in the heavens" when someone renowned dies). In Bologna, I interpret it as a World Emperor. I think by the time of the Minchiate decks, it is clear that a Magus was intended, since he looks like one and carries a gift in the traditional cup-shaped vessel. But the figure on the World card again is not Christ - my interpretation is that the tradition lost the force of the meaning, or corrupted the (iconographical) narrative, since it either *should* be Christ, as in Tarot de Marseille, or it *should not* be a traditional-looking Magus. That is, unless a Magus and Star could indeed stand for the advent of any divinized soul, which, as I said, I take to be the original meaning of the earliest Florentine cards (Charles VI, Catania).

So the reason there are gifts of Imperial insignia rather than cups of incense and gold on the Bologna Star card, and the reason for the incongruities with traditional portrayals of the Magi, is because they are meant for the advent of the coming World Emperor shown on the World card.
As I said, I would call it a weak part of your theory. It seems rather arbitrary in the absence of either a coherent card-by-card reading of the highest trumps or a good literary or pictorial cognate. It is better than most readings (faint praise), but, as I emphasized from Day One, it was not any particular part of your theory that was so appealing. It was the combination of excellent history with better-than-usual iconography into a complete package, along with the emphasis on a less prominent place and deck, that made your Bologna-origin theory appealing. As such, it would be the first such presentation since 1966.

I'm a fan of Shephard and Betts, although their iconographic theories verged on being crackpot, and their occasional historical revelations were almost incidental and isolated. They were not nearly as impressive as Moakley in creating an overall picture of Tarot's historical meaning.

Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:Following your lead (as you have done everywhere but in this case), I have not taken the card in isolation, but interpreted it accordance with the iconography of the rest of the sequence.
The detailed, card-by-card reading of "the rest of the sequence" is something that I would want to see before making any comment on your new theory. It is something I was waiting for in regard to your 2007-2008 interpretation.

However, you are implying that I've never interpreted cards in isolation. It's reassuring, in a way, to know that you have misunderstood that aspect of my approach all these years as badly as I've obviously misunderstood your interpretation of the Bolognese trumps.

There are many contexts to be considered in any given case. For example, the multitude of decks, reported orderings, and names given the trumps are a crucial context. This historical context is one of the many important contributions Dummett made to Tarot iconography. This context establishes, for example, the core (generic or synoptic) meaning of the standard trump subjects. Some are pretty narrowly defined, like the Moon. It's always the Moon regardless of the illustration. The subject known as the Hunchback, Old Man, Time, Hermit, or whatever, is a much fuzzier conception; but it is still recognizable across most decks. However, just looking at the images, in isolation, is the primary way all the "easy ones" are initially figured out, and some of the hard ones as well.

Fool -- allegory of Folly
Mountebank -- allegory of Deception
Popess -- allegory of Church
Empress -- allegory of State
Emperor -- leader of State
Pope -- leader of Church

Love -- allegory of Love
Chariot -- allegory of Triumph
Justice -- allegory of Justice
Hermit/Time -- allegory of Renunciation or Time
Wheel -- allegory of Fortune
Strength -- allegory of Fortitude
Traitor -- allegory of Betrayal
Death -- allegory of Death
Temperance -- allegory of Temperance

This is the first iteration brainstorming. Between Waite and Moakley, we had enough information to divide the trumps into three groups, as Dummett did in 1980, and posit a reasonable meaning for each card, each section, and the overall design of a generic, "archetypal" Tarot deck. After that, each individual deck must be considered in its own right, as a unique design which may or may not have a more detailed and coherent meaning. Admittedly, most online Tarot enthusiasts are still revisiting what Waite and Moakley did, endlessly brainstorming, (vastly easier today, with Google and the Internet), hoping to find some secret "key", a long-lost cognate to one of the trumps which will unlock the mysteries, etc. But Waite, Moakley, Kaplan, and Dummett did enough of that kind of brainstorming to answer most questions. Rather than more exploratory thinking, what has been needed since the 1980s is more critical thinking, narrowing down the alternatives rather than adding more and more far-fetched and obscure "possibilities".

That is what requires looking at the sequential context, finding the greater meaning. But it is by initially identifying the easy meanings, which we can do because they are pretty obvious, that we have a context in which to evaluate the hard ones and the role of individual subjects in the hierarchy. These easy ones are "face value" interpretations, in isolation, and any reading which gets too far away from them in the later stages of analysis is questionable, at best.

The cards in the highest section tend to show some strange subjects, but some of them are quite readily interpreted in isolation. For example, Marco recently correctly identified the Catelin Geoffroy Fire card as illustrating Orpheus and Eurydice. When we see a man in a barrel on the Sun card, we know, without reference to the rest of the sequence, who that figure represents.

Even in an arcane example, a very "hard one" like your Victor Belli reading of the Visconti Strength card iconography, it did not rely on the iconography of the rest of the sequence. It relied on context, but in a far more obscure way, tying together an astrology illustration with facts about the family for whom the deck was made.

After having identified most of these subjects as best we can in this manner, we must look at the sequential context within a given trump cycle to help figure out 1) the significance of the face-value meaning in that sequential context, and 2) the meaning of the more obscure or ambiguous subjects.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:If you think this is absurd you either have to force the World-figure to be Christ, a priori and without any cognates, or you have to suggest that the Bolognese tradition thoroughly corrupted the World card (but not the Star card) at some point earlier than the Beaux-Arts sheet. Or, finally, you can suggest that the "principle" of the Star announcing the advent is nonsense and only works for the Tarot de Marseille, and that in Bologna the Star alone is sufficient to represent Christ.
I think that ignoring the obvious meaning of the Bolognese Star card is absurd. (Apparently you are coming to agree with that point, seeming to be more friendly toward that obvious reading in your recent remarks.) As for the rest, it is not absurd; it is simply not convincing.

First, I don't think that there is any "rule" about the Star identifying the World. If in a given case it works, great, but as a rule for all decks, and given the extant historical decks, I think your rule is bunk. Nice idea, but it just doesn't work. It's a nice idea waiting for an argument to support it, because I don't think you make a good case for it in any actual deck.

Second, I do believe that the Bolognese pattern is very corrupt, but mainly as regards the Papi. A new game with a hierarchy of allegorical trumps, i.e., Tarot when it was first invented, would have hierarchical trumps. And they would be fairly distinctive. Those are the main elements of a set of trumps, they are sequential and they are distinctive. The Papi are neither. This is a later innovation, a derivative deck, and we know from the history of the Popess the reason for the innovations.

Third, in most decks we see novel conflation of exogenous subject matter into the trumps. I gave some examples above. The Sun is still the Tarot trump subject, the Sun, even when it is conflated with Diogenes of Sinope. Such ad hoc conflations do not change the entire design of the trump cycle. They may, in some cases, elaborate on the underlying allegory, but they may not. In my view, each locale wanted it's own version of Tarot, a civic pride deck, and as such they (usually) kept the subjects more or less intact but tweaked the illustrations and the ordering in various ways. These may or may not have been intended to result in a coherent narrative structure.

Given that kind of conflation of subject matter, the single most obvious choice for illustrating the Star card, regardless of the rest of the deck, would be three guys with symbols of sovereignty, to signify the King of Kings. (If you were making a classicized deck, the most obvious choice would be Venus.) It is an obvious choice for the same reason that Diogenes is, only more so: there is a well-known story connecting Diogenes with the Sun, and there is a much more well-known story connecting the three Wise Men with the Star.

Fourth, anyone recognizing the general gist of the highest trump subjects, from the Devil, the Tower or Fire from Heaven, through the World and Last Judgment, would find the Star of Bethlehem an appropriate allusion at this point.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:Whatever your answer, I don't think mine is absurd, and I think that even the suggestion of Magi is deliberate, as are the incongruities with normal depictions - in order to make it clear that it is not Christ whose advent is meant. But it is certainly somebody Christian.
The figures on the Star have an obvious reference. Rejecting the obvious is absurd. Your rule about the Star/World connection seems arbitrary. There are many other possibilities if we are going to brainstorm for more obscure readings.

For example, just to give an indication of alternatives, let's assume that this is one of many different Tarot decks, with no a priori judgment about it being either original or having coherently integrated symbolism. The cards show the generic Tarot subjects, conflated with ad hoc symbolism that just happens to fit with those Tarot subjects. For example, the Sun might show Diogenes, not because he makes a contribution to an overall design but simply because he is appropriate to the Sun and the Sun is the subject of the card. (This kind of arbitrary conflation is something you seem to have considered recently: you described it as cards in most are even all traditions, at least the Star, Moon, and Sun, might contain two elements, one which you termed "essential" and one which you termed "variable".) What might we say about the highest trumps in the Bologna deck, individually and perhaps in terms of their relationships with each other?

First, the overall sequence is standard except for the Angel of Resurrection being the highest trump. This puts an in-your-face Christian capstone on the hierarchy. (O'Neill argued emphatically that this was a "Christianizing" of the original Pagan design.) The individual images are very suggestive. The Traitor has money bags, suggesting conflation with Judas. Death rides a buffalo, indicating conflation with the Petrarchian tradition of a wagon pulled by that animal. The devil has a figure in its mouth, perhaps alluding to Dante's Satan who chews on Judas. That might connect the three cards. It might not.

The Tower, Star, and Moon appear to have two spheres in the upper corners, as do the Wheel and Chariot. I seem to recall someone having presented a good explanation for those two spheres, but I don't remember what it was. The Star shows three Wise Men with symbols of sovereignty, suitable for the King of Kings.

The next three cards suggest classical conflations, perhaps from Plato's Republic. The Moon shows two astrologers, crowned with laurel wreaths, surveying the heavens. One of them holds an armillary sphere, illustrating the heavens. The figure on the Sun is spinning. As I suggested at one point in our conversations, this spindle may be related to Plato's Spindle of Necessity (Spindle of Fate). In fact, there may be more conflation going on that a simple explanation allows. The astrologers hold a compass and a square, but in conjunction with the spinner on the Sun and their own "spindle", the armillary sphere, they strongly resemble the three Fates, one spinning, one with a measuring device, the square, and a third with scissors (the dividers) to cut. Again, the cards might be connected... might not.

An interesting, perhaps significant thing to notice about the World card is that is depicts three worlds. Two of them are T-0 globes, and the third is the one made of the four Elements. IF the figure is Mercury, then he does indeed offer a kind of parallel with the Star card. As messenger of the gods, "Mercury Herald" is more than just the name of newspapers; it is one of his primary roles. In this case, he appears to herald the coming Last Judgment to three worlds, a mundane one upon which he stands (with the four elements), a Christian one on the right (surmounted with a cross) and a Pagan one on the left (with wings). That kind of classicized conflation of elements seems no more ad hoc than your interpretations.

And because the symbols employed are ambiguous, other readings can be brought in as alternatives or additions. Consider these lines from the conclusion of Petrarch's Triumph of Fame:
-- 'Gainst him of Syros, who raised human hopes,
Claiming the immortality of the soul,
Came Epicurus (whence his fame is less)
-- Who dared to argue that it was not true?
So infamous and blinded was his light!?
And those who followed him, as Metrodorus
-- And Aristippus, held to their master's thought.
Then with a marvelous spindle and weaver's beam
I saw Chrysippus weaving a subtle web.
-- Antisthenes and Anaximenes
I saw, Anaximander, and then Zeno,
Now with close fist and now with open palm,
-- Stating the fair opinion that he held.
Chrysippus was a seminal Stoic philosopher who argued that all things are governed by fate, the subtle web. This passage marks the transition from the Triumph of Fame to the Triumph of Time, which for Petrarch was symbolized by the Sun. This could be spun into an explanation for the subject matter on the cards.

The point here is not to argue for any of these readings, but simply to illustrate how readily alternatives are found, and how they may be justified as isolated conflations in a derivative deck rather than a faintly coherent design in the Ur Tarot. Anyone with a smidgen of background knowledge and imagination could take some of the above ideas and run with them, creating alternatives with as much plausibility (i.e., modest) as your readings.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
If none of our discussions of the last three years are relevant, then that is a totally different matter. Since I didn't know this new interpretation even existed, I obviously could not have given you any feedback on it.
You knew, but you have ignored it. Most of what I'm saying has been up here on this thread since August, and I pointed you to it back in August.
LOL -- gosh. Why would I ignore your new theory, after you dismissed my previous 2-1/2 years of active interest, support, and encouragement as nothing at all? August is a month after I stopped posting here, about three months after I stopped posting to my own blog. I do check in from time to time, when someone draws my attention to something, but I haven't been following anything closely, and certainly not your new theory. That's why I declined to comment in any broad way about your new theory, and denied that I had rejected it. (That was the main point of my last post.)

As I've now said and illustrated repeatedly, I did not reject your earlier theory, and I don't know nearly enough about the new one to make any overall comment. Now that I understand that you never actually proposed the speculum principis idea as the genre of the trump cycle, and don't now, combined with the fact that you dismiss all our previous conversations as no feedback, no help, critique, or review, I'm really not interested spending another several years following your new theory. No offense, but what's the point?

I wish you well with it, and I'll buy the book.

Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
Likewise, if your current views are unrelated to what you were proposing and we were discussing in 2007 and 2008, and if you now reject what was your central thesis, (i.e., a Mirror for Princes interpretation of Tarot's genre, in the context of "Third Advent" entry processions), then I have no basis on which to comment.

Mirror for Princes for me was always part of an invention scenario for a prince. You can try to widen it into a general moral statement for a wider public and hold on to the speculum principis genre,
We don't have to try too hard. From Boccaccio's 14th-century De Casibus and Chaucer's Monk's Tale to the Mirror for Magistrates genre in the 16th century, these were histories, lessons for nobles, lessons for Everyman, political discourse and polemic, and most of all best sellers.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:but I don't see the point of holding on to a genre identification if my preferred scenario is no longer for a prince in a court. I don't understand why you think "speculum principis" is any more inherently "likely" than political allegory or social commentary.
So you're asking why would something timeless, of universal import, a common genre known to all, be more fitting for a popular game than something transient, local, unique, and so obscure and unreadable that no one has any idea what it means? Hmmm...

The reason why the speculum principis genre makes the single-triumphator idea plausible is precisely because it generalizes it. You are now taking it in the opposite direction, making is less suitable for a popular game of cards.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:For the "Third Advent" of Kipling's model for interpreting royal entries, I noted to you long ago one of my main reservations - he himself in his preface explains why he *excludes* the Italian Triumphs from consideration in his book - basically, because they don't fit the scheme he is using! If the Italian triumphs of Alfonso or Borso or Pius II could fit in the Second or Third Advent scheme, he would have included them.

He didn't, which always made me hesitate to take it as my model for the tarot trumps. I had to learn more about the Italian triumphs to find out why they were "different", and didn't work for Kipling. Tarot is Italian, so if the triumphal entries were to give any insight into the tarot trumps, it is to the Italian triumphal entries I had to look.
What did Kipling actually say -- why did he exclude the Italian entries like Alfonso's? Why didn't they fit with his examples, the subject of his book? And how does that relate to Tarot?

The Italian royal entries were more Classical, i.e., Renaissance, modeled on ancient Roman triumphs. The Northern examples catalogued by Kipling were more medieval and, crucially significant here, profoundly Christian. Kipling's book was focused on the archaic examples, which were later replaced by the characteristically Renaissance processions that began in Italy. That medieval Christian sensibility is precisely what we find in Tarot itself. Despite decades of popular pap about Renaissance Humanism and Pagan gods, comparisons with the E-Series model book, and so on, the subject matter of the standard Tarot trumps is strikingly medieval and Christian, i.e., basic allegorical personifications culminating in Christian eschatology.

From the time of Petrarch, the more sophisticated Italians didn't like the kind of medieval allegory that we find in the standard trump cycle. The standard trump cycle was archaic even when it was new, which made it great as a popular game but less appealing to the upper class. That's the reason why most of the variations in Tarot classicize the subjects, and sometimes the entire trump cycle. That's also the reason why much of the best, really cool, allegorical art comes from outside Italy.

If royal entries are to be compared with the trump cycle to create a single-triumphator interpretation, then Gordon Kipling's Enter the King, particularly Chapter 3, "Third Advent: Grace in this Life and Afterward Glory", is the essential text. This is precisely because it does NOT focus on the Renaissance triumphs of Italy. In that regard it is like Tarot. Tarot was revised, classicized (Sola Busca, Leber Rouen, and Boiardo reinvented the deck, while smaller changes were made in various locales) to be more fashionable and appealing to high-brow Italian tastes, but the standard subjects show a sensibility that Italians of the Renaissance found unsophisticated. That is why the more classically-inspired triumphal entries fail to provide good examples for Tarot.

We can simply look at dates and places and draw a superficial conclusion that Kipling's examples are less relevant, or not relevant at all. Conversely, we can look at the subject matter of the trump cycle, and ask what the cards mean. In that case, Kipling's examples are the best cognates for the trump cycle, as a single-triumphator narrative, that are likely to be found. The Third Advent examples are essentially perfect.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:We had already begun discussing it long before, with Alfonso's entry, but I have a much better view now.

In any case, while I find Kipling's angle fascinating, and wish I could afford his book, the Italian triumphs of Alfonso and Borso are more to the point.
Yes, a lot of that praise and encouragement from January 2007 through May of 2009 was based on faith, hope, charity, and projection about where you were going in your interpretation. I am glad that we had this chat; I had given you credit for a much more insightful reading of the trumps. I'll still look forward to your book when it comes out; I just won't expect much from the iconography part.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
For the record, I did mock some specific, seemingly crazy things you've said recently. For example, when you reject the obvious meaning of some image, like the Bolognese Star card, and impose an unlikely political allegory just because it feeds your desire for a tighter and earlier timeline for Bolognese Tarot, well hell. That might not be "insane" for most Tarot enthusiasts... in fact, it's typical. But it seems like lunacy coming from you, someone who knows better. If you aren't rejecting the obvious just to prove you can get away with it, to demonstrate that you can cheat just like all those other Tarot experts, then what explains such a wild leap from your usual good senses?
Just for the record, if you're still reading, my interpretation is not dependent upon the specific political situation I am trying to tie it to in Bologna.
But you are not only spending time on that and debating it, you are (were?) even rejecting the face-value meaning of cards in order to impose a cherry-picked political allegory which supports your historical conclusions.

It is often the case that Tarot interpretations largely ignore the trump cycle itself and focus on something outside. Traditionally, people give lip service to the trumps and then begin extremely long and often erudite discussions of alchemy, or Kabbalah, or Cusanus, or Neopythagorean numerology, or whatever their personal fascination is. There are hundreds of such writers. (Sometimes their brilliant essays to TarotL didn't even mention Tarot!) They take Tarot for granted, which is easy to do given the flexibility with which it can be twisted about and interpreted... if we are willing to ignore the obvious.

The trump cycle is what it is. The explanation has to be fitted to the cards and their sequence, and that's where the Third Advent processions come into play. They match the trumps, rather than forcing the trumps to match something else.


You have made some ridiculously false statements, and other claims that fly in the face of the obvious. I have attempted to point that out, with evidence, argument, quotes, examples, etc., and had my arguments largely ignored. So, as I routinely do, I added hyperbolic characterizations to emphasize my conclusions. That is, I made fun of your claims. This you have not ignored, but turned into a separate argument. (Christine's Rule: When losing on substance, argue style.) In your earlier note, you referred to my use of "ad hominem". Really?

Ad hominem is a type of fallacious argumentation in which the (claimed) defects of the messenger are used to discredit the message. It is a way of short-circuiting a real argument, one based on facts and reason. This claim on your part ties neatly into your original claim, that I had not given your ideas any thought or review at all, rejecting them without consideration. Both claims imply that my actual arguments don't even exist.

I have provided numerous examples to rebut the claim that I have not considered your ideas, and examples to rebut the claim that I have flatly rejected them. This other point still needs to be addressed.

Here is the Wikipedia example of ad hominem:
Wikipedia wrote:An ad hominem argument has the basic form:
-- Person 1 makes claim X;
-- There is something objectionable about Person 1;
-- Therefore claim X is false.
For me to use ad hominem against you, I would have to argue that you are NOT bright, massively knowledgable, and usually reasonable. Or I would need to claim that you are biased beyond redemption, like many of the occultist writers on Tarot. I would have to make that case and then suggest that your evidence and arguments should be dismissed, "rejected out-of-hand" because you are so defective, in one way or another. However, I've spent years saying just the opposite about you, so I certainly can't make that case. Likewise, those familiar with your years of posting would never believe anything that silly. My alleged use of ad hominem is, like so many other things you've recently claimed, false.

My actual argument was of the form:
-- Person 1 makes claim X;
-- Claim X is obviously and egregiously false;
-- Therefore, Person 1 should be mocked.

That is not a false argument, but a valid one, at least given certain presuppositions. (Specifically, the idea that persistent nonsense should be mocked.) Wikipedia's entry was the first thing Google returned when I searched for ad hominem. A couple results down was this discussion:
Stephen Bond wrote:One of the most widely misused terms on the Net is "ad hominem". It is most often introduced into a discussion by certain delicate types, delicate of personality and mind, whenever their opponents resort to a bit of sarcasm. As soon as the suspicion of an insult appears, they summon the angels of ad hominem to smite down their foes, before ascending to argument heaven in a blaze of sanctimonious glory. They may not have much up top, but by God, they don't need it when they've got ad hominem on their side. It's the secret weapon that delivers them from any argument unscathed.

In reality, ad hominem is unrelated to sarcasm or personal abuse. Argumentum ad hominem is the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker's argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument. The mere presence of a personal attack does not indicate ad hominem: the attack must be used for the purpose of undermining the argument, or otherwise the logical fallacy isn't there. It is not a logical fallacy to attack someone; the fallacy comes from assuming that a personal attack is also necessarily an attack on that person's arguments.

Therefore, if you can't demonstrate that your opponent is trying to counter your argument by attacking you, you can't demonstrate that he is resorting to ad hominem. If your opponent's sarcasm is not an attempt to counter your argument, but merely an attempt to insult you (or amuse the bystanders), then it is not part of an ad hominem argument.

Actual instances of argumentum ad hominem are relatively rare. Ironically, the fallacy is most often committed by those who accuse their opponents of ad hominem, since they try to dismiss the opposition not by engaging with their arguments, but by claiming that they resort to personal attacks.
Returning to my initial point a few days ago, while I certainly retract my years of over-enthusiastic support for what I mistakenly thought was your analysis of the trump cycle, I do not "reject" your Bolognese-origin theory, and certainly not "out-of-hand", i.e., without consideration. It is simply weak, explaining very little in a rather round-about manner. And I don't reject your new view, which I'm not familiar with in any detail.

Best regards,
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

Re: Bolognese sequence

Well, I can't get too much out of your complex private talking the last two years. I'm still interested to learn, what idea Ross had with the Bolognese origin ...


I made this study about Italian pasta this morning:

In Schreiber's text of 1938 there is a report to a game with the name Gherminellae in Florence 1415 ...
Im Florentiner Stadtrecht von 1415 ... befindet sich ein 11 Paragraphen umfassender Tractatus contra ludentes ad ludum zardi et alios ludos prohibitos [note: " Statuta populi et communis Florentinae anni 1415. Friburgi 1783, tom. II, liber IV, p. 405].

Rubr. 28: "Nullus in civitate, comitatu vel districtu Florentiae aliquo tempore, etiam ultima die aprilis et prima die maii, et qualibet die totius anni ad ludum zarae, sive zardi cum taxilles, vel ad ludum aliossorum, vel gherminellae, vel ad ludum, qui dicitur coderonae, vel ad ludu maliossorum, vel gherminellae, vel ad ludum, qui dicitum coderonae, vel ad ludum cum taxillis ossis, cerae vel terrae, vel lapideis vel ligneis, uno vel pluribus, vel ad ludum narborum."

Rubr. 29: "Aliquis .. non audeat .. ludere ad ad ludum zardi, aut narbae, vel narborum, vel alium ludum taxillorum prohibetum."

Rubr. 31: Aliquis non audeat ludere .. ad marellas vel ad aliossos, vel ad pomum, vel ad ludum narborum, vel aliud ludum vetitum."
At p. 160 Schreiber assumes, that Gherminella is a dice game, that was prohibited 1325 and 1415. But ...

According an Italian dictionary it means: "Antico gioco di mano che consisteva nel far apparire e scomparire una cordicella da un bastoncino"

To this explanation the following story exists ... ... la&f=false

... which should be from the Florentian Franco Sacchetti in the year 1399, who wrote 300 novellae, from which about 250 survived. The "Passado da Gherminella" story is one of them ( Novella LXIX )

In the text "Passada da Gherminella" is a natural person (a swindler), who tried the game of Gherminella with his Florentian fellows. Outside of Florence the trick didn't work (perhaps the understanding was, that the game "Gherminella" got the name of the person, or, that the person got the name Gherminella cause the game).

The later developing game Minchiate (known since 1466, with cards similar to Trionfi cards) got the similar name "Germini", probably only in Florence, during 16th century.

The I.P.S.C. gives the following information:
This type of pack originated in Florence in the first half of the 16th century, by 1540 at the latest. It is properly designated "Italo-Portuguese", since, while it has several "Portuguese" characteristics, it lacks others, and the pattern was presumably devised at a date when the Portuguese type was not yet thought of as constituting a distinct suit-system. By the later 17th century, it was in use also in Genoa, where it was known as Ganellini, and in Sicily, where it was known as Gallerini, the word "Minchiate" having an obscene connotation in both areas. It died out in Sicily during the 18th century, when, however, it became highly popular in Rome under the name "Minchiate", which in the 17th century had replaced the original name of "Germini". It seems to have died out in Florence in about 1900, and in Rome probably some decades earlier.
As producers are noted:
"Al Mondo", "Al Soldato", "Al Poverone", "All' Imperador" or "Alla Fortuna", all in the 18th century and all of Bologna.
Cocci, Florence (1898).
The following are probably also all from Florence: "Paragone" (early 18th century), "Poverino" (18th century) and "Etruria" or Agostini Francia (18th century).

the term "Germini" is related to "Gemini" (= "twins") and Gemelli ("twin noodle", a type of pasta) ..
Il gioco era inizialmente noto con il nome di Germini, derivato probabilmente dalla parola Gemini (Gemelli), il più alto dei tarocchi caratteristici del solo mazzo delle minchiate.


Well, a good time to start some own thinking.

"Gherminella" seems to have been a game with two cords around a baton. In that form the two cords looked like a twin noodle. So with some right on can state, that the game Gherminella and Germini are related, as far the name is considered. One idea for an explanation for the name Germini seems to have been, that the zodiac sign Gemini is the highest trump in the row of the zodiac row inside Minchiate (trump 35) and actually it has the highest number, cause the cards 36-40 are without number. But this might have been in the construction of the Minchiate system only a second idea, as Minchiate is ...

40 number cards + 40 trumps + 16 courts + 1 Fool, so the actual twins in the structure are "40 number cards" mirroring "40 trumps".

"Italian playing cards most commonly consist of a deck of 40 cards (4 suits going 1 to 7 plus 3 face cards), and are used for playing Italian regional games such as Scopa or Briscola."

There may be some chance, that this had already been so in 16th century - or at least in some regions. If we look at the Germini poem of Bartolomeo di Michelagnolo, 1553 ...

.. (I think, it was Marco, who translated it ?), than we have there the attempt to merge the 40 Minchiate trumps into a 4x10-scheme. This is done by mockery, declaring the 4 virtues XVI-XVIIII (Hope, Prudentia, Faith and Caritas) to ruffians, which preside about 9 whores.

XVIIII reigns about trumps 40-32
XVIII reigns about trumps 31-22
XVII reigns about trumps 10-15 and 20-22
XVI reigns about trumps 1-9

This is done in such a cruel way (disregarding a probable original structure), that one hardly can take it as the original, but has to take it as a second mockery ... or are there other opinions?

Nearer to the origin seems to be the twin appearance of 5 Papi at the begin and 5 Aries at the end.

1-5 versus 36-40

whereby we're left to see

6-10 (5 good trumps) versus 11-15 (5 bad trumps)


4 virtues (16-19) versus 4 elements (20-23)


the zodiac with 12 signs


I know of Berni, who tells, that "sminchiate" has 200 cards in 1526.

Kaplan tells, that there were versions with 120 cards.

The version of Germini in 1553 `(the poem) seems to be 40 trumps (+Fool ?). It leaves some doubts about the composiition, although most motiofs seems to have found their place.

Is there any structure information about the game between 1526 and 1553?


Now to Tarocchino Bolognese ... this seems to have been long unnumbered.

Tarocchino ALL'Agnolo, first quarter of 19th century in Andrea Vitali's book has number 5-16, the lower cards unnumbered and the upper cards unnumbered. They've 4 moors (?) and 1 magician and 1 Fool unnumbered below (or is the fool thought "above" ?) and 4 unnumbered cards above, moon, sun, world, angelo. In contrast to the Minchiate the star has a number, "16".

Isn't there the story, that "17" is an unlucky number in Italy, worse than "13"? Is this true for all Italy? Possibly the reason, why higher than 16 isn't counted in the Tarocchino?

The following versions are the same.

If we see the matto as "above", we've again a twin mirroring, 5 unnumbered at top, 5 unnumbered at below.

'macaronesca ars' ... Germini belonged at least to some degree to the universe of humor and irony and the funny side of life. Macaroni Latin (mixing of Latin and vernacular) started 1489 as a poetical genre and had its lovers of some irony since this time. Gemelli as twin noodle fits into the scheme, as a mixing of the astrology pattern and the "normal Trionfi".
Bologna was famous for its kitchen. Haven't they been proud to be a little more common than the Florentians?

Re: Bolognese sequence

Huck wrote:Well, I can't get too much out of your complex private talking the last two years. I'm still interested to learn, what idea Ross had with the Bolognese origin ...
The basic idea occurs in steps. Looking at the expanding body of data after 1442, and the nothing before 1442, I settle on a suitable range for there to be no evidence. 20 years is too much; 10 years is possible, but a point at 1432 or so at our chart, and it would look isolated. There is no period more than 3-5 years without some kind of evidence after 1442, so I take that as a probable range of silence in all possible forms of evidence - documentary, actual cards, and images of people playing triumphs (like Borromeo).

So we have a date - after 1437. But we have no place - the data-plotting would suggest Ferrara or Milan, but when we look at the evidence, or lack of it, from those places - when we start to qualitatively judge it, to interpret it - we find that Ferrara seems to be adapting an already known thing; and Milan's earliest evidence - Visconti di Modrone, Brambilla, Borromeo fresco, Marcello's letter, Francesco's purchases - it doesn't give a coherent picture. Rich people play it, commission packs; cheap and ready-made packs are available too (Marcello's and Francesco's); adaptations occur already by 1443-1445 (Modrone - Cary-Yale - I follow Bandera, and reject that it had to be a "wedding deck" for precisely October 1441).

Since Milan shows an already flowering existence by the mid-1440s, we go back to Ferrara. We see the court buying a relatively cheap pack from a Bolognese merzaro in July 1442. This is direct evidence of the Court adopting a "popular" product - at least, a "middle class" product. So we have evidence that it worked that way - this tends me in the direction of invention outside of a court.

Since Marchione is Bolognese, it tends me in the direction of Bologna. I already said years ago, when I first made these connections, that Florence was not far then. Essentially, this is how it remains - I have no real sense of which city is preferable, but I do think that if the game were invented in Florence, and went to Bologna, that the Bolognese preserved the original form of the trumps (and play), and Florence changed them. This is because Florentine changes are demonstrable - they can be directly observed in history, from the movement of the Chariot from below to above the Wheel, from the dropping of the Popess, from changes in the designs between the earliest painted cards and Rosenwald, and between Rosenwald and Minchiate, and finally the invention of Minchiate itself. They changed their Tarot immensely, while every piece of evidence we have from Bologna shows a continuity of tradition, with negligible changes to iconography and basic rules, from c. 1500 onward. Finally, since Charles VI and Catania are the earliest A-Southern iconography, and are relatively close to both Bolognese and Rosenwald designs, I assume that they are a good indication that the earliest A was similar in Florence and Bologna. Since only Bologna remains similar, Bologna therefore has preserved the closest thing to the original A design.

So for me the question of the ultimate origin remains out of the reach of deductive reasoning, but the choice of A as the original and the Bolognese as the closest thing to it, seems sound to me.

So Bolognese A is the settled form, and after 1437 is the settled dating - these are formal deductions, without trying to interpret the iconography at all.

From there, I start to conjecture using interpretation of the imagery and rules of the Bolognese tradition. Even if Florentine, I assume that the imagery and rules were similar.

Importantly, this involves the premise that the equal-papi rule is original. That is, there is disorder at the highest levels of society, and the winner is constantly changing (with every hand). This view of society would be perfectly normal in the first half of the 15th century, where only one Papacy in 70 years was more-or-less uncontested - Martin V, 1417-1431. For as long as anyone could remember, there was schism in the Church, with the Emperor trying to mediate it or reform the Church.

By my dating to after 1437, the Church was again weak (with Eugene still in exile from Rome), and after 1438 in open schism - business as usual. So Tarot was invented during this period, and to me the equal-papi rule makes perfect sense in this context, since the Council of Basel was a German thing, with Sigismund, then Albert, then Frederick, trying to bring one or the other or both parties to the table for a compromise. Frederick didn't make up his mind which side to absolutely support until 1443, and it wasn't untl 1449 that the schism was technically over, but Tarot was born in the middle of it. I think it is appropriate to consider that the game would reflect current conditions in the world, and a wry if not cynical look at contemporary politics.

The equal-papi rule was deeply traditional in Piedmont/Savoy for centuries, and still persists in the Asti region. It is alluded to by Francesco PIscina in 1565, and should probably have already been there when Avignon cards were first imported to Pinerolo (near Turin), in 1505. Since there is no known Bolognese domination of PIedmont, ever, the only explanation I find plausible to explain Piedmont's Bolognese-type practices (high Angel and equal-Papi, as well as some vocabulary), is that the original form of the game to reach Piedmont was Bolognese, and that even when the Piedmontese began to import French cards in the early 16th century, they still followed these Bolognese practices. Even when cards began to be numbered, they followed them (although there is a tendency to lose the equal-Papi rule when the Papi are numbered, the high Angel still persists across Piemont, although it is numbered XX and the World is XXI).

Such a depth of tradition by the early 16th century suggests to me that it was already there for more than one generation of players by 1505 - so at least two decades, or three. Thus, Piedmontese practice is an indirect testimony to the antiquity of the equal-papi rule.

Re: Bolognese sequence

Interpreting the meaning of the sequence in the historical context will change whether one picks a Florentine or Bolognese Ur-tarot.

Between 1437 and 1441, Florence was at peace with itself and rich enough to pay for holding the Council at which the Eastern and Western Churches were re-united (July 6, 1439). This was a glorious moment for the city. Florence was pro-Eugene and pro-Angevin, and of course an enemy of Visconti and deeply suspicious of Alfonso (Visconti's ally and on the verge of taking Naples). It seems unlikely to me that the equal-papi rule would be invented here. If, however, it is not original, and there were a Popess and an Empress (as in Rosenwald), then I would interpret these four figures as captives of Love (including the Popess as Pope Joan, whom we see in some Petrarchan imagery from around 1480). The presence of the Pope has to stretch the meaning of the name "Cupid" to include "Cupiditas" (desire, greed), since I don't know of any Pope cited at that time as an example of one who literally submitted to Love (although they could have used Borgia later). If this imagery was practiced with equal-papi rule (as it was in Piedmont), then a female could beat a male, which is equally appropriate for a triumph of Love. Either way, equal-papi or including Popess and Empress, it is a witty - or cynical - statement about how everyone is a captive of Love, or what it symbolizes. Not a point of view a churchman would promote, but one familiar in secular or humanist-clerical writings (Valla and Poggio, for example).

Bologna, by contrast, was under domination in this period, first by the papacy - a particularly hated one - and after 1438, by Visconti. Just because Visconti was the Pope's enemy didn't make the Bolognese his best friend - they just tolerated him a little more. Really they wanted "Libertas", their motto since the late 14th century, along the Florentine lines. In this context the equal-papi rule makes more sense to me, since I see it as a much more realistic and cynical view of the world, more than the poetic adaptation to a Petrarchan triumph of Love. The fact that there is a Pope, who is never a figure in Petrarchan imagery (and of course not the text), makes me think the invention of the Popess and Empress are secondary, and may have been done in Florence. It could well have been from Florence that the game went to France with these figures, to evolve into the "Tarot de Marseille." If so, it shows that the sequence Love-Chariot was still present in Florence, and they had not yet elevated the Chariot to just below the Wheel of Fortune, which had happened by 1500. Also, when it went to France, they had not yet removed the Popess, as they would also do by 1500.

So in this view, the Triumph of Love is not just a triumph of Cupid, but really Cupiditas. This is what keeps the Papi jostling for position.

For either city, the rest of the sequence makes plausible sense in equal measure. The sequence Chariot to Traitor is explained by the ekphrasis "Triumphatorem, quamvis Virtutis plenum, Fortuna cum Tempore Tradit" - The Triumphator, although he is full of Virtue, Fortune, with Time, Betrays.

This is equally applicable to the proud "Libertas" ethos of both Bologna and Florence - a warning to would-be tyrants. I take it as a reference to Caesar, since he is the archetype of the betrayed would-be tyrant in the Florentine imagination, which is why they used him to deliver the message of "don't touch Florence" to Alfonso in 1443.

After this is the Triumph of Death, which at least everyone agrees on.

I allowed myself to interpret the final part, Devil to Angel, only after Marco had posted the images from the prophetic book of Telesforo "Chronicon Imperatorem et Pontificum" on this thread on July 21:


These are slightly higher resolution than those in color of the ms. in Modena -


Image ... x_tn0.html

The Burning Tower stands alone as a synecdoche of the text of Apocalypse 20:7-10. This finally convinced me of what Michael had been saying for years, that this is what the Tower meant.

Along with this comes another implication, that the final seven cards are in apocalyptic time, not just the "future" or "after death", but really as a statement of an apocalyptic outlook - and in keeping with the political tone of the rest of the sequence.

So the Bolognese Devil, for instance, should not be seen as Satan in Hell, like in Dante, but as an illustration of I Peter 5:8 : "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour", which can be taken as a gloss on Rev. 20:7. Note that this early Bolognese Devil is not in Hell - he is walking about on the earth, with flowers and grass under his claws -


Re: Bolognese sequence

.. for the "4 Papi" rule ... this could have been already part of the Karnöffel/Imperatori rule. The most funny event with 3-4 popes had been at the Council of Constance, 3 were made abdicted, a fourth chosen. The whole was called "Imperatori-game", as the emperor Sigismondo looked like the winner in the game.

In the Karnöffel version of the Mysner poem, ca. 1445-50, we have (probably 4) "heilige Lehrer" mentioned, in the later version of Karnöffel we've suddenly "4 Kaiser". In Mysner version we've probably 8 "special cards", Karnöffel, Pope, King, Devil + 4 "heilige Lehrer".
In the deck of Ringmann made for teaching Latin grammar in 1509 we find arranged "4 persons of the world" (King, Queen, "Mundschenk" and Fool) against "4 persons of the church". Somehow Ringmann had declared, that his game was arranged according an older card game(I saw it stated somewhere), possibly the earlier version, in which the Karnöffel-version existed.

Possibly the word "Papi", "fathers", was chosen, cause these were the oldest cards of the Trionfi game, which had an earlier history as Karnöffel. Who knows?

You variously note, that Bologna stayed "traditional in their card motifs". But that is quite common for all decks, which had reached the "woodcut level" some time. We've about 170 fragments (Hoffmann told this number) of printed sheets in German decks 16th/17th century. The most show this "traditional behaviour". We've only few Tarocchi sheets in comparison. Some of these few are given to Bologna. It's natural, that we have the "result", that "traditional behaviour" is stronger observable in Bologna than elsewhere.
We've the specific note for 1477, that a larger commission for Trionfi card prohibition is given in Bologna. Also we've the general statement, that Bologna became strong in playing card production - later. Also we have the general statement of book-printing research, that Bologna became strong in book printing - in the book printing time.
What does it tell about the 1430's in Bologna? Nothing.

We can only relate to that, what is given in this situation and in this time. Bad fights between the greater families, so probably not the best conditions. The university was going down in its reputation.
A man of the church (later pope), who ruled a "high tax" on playing cards (1405). A San Bernardino, who made the living on the production of playing cards "impossible" (1423). A cardinal Albergati, who engaged against gambling (starting 1417). A German playing card producer, who is beaten by a neighbour (1427).
Are these the news from a playing card producing city?

When the French started to explore playing card history, they also had first the imagination, that they were produced in France first. Just cause they had such a strong playing card industry. What said Obama recently ... "America has invented the automobile". I don't now, what Benz and Daimler would say in this question., it sounds logical.

Re: Bolognese sequence

Huck wrote:.. for the "4 Papi" rule ... this could have been already part of the Karnöffel/Imperatori rule. The most funny event with 3-4 popes had been at the Council of Constance, 3 were made abdicted, a fourth chosen. The whole was called "Imperatori-game", as the emperor Sigismondo looked like the winner in the game.
Yes, I said before, if I want a good historical place to invent the equal-papi rule, 1410 would be good, Constance would be good. But I am constrained by my dating - something that happened in 1978 should not be the reason something is invented in 2008.
Possibly the word "Papi", "fathers", was chosen, cause these were the oldest cards of the Trionfi game, which had an earlier history as Karnöffel. Who knows?
Indeed, who does? If I did, I'd give you the proof. I'm arguing, not presenting a discovery.
You variously note, that Bologna stayed "traditional in their card motifs". But that is quite common for all decks, which had reached the "woodcut level" some time. We've about 170 fragments (Hoffmann told this number) of printed sheets in German decks 16th/17th century. The most show this "traditional behaviour". We've only few Tarocchi sheets in comparison. Some of these few are given to Bologna. It's natural, that we have the "result", that "traditional behaviour" is stronger observable in Bologna than elsewhere.
But Florence, whose woodcuts reached the same level at the same time, changes a lot. Their lists change a lot.

I only observe, that everything we know about Bologna is conservative. If you would like that what we don't know is not conservative, what can I say?

All I can ask is, why do think it is likely that Bologna had as many changes as Florence?

We've the specific note for 1477, that a larger commission for Trionfi card prohibition is given in Bologna. Also we've the general statement, that Bologna became strong in playing card production - later. Also we have the general statement of book-printing research, that Bologna became strong in book printing - in the book printing time.
What does it tell about the 1430's in Bologna? Nothing.
I don't know what you mean about prohibition in 1477.
We can only relate to that, what is given in this situation and in this time. Bad fights between the greater families, so probably not the best conditions. The university was going down in its reputation.
A man of the church (later pope), who ruled a "high tax" on playing cards (1405). A San Bernardino, who made the living on the production of playing cards "impossible" (1423). A cardinal Albergati, who engaged against gambling (starting 1417). A German playing card producer, who is beaten by a neighbour (1427).
Are these the news from a playing card producing city?
Ah, yes, exactly. Without such activity, we wouldn't have notes at all. They are negative evidence - an activity was going on, and it got big enough to get noted because it caused problems or was a source of money. These are *exactly* the kinds of negative proofs that prove it was there.

A tax is only worth making if it makes money - that means a lot of cards were being produced. San Bernardino's story is a legend, and you know these fervors had no lasting effect. Albergati could not have preached against gambling if it wasn't a big problem.

All of law is the same - laws aren't made against non-existent crimes.
When the French started to explore playing card history, they also had first the imagination, that they were produced in France first. Just cause they had such a strong playing card industry. What said Obama recently ... "America has invented the automobile". I don't now, what Benz and Daimler would say in this question., it sounds logical.
I don't know this Obama story, but I doubt he said it that way.

The early historians of cards used what they knew - Ménestrier thought France, because that's the earliest document he knew. It was not long before others - Frenchmen first - contradicted him.

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