The Precipice

#1
I found the image below a while ago, and it set me thinking about the 'precipice' seen in the Visconti Sforza cards, as well as in some illustrations for Petrach's Trionfi. It would seem that this particular 'precipice' is a riverbank (the water being identifiable as such without room for doubt).




from Wikipedia:
The Tiburtine Sibyl, by name Albunea, is worshiped at Tibur as a goddess, near the banks of the Anio, in which stream her image is said to have been found, holding a book in her hand. Her oracular responses the Senate transferred into the capitol. ”
(Divine Institutes I.vi)
The image of the lovely painting posted by Mikeh on 'The Chariot' thread in Bianca's Garden is another example.

viewtopic.php?f=23&p=5322#p5322



Could it be that, stylistically, this is the way riverbanks were generally depicted in 15th Cent. Italy (and possibly elsewhere)?

More research needed (unless of course this is an old idea - apologies if so!)

Pen
He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy...

Re: The Precipice

#3
While some people see "fishtails", I see precipice in the Cary Sheet Star card, as well as the Moon.

The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: The Precipice

#4
The precipices most clearly like the Visconti-Sforza, especially the added cards, I think are in the August upper fresco at the Schifanoia, which I related to the PMB two weeks ago, at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=365&start=100#p5120, in a discussion with Huck. I didn't discuss the cliff in the April fresco, because it did not seem to me as similar to the PMB added cards as the August cliffs; it seemed to me by a different artist, even though the person who did the designs of the Schifanoia overall (communicated in drawings or cartoons to the artists on the scaffolds) may have been the same. I was focused on the artist rather than the style. I did not know about the other image Pen posted. I have been meaning to look at the images illustrating Petrarch's Trionfi; now I definitely will. I hadn't thought of the Cary Sheet in this connection, either.

My view two weeks ago was that perhaps the same artist did the August fresco and the added cards of the PMB, specifically perhaps Benedetto Bembo (it bothers me that I can find no record of his working on the project, but I don't have access to the more detailed books in Italian on the Schifanoia). Since the April fresco is clearly by del Cossa (at least according to the letter he wrote Borso d'Este demanding more money), and the other images mentioned are also not by Bembo, it is a style of cliff that was common to various artists. Even the cliffs on the PMB original cards (Death, etc.) look a little different to me, less like the added cards and the August fresco. Some cliffs in the Schifanoia frescoes are in a different style altogether. I don't know if they can be seen clearly on the Web or not. If necessary, I can scan and post them. A good source is Steffi Roettgen's Italian frescoes: The early Renaissance. I think it is translated from German (they never say from what language, these chauvinistic American publishers), so perhaps there is a German edition.

I am very happy that other people are as obsessed with the cliffs as I have been. It was from looking at the Schifanoia cliffs and figures, compared with the PMB's, that I thought of connecting del Cossa's "Triumph of Venus" there with the Anonymous Parisian Chariot card. Now perhaps other people can check their perceptions of cliffs with mine and tell me whether I am imagining subtle differences where none exist.

Re: The Precipice

#5
Huck wrote:
Nice finding.
You just made my day... (*)

Robert wrote:
While some people see "fishtails", I see precipice in the Cary Sheet Star card, as well as the Moon.
Robert, I think you're right about the Cary sheet - I hadn't seen those 'fish-tails' in that way before, but they make more sense as indentations in a bank and read fairly easily as such once it's been pointed out.

Mikeh wrote:
The precipices most clearly like the Visconti-Sforza, especially the added cards, I think are in the August upper fresco at the Schifanoia, which I related to the PMB two weeks ago, at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=365&start=100#p5120, in a discussion with Huck.
Thanks for that link, Mikeh. This forum is a marvellous resource.

Mikeh wrote:
I am very happy that other people are as obsessed with the cliffs as I have been. It was from looking at the Schifanoia cliffs and figures, compared with the PMB's, that I thought of connecting del Cossa's "Triumph of Venus" there with the Anonymous Parisian Chariot card. Now perhaps other people can check their perceptions of cliffs with mine and tell me whether I am imagining subtle differences where none exist.
Every little thread unravelled helps untangle another - the subject just keeps getting richer and deeper...

Here are three more woodcuts from An Introduction to a History of Woodcut, by Arthur M. Hind.




Placing this feature in the extreme foreground seems almost like some sort of stylistic device that was employed at the time. It seems though (from the images Mikeh posted on the thread mentioned above and from the plate design below), that it doesn't necessarily denote the bank of a river or stream.



Pen
He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy...

Re: The Precipice

#6
Interesting discussion :)
Pen wrote: Placing this feature in the extreme foreground seems almost like some sort of stylistic device that was employed at the time. It seems though (from the images Mikeh posted on the thread mentioned above and from the plate design below), that it doesn't necessarily denote the bank of a river or stream.
I agree with the above observation by Pen. For instance, in the Sacro Bosco image, the "precipice" seems to put the three figures composing the allegory of Astronomy on a kind of "stage". This could also be the function of the precipice in the Visconti-Sforza trumps where it appears.

BTW, the Sacro Bosco image also presents the kind of "cloudy frame" that separates heavenly objects from the earth and that also appears in the Cary-Yale "World" trump.

Marco

Re: The Precipice

#7
Marco wrote:
...in the Sacro Bosco image, the "precipice" seems to put the three figures composing the allegory of Astronomy on a kind of "stage". This could also be the function of the precipice in the Visconti-Sforza trumps where it appears.
I think you're right. But if that's the case I can't help wondering why it appears on some cards and not others. Hopefully I'll find more images in 2010 if my Christmas wishes come true...

Pen
He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy...

Re: The Precipice

#8
Two Triumphs by PIERO della FRANCESCA. They seem to be travelling along a high narrow causeway - perhaps to or from the Certosa of Pavia?

Both quotes from the Web Gallery of Art: http://www.wga.hu/
The Triumph of Battista Sforza
1465-66
Panel, 47 x 33 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Piero's panels depicting the Duke and Duchess of Urbino are both painted on the reverse in a style that can be regarded as miniature. This picture shows the reverse side of the Portrait of Battista Sforza. It represents a Triumph matching that on the reverse of the portrait of her husband, and it is shown in the same scale.



Here's a bust of Battista and some more info about her from the Web Gallery of Art:


The portrait of Battista Sforza, the wife of Federico da Montefeltro, is identified by an inscription on the base; her features are also recorded in the profile painting by Piero della Francesca. The bust may have been posthumous (she died in 1472 in childbirth) and modelled on a death-mask.
*****
Triumph of Federico da Montefeltro
1465-66
Panel, 47 x 33 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Piero's panels depicting the Duke and Duchess of Urbino are both painted on the reverse in a style that can be regarded as miniature. This picture shows the reverse side of the Portrait of Federico da Montefeltro. It is the image of a triumphal carriage pulled by white horses. The Duke is shown in his role as a professional soldier, baton in hand, and dressed in shining armor. A humanistic Latin inscription praising Federico is shown below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federico_da_Montefeltro


Pen
He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy...

Re: The Precipice

#9
Marco wrote
...in the Sacro Bosco image, the "precipice" seems to put the three figures composing the allegory of Astronomy on a kind of "stage". This could also be the function of the precipice in the Visconti-Sforza trumps where it appears.
And Pen replied
I think you're right. But if that's the case I can't help wondering why it appears on some cards and not others.
Good question, Pen. I think cliffs have a variety of functions. In the Schifanoia, they separate scenes from each other. And that's what a stage does, too. Then there is a very particular separation of scenes we call death. As I expect you know, Kaplan (Vol. 2, p. 47f) relates the PMB cliff cards to the Certosa at Pavia, which has a church on a cliff. Galeazzo Maria moved GianGaleazzo's body there in 1474, as I said on the 5x14 thread, in relation to the added cards (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=365&start=90#p5070; find "Certosa"). Ludovico and Beatrice are buried there, too. I think that most of the PMB cards with cliffs have to do with death. In the original cards, The Death and the Fool both have cliffs. The poor addled homeless beggar is going to die soon, both in fact and in the pageantry of Carnival; he's a continuation of the sacrificial year-king. He has seven feathers on his head, for Lent that follows. I'm not sure if the Bagatto has a cliff or not. Life is a game of chance, rigged toward a definite outcome. For the Temperance, Star, and Moon, and Sun, well, the last three are the "three luminaries" before the Apocalypse,i.e. life after death. Another thing is, I think, they replace the "theological virtues of Hope, Faith, and Charity (i.e. mercy), also having to do with life after death. And what does Temperance have to do with death? Well, that's a longer story; for one thing, the virtue delays death.

Another hypothesis of mine is that the three "added cards" with women, all the same woman, depict Elisabetta Maria Sforza, who died in childbirth in 1472, age around 15, with the cliffs as death (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=365&start=50#p4857; find "Elisabetta"). She had probably married on her brother's orders. On the other thread, I argued this point using what is likely another portrait of her, in a ca. 1480 altarpiece, with two ladies who are likely Bona of Savoy and Ippolita Maria Sforza; they were together once, in 1468. The artist was contemporary with Benedetto Bembo and probably worked on projects with the Bembos, as Galeazzo tended to hire ad hoc groups. (See the section “Second artist” at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=365&start=30#p4821; I have since found a similar portrait of Bona, in her Book of Hours.) I got the idea from an exhibit of 22 paintings I stumbled upon last winter in a small Mexican town (Tuito, Jalisco); each painting was a take on a different Waite-Smith card, but making a woman the central figure, the same woman each time. There was no explanation, but when I got home and showed people my photos, I learned that the woman was a Spanish female singer who died a few years ago at the untimely age of 61. The paintings were a memorial.

There is a small cliff on the World card. That's a stage, perhaps to suggest the elevated, idealized quality of the walled town, like a Certosa or Sforzinda (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filarete, especially the Sforzinda image).

I have no thoughts yet on the "Triumphs of Batista Sforza." Such a lot of cliffs!

Re: The Precipice

#10
Well,

cliffs are at ...

First artist (Bembo cards)
NOT at 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 ... 12 and 20
BUT at 13 Death

Second artist (who knew the production of the first)
NOT at 11 ... 21
BUT at 14-17-18-19

so Death with cliff inside the 5x14 is an exception

as a cliff might be considered "dangerous" and death is a dangerous matter ... why not

********
The second artist saw the first production and considered his addition:

sun - moon - star are not reachable for the living - like death, so why not giving them also a cliff

fortitudo (without cliff) - temperantia (with cliff) - prudentia (world, no cliff ... or cliff) ???

Fortitudo is the virtue of soul ... soul doesn't die, so no cliff
Prudentia is the virtue of the spirit ... spirit can't die, too, so no cliff
----
Temperantia is the virtue of the body ("put some water in the vine, that's better for your health") ... body can die, so it gets a cliff

Well, Prudentia has a cliff, but it's in the circle around the castle ... :-)

That might be the idea, at least it has some logic .... but I wouldn't bet on the probability, that any other painter, who used the cliff symbol had the same idea, at least some simply wanted to paint the border of water, or had other ideas.

Another question:
The 4 persons Papessa-Empress-Emperor-Pope have a special bottom, which is repeated by some court cards, but not all.
Huck
http://trionfi.com

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