Towards a deck creation

#1
I've long been longing, failing very early finds, for a deck that appears to render a possible very early model.

If I could describe it, I'd have to say something like: a deck that completes the Sforza well model. A small beginning indeed, yet one that shows much promise as displaying clarity and grace.

Let's have another look at that card for a minute:

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Of similarity to the Bologna is the card width-to-height ratio - not that this is the only aspect of the Bologna that is worth considering (personally, I prefer the Bologna rendition of the suit of swords to any of the others I have yet seen).

That there is no title is also noteworthy.

Its details, however, are basically what I would expect from a foundational and early Tarot de Marseille-I deck.
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association.tarotstudies.org

Re: Towards a deck creation

#2
That well was more a gold mine neh?
The image is like the ivory one from the Vatican, you showed in the other thread.
It really is better produced than the latter ones too!
It makes me think that those who learned the art of woodblock had died, or their blocks were so used up and worn down by later.
I like that it is unnumbered too.
~Lorredan~
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: Towards a deck creation

#3
I think this card is one of the most important pieces of tarot history.

I wrote this comment about it for the ATS Newsletter:
In The Encyclopedia of Tarot, Volume II, by Stuart Kaplan, there are pictures of several of the 58 cards and fragments discovered at the turn of the 20th century at Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy. 42 of these are probably Tarot, from many assorted decks...

...The card I find most interesting is a sample of The World. Kaplan compares it the Vieville from the 1650's, and another deck from the 1700's, but the earliest commentator on the card, Francesco Novati writing in 1908, assigns it to late 1500's, and I would very much agree him.
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Sforza Castle, Jacques Vieville, Jean Dodal

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Jean Noblet, François Chosson

Here we have a sample of The World, with the figure wearing the cape like in the Noblet/Vieville/Dodal. But more importantly, the card does not have areas reserved for titles or numbers. There is no title at all, and the number XXI appears to have been added in the border of the card. In so many ways, this is the clue I was hoping to find.

The dimensions, and iconography of the card are very similar to the Dodal. Without the title area added, we can now see the full bodies of the Bull and Lion at the bottom of the card, (as depicted on the Noblet and the Vieville, but missing from the Dodal and Conver because of the title).

Here we may indeed be seeing a sample of the model that the Dodal is based on, but it is a far more elegantly drawn card. The position of the feet of the figure is the same as the Dodal, as is the shape of the "wreath" surrounding the figure, and the composure of the head. I believe Noblet and Vieville knew this style as well, and redrew it, but the Dodal used this style as a template.
More later, but I agree with Jean-Michel. I think this is an example of the type of deck our Tarot de Marseille decks are based off of.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Towards a deck creation

#4
I wonder why Jean Noblet was of the frame of mind to include labels yet not lose any of the image?

Was this deck made as black and white or is it just the scan in a book is in black and white?
"...he wanted to illustrate with his figures many Moral teachings, and under some difficulty, to bite into bad and dangerous customs, & show how today many Actions are done without goodness and honesty, and are accomplished in ways that are contrary to duty and rightfulness."

Re: Towards a deck creation

#5
prudence wrote:I wonder why Jean Noblet was of the frame of mind to include labels yet not lose any of the image?

Was this deck made as black and white or is it just the scan in a book is in black and white?
Well that really is a large part of the question isn't it? What are the sensible explanations to account for a card that is obviously a Marseille, yet is:
• Missing the Title
• Missing the Number (the XXI seems to be added in later)
• Found in Italy
• Obviously related to the Dodal, but has more content displayed
• Obviously related to the Noblet and Vieville by showing complete bodies on the Lion and Ox.

Frankly, I think it pretty far-fetched to imagine that the card took a Tarot de Marseille and "removed" the title and added in the rest of the body of the Lion and Ox. I'm pretty darn certain that what we have here is a card, or at least a style, that is *older* than the Noblet, Dodal, and Vieville. One that existed without titles and numbers, I suspect that the Noblet, Dodal and Vieville are all based on this type of card.

So let's at least assume this is correct and work from there a bit...

We're going to assume that early versions of the Tarot de Marseille don't have titles and numbers printed on them. This card indicates that at least an example of such a card still exists; and the Cary Sheet shows the same thing, (no titles or numbers on the cards), some which are clearly related to the Tarot de Marseille.

I am going to assume at some point it made sense to add the titles and numbers into this design. Whether that is because it was an Italian design that had now entered France and the French wanted to add the titles and numbers seems likely to me, but of course this is all just guessing.

So it seems to me that craftsmen who created decks like the Dodal used cards like the Sforza Castle card to draw new blocks, or, altered existing blocks by replacing parts of the blocks with new pieces of wood with the title and number areas. Instead of redrawing new designs, they were basically copying existing designs, and making modifications. Dodal really shows this. If you imagine that his deck is based off the old decks, but he had to struggle with the titles and numbers, some of the funkiness in his cards start to make sense. For instance, look at the Hanged Man:

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The entire top post is obliterated with the number area.

On the Lovers, the feet are chopped off by the title:

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He seems to squeeze in the titles around imagery, like on the Empress:

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And the Pope is odd too:

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Temperance doesn't even have an area defined:

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The minions lose their feet:

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As do the couple on the Sun:

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And the world shows the halos breaking through the number area to be preserved and the title area unclearly defined and losing the bodies of the animals:

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With the Valets, Dodal puts the titles where he can, if at all:

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This makes the Dodal really important because, in essence, his deck "should" be a close "copy" of the older decks without titles and numbers, as he didn't bother to create "new art", but just copied things over and added in the titles and numbers, sometimes covering up (probably fairly "unimportant") details in the process.

It's frustrating though because I would consider the craftsman of the Dodal rather "sloppy". Compare the details and elegance of line of the Sforza Castle card to the Dodal, and it's shocking how crude it looks. Worse, Dodal seems to have been careless about details (losing the hand on the King of Batons for instance). So in my opinion, we are lucky enough to have a "copy" of this older pattern, but we're unlucky enough to have it done by someone who wasn't paying a lot of attention!

So... what about the Vieville and the Noblet?? .......
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Towards a deck creation

#6
Let's consider the Jacques Vieville Tarot.

The Jacques Vieville Tarot is unique. Some historians group it either as a "Belgian Tarot", or perhaps consider it as an "ancestor" of the Belgian. The Belgian is immediately recognizable by the replacement of The Pope and Popess with Bacchus and the Captain Fracasse ("the fictional swordsman of noble descent whose feats became popular throughout Europe as of the late 16th-early 17th century").

The Belgian, while clearly related to the Marseille, also has a several cards which differ significantly from the Marseille. The Chariot, Temperance, Devil, Tower/Fire, Star, Moon, Sun, and World are all graphically different, if not completely different in subject matter.

The Vieville shares some traits of the Belgian, and some of the Marseille characteristics.

Here's the Chariot from the Vandenborre (a Belgian), the Vieville, Dodal and Noblet:

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Obviously, the Vieville Chariot is much more similar to the Marseille than to the Belgian. It's interesting to consider the top of the card and note how Vieville seems to have added in numbers where he had available space rather than create an area for the number as seen on Tarot de Marseille cards. It's also interesting to consider the possibility that the Vieville might actually preserve the "original" curved canopy at the top of the chariot that would have been shown on the Noblet and and Dodal had the number area not been added. Here's a quick photoshop mock up to show you what I mean, as if Vieville had created an area for the number, as on the Tarot de Marseille, instead of squeezing it in:

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In fact, we find this "squeezed in" effect throughout the Vieville, as shown on a few more cards:

The Empress
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Here on the Popess, we see the number added, but we also see the complete triple crown. Compare that to the Dodal and Noblet.
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And here, on Strength, we actually see the bottom of the card because there is no title area. Now we can clearly see her exposed foot and the tail on the lion; and because there is no title area at the top of the card, we can see the top of her hat! Compare to the Noblet:

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One last example of how numbers seem to be added this from the pips. The Marseille Tarot pips have numbers on many cards. The Vieville doesn't, and some of the cards in the large, diverse group in the collection don't have numbers either. The two pip cards on the Cary Sheet also are missing the numbers. Here is a comparison of the 8 Batons:

Sforza Castle, Jacques Vieville, Jean Dodal, Jean Noblet:
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I think it likely that the earliest Tarot de Marseille cards not only had untitled and unnumbered Trumps and Court cards, but also unnumbered pip cards. In adding the numbers for ease of use in game play, part of the original images were sacrificed, just as part of the images were sacrificed to add the titles and numbers on the Trump and Court cards. The Vieville, like the Sforza Castle World card, may give us clues as to what was lost.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Towards a deck creation

#7
le pendu wrote:...This makes the Dodal really important because, in essence, his deck "should" be a close "copy" of the older decks without titles and numbers, as he didn't bother to create "new art", but just copied things over and added in the titles and numbers, sometimes covering up (probably fairly "unimportant") details in the process.

It's frustrating though because I would consider the craftsman of the Dodal rather "sloppy". Compare the details and elegance of line of the Sforza Castle card to the Dodal, and it's shocking how crude it looks. Worse, Dodal seems to have been careless about details (losing the hand on the King of Batons for instance). So in my opinion, we are lucky enough to have a "copy" of this older pattern, but we're unlucky enough to have it done by someone who wasn't paying a lot of attention!.....
So, since the time of Dodal, it seems that cardmakers have not been paying much attention to some details of their images.
That's an awful lot of cards.
Should we suppose all of these people did not know better, or perhaps that it didn't matter to them?
Maybe the identity of the subjects did not lie so much in the precision of rendering, but in the common fabric of the time. Perhaps the "losses" didn't alter the perception of the subjects at hand, and so were not seen as "losses" until now.


Sorry I can't pursue this further right now. I have to finish masking the cursed molding on the wainscoating in the lavatory before I can start the cycle of panel portraits. I'm afraid I've failed to take the dimensions of said molding into account, so either your heads will be slightly attenuated, or your shoulders will come up short. Either way, I'm still on the clock, so it's all the same to me....
I am not a cannibal.

Re: Towards a deck creation

#8
I really do not think, OnePotato, that anyone has ever said that "since the time of Dodal, it seems that cardmakers have not been paying much attention to some details of their images". Of course they have, and would suggest that it is in large part because they have that such details have changed over the course of time. Conver (or Chosson, or whoever begins Tarot de Marseille-II) is a good example of this: the details from many decks become more or less corrupted or without seeming sense, the cardmaker re-beautifies the details and renders it wholesome in its own fashion.

We are still left with questions as to what the early model that the Noblet, Dodal, and indeed aspects of the Vieville, Bologna, Parisian and Besançon may have used as their working models. And it is in this that the Conver is often less useful - because the card-makers 'cared'.

We are left with various clues from relatively 'sloppy' card-makers as to what their models may have been, and it is to this, together with those wonderful finds in the Sforza Well, that an attempt is made to make sense of details that otherwise appear confused.

Le Pendu has really highlighted above much of the central points of visual comparison that may assist us in establishing something close to the Sforza Castle cards - the earliest remnant that appear to be clearly in the style that becomes later established as the Tarot de Marseille-I, and later still with further modifications due to the attention paid to detail for their cards, as the Tarot de Marseille-II.
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association.tarotstudies.org

Re: Towards a deck creation

#9
You're right jmd, I didn't mean to imply that.

I guess my tone sometimes doesn't communicate my actual intent. What I have suggested makes sense to me, this is how I've worked out the genealogy of the iconography, and I am trying to present that. Yes, I am pretty convinced of what I have written about so far, but there is still a lot that I don't understand and am uncertain about... (and was frankly about to get into that).

What we know is that tarot fashions changed, just as they do now. Just look at the decks from Paris in the 1600s.. The "Tarot de Paris", the Noblet, the Vieville... all are different, but all from the same place in a relatively short space of time. Just looking through Kaplan's Encyclopedia we see constant change, deck after deck after deck. We see new patterns adopted, we see cards intermixed. Sometimes the subjects remain stable, sometimes they change. Sometimes the subject remains, but the iconography changes.

I've gone down this path simply because I started comparing the Noblet, Vieville, Dodal, and Conver and wanted to try to explain their similarities and differences. This is where it's led. What I am presenting is what makes sense to me from those years of examining the cards. I've taken only the actual images on the cards into consideration, there's no external system or consideration that guides this. I could go outside the images and look for reasons why, for instance, the Noblet and the Dodal don't have a triple crown on the Popess.. surely it would be easy enough to find something to explain it; but it just seems more logical to me that the title area covered part of the image, and I hope I've presented some evidence to support that.
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One Potato, if you are suggesting that the details that I am discussing aren't really all that important because the essence of the card is retained, title area or not, then I pretty much agree... I think I even pointed that out myself with the phrase "(probably fairly "unimportant")." My point is rather to understand how the cards changed and evolved. I do consider the craftsmen as being "proud" of their work, but also recognize that they were also businessmen. Just as today, some tarots are incredibly beautiful, with the time and talent apparent in the product. Others... not so much.

I'm sorry to hear about the molding. Perhaps take a lesson from the Noblet and start with the molding in place and then fill in the panel portraits to fit? ;)
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Towards a deck creation

#10
jmd wrote:.....the cardmaker re-beautifies the details and renders it wholesome in its own fashion.
......
...We are left with various clues from relatively 'sloppy' card-makers as to what their models may have been.......
Perhaps I should rephrase my point...
What conclusion, (or impression,) should be drawn from all this about the "awareness" of the cardmakers since the time of Dodal?
If the complete integrity of all of the details of the image was seen as important to its "function" (as a symbol) in the first place, why would so many of these artists and artisans crop with such abandon? Were they all ignorant of content, and lacking the drive to get it right? or is it not possible that the "sloppy" bits were not important, and they well knew it?

I think calling them "sloppy" is a projection of a contemporary sensibility.

I've been using the old 18th century newspapers that I found in the basement as dropcloths, and I've noticed what crappy spellers those people were....
I am not a cannibal.

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