A "Cappello di Paglia" is a straw hat and a straw hat is at the table on the card of the Bagatello. Does this passage tell us, that the PMB Sforza cards are indeed the cards of 1451/52?
Malatesta wants a Trionfi deck and a straw hat. Is there an internal joke in the letter, something, which is only understandable to insiders?
Or is the straw hat in the deck just a hidden advertisement for straw hats made in Cremona?
Added: I found an older discussion (2010) to this point ...
... I didn't remember the detail about the detail of the straw hat in the letter.
Good Q Huck.
And speaking of Sforza's letters, wading through them for hours yesterday (looking for something else) I found two references to the hats - both from 'Registro n.5' (the webpage provides a summary in Italian and then the text in Latin or Italian, per the missive in question) http://www.lombardiabeniculturali.it/missive/registri/
June 22, 1451: 5.54. Francesco Sforza a Sigismondo Pandolfo, 1451 giugno 22 Milano.
Francesco Sforza scrive a Sigismondo Pandolfo che gli invia i due cappelli dei quali ha scritto al suo cancelliere Luca. [Francesco Sforza wrote to Sigismund Pandolfo that sends the two hats of whom wrote to his Chancellor Luca.]
Domino Sigismundo Pandulfo.
Havemo veduto una lettera, quale la signoria vostra ha scripto a ser Lucha, suo cancellero, per li doi cappelli, per compiacere ala signoria vostra et per darvi l'usata provisione, come voi diceti, vi mandiamo li decti doi cappelli per lo cavallaro nostro, exibitore dela presente; quali si no sono cosi belli como vorressemo, pregamo la signoria vostra ne voglia havere per scusati et aparechiati ad ogni suo piacere. Mediolani xxi iunii 1451.
55. Francesco Sforza a Luca, cancelliere di Sigismondo Pandolfo, 1451 giugno 22 Milano.
Francesco Sforza scrive a Luca, cancelliere di Sigismondo Pandolfo, che manda due cappelli. Dice, poi, di aver indugiato perché attendeva una risposta da Firenze, risposta appena avuta che gli dà notizia della elezione dei Dieci della Balia che raccoglieranno il denaro per risolvere la faccenda di ser Sigismondo.
[Google tr.] Francesco Sforza writes Luke, Chancellor of Sigismondo Pandolfo, who sends two hats. He says, then, that he lingered because waiting for a response from Florence, answer no sooner had he shall announce the election of Ten of Balia that will collect the money to solve ser Sigismund thing.
My 2 cents.
While there is no mention of trionfo
in either case (or anywhere in the letters as far as I searched), it does appear that Sforza wanted to bundle the gift of hats (as well as trionfi
presumably) along with the condotta
approved by Florence's Ten of War as well as the related money. I'm a bit confused on this point because elsewhere Sforza is directly asking Cosimo to provide funds for the likes of Ludovico Gonzaga, but in Malatesta's case his history was that of a direct condottiere
of both the Pope and Florence, and the latter would presumably regard his employment elsewhere as a matter of state that required the Ten's blessing (Gonzaga was outside of their purview). All of this should be kept in mind when considering Giusti's gift to Malatesta (Giusti was in frequent contact with the Ten). But the context of June 1451 is this: Malatesta (and Colleoni) were previously marching on behalf of Venice on Sforza's encirclement of Milan in February 1450; the city of course capitulates before it can be relieved. Also note that in the mid-40s Malatesta was reducing Sforza's Marche on behalf of Pope Eugene IV (dead in the same year as Filippo Visconti in 1447), while Cosimo/Florence stuck with Sforza. Who could Sforza ultimately trust with so many immediate examples of duplicity (not discounting his own)?
As to your Q: the "Juggler" is a universal constant and thus the reaching for a hat as a personal joke to one of Sforza's allies, such as Malatesta, would be seem illogical when it would need to impart a universally understood message (at least in c. 1450 N. Italy among "lords"). And the straw hat in the PMB is barely recognizable as such - it's shabby shape can't refer to an expensive gift. But again, the context is that both of Sforza's regained mercenary generals - Malatesta and Colleoni - in the build-up to renewed hostilities in 1452 with Venice, is that both of those generals had already turned on Sforza (at least once), the previous year.
With that in mind, if the "Juggler" means anything it is that very duplicity. For that to be a correct reading then the "Juggler" would have to be understood not as a street entertainer but instead at least the equivalent of a court personage found in the court cards. Two indisputable iconographic details of the "Juggler" - not discussed in the literature as far as I know - do put the "Juggler" on the level of a court person (such as we'd expect of a mercenary lord of Rimini):
1. The hat (speaking of hats) worn by the "Juggler" is exactly the same hat worn by the surviving Brambilla court figures of the suit of coins (also of relevance is that in the CY the suit of coins has Visconti imprese, the radiate dove, not Sforza's). However disreputable (the ends of the hat droop, unlike in the Brambilla), this is a person from a court, not the street. And the suit of coins speaks directly to what Sforza, Colleoni, and Malatesta all principally engaged in: condotta
/ money. They are not proper lords but live by condotte
2. The "Juggler" holds a scepter. This is not a street juggler's stick used to move objects about on a table (there is also no audience to entertain), as this scepter is identical in length and held against the shoulder the exact same way as all of the other court figures or trumps also holding a scepter. What is different is that the Juggler holds the scepter in his sinistra
(with all those connotations) hand. In a word, duplicity is in play here.
Where does that leave the shabby straw hat, being slyly reached for with the free hand (the "Juggler" does not look at it)? Although nobility wore straw hats it was principally while hunting, or in the case of generals, while campaigning. But the straw hat, particularly a poor one, was mostly associated with the peasants of the field. The hat goes with the card immediately preceding the "Juggler" - the peasant-as-Fool. In a better sense, the popolo
. Paired, the "Juggler" would be a court personage reaching for the Popolo
- which would only mean sedition (again, sinistra
). The PMB definitely has a strong Mirror for Princes aspect. The Hanged Man trump is merely the correction to sedition - to a traitor - one can expect from the Prince/Duke.
It was not just external alliances that could go bad - Sforza had all kinds of problems within Milan itself, principally Ambrogio Trivulzio who lead the faction against him (Trivulzio did not want to agree to the terms offered Sforza before his first ingresso
in February 1450), and as an established lineage in the city, Trivulzio could claim to speak for the popolo
. But there was also a host of Visconti from cadet branches with whom Sforza had to tussle with, per his letters (see link above), in which he has to instruct, admonish or threaten a variety of Visconti podesta, bishops, etc. located throughout Lombardy - just a few of the names: Sagramoro Visconti, Ottaviano Visconti, Esterolo Visconti, and my fav, Filippo Maria Visconti (yes, a relative shared the dead duke's full name). Sforza even has to make peace between various Visconti, in this cited case, a Pietro Visconti to pay his debt from Antonpietro Visconti (Reg. 8. 753. Francesco Sforza a Pietro Visconti, 1452 febbraio 8 Milano).
PS The Juggler was re/mis-interpreted in subsequent decks - I'm not going argue against that. But that is true for more than one trump in the PMB.