Re: Tharochus Bacchus est

Here are some more dates for Charles VIII's time from leaving France, passing through Savoy (including Piedmont), Milanese territory, up until his triumphal entry into Florence on November 17, 1494. Dates from Delaborde (pp. 396 to 459), which you can download at the Internet Archive in your choice of formats - ... 00delagoog

1 September, 1494 - Briançon.
2 September - Oulx
5 September - Turin
9 September to 6 October - Asti (13 September Charles has a fever; 17 September diagnosed as a mild case of the "petite vérole", which should be understood as "the pox", without knowing further what it was; it was over in 14 days)
6 October - leaves Asti, spends night in Moncalvo
7-10 October - Casale (Monferrato hosts)
10-13 October - Vigevano (now he is in Milanese territory)
14-17 October - Pavia
18-23 October - Piacenza
23 October - leaves Piacenza
28 October - crosses Cisa Pass (Passo Cisa, Pontremoli) into Tuscany
30 October - 6 November - Sarzana
6 November - Massa
7 November - Pietrasanta
9-10 November - Pisa
11-16 November - Pontassigna (today "Signa", 15km west of Florence center on the Arno; negotiations with Florence)
17 November - enters Florence

Re: Tharochus Bacchus est

Thanks for all the clarification about Charles VIII, Ross.

For purposes of the "Bacchus" hypothesis, it is only useful for dating the frotula. It would seem to be around the beginning of October 1494 as the earliest for the Alione. Later in this thread, however,when I talk more about individual cards of the period c. 1500, my hypothesis will be that the "Cary Sheet" is an Italian commission, probably Milan, possibly Ascanio Sforza, but in a more Burgundian/French style than most Italian cards, the result either of a cutter from that area or influence from woodcuts or tapestries from there. I hope that isn't ruled out by the facts you present.

Huck wrote,
In September 1512, when the theater play was given, the French were the Barbarians. This was part of a battle call of Pope Julius and he meant the French, and the Germans were his allies.
I just want to clarify that the speculation about "taroc-" being "barbarian" was made in the context of the 1527 Sack of Rome. Who were the "barbarians" then? I would have thought primarily Germans.

Re: Tharochus Bacchus est

mikeh wrote: Huck wrote,
In September 1512, when the theater play was given, the French were the Barbarians. This was part of a battle call of Pope Julius and he meant the French, and the Germans were his allies.
I just want to clarify that the speculation about "taroc-" being "barbarian" was made in the context of the 1527 Sack of Rome. Who were the "barbarians" then? I would have thought primarily Germans.
As far I got it:
It appeared (likely) in the theater play of 1512 ...
... but it wasn't in that, what was presented by the only informant (a Venetian) about the play of 1512. But the passage appeared in a later edition. ButI see, you worked on the translation ...
So the position has changed to the condition, that no note of any Barbarians were spoken in 1512 during the theater play?
The Holy League (Venice, Spain, England) was formed to protect the papacy. The stormy but shrewd Pope Julius II now raised the cry "Out with the barbarians," and before long, France was driven from Italy. The Papal States continued to increase, and Pope Julius II regarded himself as their re-founder. Many were shocked by Pope Julius II’s open display of power politics and his absolute absorption in the welfare of the papal kingdom.

Somebody in 1512 definitely talked of Barbarians in 1512. The theater play rather obviously had the character of "celebration of a victory" and the victory was against the occupying French army. The role of Julius II inclusive his battle call was legendary in this war.
One should suspect, that Pope Julius and his battle call was mentioned in the celebration of the victory, if REALLY not in the theater play, then in another part of the show.
The report of the theater play depends on a Venetian source ... and it is relative short. And the Venetian soon after allied with the French. And the Venetians had their own view, who were Barbarians. Verona (where the play was given beside Mantova; Verona belonged earlier to Venetia) was occupied by Germans till 1517, and in 1512 the Emperor likely didn't intend to give it back.

Sooo ... what's wrong?

That a later version after 1527 attacked also Germans, isn't really a problem. It's understandable.

Re: Tharochus Bacchus est

Huck wrote: As far I got it:
It appeared (likely) in the theater play of 1512 ...
... but it wasn't in that, what was presented by the only informant (a Venetian) about the play of 1512. But the passage appeared in a later edition. ButI see, you worked on the translation ...
So the position has changed to the condition, that no note of any Barbarians were spoken in 1512 during the theater play?

Somebody in 1512 definitely talked of Barbarians in 1512.
There is no reason to believe that the 1512 Dialogo de Italia contained the phrase about taroch being a barbarous word which is found in the 1532-34 Italia e Mantua.

Italia e Mantua wasn't a "later edition" - it was a completely new work. Is there any reason to think that Sanudo's account of the earlier, 1512, play is defective? I don't think so.

The sentence "Barbaro ritu, taroch nunc dicunt nulla latina ratione" doesn't exist in 1512, to anyone's knowledge - and there is no reason - no evidence direct or indirect - at all to believe that it did. So it is unwise to contrive a theory which depends on its being there.

We earlier discussed this on AT - ... stcount=10

"I think this quote comes from the 1532-34 play Italia e Mantua, and not Vigilio's lost dialogue performed in 1512. If you read Vitali's text closely, you'll see that Carlo Dionisotti and Tania Basile, the editors of "Italia e Mantua" contained in Scritti di storia della letteratura italiana (vol. 1 (2008))
attribute the preservation of the 1512 dialogue to Marino Sanudo (Vitali's article, paragrah 5).

The dialogue Comoedia Veronae habita coram reverendissimo Gursensi Cesareo oratore et gubernatore ("A Comedy of Verona, Held in the Presence of the Most Reverend Imperial Orator and Governor of Gurk" [Matthew Lang]) is in volume 15 of I Diarii di Marino Sanuto
- columns 146-151.

It does not contain anything like the stuff about barbarous words in the later dialogue.

It goes like this:

1512 - Dialogo de Italia by Francesco "Mantovano" Vigilio - lost.
1512 - Marino Sanudo, Comoedia Veronae habita coram reverendissimo Gursensi Cesareo oratore et gubernatore, probably a close version of the lost Vigilio text, preserved in his [Sanudo's] diaries.
1532-34 - Italia e Mantua, published by Dionisotti and Basile, contains the triumphorum-tarocchi reference."

Re: Tharochus Bacchus est

Well, good.

I had the idea, that there was a little bit more filiation between the different texts.

"Italia e Mantua wasn't a "later edition" - it was a completely new work." ... if this is correct (I can't judge it) or correct at least to a "high degree" ("some stronger relationship" is given anyway, and if it's only, that the text was possibly from the same writer or his son), and the passage appeared only there, one has to accept, that there is 1532-34 instead of a 1512.

BUT ... the whole point "Taroch versus Ludus Triumphorum" makes more sense in 1512 than in 1532-34. Actually it's very clear, that brother Alfonso d'Este had this idea with "Taroch" in 1505 and the elder sister Isabella d'Este, lover and collector of nice playing cards in her studiolo temple, hated this.
And this likely already in 1505 and not since 1512 and not since 1532-34. Actually Isabella was 1505 not in the position to attack this detail in 1505 (if the "Taroch"-expression was somehow related to France), but she had been in 1512 (when the French were gone).
That "Isabella hated it" is not clear from "direct evidence", but the whole style of Isabella and her occasional behavior as "fine lady" make it probable.


In matters of the theme of this thread (Tharochus Bacchus est) the quote ...
"Barbaro ritu, taroch nunc dicunt nulla latina ratione". Ma allora perché quel gioco non viene chiamato non meno impropriamente bachiach? "Sed cur non minus improprie bachiach?"
... The word "bachiach" creates translation difficulties. Isn't it possible to associate "something with Bacchus"?

Re: Tharochus Bacchus est

That's a good suggestion, Huck, at the end of your last post.

Andrea notes that scholars talking about this word "bachiach" derive it from a dialect word meaning "foolish".
Mentre per il Dionisotti, bachiach sta per bachioch, cioè bachiocco, babbeo, il Cherubini suggerisce anche il milanese baciaccol segnando tarocch per tarlucch, termine che nel dialetto milanese significa sciatteria, malmodo, giustificando in tal modo la scherzosa proposta di cambiare nome al gioco, bachiach in sostituzione di taroch (10).

(If according to Dionisotti, bachiach is for bachioch, that is, bachiocco, foolish, Cherubini also suggests the Milanese baciaccol, marking off tarocch for tarlucch, a term that in the Milan dialect means sloppiness, a bad way, justifying in such a way the joking proposal to change the name of the game, bachiach in substitution for taroch (10).)
And now he has a new addition (probably inspired in part by your comment, as I wrote him about it):
A nostro avviso il termine bachiach potrebbe derivare da Bacco, il Dio della follia, così come da noi evidenziato nel saggio Tharocus Bacchus Est. In tal senso il termine Taroch, con il significato di follia, dovrebbe essere messo in relazione con la carta del Folle, da cui deriverebbe il nome di questo gioco di carte.
My translation: "In our opinion the term bachiach could derive from Bacchus, the God of folly, as we have emphasized in the essay Tharocus Bacchus Est. In such a sense the term Taroch, with the meaning of folly, should be connected with the Fool card, from which the name of this card game would derive."

I would note also that the way in which bachiach would come from Bacchus is like the way in which Tarocho would come from Tharopes. That is, the ending changes from the Greek -us and -pes to the "vulgar Latin", i.e. Tuscan, -och, -ocho,; and there are a few other small changes, perhaps to make pronunciation clearer or simply at the creator's whim. This is what Andrea's essay on "Vulgar Latin" goes into at the end, citing the linguist Zaggia:
"Secondo la norma della grafia italiana di base toscana, l'h serve ad indicare il suono velare di c e di g davanti a vocale palatale: e quest'uso è regolarmente riconoscibile anche nel macaronico folenghiano, particolarmente per voci di diffusione toscana e letteraria come nocchia, nocchierus, pecchia, ecc. (si noti inoltre la c geminata, sempre dell'uso toscano e letterario); ancora per il valore velare di ch, si può ricordare trincher (dal tedesco), o, in fine, taroch (a Zan T 182, Zan. C 224) o tach tich toch...."

("According to the norm of Tuscan-based Italian handwriting, the h serves indicate the velar [using the soft palate] sound of c and g before a palatal vocal: and this use is also recognizable regularly in the macaronic language of Folengo, particularly for entries [voci] of Tuscan literary diffusion such as nocchia, nocchierus, pecchia, etc. (notice the geminated c, always from Tuscan literary use); again for the velar value of ch, we can recall trincher (from the German), or, finally, taroch (at Zan T 182, Zan. C 224) or tach tich toch...")
And so we have two new words for "foolish", a Lombard one that anyone could have made up (since Bacchus was well known) and a Piedmont one that was more erudite, either from Poggio or from the Greek for "tumult", which would now be associated with Bacchanals.

I have yet to establish a 15th century source for tarochos or tarachos as Greek for "tumult". I am not sure one is necessary, but it would be nice, and I am working on it.

But I can post the relevant passages in Poggio's Latin translation of Diodorus Siculus. I have been away traveling recently and while I did not encounter a 1576 Venetian Poggio, I did see a 1531 Parisian one. Since the 1476 Venetian edition was at the same time as the first Parisian edition (per Vogel, p. xxi), I cannot imagine that the two would have been different. And probably the 1531 Paris is simply a reprint of the 1476. Moreover, the 1478 English translation, which was based on a manuscript copy of Poggio, uses the same spelling.

Tharopes appears on p. 123L (each set of two pages gets a number, so I am distinguishing left from right). Here is the full two pages. The embossing in the middle is that of the institution that made the scan for me, the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) of the University of Texas at Austin (they provide this scan for research purposes only) :


In the bottom left there is a marginal notation, one word. Here is that part of the page specifically, followed by the top of the next page, where another mention occurs:



For the one on whom Dionysus bestowed the knowledge of his rites, this is not Andrea's Tharocus, but Tharopes is close enough for me, given the Tuscan preference for "ch" sounds near the end of words.

That this section of Diodorus was consulted in relation to the tarot is also suggested by two other words, one higher up on the same page and the other on the right side of the next page, The first is "Ninum Indorum regem" ("Ninus King of India"), and the second is another name with a marginal notation, "Thamyris".



As I pointed out earlier, these names are in the Leber tarot, c. 1500-1520 ( they are the King of Batons and the Queen of Swords of the Leber tarot, as I mentioned earlier.


Admittedly there would have been some miscommunication between designer and executor here. Diodorus's Ninus is not King of Assyria, nor is his Thamyris a queen, or even female (he is a singer). Ninus was already known in another context, as king of Nineveh during the time of Jonah. But I know of no other reference for anybody else spelled like "Thamyris". And as I pointed out earlier, the Leber has other cards that suggest Bacchus: the Ace of Batons with its ivy-wreathed cherubs, the Ace of Cups with its satyrs (assuming that Cicognara was drawing the Leber), and the Two of Batons with its fox reaching for grapes (which to be sure directly references the Song of Songs).

Re: Tharochus Bacchus est

I now have a scan (thanks to the Ransom Center of the U of Texas, for research purposes only) of the relevant page of the Aldine Venice 1497 Greek-Latin Lexicon (Lexicon Graeco-Latinum), by Giovanni Castoni, showing two "tarach-" words, defined as "pertubatio" and "turba.turbatio". The first of these Latin definitions, according to Wictionary, means "confusion, disturbance, disorder, commotion, revolution, perturbation, passion"; these meanings are in line both with Bacchanals and with 16th century Italian meanings of "taroch-" as "irritated", "Turbatio" means "confusion, disturbance"."Turba" means "crowd";it is also the first word of a popular alchemical compendium of the time, although that would not seem to be of relevance in the present context.

I reproduce here all the "tar-" entries, in case I have missed anything.


Re: Tharochus Bacchus est

So now I will proceed through the rest of the trumps, just to show some of the associations that would likely have been made by a literate person from the late 15th to the beginning of the 18th century. I am greatly indebted to Daimonax at for his presentation of this interpretation several years ago; here I will go in my own way, with many additions and some subtractions (for citations that were known only after the 18th century, such as things at Pompeii). Let me make it clear that I do not believe that an initiation into the Mysteries of Dionysus was the original impetus or meaning of the cards; nor is it the only way of seeing the cards, or the only influence on the cards once Dionysus might have started being a factor. It is also important to remember that in this period educated Europeans would have followed the lead of the ancient writers in considering Dionysus and Osiris two forms of the same god in different countries, with similar rites.

1. I have already discussed the Matto. The Bagatella is the next card, to all appearances merely a common street conjurer. In the myth, he would be Dionysus himself, as the stranger in Euripides' Bacchae who concocts illusions to deceive Pentheus, his opponent. But Dionysus is also the master of real magic, Even as a child he turned pirates into dolphins, and his fennel stalk thyrsis is the prototypical magician's wand; here is an illustration from the 1647 edition of Cartari's Images of the Gods of the Ancients, which was first published 1556

The Bagatella's table suggests the trays of sacred objects seen on Dionysian sarcophagi:
These are described by Clement of Alexandria ( ... [quote]And it is worth while to quote the worthless symbols of this rite of yours in order to excite condemnation: the knuckle-bone, the ball, the spinning-top, apples, wheel, mirror, fleece![/quote]. The knuckle-bones, at least, are often seen on the Bagatella's table in the form of dice.

The d'Este Bagatella is shown surrounded by children:

This figure might correspond to the Titans as described by Clement:
He was yet a child, and the Curetes were dancing around him with warlike movement, when the Titans stealthily drew near. First they beguiled him with childish toys, and then, - these very Titans - tore him to pieces, though he was but an infant.
In this context, the Bagatella is a nefarious seducer to be avoided.

By the time of the c. 1650 Noblet (at right below), there was a purse with something like a knife sticking out of it. As Daemonax has pointed out ( it resembles the snake emerging from the basket on Roman-era Dionysian sarcophagi.

Both suggest the "virilia of Dionysus" (Clement of Alexandria's phrase) hidden in the chest, or the phallus on the tray in Roman friezes, as does the bush between the Bateleur's legs and his finger parallel to the object above it.

In Egypt the Bagatella would correspond to Plato's "Theuth" (Phaedrus 274d), whom Plutarch called the Egyptian Hermes (On Isis and Osiris sec. 12, For Plato, he was the inventor of games of chance. So the "Book of Thoth" potentially goes back to c. 1500, even if not spoken of explicitly until de Mellet in 1781. In Plutarch, it was through a game he played with the Moon goddess that the gods were able to descend into this world. As the father of Isis, he taught her his magic.

The broad-brimmed hat particularly associates the Bagatella with Hermes. It appears as early as the PMB card (at left above). In Cartari, Hermes' hat has horizontal wings sticking out on both sides, similar to the Bagatella/Bateleur's brim.

Another association would be to the ram-headed Egyptian Zeus mentioned by Herodotus ( ... dtbk2.html, chapter 42) worshiped by the "Ammonians", i.e. the followers of Ammon. For Diodorus, this Ammon most likely merely had a ram-head shaped helmet ( ... s/3E*.html, sec. 73). When people of the Renaissance saw the "Bembine Tablet", an Egyptian-style artifact of ancient Rome. acquired by Bembo after the 1527sack of Rome, they would have seen what this ram-head looked like: the rams there have horizontal horns extending on both sides of the head:

Such a ram thus represented Ammon, whom Diodorus (sec. 68) identified as the father of Dionysus according to the Libyans. The Bembine Tablet image of the horizontal horns is thus another reason why the broad-brimmed hat versions of this card would have been favored by those wishing to project the Dionysian myths onto the card.

2. I will turn now to the Empress. Holding the shield of Empire, symbol of the succession, on her lap, the Empress is like a Madonna and Child or, more to the point, Isis and Horus, as seen on Roman coins (which all the nobles collected, including the Estensi) e.g. at left below:

The drapery behind the Cary Sheet Empress (at right above) gives her the suggestion of wings. Isis, in Plutarch sec. 16, took the form of a swallow. To me the drapery looks more like a vulture's wings. That would identify the Empress with nature, and so indirectly with Isis. Leon Alberti says, in his treatise on architecture, "The Egyptians employed the following sign language: a god was represented by an eye, nature by a vulture..." His source was a text by the Roman general Ammianus. Isis, in turn, was a personification of nature. There was the famous statue supposedly of Isis at Sais reported by Plutarch, sec. 9, with the motto ""I am all that hath been, and is, and shall be; and my veil no mortal has hitherto raised." There was also the Roman philosopher Macrobius, who said (Saturnalia I, 20, 18):
Isis is the earth or beneath the sun. This is why the goddess's entire body bristles with a multitude of breasts placed close to one another [as in the case of Artemis of Ephesis], because all things are nourished by earth or by nature."
Also, both the Hypnerotamachia (Godwin trans. p. 41) and Ripa ( ... pa056a.htm) associated nature with the vulture.

Nature is here a kind of mother. It is perhaps worth noting that around the time of the Cary Sheet, Leonardo da Vinci dreamt of a "nibbio", a small vulture, which Freud analyzed as a mother-figure.

The way in which the madonna and child image got detached from its Christian use is shown by another such mother and child in the Hypnerotomachia of 1499 Venice, there a representation of Venus with Cupid, the goddess of a female cult of Venus. Isis was identified with Venus by Apuleius: in The Golden Ass she appears in a vision to the protagonist Lucius and tells him, among other things, "The Cyprians in their island home call me Paphian Venus" (Lindsay translation p. 237". The picture in the Hypernotomachia could just as well be of a cult of Isis.

Other candidates are Dionysus's mothers, any of them: Semele, Persephone, Demeter--or the Libyan maiden Amaltheia (Diodorus sec. 68), whom in the Libyan myth his father Ammon made queen of that area after siring Dionysus from her. In Semele's case the shield on the lap would connote Dionysus in her womb, as she died before she could give birth.

3. With the Emperor, there is again the shield, symbolizing the continuity of the Empire as represented by his fertility. He could be Osiris, husband of Isis and father of Horus. He could also be Dionysus as statesman, in his bearded persona. Daimonax has pointed out how the Emperor's helmet corresponds to Dionysus's hair on one Roman relief :

The date for the card above might be 1672, based on the date on the Two of Coins, together with the name "Chosson", but since that particular cardmaker wasn't in business then, it might well be early 18th century; or else the design was initiated by someone else.

The Emperor could also be any of Dionysus's fathers, as listed by Cicero and Diodorus (except those with rams' heads, of course), but especially Zeus. Beanu on Aeclectic once pointed out the resemblance of the c. 1650 Noblet to a particular Zeus, that of his colossal statue at Olympia as described by Pausanias. This text was available in Greek in the 15th century. It is also mentioned in Plutarch's Lives, life of Aemilius Paulus, which was available in Latin. Except for the lack of a helmet, the 16th century rendering below ( is much like the "Marseille" image of the card:

This would be an example of the card's imagery changing to fit the Dionysian myth. The body of water on the lower right of the card might be the Nile, corresponding to Osiris, or the river on which the "Olympian Zeus" in Athens stood, as Plato recounts at the beginning of the Phaedrus ( ... pPhaed.htm).

4. The Popess corresponds to the High Priestess of the Maenads or female Bacchantes. Negatively, she is the deluded Agive, Queen of Thebes, in Euripides' Bacchae, who eats raw flesh including that of her own son, thinking it that of a wild animal. Positively there is Dionysus's wife Ariadne. In another myth, available in Latin in Ovid's Metamorphoses (, paragraph 169),she knew the secret of the Cretan Labyrinth; as such, and as the daughter of the king, she would have been a High Priestess. On Roman-era Dionysian reliefs, there is sometimes a female initiation leader, e.g.:

In this relief there is a book behind a curtain, a book of secrets; the Popess is always portrayed with a book, and by Noblet c. 1650 (at right above) with a curtain behind her (image and observations are from Daimonax on

In the Osiris myth, the Popess corresponds again to Isis, who would have been taught magic by her father Thoth/Hermes (Plutarch sec. 12). On sculptures of her, e.g. in the Villa Adriana, there were the crossed straps of the later Popess (seen also on "Pope Joan" and also depictions of the popes); the illustrations to Cartari (at right below) popularized this image of Isis:

Robert O'Neill has pointed out the resemblance between the Cary Sheet Popess and the figure of Isis in the Borgia apartments at the Vatican, done around the same time. When the image is reversed, to make it as it was for the carver, the resemblance is close.

(I would explain the male acolyte as a reference to Pope Joan's lover, by whom she betrayed herself giving birth. Not everything is Egyptian.)

In the Hypnerotomachia of 1499, a very Popess-like High Priestess is depicted, there identified as the head of a cult of Venus. Venus was identified by Apuleius with Isis, as I have already remarked:

5. The tarot Pope is again Dionysus, the older, bearded one, now as head of his cult. Or he is Tharopes, to whom Dionysus taught the cult, according to Diodorus. Or Silenus, the older bearded male initiator as seen on sarcophagi (e.g. the one shown above) and elsewhere. Or he is one of the wise priests of the cult of Osiris described in Apuleius's Golden Ass Book 11. I will say more about the later versions of this card, with pictures, later in this post.

6. The Love card is the marriage of Dionysis and Ariadne, with Cupid hovering. From the early 18th century, there is actually a painting of this scene that looks very much like the Marseille II version of the card, with the older woman on the left as a Bacchante:

(Again, the "Chosson" might not be 1672, or not originally by Chosson).

Alternatively, the card might be showing two candidates for initiation, male and female, being addressed by a female initiation leader. It might be (with a male initiation leader) as in Mozart's Magic Flute, where the two are destined to marry. Mystically, that could be the achievement of godlike androgyny, as depicted in alchemy. Or it is the marriage of Isis and Osiris, with their son Horus on top (disregarding for the moment his identity as Cupid), whom Plutarch called Apollo (hence the sunburst) and said was conceived and born even while his parents were in their mother the Moon's womb.

7. The Chariot is Dionysus in his victory parade, the so-called "Triumph" which he was said to have invented. He is often shown in a chariot, usually pulled by centaurs. The victory hymn was called the "'Thrambos", from which the word "Triumph" derives (at least according to my Webster's New World Dictionary, 1967 edition).

8. The Temperance card, which is typically of a woman pouring from one vessel into another, shows, from a Dionysian perspective, water diluting wine. Cartari cites Athenaeus, who in turn cites Diodorus. This citation combines two passages in Diodorus. One is in IV.3: of his History
For the drinking of unmixed wine results in a state of madness, but when it is mixed with the rain from Zeus the delight and pleasure continue, but the ill effect of madness and stupor is avoided.
The other is in IV.5:
He was thought to have two forms, men say, because there were two Dionysi, the ancient one having a long beard because all men in early times wore long beards, the younger one being youthful and effeminate and young, as we have mentioned before.18 3 Certain writers say, however, that it was because men who become drunk get into two states, being either joyous or sullen, that the god has been called "two-formed".
Strength is the supernatural strength of Dionysus, and of the Bacchant under his influence. People in frenzies sometimes were observed to have unusual strength, and also the primitive defensiveness of wild animals, as when Cartari observes "wine drunk out of measure makes man terrible and irascible". In The Bacchae, the Maenads tear Pentheus to pieces and eat him raw, thinking that he is a wild beast, even a lion. Agive says (
We caught this beast by hand, tore it apart- [1210]
with our own hands. But where's my father?
He should come here. And where's Pentheus?
Where is my son? He should take a ladder,
set it against the house, fix this lion's head
way up there, high on the palace front.
I've captured it and brought it home with me.
At the same time Dionysus had the power to tame wild animals, like the woman with the lion on the Marseille style cards (Noblet at right below), a motif present as early as the Cary-Yale (left) and repeated in the fragmengary Cary Sheet image (center below):

Probably there were, in the Renaissance, Roman-era mosaics in Europe like the North African one below, showing the boy Dionysus riding lions:

Panthers and tigers are ubiquitous in Renaissance art, drawing his chariot (cheetahs in Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne, done for Isabella d'Este, 1522).

However I did find one Roman sarcophagus of lionesses drawing the chariot of Dionysus and Ariadne, of which this is the relevant detail:


In this connection we may recall the carnival song by Lorenzo de' Medici, c. 1475 ( ... (Carracci), which shows a 1597 version by the Bolognese artist annibale Caracci):

Quest’è Bacco ed Arïanna, Here are Bacchus and Ariadne,
belli, e l’un de l’altro ardenti: Handsome, and burning for each other:
perché ’l tempo fugge e inganna, Because time flees and fools,
sempre insieme stan contenti. They stay together always content.
Queste ninfe ed altre genti These nymphs and those others
sono allegre tuttavia. Are ever full of joy.
Chi vuol esser lieto, sia: Let those who wish to be happy, be:
di doman non c’è certezza. Of tomorrow, we have no certainty.

Here as in the artwork, it is again the allegorical theme of the power of wine to bring amiability in moderation and violence in excess.

In Egypt, the lion was the animal of the Sun God, Ra or Re. I cannot find any Greek source describing her winning him or a lion to her side, although there may well be one, since modern accounts describe how she used his own spittle to bend him to her will. In Plutarch (sec. 19) the closest match is her success in winning the gods' support in recognizing Horus's legitimacy as king of all Egypt. But as Plutarch presents it, Thoth is the one who does the influencing. So conceivably the card could represent Ra, as chief of the gods, submitting to Isis under the here unseen influence of Thoth.

9, Justice in the Dionysian sense is the goddess Nemesis, the great equalizer, the one who brings the mighty down in Greek tragedy, an art under the tutelage of Dionysus. In Garzoni's Hospital of Incurable Madness, Nemesis was the goddess associated with the "tarocco madmen" (See Andrea's essay on that work, at

On the Noblet card, Justice is shown as winged, although most representations of Justice do not show her that way. But Nemesis is shown with wings, at least when she is rewarding the good, in the Cartari 1647 edition woodcut of her:

The perception of Nemesis as winged might be based on Pausanias' comments about a statue of her by Pheidias (

As punisher of the bad, she also is shown with a wheel, perhaps similar to the Wheel of Fortune, as she gives her victims a reversal of fortune. This is perhaps based on knowledge of Roman sculptures of the goddess, such as the one pictured at ... .AA.43.jpg. This one, true to Pausanias' comment, is depicted with wings.

In Greek tragedies, of which Dionysus was the patron, the reversal happens at the end of the play, when the protagonist suffers in consequence of his character flaws. Similarly, Justice was put at the end of the tarot sequence in all the early lists. From a Christian perspective, it is that by which those who do not measure up are excluded from Paradise. But in the "Marseille" order Justice appears earlier, which befits a happy ending: the high-flying charioteer is laid low by Justice as Nemesis, after which true initiation beings.

For Plutarch, Justice is simply again Isis (sec. 3).

11. The Wheel of Fortune is a traditional Greco-Roman symbol; in tragedy, there was the rise and fall of flawed heroes; in comedy, there was the suffering of the outcast who is restored to grace in the end. The sphinx-like king at the top of the Wheel in the Marseille designs might be a nod to the tragedy in which the sphinx both raises him up, as he gets the kingship of Thebes by answering its riddle, and brings him down, in that he thereby marries his mother.

In the Osiris myth we have his wise reign, then his treacherous murder, and finally his eventual triumph, through his son in this world and by his own and his wife's merit in the next. That is a cycle that ends happily, like that of Christian salvation.

For Dionysus, there is a cyclical development through incarnations: he is born as the child of Zeus, yet is dismembered by the Titans. He is conceived again, and Hera takes away his mother. Then Hera inflicts him with madness. He triumphs in India and again in Thebes. He marries but his wife, and in some accounts he himself, is killed by Perseus in his reckless attack on Argos (I will give the Roman-era references when discussing the Tower card). He descends to Hades but eventually rises to Olympus.

12. The Old Man, later called the Hermit, is the older male initiator, who leads the initiate through the darkness of this life. So of course he has a lantern, as early as the PMB card of the 1450s (in contrast, many early decks have him simply as Time, with no light). In Apuleius's Golden Ass, part of the procession of Isis has people with lanterns (Lindsay translation p. 240, at Google Books in Marvin Meyer's The Ancient Mysteries, p. 181):
In his personal initiation that follows, the protagonist of the novel is described as holding a torch. I will say more about this card later.

13. The Hanged Man can be seen in various ways. One is as the traitor Lycurgos in Diodorus, imagined in a traditional Italian emblem of betrayal. Another is as the initiate being lowered into the lower level by a machine. This was described unsympathetically by Livy, as what was done with people who would not commit the atrocities demanded of them (Meyer, The ancient Mysteries p. 86, in Google Books):

But those who studied the Roman sarcophagi in the 16th-17th centuries could see with their own eyes that the lower level was merely where the initiations took place: notice the woman on top, probably on the ground floo

There was also the testimony of Pausanias about the oracle of Trophonios, in which the one to experience the oracle descended into a cave by a narrow opening (( ... quote]They have made no way of descent to the bottom, but when a man comes to Trophonios, they bring him a narrow, light ladder. After going down he finds a hole between the floor and the structure. Its breadth appeared to be two spans, and its height one span. The descender lies with his back on the ground, holding barley-cakes kneaded with honey, thrusts his feet into the hold and himself follows, trying hard to get his knees into the hole. After his knees the rest of his body is at once swiftly drawn in, just as the largest and most rapid river will catch a man in its eddy and carry him under...[/quote] (I owe these references and the photo to Daimonax at and the page following.)

In the Orisis myth, what is parallel is the episode in which Typhon closes the lid on the coffin which Orisis innocently lay down in for size, as described by Plutarch (sec. 13). The Hanged Man imagery of course does not fit this act.

14. For the Death card, given the man with the scythe, we have the dismemberment. It is Osiris's second death, after being revived once by Isis, when he is discovered by Typhon (Plutarch sec. 18). It is also the dismemberment of the infant Dionysus, as various authors reported. It could also be the dismemberment of Pentheus, after the Maenads discover him but think he is a wild animal. The Marseille versions of the card correspondingly show body parts on the ground.

15. The Devil might be Typhon, whom Dionysus fights on behalf of his father in Diodorus, and whom Horus fights on behalf of his father Osiris in Plutarch. He is the force of disorder who must not, in Plutarch's account, be destroyed. He could also be Hades, whose realm Dionysus must enter in order to bring his "mother" (was it originally his wife?) out of Tartarus. Correspondingly, it is the journey through darkness in the "mysteries", of which Apuleius wrote (Marvin Meyer, The Ancient Mysteries p. 189, in Google Books):

In the "Marseille" versions, the lower figures are tied by ropes to the upper one. This might have been suggested by a relief along a causeway at Sakkara.

This is near Cairo and could easily have been copied on papyrus by some enterprising Egyptian and sold to a passing European merchant-tourist, as early as the 15th century. The Cary Sheet card (at right above) conveys the same idea, the binding of those captured by the horned figure, whether Devil, the Egyptian Seth-animal, or the bull-horned Dionysus (from a Christian point of view).

16. The Tower card, originally “Fire”, corresponds to the palace of Pentheus, seemingly destroyed by lightning and earthquake in Euripides' Bacchae, as shown on the Charles VI and Rothschild cards (below, left to right).

The Marseille design has figures falling from the tower; in the same play, there is the fall of Pentheus from a tree later in the drama. It might also be the state of things after Dionysus's defeat by Perseus and the death of Ariadne, when he dives—or Perseus throws his body--into a lake near Argos, called Lernaean by some, Alkyonian by others; the myth says he entered Hades by way of its bottom, looking for his mother, which is odd considering that it was his wife who just died (Pausanias 2.37.6. Diodorus Siculus, 4.25.4, Hyginus, Fabulae 251, Clement of Alexandria, etc. all in sections 5 and 7 at A good summary of the various accounts, most of them available in the Renaissance, is in Daniel Ogden’s Perseus], pp. 28ff, at tp:// defeat by Perseus&f=false.) Similarly, the Noblet card's two figures are falling into water, at least as Flornoy has restored the card, at right below:

17. The Star card could represent, in the Osiris myth, the goddess and star heralding the rising of the Nile, the return of Osiris.. Plutarch, sec. 38, identifies the star as Sirius and the “water-carrier of Isis”; in sec 41 it is Sothis, which he says is the soul of Isis. The goddess in Roman Egypt is at right below; the Cary Sheet card is at left:

The five other stars on the Cary Sheet card (including the one on the figure’s shoulder) would be the five planets of fate. It is the triumph over death and Typhon, god of the drought. The two jugs might represent the two branches of the Nile, the Yellow Nile with its rich earth symbolizing the body, and the Blue Nile coming from Ethiopia symbolizing the spirit (with Ethiopia represented on the right side of the card by a mountain). At Dendera in Egypt, Greco-Roman era zodiacs typically portrayed Aquarius with two jugs, and according to French Egyptologist Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt in Le Fabuleux Histoire de l'Egypte, they did symbolize the two branches of the Nile, although in some cases the "water-carrier" was not Sothis but rather a consort of Khnum, who resided just above the first cataract of the Nile, i.e. at the beginning of the Nile proper. The figure with the jugs was sometimes male, sometimes female, and sometimes both. Below, the first image is an actual photo of one of the female jug-carriers at Dendera; the other is of drawings provided by Desroches-Noblecourt:


In Egypt below the First Cataract, both streams must be present in a healthy amount for the land's renewal--a suitable allegory to encourage one to attend both one's body and one's spirit.

In the Dionysian rite, the big star would be Dionysus son of Zeus, and the little ones, eventually seven of them, his protector-nurses, the Hyades (later turned into stars; see Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3.26-29; Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 192; Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 21; Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 143 ff, all at And later in the myth, Dionysus' return from the land of the dead is not merely to resume life but to attain immortality. The jugs for someone on that course then would be the waters of Lethe and Mnemosyne. Dante had talked about these waters of forgetting and remembering, to be drunk before he could enter Paradise (Purgatorio 28, 130ff. at Pausanias (9.39.3, at speaks of something similar at the oracle of Trophonios, drinking from one spring to make one forget one's earthly cards, and then another, to remember what will occur in the cave. The Orphic Hymn to Mnemosyne, popularized by Ficino, implies it as well (

Although Pausanias's account of the oracle makes no reference to Dionysus, people in the 15th-18th centuries would have connected the two because of this Orphic Hymn. Orpheus was the continuer of Dionysus according to Diodorus, in the passage I cited about Tharopes. Another suggestion of the spring in the cards might be the way in which someone scratched out part of one L on the plates of the Conver 1760-1761 cards, so as to turn "LESTOILLE" into "LETOULE", in a kind of visual pun. "Toule", according to Flornoy, is Marseille dialect for "spring" ( ... index.html)

18. The Moon card could simply be one last attack of madness, i.e. lunacy, which Dionysus both inflicts and suffers. But the Moon is one of Dionysus' mothers in Cicero, and Isis' and Osiris' mother in Plutarch. So on the card we might have the dominance of these Moon goddesses. Alternatively, in Plutarch's essay On the Face in the Orb of the Moon, the Moon is an intermediate way-station of the dead, after which one either ascends to the Sun, returns to earth, or stays longer on the Moon (section 29, ... on*/D.html, starting line 330). This is illustrated on the Cary Sheet card and continued in the Marseille-style cards, the two towers representing the "gates" (Plutarch's word, line 362) which the soul might pass through. Andrea discusses this material in his essay on the Moon card (

When I look at the Cary Sheet card, I see crocodiles around a lake, with a temple and obelisks in the background--an Egyptian scene. One of the crocodiles might be holding something in his jaws. The same is clearly true for the Conver crayfish, the detail of which I have enlarged at top middle; it might also be in the same place in the Noblet, which I have enlarged. I can't find that detail in the myths about Osiris or Dionysus.

19. The Sun, in this essay by Plutarch, was the next destination of the soul after the Moon; it was the place of immortality. The Sun is also Osiris's father in Plutarch's Of Isis and Osiris (starting in sec. 42). In later cards, a man and a woman are shown beneath the sun; these could be the Gemini as depicted in the Dendera Zodiac (I take these images from Desroches-Noblecourt):

A similar male-female depiction also occurs in some Renaissance depictions of that sign, e.g.

In Egyptian mythology they would be Shu and Tefnet, the Sun's first children, although I don't think the Renaissance would have known their names. Notice also the two jugs of Aquarius, common in the Renaissance but not before or after.

In the Dionysian myth, the sun-god Apollo is Dionysus's half-brother, celebrated in the summer at Delphi after a winter honoring Dionysus. In the "Marseille" version of the card, there are two boys, one with his arm around the other. This gesture is present as early as the 1515 "Schoen horoscope", in which various houses are illustrated with images from the tarot trumps (house 5 at right below). It continues in the c. 1600 "Sforza Castle" card (center) and remains with basically the same facial expressions and arm gestures even in the 1672 or later Marseille II design of the "Chosson" card (left) that was copied everywhere in the 18th century.

On Dionysian sarcophagi, there are frequently two boys with a similar gesture, for example:

This picture comes from Daimonax at Probably the Renaissance interpreted them as Castor and Pollux. The immortal Pollux's sacrifice of his immortality for the sake of raising up the mortal Pollux would have been seen as a precursor to Christ's own suffering for the sake of humanity. It is the human version of the goat sacrifice also implied on these sarcophagi:

Similarly, the "Chosson" card (above left) suggests a tail on the left boy's thigh, left white on the card but made less conspicuous in the Conver card (below left). The 1999 Camoin-Jodorowsky version of that card makes it unambiguous:

You will also notice what appear to be collars on the “Chosson”, a feature copied by Conver 1761 and most other Marseille II designs. Daimonax points out that this links the pair with the noose-wearing pair on the Devil card. In this way the repetition of two figures suggest a pair going through initiation, whether male and female (like Tamino and Pamina in The Magic Flute) or wise one and unwise (like Tamino and Papageno). This starts in the Pope card, which in Chosson (left below) has the suggestion of an unseen figure on the right reaching its arm over the initiates and a knife-like fold; in Conver 1761 the fold is more like a knife in the hand; Camoin-Jodorowsky 1999 make the knife unambiguous (this feature is again pointed out by Daimonax). In all these cases, the Pope seems to be looking at the other, of whom all we see is the arm.

In the Lover card, they are the similar male and female figures, in the Chariot the two horses, in the Wheel the figures going up and down, in Death the male and female heads, in the Tower the two human figures, and in the Moon the two dogs, and in Judgment the two figures on either side of the central one. In some cases they are male and female; in others they are red and some other color, light blue or off-white. Red was the color of Seth in Plutarch; the other color would be more heavenly. To these might be added the two jugs of Temperance and the Star, the two sides of Justice, the two figures of Strength, and the two wooden poles of the Hanged Man. I believe that is all except the Hermit and the World. The Hermit’s initiatory character is indicated by his lantern and the sun shining in the folds of his robe, as well as Conver’s change in the spelling of his title, from “L’Ermite” to “L’Hermite”, the “H” suggesting an association to Hermes Trismegistus or the god Hermes as guide of souls.

The figure in the World card (which I will discuss in a moment) could be the female initiation-master welcoming the successful candidate or candidates; or it could be the two now merged as one, merging with the two-sexed Dionysus.

20. When considering the Judgment card, we have to bear in mind that the card was in the early lists called "the Angel." Along these lines, Dionysus was in the 16th century depicted as winged:

(from ... hp?id=FJUb). The accompanying verse reads:

Junius also quotes Catullus as a possible reference for a winged Dionysus: "But in another place abundant with flowers Iacchus was fluttering about." In fact "Psilas", Greek for "winged", was one of his epithets (as is "Iacchus"). Acquiring wings, the deified initiate ascends to Heaven. The effect of wine is also one of a soaring spirit.

Another name for the Judgment card, in Minchiate, was “Trombe,” Trumpets. In the myth of Dionysus, there is a correspondence at the lake near Argos, as I discussed in relation to the Tower card. Pausanias would not divulge the rites there, but Plutarch, sec. 35 of Isis and Osiris, says ( ... is*/B.html):

As in the case of Castor and Pollux, Hades will not yield up a life without taking one in return. With the Dioscuri, it was the sacrifice of the immortal one, part of the time, for the mortal; in the case of the Argives, it is the sacrifice of a mortal lamb—one of Dionysus’s cult animals—for the sake of Dionysus’s immortality. The Christian story has elements of both: it is the sacrifice of the immortal lamb to raise up mortal humanity. In Virgil, you will recall, the animal was a goat. Its sin, eating of the tree, has been redeemed.

In the Osiris myth, it is true that in Egypt Osiris was judge of the dead; but I cannot find this mentioned in any pre-19th century source. All Plutarch says is “king of the dead” (sec. 79). I do see one reference to the Osiris myth, however: the central figure’s head forms the center of an eye not unlike the symbol of the “Wadjet eye” (at right below), a symbol surely known by the time of the “Chosson” (at left). Plutarch refers to the eye as a symbol for Osiris (sec. 51) and to the Sun and Moon as the “eyes of Horus” (sec. 52).

21. For the World card, there is the Orphic medallion that Pietro Bembo bought after it was looted from Rome in 1527, probably known in Rome before that. It is at right below, with the earliest known similar World card next to it, from a group of cards found in the Sfoza Castle, Milan, and probably dating from around 1600:
. It is the deity mentioned in the 5th Orphic hymn (
The epithet "two-fold" is associated explicitly with Dionysus in Hymn 42:

The epithets "bull-roarer" and "Priapus" also associate him with Dionysus. Priapus was Dionysus's son, but also an epithet of Dionysus, as male arousal was associated with moderate ingestion of wine. The bull was one of Dionysus's cult-animals; moreover, the bull-roarer was among the toys with which, according to Proclus' commentary on Hesiod, the Titans tempted the infant Dionysus Zagreus (

The medallion depicts the first-born of the gods, Phanes, light-bringer, two-sexed (the meaning of "two-fold"), here surrounded by an oval in a rectangle, with a personification in each corner, the winds that were at his command. It thus is the pagan antecedent of similar depictions of an androgynous Christ, which in the tarot we first see in the Sforza Castle card c. 1600 (at left above).

The Christ of the Sforza Castle card gradually assumed a more clearly feminine shape, at first an androgynous one (below left, the Noblet of c. 1650). By the time of the "Chosson" of the late 17th or early 18th century (right), she was a lithe nude dancer with a billowing sash.

Such a sash is reminiscent of the dancing Bacchantes on Roman sarcophagi, thyrsi in hand, such as this one now at the Getty Villa, Malibu California (

The Marseille figure could also be taken as the deified Isis, wand in one hand and a vial of sacred Nile water in the other. As Andrea has said in his essay on the card, for the Roman philosopher Macrobius Isis was the Neoplatonic World-Soul, the animating spirit of the universe (Saturnalia I, c. 20 -21). Macrobius also identified Isis as world-soul with the famous Diana of Ephesus, of the manifold breasts. Andrea cites Apuleius (Book 11 of the Golden Ass again) in this connection; Isis is "natural mother of all life, the mistress of the elements," among other things (la natura madre di tutte le cose, padrona degli elementi, In Andrea's Italian,

22. Conclusion. Well, that's enough for now. I hope it can be seen how the project of putting Dionysus into the cards might have taken root. It was first a matter of identifying particular aspects of each card with an aspect of the myth and imposing them on cards probably not designed with that myth in mind. This way of seeing the cards actually fits the Milan designs better than those in Ferrara or elsewhere, except for the Fool and Bagatella. Then, as this way of seeing continued, those designs were favored over other designs: the magician with the wide hat vs a narrow one, the old man with a lantern vs. one without, the lady with the lion vs. one with columns, the hanged man with the hole under him vs. the one with money bags, and so on. Also, new elements were worked into the cards in keeping with the themes, e.g.. the animal clawing at the Fool, the purse on the Bateleur's table, the setting of the Emperor, the hand with the knife on the Pope card, the sunburst on the Lover card, the suns on the Hermit’s robe, the sphinx on the Wheel, the body parts on Death, the ropes on the Devil card, the water on the Noblet Tower, the figure with two jugs under seven stars on the Star card, the Gemini and suggestion of a tail on the Sun card, and the eye/head of the Judgment card There are other details as well, unmentioned here so as not to make this essay longer. I discuss it all in more detail on my blog,

Re: Tharochus Bacchus est

Bacchus appeared in the 16 gods in the Echecs amoureux version of Evrart da Conty (1398)

In the 1467 Burgundy version he looked like this:



... after he had appeared in the De deorum imaginibus libellus / Albrici / Reg. Lat. 1290 ...


He appeared in the 16 gods of the Michelino deck with Filippo Maria Visconti (with high chess interest) likely being informed about Conty's book:

Covered with vines, hair wreathed with leaves, Bacchus approaches the eighth place. So great that the tigers niether draw near nor rush on the chariot. He is ready with the walking-stick to steady the feet when they slip. This one was first a planter of vines, and he supplied the very practical use of wine to mankind; and in venerating it, almost the whole world was warmed by the benefit of the discovery of this gift. His rites are celebrated especially by old men, since that age when the old man Silenus sang with great authority, in submission to Bacchus, that none was to be deemed sufficiently worthy to plant, unless the god Bacchus should be in attendance. And in the first place, with such great force his appearance is beautiful; he is held to be fair-skinned, while the frenzy of the cultivators sometimes became so great, that it turned them into various expressions of wild beasts. From the Lightning by his mother Semele, he was drawn into the light to be attacked by his enemy Juno, but the Powerful One escaped her hostile hand, being hidden away from Juno in the ivy; since excessively bitter and hostile heat would have destroyed his fruit, appearing in the vine, unless it were helped by the covering of leaves. By his suggestion, after the grape had been discovered, and he laid aside the drinking cup of the spring, and by the pleasantness of tasting, by no means did he exhaust the drunken stream, the ruin of the human race. Being described as looking perpetually youthful, because he does not lose vigor with age. Temples decorated with his grape vines, he carries a walking stick, from his name. According to the nature of being drunk, he is called Liber, since by the same, while he reigns, he renders men unimpeded and free of cares. Twin tigers pull the chariot, since drunkenness sometimes leads to the ferocity of tigers. The Victor of India, he frequents the strenuous second peak of Parnassus, since that greatest mountain abounds in vineyards.
Translation by Ross: ... -16-heroum

This seems to have been Bacchus on Chariot drawn by two tigers ... a wandering stick is mentioned. Perhaps an idea, which wandered to the Fool?

Image ... ne_15.html

Also a chariot with tigers:


In the Michelino deck Bacchus is given for natural reasons to the group of pleasures, together with Venus, Ceres, and Amor. Venus and Amor reappear on the Tarot card lovers. In the given context Ceres likely presents corn + bread and Bacchus presents wine and the whole just a festivity, best at the opportunity of a wedding.

In Chess iconography we've Bacchus indirectly involved in the innkeeper (pawn before the bishop at the Queen's side), a figure, which later somehow transformed to the Bagatello.


It seems plausible, that in lots of old pubs also card-playing had its role. It might be that some of these pubs had Bacchus symbols, in other words a decoration suitable to drinking opportunities - just as it is common nowadays. Possibly occasionally Bacchus iconography was directly involved - with pubs. Perhaps a little Bacchus somewhere at the entrance.
From the current observations we've since recently and the Esch-book detection confirmation for the mass production factor since 1463/64 for "Triunfi cards". This naturally changes the situation. We must assume, that there was more production than earlier considered. For the moment it' so, that at least "rich citizens" could belong to the customers of the Trionfi decks in the 1450s. It makes logic, that Florence with its many artists was in the first row of the Trionfi card producing cities. The theory, that Florence was especially stopped by prohibitions in the 1440s is reduced, but still discussed in detail.
We have the Puri family records, which indicate, that playing cards seem to have been allowed in September 1447 (cause then the Puri records start). September 1447 is just one month after Filippo Maria Visconti had died in Milan, as arch enemy of Florence. It might be, that his death triggered the re-allowance of card playing in Florence (however, there are enough reasons imaginable, that this coincidence is just accidental). Nonetheless we have just for 1447 the Manetti report. Manetti served as governor in Pistoia, which was called a "gambling nest". He installed strong measures against gambling. After he returned, he was welcomed in Florence with mockery poems. It's not clear, which content the mockery poems had, but a governor who had invested strong energy in persecution of playing cards on the country and returned to Florence after a year, and had to realize, that playing cards prohibitions in Florence had been stopped, would earn (somehow logical') a lot of mockery between the card playing Bacchus fans in the pubs.
The sales of the Puri family in end of 1447 / begin of 1448 are very good, but the business slows down with summer 1448 and it seems, that in 1449 the business with cards is dropped.
If Florence in September 1447 returned from a prohibition phase, it might be expected, that the sales were very well at the begin. Also it might be expected, that after some time the business becomes normal. For the Puri family playing cards were just an item between others, they started to sell them, as long the public desire was big.
The Puri family hadn't Trionfi cards.
The silk dealers, who mainly exported to other cities, had very good sales in 1439-40. This was the time after the council. And that was roughly about 50% of their deals in these 2 years. After this in 1441-1454 (14 year, the other 50%) it looks like just an opportunity side business (the highest number of dated deals in one year are 3, and some year have no deals). But ... as a lot of deals are only registered as a summary price and not in detailed items lists, we just have not a real overview. As they usually exported cards (which might have been allowed even in card prohibition years), this list gives hardly a clue on possible prohibition times.
The silk dealers occasionally traded Trionfi cards (1445, 1450, 1451 and 1454) and it are 11 decks sold, 6 of them
in 1454, 4 in 1450/51 and 1 in 1445. The purchaser in 1445 is a trader family in Bergamo, which was active also in Ancona and in the Romagna. From this condition it seems very difficult to say, where the deck went to. The family is major customer of the Florentine silk trades, not only for playing cards. For all Trionfi decks there is no artist mentioned.
The six Triunfi decks of 1454 are "piccoli", small Triunfi cards. This might be VERY IMPORTANT ... as the step to the cheaper decks definitely had to do with the reduction of the paper costs. But I don't know. Likely further documents will appear in short time and will change the situation again.


Bacchus appeared with a Bacchus Trionfi in Florence carnival (where we have the new documents now) with Bacchus and Ariadne. I remember, the text was from Lorenzo? Yes, a poem had been from him.
The Triumph of Bacchus

The time of youth indeed is sweet,
But all too soon it slips away.
If you'd be happy – don't delay!
Tomorrow's ills we've yet to meet.

Welcome Bacchus, Ariadne!
An ardent couple, loving, fair.
They spend as one their days with glee,
For time flies fast and does not spare.
Thus these nymphs – and others – fare.
Happy they the livelong day!
If you'd be happy – don't delay!
Tomorrow's ills we've yet to meet.

These nymphs are tickled by the thought
To be deceived by lover's wile.
If Love's sweet remedy were naught,
Folk sure would be uncouth and vile.
Commingled now, they dance and smile
And sport and play the livelong day!
If you'd be happy – don't delay!
Tomorrow's ills we've yet to meet.

Upon a donkey, corpulent,
Silenus wends his weighty way.
Heavy, drunk and senescent,
Years and blubber on him lay.
He can't stand straight, he is quite bent –
Yet still he smiles the livelong day!
If you'd be happy – don't delay!
Tomorrow's ills we've yet to meet.

All ye lovers, boys, girls too –
Long live Bacchus, and Love, I say.
Play, dance, and sing, each one of you,
Let sweetness o’er your hearts hold sway.
Fatigue and weakness throw away,
For what must be you cannot beat.
If you'd be happy – don't delay!
Tomorrow's ills we've yet to meet.

Translated by Alan D. Corré June 3, 2005
Trionfo di Bacco

Quant’è bella la giovinezza,
che si fugge tuttavia!
chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
di doman non c’è certezza.

Quest’è Bacco e questa Arianna,
belli e l’un dell altro ardenti:
perche il tempo fugge e inganna,
sempre insieme stan contenti.
Queste ninfe ed altre genti
sono allegre tuttavia.
Chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
di doman non c’è certezza.

Queste ninfe anche hanno caro
da lor esser ingannate:
non può fare Amor riparo,
se non gente rozze e ingrate:
ora insieme mescolate
suonon, canton tuttavia.
Chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
di doman non c’è certezza.

Questa soma, che vien drieto,
sopra l’asino, è Sileno:
cosi vecchio è ebbro e lieto,
già di carne e d'anni pieno;
se non può star ritto, almeno
ride e gode tuttavia.
Chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
di doman non c’è certezza.

Donne e giovinetti amanti
viva Bacco e viva Amore!
Ciascun suoni, balli e canti!
arda di dolcezza il core!
Non fatica, non dolote!
cio c’ha a esser, convien sia
Chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
di doman non c’è certezza.
In the poem appeared a Silenus on a donkey. A little later Boiardo had a Fool on donkey in his Tarocchi poem.

Further from Florence we have 9x Bacchus in a sphere-muses model from Ficino in 1469.
Well, very old researches, but under the impression and the new focus on early Trionfi from Florence they get another face.

Bacchus and Ariane had been carnival with music, actually an opera-forerunner Trionfo. Ficino played music and did sing to it. If 1475 is right for the Mantegna Tarocchi, a little later after Ficino 1475 it followed with 9 Muses and Apollo. Around the same time in Milan Giangaleazzo became obsessed by his capella and its musicians, a major interest. Generally we have this exaggerated interests in festivities, Trionfi etc. in the early 1470s. It's a relative peaceful time compared to others in 15th century.

It definitely gains another face, if one knows with security, that some Tionfi cards appeared in Florence.

... :-) ... the nine sphere with Bacchus might indicate 9 degrees of drunkenness ... :-)

The new data from Florence suggests "more decks, which we don't know". The probability, that in some decks a Bacchus looked around the corner might be called "increased".


We had an innkeeper in Folengo's "Baldo" as a sort Cook-Bagatello. At other later opportunity the innkeeper = Bagatello had been directly indicated.

Re: Tharochus Bacchus est

Thanks for your additions, Huck, especially for reminding us of the extensive comments about Bacchus for the Michelino and for the full text of Lorenzo's poem. I had only seen the first verse. Also for the link to the passage from Ficino.

Researching further the connection of the d'Este siblings to Bacchus I found an interesting discussion by Stephen Campbell (Cabinet of Eros, pp.235-237) comparing Correggio's painting for Isabella d'Este (in Mantua) with Folengo's Baldus (also in Mantua), in particular a painting which in the 18th century was given the title "Allegory of Vice" but which Campbell thinks should more properly be called "Silenus, or Allegory of the Passions":


Among other things, Campbell notes the following in Baldus:
While Silenus and his consort sleep naked, snoring like pigs, a thousand naked little boys keep watch. And these little boys sing the “Evoe,” leaping and performing the moresca, all plump and ripe enough to be cooked to a ragout. Each has a crown of grape leaves on his curly head, each holds a bunch of grapes in his hand, each has a little flask with a stopper that hangs by his side. They all have the wine flush upon them and they laugh and celebrate the bacchanal of their father, and they finally end up drunk themselves.
To be sure, Silenus is not likely sleeping in Corregio’s painting! His experience of the passions is one of torment. Campbell compares Corregio's figure to the Roman Laocoön (, which had been unearthed in Rome, 1508. Campbell says,
An analogy to the corrupted Latin of Baldus might be found in Correggio's cruel burlesque of the Laocoön; moreover, Corregio's second painting of Pallas also combines citations of Raphael with grotesque and monstrous juxtapositions - a child's leg "becomes" the leg of a goat, while a dragon lurks behind the curious leopardskin buskin worn by Pallas.
. You have to look closely at the so-called "Allegory of Virtue": ... Virtue.jpg. There are quite a few grotesqueries.

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests