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Re: Revisiting Petrarch and Giotto

Posted: 26 Jun 2012, 08:10
by mikeh
That makes sense, Jim, based on the Charles VI's clouds. But it's not a city, it's a bunch of castles on hilly terrain. I don't know what the 15th century image of Heaven was, but I don't think the preachers said it was castles and hills. Why would they need castles in Heaven? It's a place of peace. Unless they needed to defend themselves against raids by devils. I never heard of that happening. In a chivalry-based Magic Kingdom, I suppose it could. Olympus came under attack. Valhalla fell. Camelot fell, I think. Are they a bunch of Grail Castles, ready to send their chosen fighters out to fight evil? I've never heard there was more than one--well, except Camelot. By now, if they read this, the preachers would be tearing their hair. I'm still puzzled.

Re: Revisiting Petrarch and Giotto

Posted: 26 Jun 2012, 08:56
by mikeh
Now I have another thought, as long as we're in the Unicorn Terrace. O'Reilley, in her survey of late medieval virtue and vice stories (Studies in the Iconography of the Virtues and Vices in the Middle Ages, pp. 59ff), mentions a 15th century German encyclopaedic ms. Casanatensis 104 f. 27f. Here is what she says on her p. 61:
F.27r, for example, includes two castles defended by the four Cardinal and three Theological Virtues; similarly, in a late fourteenth century German tapestry from Nuremberg, the Vices are despatched on symbolic beasts to capture two castles defended by the four Cardinal and three Theological Virtues...The Psychomachia features neither the Cardinal and Theological Virtues nor a besieged castle, yet its scenes of the Virtues returning to camp after battle to flush out Discordia and of the building of the Temple of Wisdom under the supervision of the warrior maidens, give rise to ms. pictures of fortified New Jerusalems. In commenting on the 'trimphant Psychomachia' sculpted pairs of Prudentian Virtues and Vices on the twelfth century font at Southrop, Miss M.D. Anderson drew attention to the series of domed, castellated structures in which each pair is set: 'These may be considered as half-way houses between the New Jerusalem of Prudentius and those 'castles' defended by Virtues which figure in early allegorical poems, such as the thirteenth century Sawles Ward and later morality plays like the Castell of Perseverance.
In that sense, the scene in the circle on the Charles VI card could be seen as a picture of the world in moralized, conceptual, even "archetypal"--in its original Middle Platonic sense (Philo of Alexandria uses it)--terms. As archetypes, the virtues exist as personnages in an ideal world, against equally archetypal enemies. Yet the struggle is in our world, too, as our souls partake of both sides. In that sense, the card might be a picture of the human soul--and of that "ladder of virtue" in which devils try to keep the soul from attaining wisdom, which is also the tarot sequence.

Re: Revisiting Petrarch and Giotto

Posted: 26 Jun 2012, 13:32
by SteveM
Are they castles or urban centres - they are conventional for the time for representations of urban centre, like on a map - wavy lines -= river, 'castles' urban centres (towns, cities)... representing not castles but towns / cities (each of which nonetheless might be associated with a castle perhaps) within a region (such as that which may fall for example under the duchy of milan).

Re: Revisiting Petrarch and Giotto

Posted: 26 Jun 2012, 20:32
by mikeh
Well, that's true, too, for some of the castles on the Charles VI. For that card, it would be like the region of Tuscany, which indeed is hilly. So is that to say that Heaven, the land above the clouds, is being depicted like the most beautiful aspect of Tuscany, a bunch of towns on hills? The hill towns there are rather heavenly.

Re: Revisiting Petrarch and Giotto

Posted: 26 Jun 2012, 21:11
by Jim Schulman
In reference to the putti world depiction: putti holding things up are conventional from the renaissance on; and become a decorative infestation by the Rococo period. My instant emotional dismissal of putti comes from this later period, when they've become decorative muzak.

But do they mean something more serious in this earlier period? In Dionysus the Areopagite, and Christian angelology in general, cherubs are the second highest order of angels, they signify divine wisdom, and are represented as the tetramorph. if putti, sapientia figures, and tetamorphs are the interchangeable tokens of cherubs, maybe the various iconographies of the world all mean the same thing?

As to fortifications: The heavenly city in Jewish and Christian mysticism exists in relation to the thone of God and the heavenly temple. The basic text is the Ezekial vision of the chariot. At its most fundamental level, this vision depicts the ark, God's earthly throne, being assumed into the heavenly throne at the fall of Jerusalem to the Neo-Babylonians. The heavenly temple is at the foot of the heavenly throne, just as the Jerusalem temple was the footstool of the lost ark. With the assumption of the ark, the job of priests was to rise through the spheres to the heavenly temple and create a link from it to the earth. It is always assumed that this rise was contested by demons, and that it required a form of spritual warfare -- the spheres of heaven were fortified, as was the heavenly Jerusalem.

The Talmudic rabbis downplayed merkabah mysticism as much as they could, but this strain of post-biblical Jewish mythology does make it into medieval Christianity almost undistorted.

Re: Revisiting Petrarch and Giotto

Posted: 27 Jun 2012, 00:35
by Lorredan
Well maybe we look for the more difficult answer for the countryside circled in a plate-like depiction.
What was Humanism?
A part of that word is what was or is called Classical Republicism or now is regarded as Civic Humanism, Aristotle said...
When several villages are united in a single complete community, large enough be nearly or quite self-sufficing, the state comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life, and continiuing in existence for the sake of a good life. (Politics Vol.1)

In any travel books about Tuscany you can read a somewhat similar opening statement of the following..
Renowned for it's art, history and evocative landscape, Tuscany is a region where the past and present merge in Harmony. Hill towns gaze across the countryside from on high, many encircled by Etruscan walls. Handsome palaces testify to the regions past and present wealth (no mention of earthquakes and Euro dollar crisis) while medieval halls indicate a long standing tradtion of democracy and self Government.

edited to add the card with the clouds is evocative of Martin Luther King's speech...I Have a dream or in the days of the card I have a vision of a state.

Re: Revisiting Petrarch and Giotto

Posted: 27 Jun 2012, 03:55
by mikeh
Nicely put, Jim and Lorredan: for the PMB, the heavenly city (and perhaps also a dream for Milan?); for the Charles VI, a dream for Tuscany and Northern Italian smaller places in general. The background of the CY card could be seen in this light, too: a dream of Lombardy, stretching peacefully to the sea (and so taking over Genoa) as a network of towns, castles, and countryside. If only Wisdom prevailed here as it does in Heaven!

I have been reading about the virtues and vices with an eye to the material in this thread. What I am going to say here is mostly facts, of the sort that would fit in the "researcher's study" category.

First, I notice that my assignment of Despair to the Hanged Man is backed up by numerous examples discussed by O'Reilley (Studies on the Virtues and Vices in the Middle Ages 1972, pp. 142-149). On the one hand, it was an extreme example of Acedia (see for a definition of the sin, inaccurately translated as "sloth"):
Because it stemmed from self-loathing and therefore despair of the mercy of God, the death of Judas became a particularly well-known example of this branch of Acedia...This popular association of Judas' suicide with the sin of Despair is understandable...but there were a number of problems involved in using Judas as the image of such despair, particularly in art...
The main problem was the extreme gravity of Judas's sin in committing suicide, which was considered even worse than his betrayal of Christ (p. 244f). One solution was to show Judas's despair as the opposite of Hope. In Italy, OReilley observes (p. 147), this took the form, starting in the 14th century, of putting a little Judas at the bottom of a depiction of Hope. The CY Hope card is an example of this tradition, I would observe.

Second, Envy was for some writers particularly associated with Satan, according to Rosemond Tuve ("Notes on the Virtues and Vices, Part 2" (Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 1964, p. 48) along with Superbia, Pride (p. 61); so the assignment of Giotto's Envy to the Devil card is supported.

Otherwise, I have been investigating when and where the depiction of the virtues was done in the way they are in the CY and PMB. I wanted to be sure that these depictions were not introduced too late to affect my projected earliest time of 1428. For example, Kaplan says (vol. 2 p. 168)
Wolff (1974) indicates that although the iconography of a woman and a lion had no precedent in fifteenth century Italian representations of Fortitude, the image was used in French illustrations of the time. Bembo, or the patron who specified the cards, may have known of the French tradition.
I assume it has to be an actual lion, as opposed to a representation of a lion on a shield, a in Giotto. To see how old this "French" tradition is, I turned to Adolf Katzenellenbogen, Allegories of the Virtues and Vices in the Middle Ages, 1939. I see in the Meuse School, c. 1160-1170, we have a winged Fortitudo "vanquishing a lion" (p. 50); also first half of 12th century, Flemish, "Fortitudo tears open a lion's jaws" (p. 32). Then in Verona, the bronze door of S. Zeno, late 12th-early 13th century, fortitudo is "overcoming a lion" (p. 51); Bamberg Cathedral, c. 1237, fortitudo "conquering the lion" (p. 52); St. Marks, Venice, c. 1200, fortitudo "conquering the lion." Verona and Venice were not in France the last time I checked. I notice that Fortitudo and Prowess, i.e. Strength, appear to be interchangeable terms.

On the web, I see a Nicola Pisano sculpture of Hercules and the lion, Pisa c. 1260, also not in France (, identified as Hercules at 11-12-04).

O'Reilley adds details (p. 198):
Sometimes it [the lion] is trampled underfoot (e.g. the fourteenth century Beleville Breviary); frequently its jaws are wrenched open in Herculean fashion (e.g. the twelfth century Klosterneuburg altar piece or the fourteenth century Chantilly ms. of Bartolomeo di Bartoli);...
These authors do not describe Fortitudo as taming a lion. But at Chartres, according to a picture posted by Jean-Michel David ( ... hread=1678), it looks like that's just what she's doing

In manuscripts, the first indication of Fortitude as taming that I find is 1450, O'Reilley's plate 10a, an illustration of the livre des quater vertus cardinauls, showing her taming a small dragon kept in a small tower next to her. There is also a similar one of 1470, her plate 9, which she says is a copy of one from 1403. This is the "new iconography," which I can't see as influencing the CY.

Justice was associated with the balance very early, in "Carolingian times," Katzenellenbogen says (p. 55). Only one of numerous representations of Justice discussed by him has a sword, the relief on the tomb of Clement in Bamberg Cathedral, c. 1237 (p. 52). At St. Mark's, Venice, it's a strong-box and balance (p. 53). In one place it's a scroll and balance. At Chartres it's a scales (p. 80).

Temperance in the 9th century holds a torch and pours out a jug of water--"Ignem libidinosae voluptatis extinguit", so as to extinguish lust, I think that means. But (p. 55):
Temperantia's attributes were exchanged in the course of the eleventh century, for a cup and bottle. Mixing water with wine, the virtue reduces the over-potent drink to one of moderate strength (Figs. 33, 34).
Katzenellenbogen gives numerous examples, e. g. "Temperantia mixes the contents of two vessels" in Valenciennes, Biblitheque Munisipale, Ms. 512, fol. 4v; "Temperantia mixing wine and water", the Eilbertus Altar from the Guelph Treasure, c. 1150-60 (p. 45). (But I don't know how one tells if the bottom vessel has anything in it.) Sometimes she merely holds two vessels (p. 33, 45,46, 51, 52). The San Zeno door in Verona is one of those with two vessels. At Chartres she has a dove (p. 80).

On the web, Marco on ATF posted an image from Venice,, from the Embriachi workshop. That workshop existed from 1390 until at least c. 1431 ( I notice that Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti (d. 1402) collected Embriarchi ( Perhaps the PMB card, and so the CY before it, derives from that time, though intermediaries. According to M. J. Hurst at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=71&start=40#p1819, all the Embriarchi virtues have wings (although I can only see two). I notice that elsewhere, in Katzenellenbogen: sometimes all, more often none. So one need not draw too many conclusions from the wings, I don't think--although over time, no doubt people did, associating her with some goddess or other.

Prudence, in the 9th century, is shown with a book, "the impressive symbol of the discernment between good and evil," says Katzenellenbogen (p. 55). In the 12th century, she has a book and snake at Cologne, and book with cross-staff at Autun (both p. 33). She has a dove on the Eilburtus Altar from the Guelph Treasure; in 1329 it's a snake and book (p. 46), also at Hildesheim Cathedral (p. 49); snake alone at Darmstadt (p. 50) and a different place in Cologne (p. 53); two snakes at St. Mark's, Venice. c. 1200 (p. 53). At Chartres she has a book (p. 80).

At Brussels c. 1160, Spes (Hope) has an olive-branch and a disc with a cross on it (p. 48). At Tongres, she has a branch and a disc with a cross on it. At St. Mark's in Venice she has a scroll and a sceptre of blossom (p. 53). At Chartres she is looking up to heaven (p. 80).

On the Ramaclus Altar, c. 1150, Fides (Faith) holds a baptismal font (referring to Ephesians 4:5, says Katzenellenbogen, p. 45). Also at Brussels, c. 1160 (p. 48). At Cluny, Fides is shown "kneeling to receive the host" (p. 53). At Chartres she is "catching the blood of a lamb in a chalice" (p. 80).

In the Ramaclus cycle, c. 1160, Caritas (Charity) offers bread and wine to the faithful (p. 45). At Brussels she has a loaf and vessel (p. 48). At Hildesheim c. 1200 she has "a cross and a sceptre of blossom" (p. 50). At St. Marks in Venice, she has a sceptre. At Cluny she "gives alms out of a strong-box." At Chartres she is "giving away her garment" (p. 80). At Lyons Cathedral, c. 1220, she is clothing the naked.

Sapientia (Wisdom) is the Sedes Sapientiae, the throne of wisdom, depicted as enthroned Mary (Brixen, mid-13th century (p. 42). In another place, she stands on an edifice of seven columns (p. 43). I take those to be the seven virtues. At Gurk Cathedral, c. 1260, Sedes Sapientia is again the enthroned Mary (p. 53). At Auxerres she has a book (p. 83).

Tuve (p. 59) adds that the Virgin as Sapientia, the highest rung on the ladder of Gifts, was at the same time the chief exemplification of Humility, the ladder's lowest rung.
But meanwhile the ladder of Gifts from Humility to Sapientia--also figured by the Virgin, Sedes Sapientiae--emphasized the Virgin's supreme exemplification of both, from earliest times.
I think that explains why illustrations of the Virgin of Humility look so much like the images of Christ as Sapientia.

On Hope, O'Reilley has some useful additions (pp. 178-180). In a relief at Amiens
this Theological virtue is stretching up to receive the crown poised above her head in the top right hand corner of the relief
(Fig. 53 in Male's Gothic Image). She says the same representation was in Paris at Notre Dame. And in Italy four fourteenth century Italian mss. described by L. Dorez, the figure "Judas desperatus", shown with a hang-rope, is shown vanquished by Spes (p. 147). In one of them, Bartolomeo di Bartoli's Canzone, she adds later, (p. 179):
...heavenly hands hold a crown and a scroll inscribed with the Corporal and Spiritual Beatitudes over the head of already crowned figure of Spes who sits enthroned over 'Judas desperatus' with his hang-rope...
She says that the crown is derived from the crown of life shown at the top of the "ladder of virtue" which the successful monk receives at the end of his climb (p. 176). On p. 147 O'Reilley also mentions the anchor, which is conspicous in the CY card:
In John Daye's Book of Christian Prayers, 1578, Patience with a cross stands on Wrath who stabs himself, while Hope with her traditional anchor, overcomes Judas who haned himself.
The only thing in the CY Hope card that hasn't been mentioned is the heavenly body shining its rays down, which it has instead of the crown.

The CY Faith seems related to the Cluny and Chartres images of that virtue. I notice that the Embriachi did some work for Cluny.

I have already mentioned that the motif of Caritas breast-feeding an infant seems to have been introduced in Florence in the 14th century by two pupils of Giovanni Pisano.

So I am reasonably content that the motifs shown on the CY existed before 1428, although the card might have added the innovation of the heavenly body on Hope. The object that I take to be a mirror held by the CY's Caritas is unprecedented and never happens again that I can find. I hypothesize that it was a mistake, confused with Prudence's mirror.

And one other thing: in most cases cited by Katzenellenbogen, if three of the cardinal virtues were present, so was the fourth. But there a few exceptions. In two of them, a different virtue substituted for Fortitudo: in one it was Pax (p. 48) and in the other it was Pietas (p. 49). In another (p. 32), Sapientia substituted for Prudentia and even had her attribute, the book. It seems to me that the illuminator considered Sapientia to be equivalent to Prudentia, as in Cicero. In another case (p. 50), Fides substitutes for Prudentia, And in the fourth case (p. 51), the bronze door of St. Zeno's in Verona, it's just the three, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. So there is some small precedent for the tarot's omission of Prudentia.

Re: Revisiting Petrarch and Giotto

Posted: 27 Jun 2012, 12:31
by SteveM
Kings representing vices overcome by the virtues had an established tradition:

The idea of making certain famous men incarnations of Vices seems to have come from Italy. J. von Schlosser has cited two fourteenth-century manuscripts, both Italian, in which the Virtues trample heretics, philosophers and tyrants. Justice has Nero underfoot; Fortitude has Holofernes; Temperance has Epicurus; Prudence, Saranapalus; Charity, Herod; Hope, Judas; Faith, Arius...

The Hours of Simon Vostre [c1507] contains the first French examples of the Virtues crushing their most famous enemies underfoot. Faith has Mahomet under hers, Hope has Judas, Charity has Herod, Prudence has Sardanapalus, Temperance has Tarquinius, Justice has Nero, Fortitude has Holofernes. We see that only two names, Machomet and Tarquinius, differ from those found in the Italian manuscripts. The relation thus seems clear and presupposes numerous intermediaries. end quote from:
Religious Art in France: the Late Middle Ages by Emile Mâle, translated by Marthiel Matthews. Princeton University Press, 1986

Re: pre-15th century examples of Fortitude with lion, the Notger bible c. 10th century shows fortitude as an angel with the Lion:


the other two 'tarot' virtues are also on the cover - an early example of the three as a group in and of themselves (without prudence).

And here is an early Italian example with lion:


From an Allegory of Virtues and Vices c.1355 by Nicolas de Bologna in a manuscript in the Ambrosian Library, Milan.


Note too the order : Justice, Fortitude, Temperance.

Re: Revisiting Petrarch and Giotto

Posted: 27 Jun 2012, 13:06
by SteveM
The virtues over vices tradition brings up an interesting question about the cary yale visconti virtues Fortitude, Hope, Faith and Charity btw which was previously raised in a discussion on AT with Lorredan -- The theological virtues show the corresponding vices, but Fortitude does not -- if they were part of the same set wouldn't one expect that they would follow the same iconographic pattern (ie, all would show their corresponding vices) ?


You can see better images of the cards here:


Re: Revisiting Petrarch and Giotto

Posted: 27 Jun 2012, 13:54
by SteveM
mikeh wrote: But it's not a city, it's a bunch of castles on hilly terrain.
quote from AT post:

"From 1391 Uberto [decembrio] was secretary to Peter of Candia, who later became Archbishop of Milan and later Pope Alexander V. Peter of Candia was a habitue of the Visconti court during the first decade of the 15th century, and it was through him that Uberto came to act as one of Giangaleazzo's leading publicists in his propoganda wars with Florence....

"Whatever motives may have brought the first Latin Republic into being in 1402, it is clear that by the time Uberto composed his own dialogues De Republica libri IV around 1420 he was reading the work as justification of signorial government...

"But what counts as a healthy state for Uberto is far different from Plato's account. For Uberto, the natural commonwealth is not a city-state, but a regional state (like Milan) made up of interdependent cities and their surrounding territories; only when a state has the resources of several urbes vel nationes can it truly be independent. Whereas for Plato, the healthy state, being simple in its desires, has no need for foreign trade, for Uberto the economy of a healthy state is highly diversified, and needs merchants, roads, inns, seaports, shipyards, and a merchant marine as well as a variety of other trades. For Plato, war is the consequence of the 'fevered' states lust for wealth and of the envy and greed it excites among its neighbours; for Uberto, every healthy state must defend itself, and so needs knights, mercenaries, and war industries such as armour manufacturing (a leading industry in Milan), and horse-breeding. Finally, Uberto's healthy state is ruled by a prince, who protects religion, safeguards the laws and public morals ..." [Hankin, James: Plato in the Italian Renaissance].

It is this image I suggest, of the region of Milan as interdependent cities and their territories, its ships and its princely ruler, that we see on the Cary-Yale world card.
end quote

Here too we have instead of aan idealized city, an ideal region of interdependent hillside towns. The buildings are not naturalist portrayals of actual buidlings but ones of convention meant to represent urban centres so we have a state with the resources of several urbes vel nationes, a representation of a 'healthy state' as defined by Uberto Decembrio above.