Re: Decker's new book

Ross wrote,
If any Muslim astronomers had developed a heliocentric theory, however rudimentary, or had a rotating Earth as part of that explanation, I have no doubt that researchers into the history of astronomy would have found them and pointed them out. They love this kind of thing, and every historian of science knows the value of Arabic translations of classical sources.

Copernicus seems to have been the first person to develop these ideas into a system.
It seems to me that Copernicus probably mainly reproduced what Aristarchus (c. 310 – c. 230 BC) had done, in a lost work of which enough was cited by Archimedes in the so-called "sand-reckoner" ( to give him enough to go on. Aristarchus is mentioned by Copernicus in one draft of his work ( What is extant from Aristarchus suggests a complete system, although the mathematics probably wasn't as advanced as it could have been in Roman times. The "rotating earth" hypothesis had already been proposed by Heraclides of Pontus (4th century BCE), as well as Venus and Mercury revolving around the sun; these ideas might have been held earlier by the Egyptians, if Macrobius is to be trusted. The "rotating earth" theory is mentioned in Cicero and pseudo-Plutarch, both cited by Copernicus. One or two Muslim astronomers also held that the earth rotated, per Wikipedia. Others developed the mathematics but did not take it to its logical conclusion, perhaps for religious reasons. For one of Aristarchus's followers, Seleucus, one argument for heliocentrism, according to Wikipedia, might have been mutual attraction of large masses, as shown by the tides in relation to the moon. That is an approach even Galileo rejected.

Copernicus hoped, correctly, that it required no special technology or new mathematics to refute Ptolemy. That's why he combed the ancient literature for clues. For example, he found a key mathematical device, the "Tusi couple", in Proclus's commentary on Euclid. And it wasn't that the heliocentric model was simpler: spherical geometry as developed in ancient times was not simple, and Copernicus had more epicycles than Ptolemy. Ptolemy was simply wrong, refuted by observations easy to make if one was careful. The hard part was knowing the geometry that would tell you what observations to make and their significance. It is true that defenders of Copernicus said it was merely a simpler mathematical model, with no claims to real existence. But if you look at the work itself, that is not what he says, nor does the mathematics plus the observations imply it. Ptolemy's model predicted impossible things, Copernicus cogently argued.

It took Kepler and Newton, of course, to complete Copernicus. Newton, unlike Galileo, had no objection to occult forces permeating the universe. He had translated the Emerald Tablet and earlier in his life done alchemical experiments. His theory of universal attraction is simply part of the world-view of the Asclepius, which teaches the power of love not only toward God but of bodies toward one another (Copenhaver p. 79):
Grasp this in your mind as truer and plainer than anything else: that god, this master of the whole of nature, devised and granted to all things this mystery of procreation unto eternity, in which arose the greatest affection, pleasure, gaiety, desire and love divine.
But even Newton did not go as far as to espouse that this mutual attraction actually accomplished the promiscuous but fertilizing union of everything with everything else, producing something new in the process which is then exchanged, described on the model of sexual intercourse:
...take note of that final moment to which we come after constant rubbing when each of the two natures pours its issue into the other and one hungrily snatches <love> from the other and buries it deeper...
For the modern scientific correlate to that, we had to wait for quantum mechanics, which teaches "exchange of virtual gravitons" ( ... nal_theory), gravitons being the modern version of the Asclepius's occult "issue" exchanged in intercourse among bodies. The result is the phenomenon we call gravity, and perhaps the universe of curved space-time itself.

Decker on Etteilla and Kabbalah

The second half of the book is taken up with cartomancy, and in particular with Etteilla and his followers. He sees divination with cards as practiced on a very limited basis in the 15th-16th centuries, with one card "sortilege" books, but also occasional five card "spreads" that served as a way of delineating someone's character traits in their current life-situations, as in Folengo's Triperuno. That tarot divination suddenly appeared as elaborate systems at the end of the 18th century, as if from nowhere, is a topic he covered, with Dummett and Depaulis, in Wicked Pack of Cards. Since then, he has more information. I have given a summary of some additional facts about Etteilla's followers at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=827&p=14071&hilit=hugand#p14071,

Decker has also consulted one additional source, since Wicked Pack, about Etteilla and his system, a Course Theorique et Pratique by Paul Hugand, aka "Jejalel". In it he finds both a 54 and a 66 card spread that Papus had attributed to Etteilla. The 66 card spread is actually substantiated in Etteilla himself, although Decker seems unaware of that fact. Papus's account (p. 146 of Stockman's translation of Divinatory Tarot) is an almost word for word transcription of Etteilla in the 3rd Cahier (see my translation of Corodil's transcription at ... stcount=23). Decker notes that the reading involves taking the cards in pairs from each of two rows of 11. From that he suggests that Etteilla's spreads evolved from a form of divinatory solitaire that depended on taking cards in pairs, as described in Vojtech Omasta's Patience: neue und alte Spiele, Bratislava 1985. He notes that an old word for solitaire in French was "la Cabale" (no source given). On the other hand, Etteilla's directions often do not specify pairs.

Decker also cites "Jejalel" for his account of the mentor that Etteilla had said taught him the ancient Egyptians' system of tarot divination: he was a "descendant" of a famous 16th century writer who used the pseudonym "Alexis Piemontese". There is an interesting discrepancy here with what Etteilla himself wrote. Etteilla in the 2nd Cahier says that his mentor in 1757, also named Alexis, was the grandson ("petit fils") of the 16th century author. See my transcription and translation at ... tcount=130. Perhaps after he published the 2nd Cahier Etteilla thought about the time-span between the two Alexises and realized that there had to be more than two generations from one to the other (but of course if they had the "elixir", then anything was possible). Or else "Jejalel" decided that for the sake of credibility, "descendant" was better than "grandson".

In Etteilla, as opposed to Decker's account of him, what is at least important as the array of cards in the spread is the order in which the cards appear, reading right to left. The cards have a grammatical order which Etteilla thinks it is important not to disturb, just as with the three words "John", "Richard" and "kills", it makes a difference whether we combine them to say John kills Richard or Richard kills John. Decker omits this point. In general, if one wants to learn how to read the cards in Etteilla's manner (not that I recommend it particularly), it is best to read Etteilla himself, now available at the above links.

Decker devotes much effort to tracking down sources of Etteilla's imagery and interpretations. The sources for Etteilla's trumps, except six of them, are the Tarot de Marseille and its variant the Tarot de Besancon. This is not new information. He does not mention the source for card 1, a French "Minchiate" that Huck has noted on a thread here.

Decker then faults Etteilla needlessly for his "forced" identification of the French suit of diamonds with the Italian suit of "sticks" (bastoni), and of clubs with coins (denari). It seems to me that the diamond shape probably comes from the pattern that crisscrossing staves make on the cards; and the clover design of the French clubs suit comes from that pattern on the depictions of coins in the Italian cards; it is not forced at all.

A novel claim of Decker's is that the order of Etteilla's 2nd through 8th trump cards and the keywords on the number cards (Ace-Ten in each suit) come from "Cabala" (as it was spelled) as known by the early 18th century. For the trump cards, he first says, uncontroversially (it is on the cards themselves), that the images correspond to the seven days of creation. He then says the seven days of creation are the days of the week, which since Babylonian times were associated with the seven planetary gods. So we have the Sun on card 2, the Moon on card 3. This much Etteilla himself says ( ... stcount=78).

Decker goes on to say that card 3, taken from the Besancon Star card showing a maiden pouring liquid next to a butterfly, is also Mars, because Mars was a god of spring (March); he is contradicting what Etteilla himself says (above link), that it represents the Stars. Card 5, which he says is of Isis, taken from the Marseille/Becanson World card, is also Mercury, representing Divine Mind (he is surely thinking of Hermes Trismegistus in his godly form). Etteilla himself says it represents the 6th day, when God created man in his own image, and shows human physicality in its perfection. Card 6, which shows the seven planets in the sky, is, according to Decker, Jupiter, the sky god. Etteilla himself says that it represents the "two great lights" of Genesis, i.e. Sun and Moon together, and that originally it represented the Zodiac. (I don't know who is odder, Decker or Etteilla; perhaps Etteilla meant the rulers of the Zodiac.) Card 7, showing sea and air animals as well as a snake, Decker says represents Venus, for fertility; Etteilla himself says it was supposed to represent sea and air animals only, created on the fifth day. Finally card 8, showing Eve in a garden, Decker says signifies Saturn, the Jewish creator god, on his day of rest. Etteilla, discussing this image, does mention "repose" (it is on the card, too) but mostly talks about the Pymander, the first text of the Corpus Hermeticum, and quotes (without indicating a source) from the Myth of Er in Plato's Republic ( ... stcount=78). No doubt Plato's demiurge is the same, minus reincarnation, as the Jewish creator god. All I can say is that Etteilla certainly hid his intentions well, not only on the cards but also in his own analysis of them.

If that were not enough, Decker goes on to say that these seven gods, in order from Sol (Sunday) to Saturn (Saturday), correspond to the seven lower sefiroth in Cabala. I know of two correspondences between sefiroth and planets in Christian authors popular at that time. One is Pico's in his 900 Theses of 1486 (thesis 11>48) and the other is Kircher's Tree in the of 1652 ( ... f_Life.png). Pico's order (from Chesed to Malkhuth) is Jupiter-Mars-Sun-Saturn-Venus--Mercury-Moon; Kircher's goes Jupiter-Saturn-Sun-Mars-Venus-Mercury-Moon. They are the same except for interchanging Mars and Saturn, the two maleficent planets. In neither does the order of planets correspond to the order of the days of the week.

In Hebrew works, too, I find no such order. In the Zohar, Malkuth is associated with the Moon and Tifereth with the Sun; these are 4 sefiroth apart, while in the days of the week they are right next to each other. In the "Merkabah" section of the Zohar, possibly drawn from a different ecstatic tradition, other planets are assigned to different levels of the supernal Chariot. According to Tishby's notes (in vol. 2 of his selections), the Moon is at the lowest level, corresponding to Malkhuth; although it is not mentioned by name, it is given color white. There may then be another planet, as "two spirits" are mentioned here. After that, Saturn is mentioned, then Jupiter, then Mars (at Gevurah, Tishby says), then Venus. It is likely that the Sun (at Tiferet?) and Mercury (at Yesod?) are alluded to somewhere, but it is not clear. In any case, this is not the order of the days of the week.

One might want to argue that the planets listed for the double letters in the Sefer Yetzirah[/io] correspond to the sefiroth; but a comparison chart at ... tions.html (which includes the Zohar somehow) shows no order corresponding to the standard days of the week. The Sefer Yetzirah has two orders, one of which is for the days of the week, but neither is the order that Decker gives. It is possible that some Kabbalist somewhere associated the sefiroth with the planets in their standard order in the days of the week, but if so it needs to be shown, given that all the evidence contradicts that supposition.

For the card interpretations, Decker decides that the keywords and "synonyms and related words" given by Etteilla come from a Kabbalist work of the 13th century, Gikatilla's Gates of Light, of which a "free" Latin translation (actually, an abridgement) was published in Latin in 1515. Decker says that someone in the early 18th century must have written down key words and phrases, translating them into some European language, for each of the ten sefiroth (discussed in each of ten chapters) in the Hebrew edition of the book, establishing a cartomantic tradition which Etteilla took over for the number cards of his deck. Decker insists that the Hebrew edition would have been used because in some cases the correspondences he finds are with modern translations of biblical verses at variance with how the relevant verses were generally understood then, in the Vulgate and other translations. So whoever was taking notes understood "the subtleties of the Hebrew". He demonstrates his thesis by comparing the keywords that Etteilla gives for the number cards with the text of the English translation of Gates of Light and finding correspondences between specific words in both, 100% of the time.

As usual, there are are problems with Decker's thesis. There is of course the issue of assuming an understanding of biblical versions at variance with existing translations. Moreover, the words he picks are typically not those of Etteilla on his cards (some of which are reproduced in Wicked Pack), but the "synonyms and related words"--including homonyms and antonyms--added later by his followers. For some, the earliest mention I have found is Papus, 1909. (Decker, with access to rare copies of Etteila's followers' works, would have made a useful contribution if he had verified Papus's additions as faithful reports of one or other of Etteilla's followers, but he does not do so.) For example, for the 4 of Cups, Etteilla has "ennui", boredom. Papus, however, also lists "concern", probably from one of Etteilla's followers. Decker decides that when Gikatilla says that God "warns" humanity, that is a clear correspondence to Etteilla.

Also, many of the words Decker links the keywords to are not very key to the sefiroth at all, but occur in biblical quotes where the actual word identified has little relationship to the chapter's main ideas; and they are typically biblical quotes that Gikatella cites numerous times, in relation to other sefiroth. In fact, as I found by producing a searchable version of "Gates of Light" on my computer, at least one of the "Etteilla" keywords for most of the number cards can be found in almost every chapter of the book, and so relating to almost every sefira. The "correspondences" are just too numerous to be meaningful.

Occasionally none of the keywords occurs in the relevant chapter of Gates of Light, for example Etteilla"s keyword "critique" (which Decker translates as "crisis") for the 8 of Swords. In that case, Decker blithely substitutes a vaguely related word that does occur in the right chapter of Gikatilla, e.g. in this case "jealousy". These substitute words are invariably common biblical words found in many chapters of Gikatilla's book.

It may be possible to save Decker's thesis in some other way by reference to Cabalist works, or other esoteric writings available in the 18th century . It is at this point only clear that his arguments as they stand are quite inadequate.

Re: Decker's new book

From my summary of Decker on the derivation of Etteilla from Gikatilla, I left out something I want to comment on. Decker says that branches, i.e. wands, represent duty and work in Gikatilla (corresponding to "material challenges" in Etteilla); vessels are blessings ("spiritual blessings" in Etteilla); swords are affliction ("spiritual challenges" in Etteilla); and coins are blessings ("material blessings" in Etteilla). Is this true?

Using my searchable version of Gates of Light I looked at every occurrence there of "branch". Gikatilla speaks of the sefiroth as branches on a tree. He speaks of a palm branch that is waved in a ritual. He speaks of someone being so angry he uproots a tree, roots, branches, and all. I do not see duty and work. For "vessel" Gikatilla speaks of a Babylonian priest pours the contents of vessels into the mouth of an idol. Gikatilla also speaks of "sacred vessels" and "vessels for every kind of use". For "cup", God gives a cup of consolation and also one of poison, i.e. not just blessings but punishments. I did not find "coin". Yes, swords are affliction. But in general Decker's correspondences don't amount to much.

Now I want to see if anything can be salvaged from Decker's herculean attempt to correlate Etteilla's keywords with a Cabalist source. I have myself done something similar to what Decker imagines some reader of Gates of Light having done; that is, I once took notes on the main points of each chapter in the form of key words, to see if I could find any correspondences to trump cards (on the side at ... results=13). I used the same English translation that Decker used and also the Latin edition of 1515; even though I don't know Latin, there is enough similarity to English and what I can look up to find corresponding phrases. Gikatilla himself seems to encourage such notes, or so it appears in the Latin version, in which key words are presented in Hebrew as well as Latin and capitalized.

Below, I have first put Decker's characterization of Gikatilla. Then I put a summary of my notes on Gikatilla (see the chapter headings at the side on my blog . Then come the actual Etteilla keywords, taken from the 3rd Cahier and Etteilla's first cards; sometimes they are different, in which case I put both, separated by the sign //.

Malkuth: Decker has "community (place and governance), kingdom". My notes have: kingdom; rich when Israel is righteous, or meager when not; expelled and returned; sphere that governs all creatures, gives life and death, bequeaths and enriches, brings low and exalts, makes sick and heals; tabernacle. merciful judgment; well; container.
10 Pleurs (Tears)/Avantage//Evènement fâcheux, qui tournera à profit (Unfortunate event that turns to advantage)........Trahison (Betrayal)/Barres (Bars)//Obstacle
La ville où l’on est/Pret à perdre (Prepared to lose)//Courroux (Anger).....La maison (House)/Loterie

Conclusion: it is possible to relate all of these to Malkuth. as the ups and downs of Israel. "Ville" and "House" relate to Decker's "community".

Yesod: Decker has "individuality (self and circumstances); foundation". My notes: foundation, covenant, circumcision, links Malkuth with upper sefiroth, redeeming angel, righteous one, giving justice or care which Malkuth receives.
9 Ecclesiastique/Se défier, ou Juste défiance (Be wary, or justifiable wariness)......Retard (Delay)/Traverses (Crossings)//Obstacles
Victoire/Sincérité...................Effet (Appearance)/Duperie (Deception)

Conclusion: I can see "Ecclesiastique" and "crossings/obstacles" but not the rest: 1/4. I do not see "individuality" in Gikatilla.

Hod: Decker has "Place of Counsel; honor". My notes: honor, praise, majesty: carries out decisions from Gevurah, agent of severity. Wages war, destruction, accepts praise, prayers, submission, affords counsel with higher powers; place of prophecy.
8 Maladie dit de N. (Illness said of N.)//Critique/Trahison passée (Past betrayal)//Incident......Partie de Campagne (Party in the Country)//Campagne (Country, Campaign)/Disputes Intestine (Internecine disputes)
Fille blonde (blond girl)/Fêtes, Gaieté.............Fille brune/Usure (Usury)//Plus (More)

Conclusion: about half fit, including "campagne" in the sense of military campaign, but that wasn't Etteilla's original thought.

Netzach: Decker has "place of counsel; victory". My notes: victory; place to direct prayers for mercy; place of counsel; unmerited benefits; positive decrees; luck; nurturing of prophecy; grace of Abraham.
7 Esperance (Hope)/Sage(s) Avis.......Caquets (Prattle)//Pour Parler (for speaking, negotiations)/Indécision
La pensée (thought)/Projets (Plans).....Argent (Money)/Inquiétudes (Anxieties)

Conclusion: these, to the extent they are positive, fit in a vague sort of way.: 1/2 . Decker does not notice that for Gikatilla Hod is negative, Netzach positive.

Tifereth. Decker has "central to time and space". My notes: glory or beauty; combines judgment and mercy; awesome and horrible; delivers positive and negative decrees.
6 Envoyé, Commissionaire (Envoy, Messenger)//Route/Déclaration d’amour//Declaration........Domestique (servant)/Attente (waiting)
Le passé/L'avenir (the future)...... .Le présent/Ambitions

Conclusion: swords and batons fit vaguely, so 1/4. Decker's "time and space" is not in Gikatilla at all.

Gevurah. Decker has "heavenly court, judgment". My notes: judge; fear, severe judgment, based on merit; informants and prosecutors; place of destructive angels; emits flames of fire; destructive beasts.
5 Perte (Loss)/Deuil (Grief)...........Or (Gold)/Procès (Trial, Court Case)
Héritage (Inheritance)/Faux projets (Flawed or bogus plans)//Parent.....Amants ou Maitresse/Manque d'ordre (lack of order)

Conclusion: Gold, inheritance, and lovers don't fit. So about 5/8 appropriate.

Chesed. Decker has "heavenly court; mercy". My notes: grace, mercy, loving-kindness, positive commandments, magnificence, granting exceptions, long-forebearing,
4 Solitude/Economie (wise administration).....Société (Company, Organization)/ Fleurissement (Flourishing)//Prosperité
Ennui/Nouvelle connaissance (New acquaintance or knowledge).........C’est un présent (It's a gift)/Clôture (Closure, Closed, Enclosure, stuck)

Conclusion: Maybe 1/4 fits.

Binah. Decker has "Path of Love; understanding." My notes: providence, foresight, source of life, repentance and return, highest source of justice, atonement, city of David, gate to upper triad.
3 Religieuse (Nun)//Eloignement (Separation)/Effet égaré (Appearing lost or confused)//Egarement (Misconduct, lost)) .......Enterprises/ Peine court à sa fin (Trouble shortly to end)
Réussite (success)/Expédition d’affaires (expedition of business)...............Noblesse/Enfant (Child)

Conclusion: maybe 1/2.

Hochmah. Decker has "Path of Love; wisdom". My notes: wisdom, deep thoughts, will, fear of unworthiness, pleasure, "whoever reaches this place will be able to do or have whatever he desires", source of river that is Binah
2 Amitie (Friendship)/Amis inutiles ou faux amis, ou parents peu utiles (Unhelpful or False Friends or Relatives of Little Help)//Faux (False)..............Chagrin (Sorrow)/Surprise
Amour/Désir ............................Embarrass (Embarrassment)/Lettre (letter, note, document)

Conclusion: 1/4.

Kether. Decker has "supreme sefiroth; crown". My notes: source of sources, beyond thought, joy and rejoicing, pure mercy, source of light.
1 Amour Folle (Crazy Love)//Extrème/Grossesse (Pregnancy. fecundity).....Naissance (Birth)/Se défier de la première victoire (Distrust the first victory)//Chute (Fall)
Table (as in Gastronomy)/Changement......Parfait contentemment/Bourse d'argent (purse of money)

Conclusion: about 3/4 .

Average: About 5 out of 10. I have no idea whether this is higher than chance or not. I think that the correlations are not just positive to positive and negative to negative (for which the probability would indeed be one half). But there may be influences that affected both Gikatilla and Etteilla.

The high correspondences between Etteilla and Gikatilla for the Tens and Aces, which skew the results in a positive way, in particular might be explained as a result of a shared Judeo-Christian monotheism in the context of an "ascent" narrative at different times and places. The Aces reflect God, the One, on the descent, and the Tens reflect the Decad on the ascent, the soul's union with that God.

In addition, there may be influences from Pythagoreanism, which was very much part of the Neoplatonic foundation of Kabbalah (according to what I read in Moshe Idel, Kabbalah in Italy 1280-1510).

The words on the cards and those added by Etteilla's followers fit slightly better than Etteilla's in the 3rd Cahier. That suggests to me that he and his followers might have tried to fit what was not originally Cabalist into a Cabalist framework later.

My contention is and has been that the source for the cartomantic tradition which Etteilla is reporting for the number cards is Neopythagorean. When Etteilla said at one point that his source was a "Greek manuscript", he might have meant the edition, in Greek, of the Theologumena Arithmeticae printed in Paris in 1543; after all, he was a book dealer; but he would have known its contents only vaguely and second or third hand. The associations in this text seem to me reflected in the cards as early as the pips of the Sola-Busca (which are only superficially alchemical). I have worked this out at in the thread "Deciphering the Sola-Busca pips", starting at viewtopic.php?f=12&t=530. When I did it, I didn't have the information from the 3rd Cahier; nor did I use other Pythagorean sources, such as the ones that Decker applied--correctly in my view--to the trumps.I will have to go back and see if that matters.

The odd thing is that while Gikatilla does not fit the number cards as well as they should, his account of the sefiroth does seem to fit the Tarot de Marseille trumps--a view Decker explicitly rejects. The Bagatella, as creator god, fits Kether. The Popess, as wisdom, fits Hochmah. The Empress as understanding mother fits Binah. The Emperor as pardoner, i.e. mercy over justice, fits Chesed. The Pope as severe judgment, justice according to merit, fits Gevurah. The Lover as beauty and glory, balancing severity and love, fits Tifereth. The Chariot as Victory and all things positive fits Netzach. Justice as submission to the sword of judgment fits Hod. The Hermit as redeeming angel and commitment to God fits Yesod. The Wheel as the bringer of good and evil to God's community fits Malkuth. Papus made these observations in Tarot of the Bohemians, and he was right.

Papus did not go any further. But Fortitude, as what is needed in the face of adversity, also fits Malkuth as the community of Israel. The Hanged Man as a betrayer does not fit Yesod; but it seems to me that it does fit betrayal to serve a higher good, such as Muzio Attendola's switch from the Roman anti-pope to the claimant in Avignon. Another example is Christ's betrayal of Jewish orthodoxy (which Christians call "fulfilment"), his blood sacrifice as an act of redemption substituting for circumcision and a new covenant. This is itself a kind of Christianization of Kabbalah. Death is the destructive power of Hod. Temperance/Fame is the positive antidote to Death, liberation from the body into a new body that can ascend. The Devil card corresponds to the demons of the air, which are both positive and negative, both bearing the soul up and punishing. The Arrow is the purifying fire of Gevurah's judgment. the Star (of Christ in the tarot) corresponds to Beatrice's merciful love in the Purgatorio, where Dante's soul is given the water of eternal life. The Moon is where that water comes from (the lake on the card), and so Binah, the river that flows below. The Sun is the higher destination, beyond the Moon, where the spirit comes from. The Trumpet is the act of approaching the goal, in ever increasing joy, and so corresponds to Kether. The World is the oblivion of the individual spirit as it merges with the spirit-substance beyond every particularity, the En Sof.

But of course this has nothing to do with Etteilla, whose order of trumps is altogether different. At present I have no theory as to why the correspondences to the Tarot de Marseille work. I do not think they are like Decker's to the number cards, which work no matter what sefira you plug in. I tried many other combinations before I realized that the trumps were in order just as they were. But a certain subjectivity enters in no matter how hard you try to keep it out; so it would be useful to know other people's impressions, especially for the last 11, where I go where even Papus feared to tread.

Re: Decker's new book


Well, there is certainly much to read and consider on this string. Absolutely fascinating! My compliments. For now, I’d like to follow up on the issue of the so-called Charles VI Hanged Man, Red Feather, and the Medici.

viewtopic.php?f=12&t=971&p=14479&hilit= ... man#p14479
Phaeded wrote:

The thornier problem for me is the relationship of the feathers to the diamond ring, also apparently adopted by Piero at the same time (don’t have her article in front of me – its at home – but I believe she says it first shows up in S. Pancrazio, but with just two feathers). My best guess here is that the ring is borrowed from Sforza who may have first adopted the more elaborate three ring device when he received Cremona in 1441.
Please find, below, photos of a Medici Valencian Vase. The vase bears the Medici arms of a circle of six palli, plus a seventh at center. The chief palli at the circle’s meridian bears the three French fleurs-de-lys or, which privilege was awarded by Louis XI in May 1465. Importantly, on the obverse, within a blue roundel, can be seen the Medici ring with two red feathers. The cobalt blue and gold used in the vase’s detailing were purportedly the dominant colors used in Valencian lusterware from before Christian acquisition of the kingdom during the Reconquista and, thus, were not specific to the Medici.
piero the gouty father of lorenzo 2 feathers.jpg
Valencian Vase - Two Feathers
piero the gouty father of lorenzo 2 feathers.jpg (129.25 KiB) Viewed 12578 times
Valencian Vase with Medici Arms
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Phaeded wrote:

. . . there does not seem to be any evidence that the Medici ever used the theological colors (see the old Sacristy for instance) until 1449 on Piero’s birth tray for Lorenzo’s birth . . .
Interestingly, on the birth tray’s obverse, it can be seen that the gold-plated frame to Scheggia’s Triumph of Fame contains 12 feathers—three gold, three red, three green, and three white. These same colors of gold, red, and green (from the leading to trailing edge) and possibly white presented as a narrow band between the gold and red (it’s difficult to tell for this last given the magnification allowed; please judge for yourself) are duplicated in the wings of Fame. However, this leaves us with something of a puzzle, does it not? Twelve feathers consisting of four different colors on one side, and three feathers of presumably three different colors on the other. In other words, can one safely assume that the third feather depicted on the reverse of Lorenzo’s birth tray was originally green, not gold?

Unfortunately, in her dissertation (provided by Ross), Musacchio does not state how she determined the colors of the three-feathers on the tray’s reverse, nor does she address, presumably, by reason of oversight the issue of the 4x3 feathers on the tray’s obverse. Instead, she cites Ames-Lewis in terms of the Medici’s use of white, green and red, respectively, for the theological virtues of faith, hope, and caritas. Surely, other elements within Scheggia’s Fame merit exploration as well. For instance, my gaze is constantly drawn to the three hounds given such prominence at foreground—one white, one black, and one red—as well as the Black, barefoot groom at center in gold robes.

Lorenzo’s Birth Tray (Obverse, 2 views); ... 00721.html ... 00720.html

Lorenzo’s Birth Tray (Reverse): ... 00722.html#

As an aside, I’d like to comment on one element in Scheggia’s Fame before moving forward. That is, I have repeatedly encountered mention in tarot forum discussions of the polygonal or octagonal halo of Scheggia’s Fame, which he depicted in green, in addition to the Virtue and World figures of the Charles VI deck, or other depictions of the Virtues. Forgive me if this has been discussed previously. However, I believe this scalloped halo likely derives from the canopy of the sky motif originally borrowed from Classical Rome and widely utilized, often with the penetrating Hand of God, in Medieval apse mosaics. Indeed, this motif was so widely used that it is difficult to believe that any contemporary churchgoer would not have made the association. Still extent examples, readily viewed on the net, include Rome’s S. Paul’s Outside the Walls; S. Maria Maggiore; and S. Maria Trastervere. Saint John Lateran is remarkable among the four great “patriarchal” basilicas of Rome for not employing the scalloped edge for the canopy of the sky above Christ Pantocrator (it appeared as such in the Old St. Peter’s). On the other hand, in Florence’ S. John Baptistery, the scalloped canopy appears between the oculus and the sphere containing both Christ as Lawgiver/Alpha-Omega and the Choir of Angels—viz. Virtues, Thrones, Dominations, Powers, and Abilities. ... l_5008.jpg

Further, although dating to the early 16th Century, Giulio Romano’s Room of the Giants in the Palazzo Te provides a highly interesting perspective into the continued interest in this motif. ... Itemid=291
Phaeded wrote:

The festival of the Magi became closely associated with the Medici soon after Cosimo’s return [after 1434]. On the feast of the Epiphany the great man took part in the Magi’s journey, wearing a gold gown one year, walking in rich fur in another (R. Trexler, Public Life in Renaissance Florence, 1980: 423). See also Trexler’s The Journey of the Magi: Meanings in History of a Christian Story, where he refers to the Magi as a ‘legitimizing icon’ as appropriated by the Medici (1987: 90) . . .

Back to the red ostrich feather on the CVI hanged man – I do believe its primary meaning is an antitype to Charity, particularly as associated with the Church/Papacy. But the red ostrich feather was previously featured in the Strozzi altarpiece of the magi that in fact served in many respects as a model for Gozzoli . . . . In fact the Strozzi altarpiece was directly "quoted" in Gozzoli's famous painting of the Magi for Cosimo in his new palace in 1459: one of the kneeling Magi's feathered headdress is exactly reproduced but with the Medici colors of green/red/white instead of the Strozzi red/gold . . .

The Medici in effect belatedly assumed the colors of the Magi as their own and so could defensively be said to not be painting over Strozzi’s family colors so much as restoring the magi’s true colors (which are now theirs as well).
The Gozzoli work (ca. 1459-61) would seem to employ a complicated symbolic program. However, any reservations I might have relative to Lorenzo’s birth tray aside, I believe you provide a very compelling argument in terms of a Magi-Medici color scheme link.

Please also find by link, below, a detail from Gozzoli’s east wall procession of the Young Magi, Caspar. The detail shows Cosimo and Piero with two Medici servants, as well as the Medici colors, and the device of the ring, three feathers, and motto, “Semper.” Note the detailing of the red and gold tack of Piero’s horse—the Medici circle of six palli with a seventh at center, in turn, contained within the Medici diamond ring. This is highly reminiscent of the detailing found in the red dress of Temperance in the Charles VI tarot. It can also be found in the Chariot trump. ... lio%29.jpg

Now, look at a detail of the magi, Balthazar (south wall). As previously mentioned, his headdress is lined with ostrich feathers of red, white, and green. The top of the headdress is figured in dark blue with gold beading. But notice, also, the foliate (parsley?) motif figured in gold on his green robe just below the collar, between breast and shoulder. Then compare it to the foliate motif found on the green dress of Fortitude in the Charles VI tarot, then the blue robe of the Pope. It is highly similar, though not exact, with the cited tarot trumps consistently following a 4x3 design. ... ologus.jpg
Ross wrote:

How do we know they are ostrich feathers? Ames-Lewis: "The earliest reference to the Medici feathers as those of the ostrich known to me is in Cod. Vat. Lat. 5381, on the decorations for a festa in Rome in 1513 . . . .” But what about the three feathers in three colours of the Theological Virtues?

Ames-Lewis, p. 129, says: "Giovio associated the colours given to the feathers of the full family device with those of the Theological Virtues, implying that the bearer is forever controlled by Faith, Hope and Charity: this may well be an element in the symbolism of Piero's livery colours (31) "

"... may well be", but is not "certainly", or proven by being explained as such by Piero himself nor his contemporaries. It is not implausible (it is not anachronistic), and perhaps not unlike him (I really don't know, but it would seem to be impolite for a secular person to appropriate these virtues, especially all three), but that is a long way from considering it a fact, something that can be assumed, and used to base further speculations on.

His note 31 begins: "Giovio, p. 21: '... tre penne di tre diversi colori, cioè: verde, bianco e rosso, volendo che s'intendesse, che Dio amando fioriva in queste tre virtù; Fides, Spes, Charitas...' Giovio attributes the use of coloured feathers to Lorenzo di Piero, but there are numerous examples in Piero di Cosimo's usage..."

Proof that Giovio was making up the explanation is implied, then, by the fact that he didn't know about Lorenzo's father's use of the emblem. He says that it was Lorenzo who picked up the use of the emblem and placed three feathers in the ring: "... il magnifico Lorenzo s'haveva usurpato un d'essi con gran galanteria, insertandovi dentro tre penne, di tre diversi colori..."

And what about Paolo Giovio's interpretation? This is first attested in 1555 . . . over a century after Apollonio's cassone, Lorenzo's birth-tray, and perhaps even the painting of the Charles VI Tarot.
[Shrug] Giovio maintained Medici patronage for most of his working career, starting from the time that he immigrated as a young man from Lake Como to Rome in the early years of Leo X de’ Medici’s pontificate (r. 1513-21), until his death, during the reign of Cosimo I de’ Medici, in 1552, Florence. His relationship as personal physician with Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, later Clement VII, was purportedly especially close. Giovio’s reputation as an historian is by no means spotless, not being the type of dog, who bites the hand, which feeds him. As such, his writings should be treated with the same care one would treat other court documents of the age.

At any rate, I was able to locate photographs (see attachments for two representative variants), which depict cuttings from missals (ca. 1513-21) belonging to Pope Leo X de’ Medici. These show the diamond ring with three feathers—(from left to right) white, green, and red. Compare this to the birth tray of his father, Lorenzo, which show the feathers as being (from left to right) white, red, and “color undetermined.” ... tart=21412

An additional item linked with Leo, which I found highly interesting is a rinfrescatoio or ceramic bowl used for either washing fruit or cooling wine flasks and glasses. The outside of the bowl features the arms of families with whom the Medici had contracted favorable marriage alliances (Orsini, Salviati, Strozzi), as well as the Medici arms of an inverted triangle composed of six (3+2+1) palli. The interior bottom of the bowl features Leo’s papal arms, plus the mask of a lion cub, and putti in a victory narrative. The sides of the bowl’s interior contain putti, zoomorphics, and four roundels with impresa.

One impresa features a white eagle with the motto “Renovabitur” (“Renewal”). Another features the Medici yoke first devised by Cosimo after his return from exile to Florence; it carries the mottos “Suave” (“Gentle”) and “Divinia Potentia” (“Divine Power”). A third roundel contains the diamond ring with three feathers and motto “Semper” (“Always”). In this case, however, the feathers (from left to right) are green, white, and red. The last device, which bears comparison with the diamond ring, was purportedly designed by Leo after his own “miraculous” return from exile and ascension to the papal throne. It features a six-spoked wheel pierced from meridian to hub by a diamond or adamantine nail with pyramidal head, effectively preventing the wheel from turning, and bears the motto “Sumus Vivimus” (“We Are” or “We Live”).
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Leo Bowl - view 1
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Another element I would draw your attention to—it may be nothing, and I’ve arguably not encountered sufficient examples to deem it a “pattern”—but the diamond appears to take on the color of the central feather—viz. red in Lorenzo’s birth tray and white in the Leonine rinfrescatoio. Alternatively, in the Leonine missals, where the central feather is green, the diamond accordingly appears green in the majority of cases. Most interesting, however, in the second variant encountered in the Leonine missals, where the field is divided into red and white, the diamond appears gold. Moreover, the diamond appears blue in Botticelli’s Pallas and the Centaur (1482-1485). ... ntaure.jpg

Finally, I need to ask: Why the presumption—also put forward by Phaeded—that the theological virtues were proprietary to the popes? I’ve never heard of this (which is not to say it wasn’t so). However, in a quick search of the WGA website, I found a handful of roughly contemporary tombs in Venice and France of non-popes, which feature these virtues.
Ross Wrote:

But St. Gregory, in his Moralia, much read in the fifteenth century, compares ostrich feathers (= Hypocrites) very unfavourably with those of the falcon (= the Faithful); see Moralia xxxi, ch. viii (on Job xxxix, 13) . . .
The ostrich was also associated with gluttony and stupidity, hence, the saying, still current, of “burying one’s head in the sand like an ostrich” (Pliny, Natural History, Book 10, 1). However, perhaps a more appropriate match—viz. in terms of the Medici and Charles VI Hanged Man—resides in its correlation with Justice and the related principle of equilibrium (Horapollo, Hieroglyphica, Book 2, Number 118). For example, in the Vatican’s Sala di Constantino, which was first commissioned by Leo shortly before his death and then subsequently completed under the pontificate of his cousin, Clement VII, following the Sack of Rome, the fresco of Urban I shows him flanked by Justice and Caritas. Justice, in turn, is pictured resting her right hand on a black ostrich and holding a balance in her left. ... %C3%A0.jpg

On the other hand, in his examination of the Hanged Man motif and Florentine custom of “shame paintings”—
Mike H wrote:

Looking through the book, I see hardly any examples of debtors, and the examples of people being hung by one foot include only traitors. Even then, that depiction is not common. Walter of Brienne and his henchmen, at least 6, "must have been shown upright and frontal" Edgerton says (p. 82). This painting remained on the Bargello wall until 1550. Vasari notes that they were depicted "All with mitre of justice on their heads as marks of shame" (p. 81) . . . .

Then in 1377 . . . came the first one hung upside down, reported by an anonymous diarist of the time (p. 85f): “Today [October 13, 1377] was begun the fresco on the facade of the palace where lives the pedesta, and to paint there the face and person of the traitor, Messer Ridolofo da Camerino, traitor to the Holy Mother Church, and the people and Commune of Florence....Thus painted, he is on a gallows, tied at the top by his left foot and hung [upside down]. On his head at the bottom is a big mitra. At the side and tied to his neck is a devil. His arms are spread out, and from both right and left hand he gives the finger [fa le fica] to the Church and to the Commune of Florence.”
And now, Gentlemen, despite the fact that I have a number of questions on this topic, I’ll end, as this post has gotten way to long. Thank you for your forbearance.

Leo Missal version 2
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Leo Missal version 1
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Re: Decker's new book

On the other hand, in his examination of the Hanged Man motif and Florentine custom of “shame paintings”—
Mike H wrote:


Then in 1377 . . . came the first one hung upside down, reported by an anonymous diarist of the time (p. 85f): “Today [October 13, 1377] was begun the fresco on the facade of the palace where lives the pedesta, and to paint there the face and person of the traitor, Messer Ridolofo da Camerino, traitor to the Holy Mother Church, and the people and Commune of Florence....Thus painted, he is on a gallows, tied at the top by his left foot and hung [upside down]. On his head at the bottom is a big mitra. At the side and tied to his neck is a devil. His arms are spread out, and from both right and left hand he gives the finger [fa le fica] to the Church and to the Commune of Florence.”
The description is puzzling, cause in 1377 Florence had been in war with the papacy.

Here is the life description of Ridolfino da Varano da Camerino (which should be this man): ... i_Camerino
Ridolfo (sometimes Rodolfo) II da Varano, signore di Camerino (flourishing 1344 — 1384), was a condottiero operating in Italy from the 1360s. His forebears had long held[1] the rocca of Varano on the borderland of the Papal States, controlling a major strategic pass between Umbria and the Marche, a link between Rome and the Adriatic coast.[2] He inherited from Gentile di Berardo da Varano in 1355, and undertook the improvement of the fortifications that protected the commune and its rocca.

The son of Berardo da Varano and nephew of Gentile di Berardo da Varano, whom he succeeded in 1355,[3] Ridolfo had proved his mettle in a dramatic capture of Smyrna in 1344, in guise of a "crusade" for the Knights of Rhodes under Jean de Biandra, Prior of Lombardy.[4] In the year of his inheritance he gained a signal victory over Galeotto de' Malatesta near Paderno di Ancona in 1355, captured Recanati and at Castelfidardo made Galeotto prisoner; on 2 June 1355, a treaty was concluded, approved by Pope Innocent VI on 20 June.[5] The treaty was cemented by his marriage with Galeotto's daughter. In 1360 he fought for Pope Clement VI. Subsequently he was created Papal gonfaloniere and reconquered Rimini, Fano, Pesaro, Fossombrone, Ascoli Piceno and Forlì. Later he was hired by the Angevines of Naples, for whom he was governor of Abruzzo.

In 1362 he fought for the Florentines against Pisa, notably in the capture of Peccioli, where he succeeded Bonifazio Lupo, to whom Matteo, the continuator of Giovanni Villani's chronicle, compared him, as "nobler in birth, but much inferior in swiftness and mind"[6] a lack of initiative: "He remained sleeping mornings until the third hour, in a bed supplied with low company and leading a quiet, courtly life>"[7]

In 1370 he victoriously warred for Florence against Bernabò Visconti. The commune of Camerino was one of many in the Papal States that rose in rebellion against papal authority during the war headed by Florence against the French-allied papacy of Gregory XI, in which Ser John Hawkwood ("Giovanni Acuto") distinguished himself. In 1375 Ridolfo held Bologna, until recently occupied by papal troops under a legate, for the appointed emergency Florentine magistracy, the Otto di Guardia ("Eight of War").[8] Then, however, in a reverse typical of the times, in 1377 he was made commander-in-chief by Gregory XI, and was sent to fight against Florence. As an ally of the cardinal general of papal forces, Gil de Albornoz, in operations once more against the Malatesta of Rimini, turning over to him the supreme command of the papal army. For this the Florentines had him depicted on the facade of a public building, in a pittura infamante, "traitor to the Holy Mother Church, to the popolo and commune of Florence and to all its allies," as hanging by his left foot, upside down on a gallows, with a siren on his left and a basilisk on his right while wearing a bishop's mitre (circa October 13, 1377),[9]

His rise as papal commander was however halted when, due to strife with Albornoz, the latter had him imprisoned. After being freed, Rodolfo moved again to support the Republic of Florence, for which he took part in the conquest of Pisa in 1362. The following year he warred for Perugia. In the same period, with the consent of Pope Urban V, he had his uncle killed and therefore he became lord of Camerino. He became also lord of Macerata. Rodolfo suffered however two defeats at Montemilone and Fabriano.

He died at Tolentino in 1384.



I think, that the 7 palle indicate, that the object was made before May 1465 (change of the Medici palle from 7 to 6 and placement of the French Lille at one of the palle).

The Chariot of the Charles VI has 7 palle at his decoration.


Re: Decker's new book

Huck wrote:
On the other hand, in his examination of the Hanged Man motif and Florentine custom of “shame paintings”—
Mike H wrote:


Then in 1377 . . . came the first one hung upside down, reported by an anonymous diarist of the time (p. 85f): “Today [October 13, 1377] was begun the fresco on the facade of the palace where lives the pedesta, and to paint there the face and person of the traitor, Messer Ridolofo da Camerino, traitor to the Holy Mother Church, and the people and Commune of Florence....Thus painted, he is on a gallows, tied at the top by his left foot and hung [upside down]. On his head at the bottom is a big mitra. At the side and tied to his neck is a devil. His arms are spread out, and from both right and left hand he gives the finger [fa le fica] to the Church and to the Commune of Florence.”
The description is puzzling, cause in 1377 Florence had been in war with the papacy.

I only have the most superficial knowledge of this conflict. However, it would not surprise me if a distinction was made in Florence between the true Church and Gregory, nor if Gregory were painted as the antichrist along Joachimist lines for that matter.
Huck wrote:


I think, that the 7 palle indicate, that the object was made before May 1465 (change of the Medici palle from 7 to 6 and placement of the French Lille at one of the palle).

The Chariot of the Charles VI has 7 palle at his decoration.

You’ve lost me, here, Huck. The vase with its circle of six palle, plus a seventh at center, bears the French fleur-de-lys or at the principle palle—viz. at the circle’s meridian—, which would mean it could not date before May 1465.

Prima facie, the chief difficulty, here, as I see it, resides in its use of two red feathers (cf. Lorenzo’s birth tray, ca. 1449, and Gozzoli’s Procession of the Magi, ca. 1459-63, which depict three feathers).

In terms of the CVI deck, I presume you and others of this list have evidence not limited to its use of this device, which link it to mid- or late 15th Century Medici Florence [and to which I am not privy].

However, please also see the plate pictured, below, which pictures a Leo X triumph with his pet white elephant, Hanno. Hanno’s presence, here, places the triumph somewhere between 1514, when he arrived in Rome as a gift from Manuel I of Portugal, and his death in June 1516. However, you’ll notice also that Leo’s infantry and horse bear banners with the Medici devise of a circle of six palle, plus the seventh at center—all red, with no fleur-de-lys on a field of blue. Now, I don’t doubt that, in reality, the banners depicted the fleur-de-lys in the principle palle at this late date. However, it is also understandable, I think, that this detail was not shown in the plate in view of size restrictions—restrictions which, of course, would apply to the CVI trumps as well.
Leo X Triumph ca. 1514-1516
2006bd3982_montelupo_leo_x_dish_290x290.jpg (39.86 KiB) Viewed 12541 times
Thank you for your kind reply.

Warm regards,

Re: Decker's new book

hi Kate,

I only have the most superficial knowledge of this conflict. However, it would not surprise me if a distinction was made in Florence between the true Church and Gregory, nor if Gregory were painted as the antichrist along Joachimist lines for that matter.

An important conflict, especially in three dimensions: Once general of great economical importance, second it accompanied the return of the papacy from France to Italy and from Avignon to Rome, and third, it's the year, when playing cards were forbidden in Florence at 25th of March (and this is the first sure presence of playing cards in Italy).
The Florentine prohibition and its coincidence with the return of the pope possibly means, that playing cards were imported with the papal delegations and its festivities.
In the larger context there's some debate, if Bohemia had earlier already playing cards and used them for the crowning of King Wenzel (son of emperor Charles IV) in mid 1376 in Aachen (with an import from Bohemia). 1377 became then the year, when John of Rheinfelden observed the invasion of the playing cards in 1377 in Freiburg in Breisgau, but he couldn't say, where this all came from.

Huck wrote:
I think, that the 7 palle indicate, that the object was made before May 1465 (change of the Medici palle from 7 to 6 and placement of the French Lille at one of the palle).
You’ve lost me, here, Huck. The vase with its circle of six palle, plus a seventh at center, bears the French fleur-de-lys or at the principle palle—viz. at the circle’s meridian—, which would mean it could not date before May 1465.
I've read that, what I said, first only in a short note, later I found some confirmation in other texts, though not much better in their informative value. And generally I found not much examples with 7 palle.

So it's interesting to me, that you have a picture with 7 palle and Pope Leo X starting his papacy, thanks. But considering the context:

1512: cardinal Giovanni di Medici becomes prisoner of the French after the battle of Ravenna (April 11).
1512: He escapes, the French are driven out of Italy.
1512: Giovanni gets Florence back to the Medici after they were driven out in 1494 (September - the whole caused by a French invasion)
Early 1513: Giovanni becomes pope

After 1494 (or just a short period after April 1512) the Medici possibly felt not so much reason to use the French Lille with their palle. Possibly there was the idea to return to 7 palle for some short time?

Re: Decker's new book

Hi Huck,

In truth, I couldn’t say. I’ve never had occasion to take an interest in Medici heraldry before now. Thus, I was forced to rely on the net. It was my impression that Lorenzo used the seven-palli model until his death and that the change to six palli was a 16th Century innovation. However, like you, I found that those sources, which I accessed were short on information in re this issue.

Warm regards,

Re: Decker's new book

Kate wrote:
Finally, I need to ask: Why the presumption—also put forward by Phaeded—that the theological virtues were proprietary to the popes? I’ve never heard of this (which is not to say it wasn’t so). However, in a quick search of the WGA website, I found a handful of roughly contemporary tombs in Venice and France of non-popes, which feature these virtues.
I suppose anyone could presumptuously claim them, but if the question at hand is a Florentine – and quite possibly Medicean – cultural product (the CVI), then does it not follow that the most relevant exemplar of the Theological virtues would be the largest monumental and prominently displayed one located in Florence, before the CVI was produced?

I still place the CVI hanged man in the context of that deck being produced as one of the numerous species of Medicean propaganda in response to the papacy-involved Pazzi conspiracy. As the financial supporters of not just the anti-pope John XII (memorialized with Medici money in the Florence Baptistry – see the photo above) but ‘regular’ popes such as Eugene VI, the only way the Medici could have understood the Pazzi assassination was as a violation of their traditional “friendship” with the papacy in the most egregious manner possible; the act was "traitorous" and deserving of condemnation via the hanged man. That relationship eventually had to be repaired, but not in 1478 and immediately thereafter; they were literally at war with the current pope, Sixtus IV.

Ultimately what is of the most interest to me is the research trail that seemingly went cold on Ross – it seems he could trace the association of the theological virtue’s colors only to Dante (perhaps it is his invention -all the more reason for Florentines to adopt it). And yet quite soon after Dante’s death we find the color association already taken for granted, even by a painter in a rival city to Florence – Siena; below is Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s altarpiece for Massa Marittima, c. 1335, a city that was essentially subject to Siena (and was formally so by the end of the Trecento). The theological virtues are named on each of the three steps – in ‘appropriate’ color – leading to the Virgin; the unusual attribute of the tower for Spes has been linked to writings of Augustine and this altarpiece has been connected (by Diana Norman, among others) to an Augustinian church in Massa Marittima.

BTW: Charity was considered the highest theological virtue, hence the top step. All the more damning then of the hanged man's red feather as an antitype.


Re: Decker's new book

One more observation to add to the above on hanged man as antitype of Charity – the vice opposite Charity in Giotto’s Scrovegni chapel is Envy; both the CVI hanged man and Giotto’s Envy hold bags of money (the latter even has red tongues of flames at her feet, suggestive of the red feather):


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