Fortitude with a tower and dragon

A colleague of mine found an interesting essay on the cardinal virtues here: ... ?id=dv4-49

Which led me to discovering the following iconography of Fortitude, grasping the neck of a dragon as it comes out of a tower, (seen on the far right):

Virtues 15th century French.jpg
The caption reads: Ms 927 fol.17v Theological and Cardinal Virtues, from "Ethics, Politics and Economics' by Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) (vellum) Artist: French School, (15th century). Artist nationality: French. Date C15th. Medium: vellum. Location, Bibliotheque Municipale, Rouen, France

According to the essay by Helen North, this 'Rouen iconography' can be found at least as early as 1454, and probably as far back as 1410, putting it right in the time-frame of the first tarots.

Another version of the same iconography of Fortitude can be found at the tomb of Francis II, the Duke of Brittany, in Nantes Cathedral, by Michel Colombe, from 1507:
Fortitude tomb of the Duke of Brittany in Nantes 1507.jpg

Has anyone else come across this peculiar representation of Fortitude in other places? Is it possible that this imagery is related to the pillar and/or lion of the later Fortitude cards? ( a dragon/tower is not too far from a lion/pillar in my eyes). This imagery seems to parallel the depictions of the Devil imprisoned in the castle keep that was discussed in another thread on the Tower card.

With that in mind, given that Temperance was sometimes depicted with a clock, as a pun on the word tempus - 'time', is it possible that the tarot card XI was named la Fortezza, which literally means 'the fortress', as a play on the tower imagery found in this 'Rouen iconography'?

Admittedly it's a stretch, but I've always been curious about the use of the word Fortezza for the card depicting Fortitude.

According to Michael Dummett's The Game of Tarot : "In all early Italian sources, the card is called la fortezza, which (apart from the irrelevant meaning of 'the fortress') can only mean 'fortitude.'"

Is it really irrelevant that the word means fortress? What is he saying with "(it) can only mean 'fortitude'? Is he saying that since it can't possibly mean fortress, that it must mean fortitude? Because his phrasing makes it sound as if he's deducing this meaning, as though it were not obvious as in the cases of many of the other card names. With the use of puns being common, I'm not so sure we can just dismiss the word offhandedly, but I could be totally wrong.

At any rate, I found these images very interesting.

Re: Fortitude with a tower and dragon

What a fascinating image! It seems familiar, but I don't remember seeing it before. I would have guessed a saint if it hadn't been identified as Temperance.

Thanks RLG.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: Fortitude with a tower and dragon

Nice images indeed.

With 'fortezza', the etymological connection is perhaps more straightforward: the 'fort' or tower is indeed a 'stronghold', and derives its name from 'strength' or 'force'. So it's not so much that Fortezza indicates a tower (or fort-tower), but rather that the tower is itself both literally and emblematically connected to Strength or 'Force'.

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