Cary Sheet again

I thought there was a thread "Exploring the Cary Sheet" somewhere, but I couldn't find it. If you know where it is Robert, feel free to bring this over there.

Everybody knows how difficult it is to establish the provenance, and the dating, of the Cary Sheet. Michael Dummett was the first to publish it, in 1980, and assigned it to Milan, arguing as follows: Tarot must have gone from Italy to France in the aftermath of the French invasions of Charles VIII (1494) and Louis XII (1499), during the latter of which Milan was conquered and administered by France for 12 unbroken years, and several times intermittently up to 1525. Since the dominant pattern in France is the Tarot de Marseille, the pattern in Milan at that time must have been similar to the Tarot de Marseille. The Cary Sheet is definitely related to the Tarot de Marseille, and is obviously older than any surviving Tarot de Marseille. Since the Cary Sheet is conventionally dated to 1500 (I'm not sure whose date that is - it looks older to me), and is somehow ancestral to the Tarot de Marseille, it is therefore probably from Milan.

I'm not convinced by this argument, but it is not my purpose here to debate it. It is only to remind people of the state of the question. Going on then - Robert has always had a great interest in the Cary Sheet, and found that the Devil figure is very reminiscent of the folkloric figure of the devil Krampus, who frightens people at Christmastime in Germanic regions of Europe. This sort of removes it from Italy, where the figure is not known. Not quite however, since the extreme north of Italy, bordering Switzerland and Austria, seems to know him too. We can't exclude that some cardmaker in Milan knew him, not least because Milan is a northern city, very close to Switzerland. The Cary Sheet Devil is of course very different from the Tarot de Marseille Devil in any case.

To an expert in clothing and fashion, and prints, the Cary Sheet's provenance may be obvious - but so far no one with that expertise - at least to my knowledge - has come forward with a statement about it.

I want to bring attention to something else I noticed recently - the Bagatto's shoes. These are the wooden "overshoes" or slippers, known as "pattens". It struck me because they are not common in Italian art - in fact in a brief look at the Italian prints of the 15th and 16th century that I have close by, I can't find a single example. Yet they are extremely plentiful in northern - Belgian, Burgundian, German, and French - art of the period.

It just does not seem to have been an Italian fashion.



These are exactly the sort of pattens depicted by van Eyck in the "Arnolfini Portrait" of 1434:


(Note that although Arnolfini was an Italian merchant (it is presumably him or another Italian), the painting is of his home in Bruges, where he had lived since 1419.)

In addition to the un-Italian "Krampus", these pattens on the Bagatto give me more reason to suspect the Cary Sheet is non-Italian in origin. Pattens show up in German art, I believe, until the early 16th century, so that does not help with the dating of the sheet. My own sense is that it is mid-15th century, but perhaps it is too refined for an engraving of 1450 (or earlier).

Am I missing some obvious Italian pattens of the 15th century (or even 16th century)? I mean those that look like these, not the monster platforms that became fashionable with Venetian women in the early 16th century (which you will find if you look it up). I'm thinking of Mike in particular, since he has perused Hind more than any of us I believe.

Re: Cary Sheet again

There is a little pdf history of long toe shoes (and the wooden clogs that went with them when outside) here: ... -shoes.pdf

There were various papal decrees and Europe wide ordinances about their use, including Italian states:
Italian city states including Florence, Bologna, Milan and Venice all set ordinances from about 1330.
According to A Cyclopedia of Costume here: ... an&f=false

the poulaine was worn in Italy as generally as it was in Northern Europe.

So I don't think it is much use as an indicator of location, but in terms of time period it seems it was out of fashion by about 1500.

Here too it is stated that the krakow/poullaine were the fashion in Italy as elsewhere (p.259/260) ... &q&f=false
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Cary Sheet again

Hi SteveM!
Here is a little quote from a site that has no name but is talking about style.
Even in the early fifteenth century Lombardy was one of the most important centres, where Michelino da Besozzo, whose skill had been enriched by experience gained in France and Burgundy, imbued new life into a style of art which had been brought to perfection by such artists as Giovannino de'Grassi and Luchino Belbello da Pavia, but was nearing exhaustion by reason of its own flawless excellence. His smiling figures "whose outlines are supple but not boneless" (Longhi) added human warmth to the mastery of his predecessors. Besozzo's journey to Venice in 1410 left deep effects on the art of Gentile da Fabriano, who was active in Verona and Venice. The paintings executed at Verona, which is situated in the point of intersection of north-south and east-west roads and was open to the corresponding cultural influences, were enriched not only by the art of Lombardy and Venice, but also by stylistic nuances originating in France, Burgundy, the Rhineland, Bohemia and the Tyrol.
I think you would call the Cary-Yale sheet Gothic international. aprox. 1410- 1550

Now these shoes were banned because they stopped you getting down on your knees to pray- but you are right the height of their fashion was apparently at 1460'ish. Do the pictures show a codpiece anywhere? They are thought to post date the shoes- the shoes went out the codpiece came in ;))

The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: Cary Sheet again

One argument for dating the Cary Sheet to around 1500 Milan is the similarity, noted by O'Neil at, of the Cary Sheet Papess to the portrait of Isis in the Borgia Apartments. The similarity is more striking if one flips the image, as would have happened if the maker of the woodcut was simply copying a drawing of the Isis in front of him. Here they are:


Notice not only the face, but the crown, scepter, chair, book, and the kneeling figure to our right, of whom we see only the hands. Her hand resting on what looks like a specific passage in the book is quite close to the later "Marseille" Popess. The Isis was done 1492-1494 by Barnardino Pinturicchio.

Yes, Rome is not Milan. But there are several connections. For one thing, in Borgia, the Sforza finally had their man in the Vatican ( Relations between Milan and the Vatican were excellent in this period. For another, the Pinturicchio fresco series seems to have influenced a poem written in Milan somewhat later, c. 1496-98, the [/i]Antiquarie prospetiche romane[/i], which describes the Meta Romuli (see as being encrusted in "fine gems," just as Pinturicchio painted it (Curran, The Egyptian Renaissance: The Afterlife of Ancient Egypt in Early Modern Italy, p. 117). The author of the poem is presumed to be an associate of the Milanese painter Bramante (Curran p. 68). Milan had long been a center of Egyptomania. A notable example is the Florentine Sculptor-Architect Filarete, who designed public works for Francesco Sforza and authored a new design for the city, dubbed Sforzinda. His Crucifixion of St. Peter (completed 1445) shows several pyramids in Rome, including the Meta Romuli. Curran continues:
Filarete's rendition of the Meta Romuli influenced a number of future renditions of the monument, including a colored drawing in the so-called North Italian Album of architectural and antiquarian drawings now preserved in Sir John Soane's Museum in London. The drawings in this album reflect the influence of Filarete's later work in Milan, as well as the subsequent work of Donato Bramante in that city, in the latter part of the fifteenth century. On the sheet representing the Meta Romuli, the monument is transformed into a stepped, conical structure with rows of richly ornamented arches, and topped by a small tempietto. In a recent study, Lynda Fairbarn has associated this later design with a description of the pyramid in the Antiquarie rospetiche romane (circa 1496-98), a poetic description of Roman antiquities by an anonymous Milanese "perspectivist" who is assumed to be a close associate of Bramante.
Curran's Fairbarn reference is The North Italian Album: Designs by a Renissance Artisan (London Azimuth Edtions 2006), pp. 42-43, fig. 32, and p. 5.

Egyptomania was not only virulent in Rome and Milan. The Emperor, not to be outdone by Borgia, whose family tree showed him to be a descendant of Osiris, had his genealogy traced to Osiris as well. And there is Durer's famous portrait of him surrounded by "hieroglyphs" suggesting his personal attributes. The Emperor, of course, had married a Sforza.

Egypt's popularity in Venice is indicated by the publication in 1499 of the Hypnoerotomachia, a work filled with Egyptianisms.

Egyptomania is suggested in at least two other cards of the Cary Sheet. Most notable is the Moon card, with its crocodiles lying next to a pool (one with something in its mouth), its two obelisk-like things in the background (not the towers, but the plant-like things behind them), and the Greek-style temple between them.


Pools were an important feature of Egyptian temple complexes, emulated by Romans such as Hadrian back home. There may even be a connection between the giant crayfish and its etymological near-relative, the scarab. The Greek karabos meant both "crab" and "beetle"; and the Latin cancer meant both "crab" and "crayfish." At the Dendera zodiacs, a crablike scarab was the animal associated with the sign of cancer. (The drawings below are from Desroches-Noblecourt, Le Fabuleux Heritage de l'Egypte).


The Star card also may also have some Egyptianisms. The star-goddess in Egypt was of course Sothis, as the Greeks called her, whose rising was at the same time of year that Aquarius set (image of Sothis below from a Roman-era temple in Egypt, probably accessible in the 15th century).


In the Dendera Zodiacs, Sothis was a cow placed at the beginning of the year. A goddess pouring out of two vases came right after, with a plant on her head.


Yet the image of Aquarius was a male pouring from two jars( below, middle). There was also the plant-capped, androgynous Hapi, also deities of the Nile.


In the Renaissance, and only then, Aquarius stopped being a beefy male pouring from one jug and became an androgynous figure pouring from two.

Another reference to Egypt, I think, is the mountain on one side, compared to the relatively flat terrain on the other. I suspect that this is a reference to the two sources of the Nile: the White Nile, with its nutrients gathered from a slow journey through hills, and the Blue Nile, with its volume in the summer owing to the rains in Ethiopia. The one is a handy symbol for the body, of which one should take care, and the other of the spirit. (According to de Desroches-Noblecourt, the two jugs actually did mean the two sources of the Nile.)

I do not find much Egyptomania north of Italy, outside the Emperor's court. My only example is a horoscope from Troyes, 1496. It is notable for its two-jugged (although masculine) Aquarius, its crayfish Cancer, and its male and female Gemini (ultimately derived, I think, from the Dendera image, which had them as Shu and Tefnet, twin children of the Sun). These are all of course features that appeared in the tarot, not only the 17th century "Marseille" style but also, for its Gemini, in the earlier Sforza Castle Sun card (Kaplan vol. 2 p. 296). The year 1496 is of course also the same time as the postulated invention of the Cary Sheet. I am not sure what was happening in Troyes then, other than being part of France rather than of Burgundy or the English domains.


To me it is the Egyptianate flavor shown in the Cary Sheet Popess, Moon, and Star, that identifies it particularly with Italy c. 1500, and within Italy, owing to the Popess card, particularly with Milan.

I have not seen the Soane drawings. I have Fairbarn's book requested on Interlibrary Loan.

Re: Cary Sheet again

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the links.
SteveM wrote: the poulaine was worn in Italy as generally as it was in Northern Europe.
The trouble is that I can't find any iconographic evidence that the poulaine was worn in Italy in the 15th century; in the late 14th century, judging by Giovannino de' Grassi and Michelino da Besozzo illuminations, it was briefly in fashion in the Visconti court - a court heavily influenced by French customs.

But for the 15th century (at least after 1410), I can't find any evidence of anybody in Italy wearing them, except perhaps foreigners (foreign-looking musicians, for instance, are wearing poulaines in Cristoforo de Predis' illuminated De sphaera, around 1465). But "generally" is an extreme exaggeration. This is in contrast to the northern countries, where everybody seems to be wearing them.

More to the point, even with poulaines here and there, I can't find a single Italian example, of any period, showing them being worn with pattens, as we see in the Cary Sheet Bagatto. Again, in the north, such depictions are ubiquitous, throughout the 15th century.


Illustration courtesy of Michael Hurst

Re: Cary Sheet again

Here is what I am talking about.

Thanks to Michael for finding these pages, showing images of pattens -
- and a more general one on shoes -

You'll notice that all of the poulain+patten images are from northern artists and places; it is a long list, with nothing from Italy.

Image ... bladel.jpg

Image ... 008544.JPG


Image ... 006350.JPG

Image ... onths.html

Additionally, here are some from among the innumerable examples in the Wolfegg Hausbuch (1480) - ... ss_Wolfegg



And here is an example from Rogier van der Weyden or his workshop, c. 1440 - ... es1440.jpg

From this drawing - ... en1440.jpg

(this show Emperor Sigmund (d. 1437) in procession with René d'Anjou and Isabelle de Lorraine)

All I am saying is that I can find nothing, nothing at ALL, for Italy in the second half of the 15th century (which concerns us), nor any time before (which doesn't concern us anyway).

Re: Cary Sheet again

Hello Ross,
this is a very interesting thread: thank you! I agree that a deeper study of the Cary Sheet should give us a more precise idea of its origin in time and place. There are so many details in this sheet!

Here is a possibly relevant Italian painting I have found (Siena 1441-42, Domenico di Bartolo): ... peda2.html
(see the character at the right).


Re: Cary Sheet again

Thanks very much Marco!

Now we're getting somewhere...
marco wrote: Here is a possibly relevant Italian painting I have found (Siena 1441-42, Domenico di Bartolo): ... peda2.html
(see the character at the right). ... patten.jpg

He is definitely wearing zoccoletti (that's Florio's term for "pattens" - he also says "calandrelli" are pattens in Italian), although I don't think the toes of his stockings qualify as poulaines (nor would they be appropriate in such a setting - but, a dog and a cat fighting? Maybe the animals had some mantic value as well. Most pet owners I know would swear to it).

Re: Cary Sheet again

It's good to know that 'Crocs' are not the first case that absurd footwear have darken the legacy of European man! :))

I like where this is going. This could mean the sheet is a bit older than generally considered.

One thought. Even if we conclude that these shoes were not the rage in the Italian states, does this really tell us much about the place of origin of the sheet? The Juggler's 'foreign' footwear could have been a deliberate device to paint the figure as a wandering showman, an outsider, someone to not be trusted. (Which is exactly the impression I get from people sporting 'Crocs'!! =)) )
When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.

Re: Cary Sheet again

I have a book about the illuminations in Italy.
There is a manuscript with 14 full page miniatures, with the arms and emblems of Francesco Sforza and Bianca, indicating dating of circa 1450-1460.
In folio 10. The Fountain of Youth a musician with drum and flute wears poulaines.
In a further folio 11 There or appear to be pattens on the floor of the Children of the Planet Mercury.

The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts
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