One argument for dating the Cary Sheet to around 1500 Milan is the similarity, noted by O'Neil at http://www.tarot.com/about-tarot/library/boneill/papess
, 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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Alexander_VI
). 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 http://roma.andreapollett.com/S6/roma2-05e.htm
) 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.