Finally replying to what Mike wrote almost two weeks ago—it took a while because I ended up covering a lot more ground than I expected...
mikeh wrote: ↑
25 Feb 2020, 02:10
I have not proved anything. All I am concerned with is plausibility. Fame is plausibly the World card, in all the various designs except perhaps the PMB, and the World card in those cards also has attributes of Fame. Even in the PMB, if "Fama" means "glory", it applies. But this is rather clearly not the ur-tarot's design, so it can be excluded. Eternity is plausibly the Angel card.
If you want to argue that Fame is the Angel card and Eternity the World card, well, that doesn't affect my main concern, the applicability of Petrarch to the ur-tarot.
I share your view that Petrarch's I Trionfi
poems were central to the design of the ur-tarot. I'm currently inclined to think that the earliest proto-tarot deck probably had a set of 14 to 16 trumps mainly representing the Triumphs from Petrarch's poems along with the seven virtues. And like you, I also think in terms of plausibility. But we disagree on what is plausible.
I think the fundamental difference in our approaches is that you seem to be convinced that all players and card designers throughout the fifteenth century (and possibly beyond) continued to understand the tarot trump subjects in exactly the same way that the deck's original creators did. For instance, because you believe the tarot trumps were originally intended to include representations of Petrarch's Triumphs, you therefore conclude that the designers of all the decks in the decades that followed also designed the card images to represent the Triumphs, and that the tarot players also recognized the cards as such.
My view, on the other hand, is that the cards rapidly lost their association with the Petrarchan Triumphs. I think this is evident for two reasons especially:
Reason 1: The names the players gave to the cards, which are first documented by the Steele Sermon (Sermones de ludo cum aliis
, ca. 1480) and which changed very little down the centuries after, from which we can safely conclude that they became established fairly early, when the standard tarot deck first became established across Italy (the 1450s). These names suggests that the players identified the trump cards by their allegorical meanings only in the case of a few very well known allegorical figures that would have been easily recognizable to a broad cross-section of society: Love, Death, Fortune, Fortitude, Temperance, Justice. They identified the other allegorical figures not
by their allegorical meanings, but by particular details of the illustration: the Chariot, the Old Man/Hunchback/Hermit, the Hanged Man, the World, and the Angel. The Tower (which the Sermon calls the Lightning Bolt, la Sagitta
) is a similar example: the name reflects not the subject originally intended, but rather only a prominent detail of its illustration on the card.
Moreover, while the players identified two of the Petrarchan cards correctly as Love and Death, it's highly unlikely that many of them actually associated either of those cards with Petrarch's Triumph poems, because they did not make that connection in the names they gave the cards originally intended to represent the other, more obscure Triumph figures of Pudicitia, Time, and Eternity.
Reason 2: The degree of variation in the figures depicted on the cards. All of the allegorical cards I just named always showed human or human-like figures, but the figures in most of the second group (Chariot, Old Man, World, and Angel) underwent a great deal of variation in their attributes and likely allegorical signification (if any) from one deck to another. The figures in the first group, on the other hand, always clearly depicted exactly the same allegorical subject.
From these two observations, we can conclude that it was only the first group of cards (Love, Death, Fortune, Fortitude, Temperance, Justice) where the allegorical significance of the figure was an essential identifying element of the card to the player. In the second group, it was an optional extra, not essential to the players.
Because it was not essential to the players, it was also not essential to the card designers. The makers of playing cards only cared about what the players cared about. So all the card makers had to do was ensure that every deck had cards showing what the players expected to see. The players needed to see Love, Death, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance, so the card makers made cards depicting Love, Death, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. The players did not need to see Time, Eternity, Pudicitia, Prudence, or Fame. What they did need to see was an Old Man, a World, and a Chariot. So the card makers always made cards depicting an old man, a world, and a chariot. In depicting those images, they were free to use any typical iconographic attributes of time, eternity, pudicitia, fame, and anything else at all that took their fancy, but none of them were ever necessary.
So, as one would expect, the use of those attributes on those particular cards varied enormously over the decades and centuries. Sometimes the design of a Chariot card or a World card featured a Fame-like figure; usually it did not. Sometimes the design of the Old Man card included attributes of Time; often it did not. None of this mattered, because what mattered was only the Chariot and the World and the Old Man, not any allegorical meanings that may or may not have been present as well.
There was just no need for all decks at all times to contain a figure representing Fame or Pudicitia. So they didn't. Consequently, I don't feel compelled to try to find one in them. Mike, in your exploration of what is plausible regarding Fame, you left out what is probably the most plausible possibility of all, namely that Fame was not in the deck
. If you are really interested in considering everything that is plausible, you certainly need to consider that (especially for the years after the establishment of the standard tarot deck around 1450). This possibility is much more plausible than the notion that Fame might have been intended to be represented by cards that look far more likely to represent something else entirely, such as the World, or Justice, or the Angel. No, I do not "want to argue that Fame is the Angel card" because it is obvious that the Angel card originally represented the Last Judgment, not Fame. Likewise, it is not really plausible to suggest that the celestial cards could be intended to represent Time, because we have no evidence to indicate they were ever interpreted as representing anything other than simply the Sun, Moon, and Star. And when they were added to the deck, we can safely assume there was already a perfectly good representation of Time present on another card.
This general difference in our approaches is also evident in how we explain the meaning of the mundus parvus
name in the Steele Sermon. I agree that this name strongly suggests a connection between the World card and the Chariot card: the former was seen as the "big" World, the latter somehow as the "little" or "lesser" World. But because the name of the World card was not based on any allegorical meaning, I do not believe the name "little World" would have been based on allegorical meaning either. The World card was named for a prominent feature of the illustration, namely the "world," which appeared consistently on all the fifteenth-century cards as a landscape enclosed in a circular, globe-like frame (the CY card is the only slight exception, its frame being an arc rather than a circle). This was clearly regarded as the
essential feature of the card. There is absolutely no reason to think that the choice of name had anything to do with any allegory, either of Fame or anything else. Like virtually all the cards in the deck, the card's name resulted simply from the players naming it after the most obvious thing they could see on it, which in most cases was not the allegorical meaning.
So if we want to know why the Chariot was being called "little World" at this time, the approach that makes most sense is to look for features of the illustration on the card at the time that resembled the illustration on the World card.
So, what might those cards have looked like to the writer of the Steele Sermon? It is thought to have been written in the Ferrara area sometime in the last few decades of the fifteenth century. The surviving cards thought to be from that region and roughly that time are the Issy Chariot (dated to 1450-1470), the deck that survives as printed sheets in the Met Museum and Budapest Museum of Fine Arts (dated to about 1480-1510), and the handpainted Este deck from the early sixteenth century.
Of these decks, only the Budapest/Met deck survives with both a Chariot card and a World card. Only the half of the chariot card survives:
It appears to show a cherub-like figure with wings, an orb at its feet, possibly holding something in its right hand but that side of the card has not survived. Two lesser figures accompany it, probably with a similar pair on the other side of the chariot, like those on the earlier Issy Chariot card.
Unfortunately, that Chariot card does not show much resemblance to the World card in the same deck:
It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the deck familiar to the writer of the Sermon was a different one, probably somewhat earlier or later than the Budapest/Met deck. So, let's take a look at the Este cards, which don't include a Chariot but do include this World card:
This looks a lot more promising! If the little cherub on the Budapest/Met Chariot had a baton or scepter in its missing right hand, it would very closely resemble the much larger cherub on this card. So one could easily imagine a deck, maybe in use around 1500, in which the Chariot looked like that and the World looked like the Este card. That would be entirely sufficient to explain why the Chariot card was called "mundus parvus".
Please also note that if the Chariot cherub was holding a scepter, then neither that figure nor the Este World would resemble any standard image of Fame, as those images never usually featured a figure holding a scepter and orb, and never (to my knowledge) depicted the figure as a cherub. But since the allegorical meanings of the figures are not likely to be relevant to the name, that does not affect our explanation.
I can also see an alternative possibility, less likely but still plausible, namely that the Budapest/Met Chariot cherub had a sword in its right hand like the figure on the earlier Issy Chariot, and the World card in the deck known to the Sermon author looked something like it did in the late-fifteenth-century Rosenwald deck from Tuscany. This is plausible, as we know that cards used in Ferrara (including the Este deck mentioned above) were often made in Florence. Here's the Rosenwald World card:
This would again give us two angel figures with the same objects, with the one on the Chariot card again being physically smaller than the one on the World (as well as appearing on a "lesser" card). So that could also explain "mundus parvus" perfectly well, and again without needing to refer to any allegorical meanings. The fact that the World figure's sword at some point turned into a scepter in Ferrara (on the Este card) is not really a difficulty for this explanation, because swords becoming batons/scepters and vice versa is something that happened quite a lot in the Telephone-game process of tarot trump development (as in the example of the Issy Chariot itself, which must have been based on the baton-wielding figure seen on the PMB and CY Chariots).
Interestingly, in that case, both the World figure and the Chariot figure would show enough attributes of Fame (sword, orb, wings) to resemble some standard images of that allegory. So here I have to admit that I was wrong in one of my earlier posts above when I said that "the later Chariot cards no longer resemble any standard images of Fame," because if the Budapest/Met one was holding a sword, it would have done. However, these attributes were not consistent features on Chariot cards, and to my knowledge this is only instance where the Chariot figure has wings.
Another Chariot card where the figure looked plausibly like Fame can be found on the Beaux-Arts/Rothschild printed sheets from Bologna in the early sixteenth century, and that deck also shows a World figure that looks like Fame in almost exactly the same way:
So it's quite possible that the "little World" name could have been in use for the Chariot in Bologna at that time as well. But again, it's important to remember that even if this deck's designers did intend one or both of these figures to be representations of Fame, that would have been of no great significance to the players, who did not identify the cards on that basis.
Please also note that while I don't think any cards in the later decks were ever usually understood by either the players or the card makers as representing Petrarch's Triumphs, this does NOT apply to the earliest decks. I believe that the cards made for the court of Filippo Maria Visconti, who was almost certainly responsible for the creation of the first tarot deck, would definitely have been understood to show representations of those Triumphs. I think this is quite evident in the surviving trumps of the Cary Yale deck, where the Chariot card shows a representation of Chastity/Pudicitia, and the World card shows a representation of the Triumph of Eternity. I personally think it is unlikely that this deck originally contained another card representing the Triumph of Fame which has since been lost, but that nonetheless is a real possibility.
However, by the time the other very early decks that survive to us were created—those not created for the court of Filippo Maria—these representations had already changed, and their original meanings were becoming lost or modified. As I described in my first post in this thread, the Chariot in the PMB seems to have no longer represented Chastity, but Fame instead, and the Issy Chariot also. The Chariots in the Charles VI deck and Catania deck didn't even represent Fame, but merely a triumphant ruler or warrior: The former shows a man weilding an axe, the latter shows a man with an orb and scepter. Neither image resembles the typical images of Chastity/Pudicitia or Fame seen at the time (the Catania charioteer with his orb and scepter somewhat resembles the awkwardly unconventional depiction of Fame on the PMB card, but the crucial wings of Fame have disappeared from the horses).
As for the World cards in these decks, the disappearance of the winged trumpet on the CY World card is a clear indication that the card designers did not see the Fame aspect of that card as being at all important, because they replaced the trumpet—the only definite attribute of Fame on the card—with a scepter or baton, as seen on both the Charles VI and Catania World cards. As a result, neither card can plausibly be said to represent Fame.
So just as with the Chariot card, neither the players nor the card makers felt the Fame aspect to be in any way important to the World card. Or to any other card, for that matter: Even in case of the Minchiate deck, in which the Angel card resembled Fame and at one stage even had the label "Fama" literally written on the bottom of the card, the players still did not call the card Fame, but identified it by terms like Angel or Trumpets. Evidently, even in that case, where it was at least sometimes understood to be present in the card's illustration, this allegorical meaning of the card was still not important. In this respect, the Minchiate Angel was exactly like the Chariot and World in every tarot deck after 1450.