This is my first post. The reason I’ve decided to go from voyeur to contributor was that I think it was a shame that the Iconography of this card did not received a single post since 2009. This is probable the most difficult card to my understanding of the Tarot de Marseille’s Iconography and I think I need help.
My reference Tarot de Marseille deck is Jean Noblet’s (c. 1650) since it is possibly the most ancient Tarot de Marseille. But I also use the Cary Sheet, Sforzas, the Tarot de Paris and other sources to understand Noblet’s iconography.
My usual method is to try to understand what were the sources and references available to the artist. Where he could have got his ideas and even how he could misrepresent them? But where are the references to Jean Noblet’s star?
Some time ago I gave a thought to Pen’s idea that it was Aquarius. It can be. My problem was that Aquarius, as shown on The Shepherd's Great Calendar, is a nude MALE and on the Cary Sheet and Jean Noblet, we have a nude FEMALE. It could be an artistic misrepresentation. Perhaps! But I i’ve decided to give the female angle a shot.
My theory is that although Aquarius iconography probably influenced the artist, he actually drawn a female water nymph pouring water like a river nascent. There are some iconic examples. The naked nymph with two jars on the Sala di Psiche Palazzo del Tè Mantua is problably known by Tarot admirers. Actually there are a lot of naked nymphs on Renaissance art and a lot of nymphs pouring water from jars, for example, on the Fontaine des Innocents, built on 1547. (Interesting enough, there are fewer naked nymphs pouring water from jars)
But my problem was how to connect water nymphs with one or several stars. With Aquarius this is obvious, but with a female water nymph, not that much. Then it came to me the legend of the Pleiades. They were seven seas nymph sisters, daughters of Atlas, that committed suicide when their father became a star and was condemned to hold up the Sky on his shoulders. Zeus took pity of them and put them on the sky, as stars, near their father. Seven sisters of the Pleiades Constellation plus Atlas could explain the eight stars of Jean Noblet’s card. Nice enough !
I was almost happy. At first I thought that Atlas would be the big star at the center, with his daughters around him. But Alcyone is by far the brightest star of the cluster, not Atlas. Atlas is not bigger on the sky than Maia or Electra. What if Alcyone was the big star on the card? Would it give something to the theory? Actually, yes. Maybe 50 year later, on Jean Dodal deck (bellow), for example, it started to appear a bird on the Star card. Why?
Well one reasonable (at least for me) explanation is that the later artist was aware that the naked nymph was Alcyone and confused her with other Alcyone, one that was married with Ceyx. Their marriage did not have a happy ending as both were changed by the gods into halcyon birds. So the bird on Dodal card could be Alcyone halcyon.
The whole theory has a reasonable explanation power of otherwise hard to fit details. How to connect the bird with Aquarius? And the Aquarius Constellation has at least 13 visible stars, a lot more than 8. And there is the detail of Aquarius being a man.
Maybe the whole theory was a bit of a stretch and I should post it on the Unicorn Terrace.
But I really like it. And besides, I thing Pen was a lone star on this thread and deserved company, as the card deserved more attention. ; )