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The Star

Posted: 12 Nov 2009, 22:09
by robert
A thread to discuss the iconography of The Star

Re: The Star

Posted: 14 Nov 2009, 13:56
by Pen
From The Shepherd's Great Calendar, 15th Cent. The closest I've found to the Tarot de Marseille Star iconography. The image in the lower circle refers to Aquarius.

Re: The Star

Posted: 14 Nov 2009, 15:00
by SteveM
Yes, the lower portions of the Tarot de Marseille star, Moon and Sun cards have iconagraphy in common with zodiacal signs (aquarius, cancer and gemini respectively).

Re: The Star

Posted: 03 Apr 2012, 22:41
by Catholic
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. ; )


Re: The Star

Posted: 03 Apr 2012, 23:34
by Pen
Catholic wrote:
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.
Hi Catholic, welcome to the forum. I am a bit of a lone star - thanks for the company. :)

It's late right now, and I must return to read your post properly tomorrow, but I just have to say that I think the Cary Sheet Star is a young male. There are other threads with many fascinating theories - I'll look for those tomorrow and leave links.

Cary Sheet and Nicolas Conver Stars


Edited to add that the two cards are on one jpg...

Re: The Star

Posted: 04 Apr 2012, 01:32
by Catholic
Well. what can I say? Sometimes you see what you expect to see.
I've probably put my eyes on the Cary Sheet a thousand times. But, seeing it again, I think you are right. The Cary Star looks like a (maybe somehow effeminate) boy.This would be entirely consistent with the Aquarius theory. For the Cary Sheet.

So just scratch the Cary reference and read the post with Tarot de Marseille in mind. Does it fit ? Is it too long a stretch?
My particular interest is not discover the hidden mystic origins of the Tarot, but make heads and tails of what Jean Noblet, Jean Dodal and Nicolas Conver had in their minds.

For example, on the older decks the Star card was literally the representation of "A Star", with the human figures just making part of the scenario or totally absent, like on the old Rosenwald Sheet. The Tarot de Marseille Star is something new. They probably got something from the tradition of the Cary Sheet. But they created a new tradition. Maybe Jean Noblet just made the same mistake that I did and, looking to a card similar with Cary's, saw a girl. But he created something new from this mistake. What? This is what I research.

By the way, I am not native English speaker. So, sorry for any mistakes or style deficiencies.

Thanks for you reply, Pen. When you have the time I appreciate any hints.

Re: The Star

Posted: 04 Apr 2012, 12:42
by marco
Hello Catholic. See if you can find anything intersting in Michael Hurst's conversation with Enrique Enirquez here: ... 7th-trump/

I also attach an engraving by Nicoletto da Modena (1500 ca) that I recently became aware of.
(211.34 KiB) Downloaded 449 times

Re: The Star

Posted: 04 Apr 2012, 12:55
by robert
Hi Catholic,

Welcome to the forum. What a great post to reawaken the thread, thanks for sharing your ideas.


Re: The Star

Posted: 04 Apr 2012, 13:07
by Pen
There are so many links one could make, and just occasionally one turns up that seems almost to answer questions - or at least to provide an extra dimension to the puzzle.

I've been searching for an old thread that shows an engraving of the Virgin Mary, a star and a cockerel in a tree - without luck so far. Perhaps someone else can remember where to find it and post the link. If I remember correctly it was suggested at the time that that the star was Venus (both the Morning and the Evening Star), and that the cockerel was present to indicate that the picture depicted morning.

But I'm not a historian - I'm just fascinated by tarot symbolism and iconography, so I haven't the knowledge to come to concrete conclusions except when the evidence hits me in the face. We have had a few moments like that here though - they're worth waiting for, and make one realize that recognizing the truth is a very happy moment rather than an almost one. :grin:

I'll have another look for that thread again later...

Just seen the engraving posted by Marco - lovely.

And your English is very good.

Re: The Star

Posted: 04 Apr 2012, 13:36
by SteveM

Also on the web in many other places:

Search google images

Here is the thread in which it appears on this site: