Re: Sola Busca at Brera!!!

#11
http://www.exibart.com/profilo/eventiV2 ... nto=125793
A "press release" providing a much longer presentation of the exhibition, including a very exciting list of the items on display!

Apparently, the Florence manuscript BR.52 I mentioned in 2006 contains more relevant illustrations :)
http://www.tarotpedia.com/wiki/Sola_Bus ... mical_text

Here is a slightly revised google translation:

In 2009, the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, exercising the right to purchase in case of export, bought the oldest complete Italian tarot deck (which is also the oldest in the world), known as the Sola Busca deck after the names of its previous owners (Marquise Busca and Count Sola). The deck has been assigned to the Pinacoteca di Brera, which already kept a group of 48 cards, part of a precious late gothic deck made for the Duke of Milan (the so-called Brambilla deck) .
The exhibition presents this important acquisition to the general public, investigating for the first time in detail its cultural context and possible sources, the complex iconography of the deck. Its dating is specified, the artist identified as well as the humanist who inspired its iconography, all aspects that have never previously been solved by art historians.

The game of tarot, initially known as "Triumphs" (the word "tarot" seems to have been introduced for the first time in a document of 1505), is documented in Italy as a game of the upper classes from the fifth decade of the fifteenth century especially in the area of ​​Ferrara, which houses many documents relating to the supply of illuminated or printed decks for members of the ducal family, of which currently no example seems to have survived.
Conversely, in the absence of documentary representations, in Lombardy there are many early examples of illuminated tarot cards (fragmentary decks made for the Visconti and Sforza families) of late-gothic culture. Different cards justly famous for their beauty are also kept since 1971, as already mentioned, at the Pinacoteca di Brera. Only at a later time the game is also documented in Bologna and Florence, while scholars still disagree on whether or not an ancient Venetian tradition actually existed.
These decks were meant for play in the courts, a refined intellectual game, very different from card games practiced in the taverns, often deplored and punished by the law. While at the time the “divinatory” aspect, that would become prevalent with the French school of the eighteenth century, was totally unrelated to the game.

In this context the Sola Busca deck is presented as exceptional from many points of view. First, it is the oldest complete deck consisting of 78 cards, 22 "triumphs" and 56 cards of the four traditional Italian suits (coins, swords, batons and cups). They are burin engravings printed on paper, mounted on cardboard, which were then illuminated in colors and gold.
Moreover, the iconography of the "triumphs" differs from the more traditional fifteenth century decks, a sequence that from the Bagat came to the World and the Last Judgement (the Angel), as a sort of elevation path of the player from the earth to God. In the Sola Busca Tarot instead the "triumphs" present a series of figures of warriors of ancient Rome (in many cases related to the saga of Mario) or biblical heroes, tying in some way to the tradition of “Illustrious Men” proposed as exempla to imitate, which had its roots in medieval culture, from Petrarch to Boccaccio, used as a source by many artists (although in many cases it is possible to read some of the more traditional subjects of "triumphs" as for example the Triumph of Fortune in Venturio.X or the Triumph of Death in Catone.XIII). Still on the topic of Illustrious Men (in fact belonging to the Nine Heroes) we find Alexander the Great, to whom the suit of Swords is devoted. A figure that, thanks to the episode of his elevation to heaven in a chariot drawn by griffins, had become since the Middle Ages for many Italian lords (eg. Este and Sforza) a symbol of the desire of immortality.

The main peculiarities at the iconographic level, however, are found in the suit of Coins, where different cards, as it has been recognized for the first time during this study, allude to phases of coinage (ie a manufacturing process of metals). Some of these aspects are explainable only on the basis of the medieval alchemical tradition which, as is known, was designed to obtain the Philosopher's Stone, producing from the baser metals gold and the elixir of long life, a cure for many diseases, if not the true source of immortality.
The alchemical iconography is particularly evident in the 4 of Coins (Earth as mother of the metals), the 5 of Coins (the male element as the alchemist who impregnates the earth to get the philosopher's stone, with the use of fire) and the 9 of Coins (“nigredo”, blackness as the death of the first matter, the first step of the alchemical process). These images become understandable thanks to the comparison with the rich iconography that accompanies one of the most precious Italian illuminated alchemical texts, the Ramon Llull of the National Central Library of Florence (BR52). In the 10 of Cups we find another key to the deck: a portrait of an Eastern man that we can identify, by comparison with the alchemical code in the Laurentian Library in Florence (Asburn.1166), with Hermes Trismegistus, indicated as early as the thirteenth century as the father of alchemy in the introduction to the Latin translation of the Treaty of the famous Arabian alchemist Morienus. This emblematic figure allows us to connect the deck to the interests of the hermetic Italian humanists, rekindled by the presence in Italy of a manuscript containing fourteen of the fifteen treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum, which were translated into Latin, as is well known, in 1463 by Marsilio Ficino in Florence, upon commission of Cosimo the Elder (with the title of Pimander) and shortly after printed in Ferrara and Treviso, with an extraordinary spread throughout Italy.

The style of the cards has been so far linked with Ferrara. A more careful analysis based on some cards of the same deck of a not illuminated series (prints from the Albertina, Vienna) and on several engravings already attributed by critics to the same hand (Martyrdom of St. Sebastian and Hercules and Antaeus in Vienna, Profiles of two women in Berlin) led, on the occasion of this exhibition, to the identification of the artist with Nicola di Maestro Antonio from Ancona, known so far for a refined production of paintings on wood. On display there are four important examples that range from from the mid-seventies of the fifteenth century to the end of the eighties: the outstanding loan of the Massimo altar piece, which only once before left the private chapel where it is preserved, which reveals the formation of the artist after the followers of Squarcione, from Marco Zoppo (on display the Head of St. John the Baptist of the Civic Museums of Pesaro) to Giorgio Schiavone (Madonna and Child from the Correr Museum in Venice), until the refined graphic elements of Carlo Crivelli (the Art Gallery has several of his important altarpieces of the eighties), with whom Antonio seems to compete in works such as the S. Bartholomew (La Spezia, Lia Museum), the two women in profile (Berlin) or many figures of the Tarot.
The deep antiquarian interest documented in these "triumphs" is reflected in the possibility to compare the profiles found in some cards with Roman coins (Milan, Museo del Castello Sforzesco) and common cultural background with humanists such as Giovanni Marcanova and Felice Feliciano, who also joined antiquarian culture and alchemical interests.

Also during the study for the exhibition, a possible creator of the iconographic program was identified: the humanist Ludovico Lazzarelli, a native of San Severino Marche, a very complex figure, poet and philosopher, knowing Greek and Hebrew, alchemy and Kabbalah (before Pico della Mirandola), who lived for a long time in the Rome of Pope Sixtus IV and then in Naples with King Ferdinand of Aragon. He is considered by scholars at the forefront of the current of humanistic Christian Hermeticism, which aimed at achieving a superior knowledge by merging classical sources, Hermeticism and Christianity.
As for the dating and the original owner of the deck, we are helped by the inscriptions (now damaged, but read by Hind in 1938) which occur on many shields present in the cards, and the identification of the heraldic devices, performed for the first time during this study: the Sola Busca deck, probably just printed, was illuminated in Venice in 1491 with high probability for Marin Sanudo the young, the famous author of the historical Diaries, whose interest in the field of alchemy has been recently documented.
In conclusion, the deck is therefore an extraordinary product of Italian humanism at its maximum confidence in the creative capacity of man, able to use without preclusions all known sources, classical literature, religious and philosophical texts, hermeticism, magic, alchemy, penetrating in this way the secret of secrets, in order to reach an even higher, almost divine, level of knowledge. This path is accomplished through the cards, a real deck for a refined game, probably used only in the printed version (of which in fact only a few cards scattered in various museums remain) and not with our deck, which had to be preserved with great care, as testified by its perfect state of conservation.
The game provided a path of inner perfection that started with the exempla of the illustrious men of antiquity, getting through the practice of alchemy and the knowledge of the Hermetic doctrines, to the stage of "divine men", who could generate other "divine souls" in a sort of analogy with the Creation, according to the most modern concepts of Christian Hermeticism.

Organized by Sandrina Bandera, director of the Art Gallery, in order to present to the public an important purchase made by the Italian State, the exhibition, produced in collaboration with Skira Editore, was designed by Laura Paola Gnaccolini, art historian of the Pinacoteca di Brera, specialist in Renaissance illumination.
The catalog, published by Skira, contains in addition to the essay by the curator and the descriptions of the works in the exhibition (also written with the collaboration of specialists Rodolfo Martini and Matteo Mazzalupi), a significant contribution by Prof. Andrea De Marchi, of the University Florence, about the personality of the painter from Ancona Nicola di Maestro Antonio, author of the Sola Busca Tarot.


SECTIONS OF THE EXHIBITION

I. The legacy of Squarcione: Marco Zoppo and Giorgio Schiavone

* Marco Zoppo, Head of John the Baptist, on wood, diameter 28 cm. Pesaro, Civic Museums.
* G. Schiavone, Madonna and Child, on wood, 52x44 cm. Venice, Museo Correr, inv.545.

II. The author of the Sola Busca Tarot: painter Nicola di Maestro Antonio from Ancona

* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, Sola - Busca Tarot, 14 cards of Batons. Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera.
* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, Madonna and Child Enthroned with SS. John the Baptist, Lawrence, Stephen and Anthony of Padua, on wood, 179x170 cm. Rome, Palazzo Massimo delle Colonne.
* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, S. Bartholomew, on wood, 68x40 cm, 2. La Spezia, Museo Amedeo Lia, inv.108.
* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, Dead Christ Supported by two angels, on wood, 86x39 cm. Jesi, Municipal Art Gallery, inv.7.
* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, San Giacomo Maggiore, on wood, 123x39 cm. Avignon, Musée du Petit Palais, cat. Calvet 22873.
* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, engraving (Hind E.III.21), 207x126 mm. Vienna, Albertina.
* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, Hercules and Antaeus, engraving (Hind E.III.25), 242x180 mm. Vienna, Albertina.
* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, Two women in profile, engraving, mm 164x87. Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Inv.167-1896.

III. The relationship with antiquity

* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, Sola - Busca Tarot, 22 cards of the Trumps. Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera
* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, 8 cards in a deck of tarot cards, prints, engravings with burin. Vienna, Albertina, inv.DG 1935/935-937, 1935/944-946 DG, DG 1939/950-951.
* Aureo [golden coin] of Caligula with the head of Augustus, 19 mm, gold. Milan, Civic Numismatic Collections of the Castello Sforzesco, cat. Ca 1 (on loan from the Pinacoteca di Brera, inv.717).
* Denarius of Emperor Tiberius, 18 mm, silver. Milan, Civic Numismatic Collections of the Castello Sforzesco, cat. I 11 (Common inv. 79).
* Aureo [golden coin] of Emperor Claudius, 18 mm, gold. Milan, Civic Numismatic Collections of the Castello Sforzesco, cat. Cl 422 (on loan from the Pinacoteca di Brera, inv.845).

IV. The myth of immortality and hermetic culture

* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, Sola - Busca Tarot, 14 cards of Swords. Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera.
* Aureo [golden coin] of Emperor Nero, 19 mm, gold. Milan, Civic Numismatic Collections of the Castello Sforzesco, cat. Ne 280 (on loan from the Pinacoteca di Brera, inv.983).
* L. Lazzarelli, De imaginibus deorum gentilium, ms, 190x120 mm, cc.30. San Severino Marche, Library, ms.135.

V. Sola Busca tarot and alchemy

* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, Sola - Busca Tarot, 14 cards of Coins. Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera.
* Ramon Llull, Opera Chemica, parchment manuscript, illuminated by Girolamo da Cremona. Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Magliabechiano II.iii.27 = B. R. 52.
* Nicola di Maestro Antonio, Sola - Busca Tarot, 14 cards of Cups. Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera.
* Johannes von Teschen (et alii), Miscellanea alchemica, manuscript on parchment. Florence, Laurentian Library, Ms. Ashburn.1166.

Re: Sola Busca at Brera!!!

#13
Thanks so much, Marco. This is just too exciting.

Is there an exhibition book? The exhibition looks amazingly interesting--I just hope I don't have to go. Milan is cold then, not to mention far away. And If they only let you see one open page in a glass case of, for example, Lazzarelli's book, I might die of frustration. But maybe they have reproductions of lots of pages of lots of books, and allow photos?

I am very curious to know why they think Lazzarelli was involved in the SB, other than he was involved in alchemy. But many were--unless there is some direct connection to his alchemical writings (which remain untranslated, unlike his hermetic writings). Also, I never figured him for an expert on Roman history. And wasn't he in Naples or somewhere like that at the time?

Anyway, these are my questions.

Re: Sola Busca at Brera!!!

#14
Pen wrote:Wonderful, Marco, thanks so much for this.
Hello Pen, I am happy you find the news interesting. This summary, however extensive, does not give enough information to judge the many new hypotheses that are presented here. Still, it's great to see that much study has been devoted to this exceptional work of art!
mikeh wrote:Thanks so much, Marco. This is just too exciting.

Is there an exhibition book? The exhibition looks amazingly interesting--I just hope I don't have to go. Milan is cold then, not to mention far away. And If they only let you see one open page in a glass case of, for example, Lazzarelli's book, I might die of frustration. But maybe they have reproductions of lots of pages of lots of books, and allow photos?
Hello Mike, yes there will be an exhibition book, published by Skira. Unluckily, no details are available yet, so I don't know how many pages the book will have. I am quite sure that Lazzarelli and the Lullian alchemical manuscript will be presented in glass cases :) And I expect that photographs at the exhibition will not be allowed: they almost never are in Italy.
mikeh wrote: I am very curious to know why they think Lazzarelli was involved in the SB, other than he was involved in alchemy. But many were--unless there is some direct connection to his alchemical writings (which remain untranslated, unlike his hermetic writings). Also, I never figured him for an expert on Roman history. And wasn't he in Naples or somewhere like that at the time?
Anyway, these are my questions.
Good questions :) I don't know much about Lazzarelli. I guess that the fact that he was born in the Marche, as the supposed author of the deck Nicola di Maestro Antonio, could also be a reason for his hypothetical influence on the creation of the deck. Anyway, the date of production of the engravings is rather fuzzy.
I am also fascinated by the idea that the M.S. initials on the painted the cards could stand for Marin Sanudo. I am curious to know more of what have been the results of the study of the coat of arms.

The exhibition will certainly be interesting. At the very least, it will provide the occasion to see many paintings by Nicola di Maestro Antonio, an excellent Quattrocento artist I was completely unaware of.

Re: Sola Busca at Brera!!!

#15
Thank you for the updates Marco!

For me, I'm sorry that it is not looking good for coming in December. Things can change though... but it does run for four months, and I want to see the exhibition too.

Thanks for the Skira link - I see they had an exhibition on "Mantova and the Kabbalah"
http://www.skira.net/mantova-e-la-qabbalah.html
- for which there was a catalogue. It's sill for sale at the same price at various places, search by ISBN -

8884910811

http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?autho ... t=sr&ac=qr
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