Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Huck: Boiardo had 22 trumps, so likely the tarot then had 22 as well, the same 22 we know. Boiardo died in 1492. There is also the Steele Sermon, which is more likely than not 15th century.

Phaeded and Marco: About the PMB Devil and Tower, the problem is that they are missing from all ten 15th-16th century copies of the PMB as well, with 239 cards (including those of the PMB). The probability of that happening by chance seems low. If they were lost before the copies were made, surely the Bembo workshop would have been able to replace them. Whether those two were never made, or they were destroyed on purpose, from distaste for these cards or superstitious fear of them (or of the authorities), is something we will probably never know. Whether there are theoretical reasons having to do with the symbolism that necessitate including them in the PMB is another matter. It is not obvious to me. One would think that there would be a clear representation of Prudence in the cards, entitled as such, given its importance in relation to the virtues that are there; but there isn't.

I have been reading Dummett's FMR essay (FMR (Franco Maria Ricci) 1985, Nr. 8, "Tarot triumphant", pp. 41-60, from which p. 46-53 is Dummett) to which Michael refers in his 2007 blog entry ( ... cards.html). He discusses the issue of "occult symbolism" in the first paragraph. He says (p. 46l):
The twenty-two trionfi were added to the pack so that a new card game could be played. For three and a half centuries, nobody had any idea of using the cards for other purposes. This is not to say that there was no occult symbolism inherent in the trionfi. The designs of many playing-card packs contain symbolism unrelated to the intended use of the cards, and the Renaissance was the high point for the occult sciences in Europe, which were respected by scholars and tolerated by the Church as never before or since. But any occultism in the iconography of the tarot pack was either widely overlooked or quickly forgotten.
Here is the page in question: ... 600/46.jpg

Dummett does not deny that there was hidden (i.e. "occult") symbolism in the trump sequence. It is just that it has nothing to do with the intended use of the cards, which I presume means the intended use for which the cards were created and added to the regular pack (as it certainly acquired other uses, as "tarot appropriati" if nothing else). I have no quarrel with that statement. Some might say that if such symbolism was widely overlooked or quickly forgotten, probably it never was there in the first place. That is an inference that contradicts what Dummett says--just as in the 1996 formulation. It seems to me that just the opposite would be true. There were then numerous uses of non-obvious symbolism (a term I prefer to "occult", which is rather loaded), not only in cards but in art and literature at that time, which was not written about that we know of. To understand such symbolism, one has to look at the milieu in which it was created and enjoyed.

If the cards contain non-obvious symbolism. it seems to me that discussing what that symbolism might have been is just as much a part of tarot history as a discussion of heraldics, which also has nothing to do with the purpose for which the cards were intended. Like heraldics, if nothing else the nature of such symbolism can help to fix a particular deck in time and space. It may or may not explain a few things about particular actual cards from particular actual decks.

Dummett does not in this essay concern himself much with origins, such as what order or what city, but what he does say is interesting. His statement that the three cities with 15th century evidence are Milan, Ferrara, and Bologna is of course dated, and Florence needs to be added. What I find interesting are the reasons he would give for his "guess" that it was Ferrara:
It is no coincidence that Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso were all patronized by the d'Este princes: the whole court lived in an atmosphere of romance and fantasy - the sort of atmosphere in which the trionfi were probably devised.
These strike me as good thoughts about the symbolism of the early deck, too. We should not forget the Lancelot done by the same workshop as at least one of the early Milan decks. But Boiardo, Ariasto, and Tasso are all rather late. And I would include erudite humanism as part of this milieu as well.

Dummett then goes through the cards. He does not put the Matto in one of the groups at all. If he belongs in the first group, it is not obvious enough for him. The reason seems to be the rules of play; he compares it to the Joker, while also pointing out that there is no historical relationship between the two. He characterizes the Bagatella as representing a "merchant or a mountebank" (p. 46r). A mountebank is a "person who sells quack medicines from a platform", according to the first meaning in Merriam-Webster. The second meaning is "a boastful, unscrupulous pretender". The Free Dictionary says:
1. A hawker of quack medicines who attracts customers with stories, jokes, or tricks.
2. A flamboyant charlatan.
Dummett sees nothing strange about the card having more than one meaning, including one that seems just a common man ("merchant"). Indeed, what we see on the Piedmontese and Sicilian cards, as I have pointed out, and what is described by Piscina, writing in Piedmont, appears to be a merchant or an innkeeper. The reason he is called "bagatella", Dummett says, is simply that he is the lowest ranking card.

About the Papess, he endorses Moakley's theory (1985 pp. 46r-47l):
The papessa must have been included in a ribald spirit. The earliest surviving example of this card is from the pack painted by Bonifacio Bembo for Francesco Sforza. the duke of Milan, soon after 1450. Gertrude Moakley, in The Playing Cards Painted for the Visconti-Sforza Family (New York, 1966) has pointed out that it represents Sister Manfreda, a relative of the Visconti family who had been elected pope by the heretical order to which she belonged, and was burned at the stake in 1300. Possibly this was the first time the papessa appeared in a tarot pack; it may have replaced the missing cardinal virtue of Prudence.
Here is a scan of the rest of that page: ... 600/47.jpg. I am not sure why Dummett uses the word "ribald", as so-called heresy was a serious business; possibly it is from reading Moakley's source, Lea, who uses a rather flippant tone (see . Also, it isn't clear that Manfreda was "elected Pope", as opposed to being chosen to become Pope when the current hierarchy had been removed. Lea recounts the latter on p. 95; but then, when the Archbishop of Milan is asked to confirm the sentence, the testimony becomes stronger, that Manfreda habitually said that that Boniface is not pope, that a new pontiff had been created, footnote p. 99. Moakley's source is online at ... iddle-ages, vol. 3 pp. 90-102. This one in English is fairly reliable, except for its omissions (the other, F. Tocco, I don't know). Lea says nothing about the color of the Umiliati habit that I can see, just that the sect wore "plain brown" (p. 91). For the Umiliati, she says she relied on the Storia di Milano, iv, 384. The basic documents for Moakley's thesis are from the Inquisition. Since 1985, or even 1966, there has been nothing new about these documents. The only question is whether Bianca Maria would have known about the trial document. Lea does not give a sense of where the information ultimately comes from, that it was the merest chance that it survived at all, and that it didn't surface until the 17th century. I will have to go back and see where that information comes from. I would guess it was available in 1966, but whether Moakley or Dummett would have known it or even looked for it is another matter.

Later (1985 p. 48) Dummett discusses the Cary-Yale deck, about how it diverges from the standard in having six court cards per suit, and how only eleven trump subjects survive, all standard ones except for the "additions" of Hope, Faith, and Charity. He concludes:
It is impossible to know whether this pack was unique or represents an early stage before the composition of tarot packs had been standardized. ... 600/48.jpg. I cannot argue with that conclusion, and I know of no new facts that count against it.

Incidentally, he repeats the latter possibility in stronger terms in the introduction his 1986 The Visconti-Sforza tarot cards, where he says of the Cary-Yale (1986 p. 15):
The Visconti di Modrone pack dates from a time when the game of tarot was still an innovation. It may have been an isolated experiment, but it is more attractive to suppose that it represents an early stage before the tarot pack had assumed its definitive form. If so, it is likely to be earlier than the Brambilla pack, whose suits certainly had the standard composition of ten numeral and four court cards, and which is presumably datable to 1442 to 1445.
He then repeats his 24 trump idea as a possibility:
If the number of trumps stood in the same simple ratio of three to two to the number of cards per suit as in the seventy-eight card form, the Visconti di Madrone Pack would have had twenty-four teumps; this would leave room for all seven major virtues and allt he subsequently standard trumps subjects save one. That one is likely to have been the Popess, be far the oddest of the trump subjects, and possibly introduced for the first time--presumably at the expense of the Prudence card--in the Visconti-Sforza pack.
It is hard to argue with an "if" statement; I just don't think it is a necessary hypothesis. I do like his Popess = Prudence statement, however, for other reasons, in particular the attributes of book and cross. In the pages on the individual cards, Dummett repeats his endorsement of Moakley's theory. He does not use the word "ribald". Instead it is "perhaps, the most interesting card in the pack" (1986 p. 106).

One thing I had not realized is that queens were not part of the standard pack then, the one that did not have trionfi (1985 p. 48). If so, it may well be that it was a special property of trionfi decks that they added female courts. If so, that might have included knights and pages early on. We have no way of knowing. Until the second half of the 18th century, Dummett points out (p. 50), the Bolognese tarot had female pages in two of the suits. (The Brera-Brambilla, however, seems to have had only male pages, as three of them are extant (

In the second group of cards, those pertaining to the "conditions of human life", all three moral virtues are included, as in Michael's quote. He points out that the name for Fortitude was always la fortezza, not la forza, as it is now. I notice that he never uses the word "allegorical" with reference to the cards. He is merely discussing their "symbolic themes". (However both "allegoria" and "symbola" had different meanings then than they do now, as The Cambridge Companion to Allegory makes clear.)

I will discuss what he says about the third group of cards in a later post. With regard to the issues being discussed in this thread, the article seems to me a very reasonable one.

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Dummett in his 1985 article characterizes the final group of cards as "spiritual and celestial powers" going from devil to World and Angel. He makes no reference to the End Times for Devil through Sun. He mostly discusses the Tower card. First he points out that it is a modern name:
[qote]in early sources it is called la saetta, il fuoco, la casa del diavolo, and l'inferno.[/quote]
He says that la maison dieu "may have resulted form a misunderstanding of la casa del diavolo. Early versions in fact did have a tower. He concludes:
In a few versions of the card, the building is a hell-mouth, from which a devil emerges to drag a woman into hell; but this does not appear to represent the original meaning of the card.
There aren't many early versions, of course, but he seems to me to be right. There is only one, probably illustrating the title "casa del diavolo", that seems to show a devil in the tower. I will show it later.

About the celestials, he says (p. 47):
There is no constancy in the representation of the celestial bodies: extraneous details of all kinds are depicted on the lower halves of the cards.
By "extraneous", it seems to me that he means extraneous to the purpose of the game, i.e. identifying the cards for purposes of play. For that, all that is needed is the top halves of the cards. He does not speculate on why they are in the order they are. I would guess that going from lowest amount of light to highest would have been the easiest to remember, and that is why they are the way they are.

That the lower parts are not needed for purposes of the game does not mean they would have played no role in the interpretations of the cards, even by players. For an example of my point I will use Marco's Matthew 24 interpretation of the Devil, the Tower, and the three luminaries. The passage reads, with Marco's comments in brackets:
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets [the Antichrist i.e. the Devil],
and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were
possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before.
Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the
desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers;
believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even
unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be [the Tower / Lightning].
For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be
gathered together.Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun [the Sun]
be darkened, and the moon [the Moon] shall not give her light, and the
stars [the Stars] shall fall from heaven,
But in fact on none of the early cards is the Sun shown as darkened, nor the moon as not giving light, nor stars falling from heaven, even metaphorically speaking. Even a cursory look at the cards would dissuade anyone from connecting Matthew 24 with them. Similarly, the Devil on the early cards does not look much like a false prophet deceiving the people. And the lightning is not how I at least would identify that card in the course of play: it is barely visible. What I would identify the card by, the tower, is not mentioned in Matthew 24. Only if someone held that text up to the cards, spread out in a row, and separated the words "lightning", "sun", "moon" and "star" (these last three in the wrong order) from their surrounding context, and at the same time separated the corresponding objects on the cards from their context on the cards, could you get a correspondence. I don't doubt that someone could do that, but it is not an obvious interpretation. The Devil acquired souls all the time. Lightning hit towers all the time; any, before the Last Days, could be warnings or punishments from God. In the context of the sequence, the luminaries would then represent the passage of time, as they conventionally did in illuminated manuscripts, taking us to the Last Judgment.

In considering a textual basis for the sequence, moreover, it seems to me, we should consider the whole card, not just the part needed for instant recognition, in sequence with the cards around it in that particular deck. A player looking at the card does not shut out the part not needed for play. He or she just pays less attention to it. I will give an example of what I mean, the same "Last Days" interpretation using a different text and particular cards in particular decks.

My text, like Michael's ( ... cards.html), will be Revelation, but not only chapters 20 and 21, which seem to me mainly to apply to the the last two trumps. The rest of Revelation has images, too, that would have been drummed into people's heads by the preachers. The allusions I have picked out have probably been recounted by others; but I am adding my methodological slant.

We don't know what the earliest Devil looked like, or when in the 15th century it appeared. Besides the two that Phaeded showed, there's the BAR and the Cary Sheet, which are much like the former two. They all show a devil standing up on the ground. Since there is grass or bushes, I think it is suggested that he is on the surface of the earth rather than below ground.

They all look to me like they are in the business of capturing of souls, which occurs immediately after death as they leave the body. As part of a sequence, that fits fine, long before the Last Days, even if indeed the rest of the sequence is such. That he has wings suggests that he can also go into the air and grab sinners, as demons are depicted on various medieval frescoes.

In any case, the tarot Devils seem to be running rampant and unchecked, without a care in the world. That happens in Revelation a few times, too: in chapter 11, the "beast" comes out of the abyss and slays people, apparently in Jerusalem, because it is the place previously described in the same chapter:
And their dead bodies lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
In Chapter 12 a dragon appears, identified with Satan:
9 And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

By "cast unto the earth" is meant he can't fly any more, because he still goes after people, one of whom is given wings to escape him.

In Chapter 13, the people adore the dragon and also another beast, who joins with the dragon. Then another beast comes. "with two horns like a lamb" and the power to bring down fire from heaven. The people adore him, too. Then in 14 the Lamb comes, with the wrath of heaven, and in 19 imprisons the beast and the false prophet. In chapter 20 Satan is freed from his prison, where he had been held for a thousand years, and again seduces the nations. The Devil card has ample to refer to.

For the Tower, yes, there is 18:2, "Babylon the great is fallen; and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every unclean spirit, and the hold of every unclean and hateful bird". Not a tower, but close enough. It is burning, too (18:17-18):
..and every shipmaster, and all that sail into the lake, and mariners, and as many as work in the sea, stood afar off.
18 And cried, seeing the place of her burning, saying: What city is like to this great city?
But there is also, at the end of Chapter 11:
19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple, and there were lightnings, and voices, and an earthquake, and great hail.
In Ch. 15, the Temple is described as "filled with smoke from the majesty of God". So the Tower might even be the House of God, before which the unworthy tremble. On the Cary Sheet we can even see the hail, the little circles falling from the sky, which get repeated on the somewhat similar Vieville (with its sheep instead of a larger animal) and less similar Noblet. If the reference was understood as to the Temple of Jerusalem, as is implied by the earlier reference to the place "where also their Lord was crucified", it was in fact destroyed around the time of the writing of Revelation.

On the other hand, the card was called "house of the devil" in the 16th century, as in chapter 18's account of Babylon. there would seem to be a devil, if I enlarge the doorway in the Venetian card (second from left above) and compare it to the Lydgate Boccaccio:
For example, the Lydgate that Michael reproduces, which is of the Tower of Babel:


Perhaps Phaeded knows of a color reproduction of the card (as he has for the Devil) where the figure inside might be clearer. But this is not the original meaning of the card, as Dummett says. There is no devil on the Charles VI or the other early cards.

There is also Ch. 16, verses 18-19:
18 And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and there was a great earthquake, such an one as never had been since men were upon the earth, such an earthquake, so great.
19 And the great city was divided into three parts; and the cities of the Gentiles fell. And great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the indignation of his wrath.
Here it is Gentiles, not either God or the Devil. In chapter 18, the Babylon full of devils also has musicians, craftsmen, merchants of rich wares, and presumably those who buy such wares. It is the central temple of a typical capital city (even such as the Twin Towers in New York), which can be struck down whenever the Last Days come.

For the Star, we have 22:16-17:
I Jesus have sent my angel, to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the root and stock of David, the bright and morning star.
So the star that PMB lady is reaching to is Christ, right in the place where the angel with a crown was on Giotto's card, and a radiating globe, probably a symbol of Christ, on the CY Hope card.

The lady on the PMB also suggests to me the devout Elisabetta Maria Sforza, pregnant at age 16 and not doing well. (See my post at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=365&start=30#p4821 on this; search "Elisabetta". This is my hypothesis for a topical reference for the lady who is on three of the "2nd artist" cards.)

On the Venetian card, appropriately, we have David reaching out for the star (his pose is the same as that of Michelangelo's statue).

For more imagery, there is the lady pouring out liquid on the Cary Sheet, suggested by the next verse:
17 And the spirit and the bride say: Come. And he that heareth, let him say: Come. And he that thirsteth, let him come: and he that will, let him take the water of life, freely.
The four stars around the large star would then be the "four living creatures" around the throne" (4:6). There are also "the seven spirits of God" (4:5) that we see in the Tarot de Marseille.

Revelation does not often mention the moon. There is the darkening of the Moon, along with the sun and stars (8:12), as in Matthew. But the most positive is, I would suggest, the very next verse after the reference to the "temple of God", 12:1.
And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. 3 And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems: 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. 5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne
Here we have all three of the celestials. The sun and the stars of these verses do not have to be depicted on the same card for the allusion to work, because they are on other cards. In addition, I think the woman would have been associated with the Virgin Mary; I suspect that as Sponsa Mary would have been associated with the Moon, to Christ's Sun, and also as a resident of Ephesus, the most famous site of Diana's cult. In this vein, we have the distressed woman of the PMB Moon card, grabbing the Moon right where the CY Faith lady has her hand near a similar shape (like two triangles touching at one point, surely meant to be a communion cup). The woman on the Budapest cards of Venice similarly looks distressed.

It is like Elisabetta Maria Sforza dying in childbirth, having given birth to a child who itself dies a few days. The Cary Sheet, with its giant crayfish coming from the depths, might allude to the dragon.

The manchild that is born is then on the PMB Sun card. There is also this:
19:17:And I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that did fly through the midst of heaven: Come, gather yourselves together to the great supper of God:
The PMB child's arms holds the Sun, parallel to the CY Charity lady's holding her looking glass. The Cary Sheet takes the same theme as the PMB. And in the Venetian card, the Sun shines its goodness upon the earth without asking for anything in return.


There follows the PMB's and the others cards' Judgment of the dead, described in Revelation Chapter 20. Before that, there is also another "fire from heaven" that defeats the Devil who had been imprisoned and then released, to "seduce the nations" and raise a mighty army against God:
And there came down fire from God out of heaven, and devoured them; and the devil, who seduced them, was cast into the pool of fire and brimstone, where both the beast 10 And the false prophet shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
However it seems to me that the earlier references to lightning are more appropriate to the scene on the cards.

In Chapter 21, there comes the New Jerusalem, where
23 The city hath no need of the sun, nor of the moon, to shine in it. For the glory of God hath enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof.
So also the World card trumps the Sun and Moon.

All of this works well in the PMB and Venetian cards, I think. The application to the luminaries of the Charles VI, d'Este, BAR, or Rothschild is not so clear, without considerable abstraction from what is depicted. The Star of Bethlehem is like the "bright and morning star" of Revelation, but at a different moment in sacred history.

The Charles VI and BAR's lady with the distaff is one of the Fates. In Greek mythology, it would be Clotho, who traditionally is the Fate who with her distaff spins the thread of life (

In Plutarch's essay "On the Genius of Socrates" 519C she is associated with the Sun (I owe this reference to Ross, viewtopic.php?f=23&t=401&start=40#p6999, who got it from Michael). In another Plutarch essay, On The Face that Appears in the Moon, she is associated with the moon, as on the Vieville. Plutarch says (945c):
Of the three Fates too Atropos enthroned in the Sun initiates generation, Clotho in motion on the moon mingles and binds together, and finally upon the earth Lachesis too puts her hand to the task, she who has the largest share in chance
It is Atropos who is associated with the sun. Both would have distaffs in this text, because both spin threads: Atropos spins the thread of the spirit, from the substance of the sun, and Clotho of the soul, from the substance of the moon, which she combines with spirit from the Sun.

These Plutarch essays are different texts, at least one of which (the second) I think also applies to this whole part of the sequence, at least from the Devil on, in the PMB as well.

On the d'Este card, Diogenes' sun of enlightenment is Christ's illumination from the standpoint of Greek philosophy.

The d'Este, Charles VI ("Gringonneur" below) and BAR ("Rothschild" below) Moon cards are somewhere else. While I do not deny that there may be topical references to local astronomers, it seems to me that there might have been allegorical meaning as well. All I can think of is that they are calculating lunar eclipses, a particularly inauspicious time for one's soul to be ascending in Plutarch's account. But this is just a guess. They might also just be studying the moon in terms of geometry.

To me these celestials are more distant from the imagery of Revelation. That suggests the primacy, with regard to the Last Days, of the PMB's imagery, and before that, the imagery of the CY. But the other texts to which those cards might refer also work best for the PMB. I don't think the nobility of Northern Italy would have been satisfied with just one text, if only to distinguish them from the masses. And neither interpretation is at all necessary. That is the beauty of these cards.

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Huck: Boiardo had 22 trumps, so likely the tarot then had 22 as well, the same 22 we know. Boiardo died in 1492. There is also the Steele Sermon, which is more likely than not 15th century.
1494 is the right number for Boiardo's death.
I think, that the Boiardo poem is from "around January 1487" (wedding of Lucrezia d'Este), close to the second evidence for the 4x14+22 structure, the Sola-Busca with an assumed date of 1491.
Evidence for the use of this game structure with common Tarot content is missing before 1487. The date January 1487 is curious, as it rather falls together with the publication of the theses of Giovanni Pico de Mirandola, published in December 1486 (a text with some interest in the number 22). Matteo Maria Boiardo and the much younger Pico were cousins.
When Pico got serious difficulties in May 1486 (so relative short before the publication) in Arezzo cause a love affair, the court of Ferrara (to which Boiardo belonged) engaged in some helping letters. So some communication had been there ... though evidence of a direct exchange between Pico and Boiardo is not given (at least for the moment).

One thing I had not realized is that queens were not part of the standard pack then, the one that did not have trionfi (1985 p. 48). If so, it may well be that it was a special property of trionfi decks that they added female courts. If so, that might have included knights and pages early on. We have no way of knowing. Until the second half of the 18th century, Dummett points out (p. 50), the Bolognese tarot had female pages in two of the suits. (The Brera-Brambilla, however, seems to have had only male pages, as three of them are extant (
One cannot really speak of the Italian standard pack around 1440 (not enough documents, I would think; I remember, that Dummett stated somewhere something like "If a pack has queens, it's not a Trionfi or Tarot pack" or similar, but realistically it looks, as if there is no big statistical base for this rule at least in the early time).

John of Rheinfelden (1377) speaks of decks with queens in variations, though seems to indicate some dominance for 3 male courts.
Extant German decks of 15th century often enough (not always) have a queen, but the documents are often not presenting "standard forms".
"Standard forms" of 16th and 17th century in German documents show a dominance of 3 male courts. French court cards seem to have more queens.

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

mikeh wrote: First he points out that it is a modern name:
[qote]in early sources it is called la saetta, il fuoco, la casa del diavolo, and l'inferno.
He says that la maison dieu "may have resulted form a misunderstanding of la casa del diavolo.
In some ways la maison dieu fits in with Revelation better, in that judgment begins with the house of god, and Revelations does begin more or less with judgement on the seven churches and exhortations to how they must repent to secure eternal life (chapters 2 & 3). I agree the imagery of the star, sun, moon cards does not appear particularly apocalyptic.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Huck: What Dummett says in the 1985 article (p. 48l) is
We can be sure that an incomplete hand-painted pack was a tarot if one of the cards is a trionfo; we can presume that it was if one of them is a queen.
That's the opposite of your paraphrase, which was "'If a pack has queens, it's not a Trionfi or Tarot pack' or similar." But I see the problem you are getting at, a lack of Italian "standard decks" for comparison. By "standard deck" I meant one without trionfi. Are there really no or few Italian examples before 1440?

Steve: Interesting observation, about "maison dieu". So the lightning of God, in the later imagery of the text, would hit them if they didn't repent, I assume is the implication. Just as the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by God, even though it was God's own dwelling, because they didn't accept Jesus, as Chapter 11 seems to say.

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

mikeh wrote: Steve: Interesting observation, about "maison dieu". So the lightning of God, in the later imagery of the text, would hit them if they didn't repent, I assume is the implication. Just as the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by God, even though it was God's own dwelling, because they didn't accept Jesus, as Chapter 11 seems to say.
The arrow (sagetta) as title also corresponds to an extent with 'la maison dieu' - as in Augustine's 'arrow of judgment' that begins with the 'house of god' (the bow of which is extended over time - star, moon, sun - to give mankind time to repent/find salvation) and ends with the final judgment.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

It seems that Dummett had forgotten about the Latin sermon of Bernardino of Siena where he mentions Queens in the pack. The Latin sermon is paralleled from a sermon delivered in Italian nearly 20 years earlier (1425, Siena). Bernardino expects his audience to know what he is talking about, so we may assume that normal packs of playing cards in the 1420s had four court cards, including Queens.

Here are the two quotes, one from a sermon preached in Siena in 1425, and the other the Latin sermons he wrote in the early 1440s (conveniently paired in a paper of Thierry Depaulis, "'BREVIARI DEL DIAVOLO SO' LE CARTE E NAIBI': How Bernardine of Siena and his Franciscan Followers Saw Playing Cards and Card Games", in Jörg Sonntag, ed. Religiosus Ludens: Das Spiel als kulturelles Phänomen in mittelalterlichen Klöstern und Orden (De Gruyter, 2013) pp. 115-134.) - ... 13p122.jpg

Personally I think that the 1425 "sopra" and "sotto" are in fact the Knight and Valet, which appear in the Latin as "milites inferiores et superiores".

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

mikeh wrote: In considering a textual basis for the sequence, moreover, it seems to me, we should consider the whole card, not just the part needed for instant recognition, in sequence with the cards around it in that particular deck. A player looking at the card does not shut out the part not needed for play. He or she just pays less attention to it.
I think you're confusing two things here - the iconographic sequence per se and the decorative iconography. The subjects of the Thunderbolt, Star, Moon and Sun (for example) are just that, and nothing else. The trump sequence needs no textual basis, however much the decorative iconography illustrating the main subject might refer to something outside of the sequence.

For the playing part, I think players do in fact "shut out" the part not needed for play. In modern cards the indices do all the work, and few people can really name offhand any iconographic distinctions between, say, the King of Diamonds and the King of Hearts. Anyone who gets lost in the decorations on the cards during a game would probably get a slap and told to pay attention to the game.

In older games, before indices, players had to use other means to identify a card quickly when holding a hand in a fan shape. But once familiar with the pack - which is why standardization is so important - the artistic embellishments that producers take such pride in are at best distractions to the purpose of play. We have to assume that the game inventor wanted to make the sequence as easy as possible to remember, and left it to the artists to fill up the cards with distracting imagery. In some cases, like the Thunderbolt, the thing that the lightning is striking became the main or outstanding feature of the card, but it doesn't change the fact that the subject of the card, its "meaning" in the sequence, is a bolt of lightning, whatever it is striking and however it is portrayed.

This subject is what needs interpreting if we are trying to get inside the head of the inventor, the meaning of the subject in the context of its place in the sequence.

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

hm ...


... my understanding of Latin is surely not comparable to that of Thierry Depaulis. But the first passage sounds, as if the author speaks of a deck form, in which ...

... EITHER the suits are dominated by "king, king of ribalds, queen, queen of ribalds" (John of Rheinfelden noted a deck form with two kings and two queens as suit commanders) ...

... OR "king, king of ribalds, queen, queen of ribalds" gives a sequence of court cards
(John of Rheinfelden doesn't note decks with 4 court cards, but in his most loved 60-card deck we have two women and three men as courts. Meister Ingold in 1423 considers the deck form "King + 2 women" as courts (inside a 4x13-deck) as something, which he should attack, likely associating, that the queen presents the king's wife and the other woman presents the king's lover).

The second passage seems to speak clearly of a King-Queen-Ober-Unter arrangement, as it appears not only in Italian decks, but also in Germans.

Maybe there were preferred local variants of court card arrangements. Then Bernardino would have addressed the card deck form, which was popular at a specific location. So text 1 and text 2 not naturally speak of the same deck form.


in the translation of text 1 it is spoken twice of "letters" ... what sort of "letters" this might be? In the Colonna sheets and in the Rovereto sheet and in the Tarot de Paris (all 16th/17th century) two "letters" define the suit and also define the court cards.


"CB" is defined as "Chevalier of Batons", "FS" is the Fante of Spades", other cards similar.

Depaulis seems to have identified another use of "letters". It seems, that he attributes the first "lettere" only to the batons, but I think, that it relates to all 4 suits ' maze (batons), coppe, denare and spade '.
I don't know, if the ";" or an alternative "," parts the different sections of the sentence in the original (from which I think, that this changes the meaning of the sentence).


I don't know, how San Bernardino comes to Sodomitto and Lussoria. Perhaps he understood "batons and swords" as phallic symbols or the two kings as a homosexual pair. Perhaps cups and coins were addressed as lussoria or "nice women" were addressed as lussoria, perhaps sodomitto and lussoria was a general word pair, when playing cards were attacked. Generally - around the 1420s - "sodomy" was often attacked, and perhaps it was then more common as in other times.
In the Michelino deck we have 4 suits (virtues, riches, virginity, pleasure), from which pleasure reminds "lussoria". Generally we have in virtues+riches a male dominance (7 men and 1 woman- Juno), in virginity+pleasure female dominance (6 women and two men - Bacchus and Amor).

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Huck, there's no deck with a "King of Ribalds". Bernardino is moralizing a normal deck of cards.

He is saying that the card players are servants of the Devil, and that they therefore mock holy things. Alessandra Rizzi has called this moralization, Bernardino's invention, the "diabolic liturgy". They are sodomites, drunkards, greedy, violent, fools.

In this mockery of Christian religion, there are priests and congregants. They use a breviary, a prayerbook. In the mockery, this prayerbook is the deck of cards. The cards reflect the users, and the values of the users. In the diabolic liturgy, instead of a church, they congregate in a tavern; instead of reading a prayerbook, they play cards; instead of communion, they get drunk; instead of fellowship, they sodomize each other and kill one another over money. You know, the usual.

The images of the breviary are the images on the cards.the letters of this breviary (since they are books, breviaries have words, which are composed of letters) are symbolized by the batons, the drunkenness by the suit of cups, the violence by suit of swords, the greed by the suit of coins. The king and queen are the king and queen of the ribalds, the "tops" are the sodomizing knights, the "bottoms" the lustful valets.

Did I really have to spell this out?

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