As far as online Dante resources you can’t beat the Princeton Dante Project: http://etcweb.princeton.edu/dante/pdp/
It gives you numbered lines in both Italian and English side by side as well as a supplemental help bar to the left, of which the most important is the commentary. Confused by an opaque reference in a certain line? Just click on the commentary bar and references to scholarship, often found only in obscure journals, elucidating the line in question appear – essentially Hollander’s notes, from his wife’s translation with his indispensable and dense annotations. Hollander cites from throughout all seven centuries of scholarship which astronomically dwarfs what has been written about tarot. Hollander’s work is regarded quite simply as seminal, even in Italy – e.g., in 2007 he was elected to the Consiglio Direttivo della Società Dantesca Italiana.
I will certainly look into the Bembo publications you referenced although I don’t see specifics as to why there was a noticeable stylistic change in 1455, besides the earliest documentation of a connection to Sforza in that year (noted in Kaplan, Vol 2, 1986: 121; actually almost all of the Bembo works are gone over in some detail in this same volume, pp 120-137). The supposed 1455 “innovations” in Bembo looks like a mountain out of a mole hill to me, especially if the works are not signed, much less provenanced with any degree of certitude (and there are comparative problems between frescoes/paintings and miniatures – details fall away in the latter; e.g., the gaunt, bearded face of B. Bembo’s St. Alexis in the Brera looks like the Bagatto in the PMB, but so many of the lines in the former are missing in the latter that it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions).
Having said that, I’ll admit that the date of 1455 would make sense for a tarot deck in order to celebrate the 1454 Peace of Lodi, which in a sense recognized Sforza as the de facto
ruler of Milan (but still without imperial recognition and so all of the arguments made by his chancery would still be in play until that happened). But there is a problem in proposing any date after the 1454 Peace of Lodi for the PMB
– why is the King of Swords holding (ironically, IMO) the coat of arms of Venice on his shield and why is the Fortitude card likewise showing the symbol of Venice, arguably the lion of St. Mark (given the circumstances), prostrate before an impending blow from a conquering imperator? Neither would fit the hypothetical circumstances of the PMB issued to commemorate the peace
between Milan and Venice. The King of Swords is especially a problem – why would Sforza be portrayed as Venice’s protector (i.e., the shield) when Colleoni held that position now (and Colleoni had been leaning in that direction for some time)?
“We find proofs in the Venetian archives that as early as October 12, 1453 the Council of Ten had offered Colleoni twenty-five golden ducats. Also in January of the preceding year they had made arrangements for restoring him to his ancient fiefs and for providing him with a fitting reception in Bergamo”(Oscar Browning, The Life of Bartolomeo Colleoni, 1891: 31-32)
On March 10th 1455 Colleoni officially was awarded the baton of command to become Captain General of Venice and this is necessarily the terminus ante quem
for the PMB, as after that date there is no longer an intended target for the “irony” of Sforza holding the Venetian shield. That Venetian shield could have been earnestly wielded by Sforza during the brief period - about a year – from the Peace of Rivoltella 18 October 1448, in which Venice agreed to support Sforza in his conquest of Milan, until sometime after September 1449 when Venice said they were done supporting him and definitely by 24 December 1449 when Venice recalled her ambassadors from Sforza and reconfirmed its alliance with the Ambrosian Republic (King, 1994: 275). Sforza with a Venetian shield any time after 1449 cannot be taken literally as a military connection to Venice as he was a combatant against Venice until 1454 and otherwise never in their employ again as their condottiere
after 1449. Hence the “irony” of the PMB King of Sword’s shield.
Thanks for the St. Bernard reference on the number of suits at 14 (while I was looking at Kaplan last night I see he also cites Bernard’s reference to the queen but without explicitly linking that to 14 suits; sorry didn’t jot the page # down but in vol. 1).
I will try to get the individual posts about the PMB planet trumps done this weekend, as that is surely going to be the most controversial part of my theory.