I got Mellinkoff's article from the library. It is about "winged headgear" imagery in France, England and Germany, specifically wings on helmets and people being depicted with wings growing out of a person's head, and specifically about the 13th and 14th century. Wings are firmly anchored masses of feathers in a characteristic "wing" shape, one on each side of the head or helmet. She says nothing about isolated feathers shown stuck in the hair of a person, much less precisely seven of them.3. The significance of the feathers for Giotto is most likely explained in Ruth Mellinkoff, “Demonic Winged Headgear,” Viator 16 (1985): 367–81
In Italy I am only familiar with the helmet type, similar to what is on the charioteer on some Chariot and World cards (as I recall). The seven feathers on the Giotto and PMB Fool are a different image.
Moreover, when Mellinkoff speaks of the "demonic" nature of "winged headgear," she is not making a hard and fast rule (or else, with her repeated "may have" on her first page she is speculating, the way we do on THF, when we say "the card maker may have ...). Here is an example (Mellinkoff p. 367)::
Well, I can't argue with a "may have"; yes some "may" have done that, and some "may not" have. Yes, it's possible some did. But in the Renaissance, paganism wasn't just "wicked"; it was valued as a precursor to Christianity. (Actually, that was true in the Middle Ages, too, just not to the same degree.) So when we see the head wings of a Mercury in the World card of Bologna, it is not a demonization; in fact, this Mercury is probably a stand-in for Christ, who also conveys souls between worlds. When we see the wings of a hero such as Perseus on the Bologna charioteer, it is also not a demonization. Military-type heroes were routinely portrayed with such helmets, in paintings, with no implication that they were evil. It seems to me that Ross gave some examples somehwere, perhaps on the "Bologna" thread (Unicorn Terrace). .A medieval artist may have abstracted and compacted the head wings of a Mercury or a Perseus into an all-purpose badge symbolizing wicked paganism; then affixing those wings to the heads of those designated evil in Christian thought would bring disgrace to those unbelievers.
The rest of Mellinkoff's article pursues the "demonization" theme with many examples--all of wings, of course, not isolated feathers. But she had defined her topic narrowly from the start, excluding the humanist point of view that became dominant in the Renaissance.
Besides Phaeded's reference to Mellinkoff, I have checked Moakley's reference to Frazer in the Golden Bough. It is onlne at https://books.google.com/books?id=dQdph ... rs&f=false. Here is the most relevant passage:
Tow, according to Google, is "the coarse and broken part of flax or hemp prepared for spinning". This description is fairly close to what we see on Giotto's Folly and the PMB's Matto. In Frazer other examples surround this one (for which I see no reference, but I see no reason to question it), ones where feathers are legs, or leg-like appendages, on an old lady.Thus in the Abruzzi they hang a puppet of tow, representing Lent, to a cord, which stretches across the street from one window to another. Seven feathers are attached to the figure, and in its hand it grasps a distaff and spindle. Every Saturday in Lent one of the feathers is plucked out, and on Holy Saturday, while the bells are ringing, a string of chestnuts is burnt for the purpose of sending Lent and its meager fare to the devil.
Clearly the seven feathers, whatever else they may signify, are in the Giotto and PMB connected to Lent.
If both the Carnival personification and the Lent personification are burnt, we have to ask, what is the difference? Simple answer: one is burned at the end of Carnival; the other is burned at the end of Lent. Their burning signifies the end of a particular season, first Carnival and then Lent.
One is the personification of Carnival, the other is the personification of Lent, both Moakley and Frazer say. The penitent is not Giotto's Folly, unless perhaps his upward gaze is to God for forgiveness.The seven feathers in his hair, and the ragged penitential garments which he wears, show that he is the personification of Lent, which puts an end to the Carnival season.
But what is the significance of removing one feather per week, starting with seven and ending with none, beyond that of merely counting off the weeks? It must be related to the significance of Lent itself. I turn to Wikipedia:
But preparation for what?The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, doing penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving,
And:Since, presumably, the Apostles fasted as they mourned the death of Jesus, Christians have traditionally fasted during the annual commemoration of his burial.
If Lent starts with seven feathers and ends with none, the feathers would seem to have something to do with sinfulness, and their removal with purification.Converts to Catholicism followed a strict catechumenate or period of instruction and discipline prior to baptism. In Jerusalem near the close of the fourth century, classes were held throughout Lent for three hours each day. With the legalization of Christianity (by the Edict of Milan) and its later imposition as the state religion of the Roman Empire, its character was endangered by the great influx of new members. In response, the Lenten fast and practices of self-renunciation were required annually of all Christians, both to show solidarity with the catechumens, and for their own spiritual benefit.
One is the personification of Carnival, the other is the personification of Lent, both Moakley and Frazer say. The penitent is not Giotto's Folly. It is more the "wayfarer" of Bosch. And the 7 weeks of Lent turned into the 7x3 cards of the tarot sequence.The seven feathers in his hair, and the ragged penitential garments which he wears, show that he is the personification of Lent, which puts an end to the Carnival season.
That much (except the last sentence) I think is implied by Moakley. But, yes, I want to go further.
That the puppet is burned on Holy Saturday has a special significance. Holy Saturday is when Christ goes to Limbo and frees the pre-Christian saints. Thereby the Serpent that achieved temporary victory in Eden is undone, its rule is ended, just like the Lent-doll. But the one who "goes to the Devil" after death is also Christ going to limbo.
It is like the Scapegoat of Jewish Tradition. On the one hand, it is loaded down with evil, the sins of the people over the past year. On the other hand, it frees the people from those sins; it, with the people's own acts of penitence, is the people's savior.
As I say, I do not know if Giotto's Folly is mocking religion; there are signs to the contrary, his upward gaze and his pregnancy, but perhaps that is mockery, too. If so, he is not the embodiment of Lent; he is the one who is defeated at Lent. But then we are back to the question: what is the difference between him and the Carnival King? Surely fasting and penitence, the spirit of Lent, have not been defeated.
There are differences between Giotto's Folly and the PMB Matto to take into account. The Matto looks straight ahead, toward the viewer, not up in the sky. His gaze is also rather unfocused, and so inward more than outward ("responding to internal stimuli", as it is said in the trade), like that of Bembo saints.
The PMB Fool's goiter is reminiscent of the ailing Fisher King, an important figure in the romances that these nobles read. The salmon the Fisher King traditionally fished for had phallic connotations, and his personal history is one of sexual folly (as is Folly's, on one level). He is a symbol for the ails of the world. Yet as fisher he is also Christ, the "fisher of men", whose symbol was the fish, and whose castle was not of this world. It is like the city in a bubble of the PMB "second artist" last card, which the Fool follows, in Moakley's presentation of the imagined pageant that is the tarot sequence. Another analogy is to Oedipus, Greek for "swollen foot", also a euphemism for the phallus. His sexual folly, once he realizes it, casts him out of the city of which he was king, and he blinds himself in atonement to the god of light. It is another precursor to the King of Lent, whose allegiance is to the new god of light and purity. Yet Oedipus as a result becomes a wandering seer, with Apollo's gift of prophecy, as is clear in the next drama in the trilogy
This is me talking, not Moakley now. But I am merely trying to make sense of her contrast between Lent/Fool and Carnival/Bagatino. For the Fool, she only refers to his being "the spirit of Lent" and "the successful outsider":
He is the successful outsider, the man who has escaped from the demands of society, and no longer attempts to dress or act to please it. He is the prince above all princes, who dares to do as he pleases.
That of course hardly describes the spirit of Lent! And such freedom has both evil and good aspects. To do as one pleases is not to "love your neighbor as yourself." To mock society, even to mock religion, is not to be above society or religion, any more than Erasmus's quintessential Renaissance work Praise of Folly, which certainly mocked both, meant to be above either. Or the participants in the "Mass of Fools", which made fun of Christendom's most holy ritual, felt themselves above the Mass as performed the rest of the year.