Ross’s hypothesizes with Thierry on that historical development, from the Re: Le Tarot dit "de Charles VI" thead (#184), thus: “…I’m staying with Thierry’s hypothesis of a transition period in Florence, where the Popess was removed but before Minchiate was invented.”
Even giving credence to the early 1466 Pulci mention of Minchiate and the subsequent Florentine 1471/7 regulations of that game (Lorenzo the Magnificent waxed poetic on a wide variety of subjects – e.g., sonnets on the planets – so surely it was possible that some form on Minchiate could have been elaborated on tarot during his reign), the only potential 15th century evidence for Minchiate’s subjects is the Rosenwald sheets which show a “popess” – so that trump was apparently not removed before Minchiate.
Of course the biggest problem is why - why should two emperors and two popes have been posited in the first place when there was no corresponding iconographic or textural parallels (say, the 'Three Living and the Three Dead' motif)? Furthermore Ross backs off the idea of a historically topical reason for them, leaving their original presence all the more enigmatic, especially when insisting on a timeframe. Ross again:
But what evidence for 1437-1440? ALL of the Papi evidence is from the 16th century (Minchiate rules for playing the Papi, Piscina, Anonymous Discorso, etc.), driven by an enduring belief that Bologna best preserves the original game. The only 1437-40 contemporary evidence to the posited timeframe for the genesis of the ur-tarot is Giusti’s brief note and the CY (followed by cursory regulatory and notarial references to Trionfi - without details besides the 1457 Ferrarese 70 card deck - in the next decade, culminating in what appears to be the standard tarot deck in the form of the PMB, c. 1451). And again, without the “topical circumstance” of the Councils and problem of the East-West Union (the Schism, on the other hand, only explains two [or three] popes – not two emperors), from whence the Papi? From a semi/illiterate card-playing milieu without a known culturally relevant parallel (preferably iconographic) that would have resonated meaningfully? But if the church Councils/Union as the driving impetus then why “genderize” half of the Papi when the means to distinguish them was their Byzantine dress? Byzantine Emperor John VIII had been sending distinguished envoys to the Councils as early as the one in Constance, traveling via Venice, Bologna, Ferrara, Milan, etc. – i.e., their dress was well-known; certainly by 1438:… my preference for this date and Florence is not because of the council or the presence of the Eastern Church. It is tempting as a background, and tempting to see my view through that lens, but that is emphatically NOT why I place my bets there. If there were no topically relevant circumstances in Florence in 1439, I would still be constrained by my reading of the evidence to put it there between 1437 and 1440….. So also for the equal-papi rule, my preference for it is not based on the Eastern-Western pope scenario, but because I think that Bologna preserves the original game, that the equal-papi rule is a "lectio difficilior" which has a hard time surviving outside of Bologna, but since it is found in the Piemonte-Savoy game, and is hinted at in Piscina's (and Anonymous IIRC) accounts, is best explained as being part of the original game, but quickly lost almost everywhere.
Besides Pisanello, see also the Florentine Picture-Chronicle: https://archive.org/details/gri_3312500 ... /page/n205
But despite the fascination with the Greek visitors, especially in Florence, there are no Byzantine details in the surviving 15th century cards, except for the PMB Time (“hermit”) trump, which was never a Papi.
As for the best contemporary evidence for the ur-tarot, the CY (and what is left of the Brambilla), the lack of two emperors and two popes requires that the Papi get transformed almost immediately after their creation (less than 4 years, perhaps only 1, depending on the year you assume between 1437 and 1440). But why would Visconti’s learned court not know how to read a deck they commissioned, much less be driven by the common man’s ludic concerns?
But the biggest problem the CY represents for the Papi theory is the presence of Faith, an iconographical equivalence of the “Papess”/Ecclesia. To quote Ross from the Stendhal, "papesse Jeanne", and the "cojononon" thread:
By that logic, there simply cannot be a “Popess” and a Faith card in the same deck (and I’ll avoid the tangential implications of how many trumps would have been in the CY then)…much less a conversion of a Pope from Faith.So our Popess grows out of the representation of the Theological Virtue, because they were the same thing for so long and there was no need to make a distinction.....There was just no difference between 'Fides' and 'Ecclesia'. viewtopic.php?f=11&t=963&start=10
The PMB clearly shows an extremely differentiated Empress, Emperor (that looks quite like the earlier Brambilla one), “Popess”/Ecclesia-as Clare and Pope…and its not hard to imagine these very differentiated cards follow the original impulse and that the Papi are a later summary interpretation of them, likely via Minchiate.
A Reconstruction of the Origin of the Papi
I think the Papi did indeed originate in a ludic context, as a “dumbing down” of the original humanist’s design. To put it in Occam’s razor terms: the card-players saw four persons on thrones – which they associated with the Supreme Pontiff (not all rulers were enthroned in Italy, certainly not in Florence) – and called them Papi, especially if the card details were unclear due to cheap woodblock prints. Ross put this much better himself:
Precisely a “dumbing down.” And the development of tarot is rife with such “dumbing downs”, for example, in Piscina (who also describes the Papi in vague detail), where various secondary details of the trumps are seized upon to redefine their overall meanings. Just one example:Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: 14 Jan 2019, 17:48 Don’t get hung up on the term itself, “papi”. “Papa” just has the meaning of “dad”, exactly like our “papa”. I could suggest it was a colloquial term for “grand men”, “head honchos”, “big guys”, etc. or maybe even more slangy, like “poobahs”. Historically, a more serious argument is that the term is short form of “papi ed imperatori”, so just “papi” as a catch-all.
Time (“Hermit”): instead of reading the tell-tale attribute of the hour-glass, as in the PMB (clearly Petrarchan in its representation) we see instead a focus on the detail of the hunchback; as Pratesi put it: “The VECCHIO GOBBO corresponds to the classical image of the Hermit. However, no direct allegory of Time is proposed here.” (http://www.naibi.net/A/04-PISCIN-Z.pdf). And with that development, the obvious association of that trump with time is lost and all subsequent decks merely focus on a hunch-backed hermit…except for the earliest surviving Florentine deck, the CVI, which does show the hour glass:
Pratesi further argues for an undue influence on the subsequent development of the Piedmont region (home to Piscina), which presumably inherited the Papi from Bologna:
Perhaps not for the diffusion of the Papi, but for all of the other knucklehead ideas contained in Piscina we have the diffusion point and as well as the means of production for Piedmont's undue influence on which tarot deck would be received elsewhere. Ross’s comment on this region:No wonder that Piedmontese tarot is the one mostly manufactured in this country, at least since the disappearance of Minchiate (for Florence, Rome and Genoa) and the demise of the different pattern characteristics of Tarocchino Milanese. Moreover, the whole territory of the Duchy of Savoy, as well as the neighbouring region more to the north, was indeed among the few countries where tarot was not just an aristocratic −or a forgotten −game, but it gained there for centuries diffusion among every social class. Thus, even admitting for the moment a Milanese origin [written pre-Guisti find], I cannot imagine that Piedmont was not to some extent responsible for the spread of tarot in the 16th century to the neighbouring French and Swiss regions (ibid).
It seems to me that there is an over-emphasis on the term “ludic”, as if it implies an authenticity over all the other evidence and somehow cleaves closer to the original design of tarot. An equally valid argument, and more compelling in my opinion, is that the ever-changing, regional ludic influences point to subsequent tinkerings with the original game of tarot (and in fact explain the multiple trump orders we find – that may have nothing to do with the designer’s intent but clearly have everything to do with the various ludic milieus) .The Savoy game calls them “papots”, another ludic word rather than a term applied to real popes or emperors or both (and of course historically observed the "equal papi" rule, as well as the high Angel, despite using French cards numbered like the Tarot de Marseille, so "II" to "IIII" or "IV" were equal, and "XX" was higher than "XXI". ).
As for the stronger possibility that the Papi were borrowed from Minchiate (versus in the ur=tarot), the unwieldy number of Minchiate cards (97 – Thierry calls it a “monster” per Ross’s translation of his book, Le Tarot révélé, 2013: 35) would likely have played the key role in inducing the ludic milieu to create more manageable subgroups, hence Papi. This to me adequately explains the existence of the term, and the term itself points to the Pope, likely enthroned, and hence interpreting the sequence of seated “rulers” all as Papi. Seizing on the throne detail would be par for the course for the subsequent new readings of the trumps; i.e., besides the Time example already given, the allegory of the woman in the chariot is ignored, becomes male and the wagon itself giving its name to the trump: “Carro.” Moreover, the so-called Steele Sermon adds the pointless subtitle of vel mundus parvus – “or a little world” which once again seizes upon a minor detail, in this case the T-O map-like orb held by the chariot’s ruler, as in this Tarocchino di Bologna exemplar (the same on the Rosenwald sheet):
A non-ur-tarot timeline for the Papi
• 1466: An expansion of the tarot trumps to be more encyclopedia in nature under the learned regime of Lorenzo Magnificent is called Minchiate (by Pulci at least – and hopefully his letter will be found some day).
• 1471/7: Florentine regulations of this Minchiate
• 1480-1500: Rosenwald sheets (most date these closer to 1500), posited via a missing sheet to be Minchiate by Pratesi here: http://trionfi.com/rosenwald-tarocchi-sheet; the problematic “popess” is explained by Pratesi thus: “either as a preliminary stage of the pack itself of minchiate, or in order to allow the pack to be used for playing ordinary tarot games, after discarding the 20 additional minchiate cards.” The latter solution seems ridiculous - printing a card that really doesn’t belong in the deck – and so we a Popess still present in Minchiate by this date, which would be contrary to Ross/Thierry’s theory (Re: Le Tarot dit "de Charles VI", #184 ) “of a transition period in Florence, where the Popess was removed but before Minchiate was invented.”
• 1506: earliest record of Germini (likely almost identical to Minchiate) - perhaps the use of the subgroup term ‘Papi’ emerges by now, but not ruling out that an original Minchiate set of Emperor/Empress/Pope/”Popess” were called Papi (again, all sit on thrones like “big honchos” or the popes from which they took their name). The “Popess” is naturally eliminated in the post- Savonarola moralizing atmosphere of the 16th century which sees the likes of Piscina weighing in on tarot.
• 1513: Pope Leo X, born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, became pope in 1513 (until 1521) - if there was another reason for Florence to ditch the “popess” (notably after the Rosenwald sheets), this was it. Also note that in the year before this Medici became pope he was Bologna’s papal legate in 1511, with the city reverting to being under Papal dominion with the final ouster of the Bentivoglio in 1512 (casualties of the War of the Cambrai).
Unless I’ve missed it, there is no evidence for the term “Papi” in the 15th century. There are plenty of reasons, however, for a subsequent regional variation of tarot in Bologna and then Savoy, as well as Florentine-specific reasons whereby a “Popess” would not endure (but well after the creation of an ur-tarot).