OK, so I lied when I said this was going to be brief. I’m sure no one will be hugely surprised by that...
Just to recap, this was my earlier statement:
Nathaniel wrote: 24 May 2021, 08:35
My hypothesis is that tarot arrived in Piedmont in the mid-15th century, directly from Bologna, brought by Bolognese merchants plying their trade on the route to France.
Which leaves plenty of time for tarot (the game and the deck) to spread onward into France in a Bolognese/Piedmontese form...
...and plenty of time for the French to then become greatly influenced by the Lombard tradition later, supplanting almost-but-not-quite all features of the earlier Bolognese-style game and deck...
...and then for the French cardmakers to gain such dominance over the Piedmontese market that we find Piscina using an essentially French, largely Lombard-style deck (probably a lot like Viéville's) by 1565.
There is substantial historical evidence to indicate that every one of these three steps occurred.
I’m not going to go into steps 2 and 3 here, because I think that the evidence for those is already very well known. This is especially true for the influence of the Lombard/Milanese tradition in step 2. The evidence for step 3 is the many indications of increasing French influence on Piedmontese card production in general, and Piedmontese tarot production in particular, from the start of the 16th century (including the famous Avignon-Pinerolo reference of 1505) through to the 17th century. This influence was probably boosted significantly by France’s numerous occupations of the Duchy of Savoy in the 16th century, culminating in a long period of continuous French rule from 1536 to 1559, ending just a few years before Piscina was writing. Thierry Depaulis, on p. 119 of “The Tarot de Marseilles – Facts and Fallacies, Part II,” The Playing-Card
42 no. 2 (2013), goes even further, saying that Savoy was basically under French control “until 1562.” I could go into a lot more detail about both steps 2 and 3, but at the moment, I think you mainly want to know my arguments for step 1.
Before I go into them, I’d like to state a couple of general principles.
First, in response to Huck’s post
dismissing the significance of the rare mentions of tarot in France before 1574: We need to bear in mind that the surviving historical evidence of playing cards and card games increases exponentially
over time. For instance, we can reconstruct the history of cards and card games in the 19th century in great detail, because of the enormous number of cards and rule books that survive from that time. We know much less about the 18th century, but there are still numerous decks and several rule books from that time, so we can still bring together a lot of details. In the 17th century, however, we have very little: Just a few decks here and there, and the very first few examples of written rules of games. So the 17th century is much harder for us. Nevertheless, it is still much easier than the 16th century, where far fewer cards survive and there are only a couple of descriptions of games (which do not even explain the rules in detail). The 15th century is worse by another quantum again: We are reduced to sporadic written references and hints of games, and a few rare cards, most of which are non-standard.
So if there were, for instance, thirty mentions of tarot in France from 1575 to 1625 but only three references to tarot in France from 1475 to 1525, this would not mean that tarot was ten times more popular in France in the former period than in the latter. It would indeed indicate that tarot was almost certainly more popular, but probably not ten times more popular—maybe just two or three times as popular. And if there is no mention of a card game at all in a particular region in the 15th century, that does not necessarily mean that this game was not played there at all. So when we look at these early periods, we should view any isolated pieces of evidence as potential indications of something much bigger than it may seem. And we need to consider indirect evidence, especially evidence from the same region in the periods that immediately follow.
Second, I'd like to talk again briefly about the importance of trade routes. Again and again, we see that the spread of card games and decks follows important trade routes, routes where a very high number of people were going back and forth continuously between different regions. In Italy, we see the Florentine tarot deck spread south to Rome and thence to Sicily; northwest to Lucca and thence to Genoa and the rest of Liguria; and northeast to Bologna. Meanwhile, the Type B game spread from Ferrara to Venice. In each case, it was following a trade route. In Milan, we have the Marziano deck in the early 15th century, the earliest known example in Italy of the highly non-standard, extremely expensive luxury decks otherwise known only from Germanic regions in that era. Specifically, they were characteristic of a region around the upper part of the Rhine river: Basel and Constance in Switzerland, southwestern Germany, and the upper Rhineland. Andy Pollett observed
that one of these decks was produced in Flanders, and he created a map joining those two regions, with pink shading to indicate the area where these luxury decks were most likely found:
It can be seen that this area essentially follows the route of the Rhine river, one of the most important conduits for trade in medieval and early modern Europe. But in addition to that route leading north from the region around the upper Rhine, there was another very important trade route going south from there—the route over the Alps to Milan. This trade route likewise saw an enormous amount of traffic, and was the very foundation of Milan’s wealth, size, and power. You could even say this trade route was Milan’s raison d’être
, the reason why Milan existed as a city. So it is not at all surprising that it is in Milan that the Marziano deck appeared, and to explain this, we do not need to speculate on what playing cards Filippo Maria Visconti and the Milianese delegation may have seen at the Council of Constance—his court would have been in regular contact with people who were familiar with these Germanic decks, and with merchants more than willing to try to sell them to him.
For this reason, Savoy is the most obvious, most natural route for tarot to have initially taken into France. We can assume that tarot reached Piedmont sometime in the mid-16th century. It would presumably have passed rapidly from there to the other (francophone) half of the Duchy of Savoy, even if it was not brought directly to the latter by the Bolognese merchants who, I believe, must have brought it to Piedmont. Then, with little to no language barrier between francophone Savoy and the neighboring regions of France, including the major cardmaking center of Lyon (just a few days’ ride from Chambéry), it would be extremely surprising if tarot did not
pass from the one to the other within a few decades, even without considering the large amount of traffic passing between the two along that trade route from Italy. Therefore, I think we should assume, unless proven otherwise, that tarot would have entered France by this route, even if it also came in by other routes as well.
The most natural other route for tarot to have taken from Italy to France is a route via Switzerland. As noted above, there was a major trade route that led north from Milan through Switzerland to Basel and the regions beyond. Such a route could have taken tarot quite rapidly not just to Switzerland, but also to regions such as Burgundy and Lorraine, which lie to the north of Basel—this could explain the early references to the game among the aristocrats of Burgundy and Lorraine (see Depaulis, “ ‘Trionfi alla franciosa finiti e non finiti’ – Le tarot en France avant 1500,” The Playing-Card
44, no. 3 (2012), p. 176-7, Dummett, Il Mondo e l’Angelo
, p. 158, also translated by Mike here: viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1019&p=15164&
, and Depaulis, “Des “cartes communément appelées taraux” 1ère Partie,” The Playing-Card
32, no. 5 (2004), pp. 244-6).
It is also highly likely that tarot would have spread into Switzerland from Lombardy and Piedmont in a more gradual way, by people simply adopting the games played by their neighbors. Dummett provided us with evidence that this did indeed occur: On pages 403-406 of Game of Tarot
, he discussed the tarot games played in the Swiss canton of Valais/Wallis, in both its French-speaking and German-speaking parts. These games shared some features with Bolognese tarot, including a 62-card deck; Dummett observed that the game therefore probably entered Valais from Piedmont, where games using a 62-card deck were also known. He noted that a quite different tarot game was played in the adjacent canton of Grisons/Graubünden, where the tarot game had Milanese characteristics, not Bolognese. On p. 223 he noted that these games in Valais and Grisons appeared to represent a “purely Swiss tradition ... wholly unaffected by French influence”. This strongly suggests that tarot spread at an early stage from Piedmont (in an essentially Bolognese form) and Lombardy (in an essentially Milanese form) to Valais and Grisons respectively, probably by about 1500, so that they were already well-established there when French tarot games began to spread east into the rest of Switzerland later (sometime in the 16th century).
In other words, tarot could have entered France at an early stage not just via Savoy but also via Switzerland, and it does indeed seem that it did so in a Bolognese-derived form on at least one occasion, as will be seen below. However, we are now faced with a slight problem: Even if we can identify features of tarot in France that indicate Bolognese or Milanese influence, it will be difficult to ascertain the route by which that influence arrived in France. Bolognese influences may have come from Piedmont and Savoy, or via Valais; Milanese influences may have come via the trade route to Basel and beyond, or via the people of Grisons, or (as Dummett famously hypothesized in Game of Tarot
) directly from Milan as a result of the French occupations of that city in the first half of the 16th century. Consequently, in most cases, it seems impossible to determine which route a particular Bolognese-derived feature took on its way in France, but I do nevertheless venture a few suggestions below.
Now, on to the central topic of this post. The evidence of Bolognese influences on French tarot can be found in the rules of French tarot games, and in the designs of French and Belgian tarot cards.
As far as the game rules are concerned, the evidence of Bolognese influence on French tarot is partly direct, and partly indirect. Direct evidence is the presence of rules in French tarot that were distinctively Bolognese. Indirect evidence is the presence of a rule indicating the importation of a tarot game from a region where tarot seems to have been based primarily on the Bolognese game, i.e., from Piedmont/Savoy or Valais. Even if the rule itself is not distinctively Bolognese, the fact that it appears to have come from one of those regions means it would have been part of a Bolognese-based game.
- The second-oldest surviving description of French tarot games, in La Maison académique
(Paris: Loyson, 1659), contains a rule that not all the cards are dealt out and there is no discard (“Premierement on donne à chacun de la compagnie cinq cartes, & l'on ne retourne point les cartes”). Dummett in The Game of Tarot
, p. 419, noted that this feature was also found in the Piedmontese games of Sedici and Trentuno, which appeared to be rare survivals of ancient Piedmontese games, uninfluenced by the French tarot games imported into Piedmont the 18th century. On p. 420, he said this feature was otherwise found only in “some of the minor Bolognese games”, by which he meant Terziglio, Centino/Centini, Cinquina, Centocinquanta, Mattazza/Mattaccia, Quarantacinque, Settanta, and Lecchini (see the Bolognese chapters in Game of Tarot
and A History of Games Played, vol. 1
So this looks like a distinctively Bolognese feature that passed to Piedmont and from there to France. In Game of Tarot
, p. 216, Dummett observed that the “French” tarot games described in the Maison académique
appear to come from a different lineage to those which later came to characterize French tarot, and that the latter were similar to a game described in the Maison académique
as the “Swiss” tarot game. Dummett concludes that there were probably “two distinct traditions of play” in France, one of which was primarily found in the east and southeast and the French-speaking parts of Switzerland, while northern France (including Paris and Normandy) played the other kind of game, which died out there and left no trace in France (but probably continued in Belgium). I think this is likely, but I think the two French traditions must have been linked and not entirely “distinct”; I suspect the northern tradition was once played in most parts of the east as well (if only because it is hard to image how tarot could have reached Paris unless it was first played somewhere to the east or southeast) but tarot in eastern France simply came to be overwhelmingly dominated by the Milanese tradition, leaving only very few traces of the earlier games.
- In the oldest surviving rules for French tarot, from the Abbé de Marolles in 1637, players score points for having certain sequences of cards, which are called brizigoles
. Some of the expressions used in 1637 also appear in sources from the 1580s, so the basic features of the 1637 game are probably much older (see p. 7 in Thierry Depaulis, “Étienne Tabourot et le tarot,” Le Vieux Papier
37 no. 379 (2006), accessed via https://www.academia.edu/15317283/_%C3% ... _p_386_392
). Piscina refers to similar sequences by the virtually identical name of brezigole
, which strongly suggests that the French practice was derived directly from Piedmont/Savoy. Such sequences are a key part of Bolognese tarot. They do not appear to have been used in Milan or the Milanese-style games of Graubünden in Switzerland, but a similar concept did appear in Minchiate under the name verzicole
in the Sicilian variant of the game, Gallerini) and also in the anonymous Discorso
of 1565 (see Ross S. Caldwell, Thierry Depaulis, and Marco Ponzi, Con gli occhi et con l'intelletto: Explaining the Tarot in Sixteenth Century Italy
) under the name bergigole
. Clearly, this concept was not confined in Italy to Bologna, but it is nevertheless possible that it originated there: Minchiate seems to have adopted the term papi
from Bolognese tarot to describe one of these sequences (namely the sequence of the lowest five trumps), so it is possible that it also adopted the entire concept of verzicole
from Bologna as well; it is not otherwise known from any other Type A game (in Sicilian games, for example, it is only known from games played with the Gallerini deck, not those played with the tarot deck). As for the anonymous Discorso
, the tarot game in the region where it was written was a Type B game which therefore almost certainly had its origins in Ferrara, but which probably diverged from the Ferrarese game at an early stage (before Ferrara reversed the ranking of the Love/Chariot pair in the trump order). Ferrara and Bologna had close ties to one another, and there is evidence of numerous links between Ferrarese tarot and Bolognese tarot—Lollio and Imperiali’s game was played with 62 cards, for example—so it’s possible that these sequences were an early import from Bologna into the Ferrarese game, which were then preserved in the game played by the Discorso
author. The surviving Bolognese sources don't use a term like brezigole
for these sequences, but the name used for them in Bologna has evidently changed over time: In recent years they have been called cricche
, whereas the Pedini manuscript from the 17th century mainly uses the term pariglie
(see History of Games Played vol. 1
, p. 269). So it’s entirely possible that they were called something like berzigole
in Bologna in the 16th century and earlier.
- In addition to the brezigole
, other features in the Abbé de Marolles description of 1637 were also found in games in Savoy/Piedmont: the declarations at start of play, and the bonus for winning the last trick with the Bagat, known as “Bagat ultimo.” The latter is not known from the Bolognese rules that survive to us, but the earliest of these are from the 17th century; the rule is found, however, in the anonymous Discorso
of 1565 (expressed as “far [il Bagatello] all’ultimo”) whose author’s game, as explained above, may have preserved elements of early Bolognese tarot that later disappeared in Bologna itself. As Dummett and McLeod observed in A History of Games Played, vol. 1
(p. 33), this rule is otherwise unknown in Italy.
- (not strictly direct but almost:) The rule that started this whole discussion, namely the use of the Fool to substitute for a missing card to form a sequence of cards at the end of the game. Piscina says the Fool can be substituted for a missing court card, and the earliest German tarot games had a similar rule, which would have been derived from a French game. The only other locale that is certainly known to have had a rule like this is Bologna.
(It is possible that this was also a feature of the Ferrarese tarot played by Lollio and Imperiali, because Lollio suggests that losing the Fool card is disastrous: see A History of Games Played, vol. 1
, p. 256. But as noted above, tarot practices in Ferrara and Bologna were linked, so it’s likely that if this rule existed in Ferrara, it was imported from Bologna.)
- In addition to brizigoles/brezigole
, other terms used by the Abbé de Marolles in 1637 are also found in Savoy/Piedmont sources: the term Bagat for the Bagatella (known in Savoy as Baga and in Piedmont as Bagato, superseded in France later by the name Ba(s)teleur) and Mat for the Fool (superseded in France later by Fou). These are further evidence of the importation of games into France from Piedmont at an early stage.
- In a book called Paradoxes
by Charles Estienne, published in Paris in 1553, the author says that the Fool is the highest card in the game of tarot and is called “nars which means fool in German” (“nars, qui signifie sot en Alemant”; see also Dummett, Il Mondo e l'Angelo
, p. 379). “Nars” would have been pronounced “nar” with the last letter silent, as is usually the case in French. In the tarot games played Valais, the Fool was not only the highest trump but was also called dr Narr
in the German-speaking part of that canton (see Dummett, Il Mondo e l’Angelo
, p. 403), whereas the tarot game seems to have been unknown in any German-speaking areas outside Switzerland in Estienne’s time, as the first German translation of Rabelais’ Gargantua
in 1575 deliberately removed tarot from the long list of games in that book. In German-speaking regions outside Switzerland, the tarot game arrived only later from France, in the form which seems to have been primarily Milanese in origin, whereas in Valais, as noted above, tarot was played with Bolognese features such as games using a 62-card deck, and high point scores for the two highest trumps (see Il Mondo e l’Angelo
, pp. 403-6).
Later, in the Belgian tarot decks, we find the Fool numbered XXII, indicating that it was used as the highest trump, just as described by Estienne. This is quite strong evidence that the French had imported a tarot game that had its ultimate origins in the Swiss canton of Valais, and which eventually became so well established in northern France that Estienne could think of this rule as essential to tarot, and for it to become a permanent modification of the deck in Belgium.
The Fool being transformed from its “Excuse” role into the highest trump in Valais must surely be related to a similar practice in some Piedmontese games, in which it was added to the other end of the trump sequence, as the lowest
trump: This was a characteristic of the ancient Piedmontese games of Sedici and Trentuno mentioned above, and is another indication that the tarot game came to Valais via Piedmont. So Estienne’s game seems to have belonged to the Bolognese tarot tradition (via Piedmont and Valais), in contrast to the other French games that belonged primarily to the Milanese tradition.
There are several cards in various French and Belgian decks that display features suggesting a Bolognese origin. However, there are also some cards, especially in the Catelin Geoffroy and anonymous Parisian tarot decks, which look like they were influenced by a deck from southern Italy (the indices on the suit cards of those decks, for example, are similar to those on Roman and Sicilian cards). The southern Italian decks and the Bolognese decks were all part of the same Type A family, almost certainly all sharing a common ancestor in some ancient Florentine deck, so even if we can say that a particular French card’s design looks like it was not derived from Milanese designs, it can nevertheless be difficult to attribute it confidently to Bologna rather than some southern Italian lineage, of which we know little due to the paucity of surviving cards from that region. For example, the black-and-white patterned borders of the De Hautot, Belgian, and anonymous Parisian decks are obviously derived from Italian cards where the backing paper was folded over onto the front, and they surely can’t have come from Milan, as the surviving Milanese cards from the 16th century do not have those folded-over borders; but those borders were used not only in Bologna at that time, but all throughout central and southern Italy as well. However, a more reliable attribution to Bologna can still be made in cases where the similarity to the Bolognese cards is particularly striking, or where the design in question is unlikely to have existed in southern Italy.
- Few of the French trump cards display an unequivocal connection to Bologna. The Moon and Star cards of the Viéville, De Hautot, and Belgian decks certainly share prominent features with the Bolognese Sun and Moon cards respectively, but they also look like Florentine Sun and Moon cards. The French/Belgian Moon card is closer to the early Bolognese Sun cards than it is to, say, the Charles VI Sun card from Florence, but the Star card is closer to the Minchiate Moon than to the early Bolognese Moon. It’s possible that these French cards reflect an early variant type of the Bolognese deck, now lost to us, but we can’t be sure.
- The World card is a similar case: The De Hautot and Belgian cards could be distantly derived from an early version of the Bolognese card, as the “orb” of the world, divided into three sections on the De Hautot and Belgian cards, is reminiscent of the quartered sphere on which the figure is standing on the Beaux-Arts sheet. But the figure atop it on the De Hautot and Belgian card arguably has more in common with the figure on the Minchiate World.
- The Devil of the Viéville, De Hautot, and Belgian decks looks quite different from the Devils of the Tarot de Marseille decks, and the Viéville version in particular has several features in common with the early Bolognese Devil on the Rothschild sheet (similar head, wings, feet, stance, face on torso, and no trident), but the differences are substantial too, so a clear link to Bologna can’t be established.
- The Chariot is a similar case: The De Hautot, Belgian, and anonymous Parisian Chariots all look like they are probably descended from the same card, and that card might have been a very early version of the Bolognese Chariot seen on the Rothschild sheet, but there are too many differences to be able to be sure.
- The French trump cards that display the strongest links to Bologna are two cards in the anonymous Parisian tarot. One is the Hanged Man. One of the most distinctive differences between the Hanged Man of the Milanese design tradition and the Hanged Man of Type A regions is that the figure is always shown with his arms behind his back in the former, and always with his hands visible and usually up near his head in the Type A decks (with the sole exceptions of the Sicilian card, which is very unusual, and the later Bolognese design from the Alle Torre deck onward, which appears to derive from an exact copy of the card in the Orlando deck from nearby Ferrara). The Hanged Man in the anonymous Parisian deck not only has his hands visible and one of them raised toward his head, but the foot by which he is bound to the crossbar is strikingly similar to that of the Hanged Man on the Beaux-Arts sheet:
This foot—positioned so that it points straight out toward the viewer, and bound with two ribbons/ropes coming off to the sides—is found on no other Hanged Man cards except the Orlando deck's Hanged Man from Ferrara, whose lower half probably likewise derives from an early Bolognese card (like the Orlando Sun and Star, which also look like they are descended from a Type A deck).
(The upper half of the Orlando Hanged Man, on the other hand, betrays a Milanese influence, with the figure’s hands behind his back and little wisps of fabric coming down from the shoulders, just like the PMB card.)
- The other card in the anonymous Parisian tarot that looks strikingly like its early Bolognese counterpart is the Angel:
The single most distinctive feature of these very similar cards is that not only is the full figure of the angel shown, but one of its legs is visible, not cloaked by its robe. This feature is unique to these two cards.
- The strongest connections between French and Belgian cards and Bolognese decks are actually found in the suit cards, not the trumps. This is not surprising, because it is generally true of historical tarot decks that the designs of the suit cards, and especially the numeral cards, tend to change much less than the designs of the trumps, from one century to another and from one place to another—the Milanese cards are a prime example of this, with virtually identical batons and swords found in nearly all the standard printed decks in the Milanese tradition, from the earliest cards found in the Castello Sforzesco, to the Cary sheet, to the Viéville and Noblet decks, and finally to the Tarot de Marseille. So it’s not surprising that the coins, swords, and batons of the Belgian decks all look like they faithfully preserve the designs of Bolognese cards from more than two centuries before. The coins are have the same sort of floral design visible on the Beaux-Arts fragment, but this kind of floral design was extremely widespread in Italian cards—it is also present in the Milanese tradition, for example—so it cannot be taken as an indicator of Bolognese origin. The Belgian swords and batons, however, are more distinctively Bolognese.
The swords are a type found not only in Bolognese decks, but also in the Orlando cards from nearby Ferrara (which, as noted already, were probably descended from a deck that originally came from Bologna) and other decks that seem to be closely related to Ferrarese cards, such as the Venetian pattern (also known as Trevisane), the Trappola pattern, and the pattern used today in Trento, Brescia, and Bergamo. They are found in the De Hautot deck as well as the Belgian decks:
From left: De Hautot 7 and 10 (reproduction from Tarot Sheet Revival), Alla Torre 10, Orlando 7
The Belgian batons are even more uniquely Bolognese: They share features with the batons of the Bolognese Primiera deck, which are found in no other place. They are admittedly different from the batons in the earliest surviving Bolognese tarot decks, but the earliest of those decks (the Alla Torre) is from the 17th century, so it is likely that at least some Bolognese tarot decks in earlier centuries had batons more like those of the Primiera decks. The Belgian cards—which were normally labeled “cartes de suisse”—also show another connection to Switzerland here: Not only did they have the Fool marked as the highest trump, as in the tarot of Swiss Valais, but their batons were also very similar to the batons in some Swiss tarot decks. These Swiss batons essentially look identical to the Belgian ones, except that the rings that bind the even-numbered batons together was removed, with all the batons being made to look the same as the central one on the odd-numbered cards.
From left: Belgian (Vandenborre, 18th c.), modern Bolognese Primiera, Swiss tarot (Besançon pattern, 18th c.), Alla Torre
- Last but not least, the court cards. In his article “Étienne Tabourot et le tarot” (see above, pages 3 to 5), Thierry Depaulis presented us with one of his most fascinating discoveries, an engraving from the 1585 Parisian edition of Tabourot’s Les Bigarrures du Seigneur des Accords
illustrating “un Roy de deniers, tel qu’on les peint aux cartes de Taraut” (“a King of coins, the way they are painted on Tarot cards”).
One might think that this image was taken from an Italian deck, and from a Bolognese deck at that, because the accompanying text is a translation from an Italian work by Paulo Giovio which makes explicit reference to Bologna, and the text around the image itself is in Italian too, but Depaulis argued that the illustration was a French creation, because it does not appear in any other known edition of the work, whether in French or in Italian. Depaulis concluded that it must be therefore be based on a French tarot card used in 1585. Depaulis also attempted a reconstruction of what he thought the original card might have looked like, but I think he erred in this: He seems to have tried to make it as much as possible like the known French cards from the 17th century, but the illustration itself suggests something very different. The king is seated on a throne with a bizarrely high rectangular back, near the top of which can be seen a coin. I think this “back” was the card itself. This looks especially likely when we compare the Tabourot image with the king of coins from the Bolognese Alla Torre deck and one from a deck likely to be of Ferrarese origin (the latter is included because the Alla Torre card alone can’t be considered a perfect guide to the Bolognese cards of earlier centuries, and Ferrarese cards were probably cousins of the Bolognese cards, as already noted above):
From left: Tabourot, Alla Torre, and an 18th c. deck of an early version of the “Trentine” pattern, made in Bologna but probably intended for use in the Duchy of Modena and probably also Ferrara, as it bears the arms of Mirandola on the 4 of Coins: this pattern was probably of Ferrarese origin, as it appears to be descended from the pattern used for the Orlando numeral cards
What we have here is a court card that appears to testify to a time when French tarot decks had court cards that looked very much like those from the region of Bologna—and which, just like the Bolognese-looking numeral cards of the swords and batons suits, were later replaced by very different designs from the Milanese tradition.
If viewed in isolation, many of the points above might seem debatable and, if taken in isolation, wouldn’t be compelling evidence of Bolognese influence on French tarot. But when you look at them all together, I think they do constitute “substantial evidence” of the influence of the Bolognese tarot tradition in France.
Please note, however, that I am not arguing that the Bolognese game or deck necessarily influenced France directly, in any purely Bolognese form. It came via the Duchy of Savoy and, it seems, via the Swiss canton of Valais, and was therefore most likely affected by changes made in those areas before its arrival in France—changes which probably included not only homegrown alterations made by the Piedmontese/Savoyards and the Swiss, but in all likelihood also some influence from Lombardy, absorbed into Piedmontese tarot even before it entered France. When combined with the Milanese influence which was certainly applied in France at a later stage, this makes it extremely difficult to know exactly to what degree French tarot was ever “Bolognese.” But it nevertheless seems to me indisputable that it was certainly Bolognese to some degree, in the early stages of its development.