Michael and Ross,
I seriously doubt that anyone has offered MORE salient iconographic precedents to support their interpretations of Tarot than I have. Ask around. I have included a number of links in this thread, but I will not repeat 12 years of posts here.
Precisely why I want to engage you and Ross in dialogue here (and Huck even though we all disagree with his chess theory); I have no desire to vet my “pet theories” before the occult kooks elsewhere. I’ve read many of your posts on your own webpage and other forums (including a disagreement between you and Ross over Prudence-as-world due to the Virtue halos in CVI but apparently you’ve changed your mind).
In one of his last articles before he died, Michael Dummett even suggested a date in the early 1460s for the deck - in the journal Artibus and Historiae, a respected journal, so his arguments must be taken into consideration instead of just ignored in favor of the requirements of a pet theory.
In the article you referenced, which is almost wholly given over to refuting previous attributions (which I thought had already been put to bed), Dummett fails to address the time lag between 1451 when trionfi were clearly being produced (all quotes from p. 22 of his work)…
From a letter of 1451 from Bianca Maria Visconti to her husband Francesco Sforza, asking him to send to Sigismondo Malatesta, lord of Rimini, a pack of Tarot cards of the kind made in Cremona, which he had asked for the previous autumn, we may infer that Cremona was especially renowned for hand-painted playing cards of this kind.
…to after 1462, the date of his proposal for the PMB:
The pack was the product of the Bembo workshop: of the surviving 35 picture cards, Benedetto executed six and Bonifacio the remainder (missing are the Devil, the Tower or Lightning and the Cavallo di Denari). Benedetto's earliest datable work is the Torchiara polyptych, signed and dated by him to 1462.
Reasonable, consensus attribution – product of the Bembo workshop – but extremely tentative to leap to the conclusion that the added/replacement cards (how can we be sure they were either?) were the work of Bennedetto based on comparing miniatures to larger wall-mounted paintings. Miniature work is notoriously difficult to date, especially in the absence of a scribal script that one would find in an illuminated bible for instance. The fundamental problem here, however, is that decks were being produced in Cremona at least by 1451 (per Malatesta’s letter) and would have hardly have been left uncompleted for 13 years. If one wants to cling to Dummett’s theory one can still posit the iconographic program of the PMB model as having been set in/by 1451 with the surviving PMB deck as having been produced after 1462, but the date of production of iterations is hardly what most concerns us, no?
To review my interpretation of the historical record of 1440-1441 again, events not only close in time but interwoven with the same focal person of Sforza:
1. After June, 1440: Florence/Medici produce an Anghiari Victory deck of which Giusti follows suit. Yes you can take Giusti out of context and peg him as pioneering gifts of trionfi to a condottiere but that is highly unlikely. Sforza came into possession of the Marche in 1434 and the Medici opened up a branch of their bank in Ancona (Sforza’s base in the Marche) in 1436, thus in the Medici pay for four full years before Anghiari. Sforza was then heralded as the absent victor of Anghiari (“hail to Sforza’s men” – not
Attendolo, i.e., Michele) in the commune herald’s celebratory poem. It is extremely likely Sforza was given the original Anghiari deck with Giusti following suit for the lesser condottiere in Florence’s pay.
2. January 1 1441: Visconti is pissed off at Sforza for being in the pay of the allied Florentines and Venetians and so sends his daughter off to Ferrara to be courted there. 14 paintings are produced for her.
3. October 1441: Sforza takes the bribe of Cremona (along with the promise of Milan after Filippo dies?) and marries Bianca.
The historical theme here is simple: Visconti and Florence vying for Sforza. A trionfi deck commemorates the Florentine condotte with her condottiere (Sforza and Malatesta), d’Este - aware of this via their marriage to Malatesta (who supposedly kills his Este wife) – counter the trionfi propaganda with 14 painted images (not called trionfi as it was a courting deck, not a victory deck) of their own, but Sforza bites on the competitive bait and marries Bianca Visconti himself, with a similar deck to that of the Ferrarese one being produced for the wedding (Visconti has one produced for himself, now known as the Brambilla deck, sans the 3 women for 3 men court figures because he is not getting married and does not need this courting/marriage emphasis in the deck, thus reverting to the standard 4 court cards that can be played with 14 card suits).
The three events all happen within 16 months of each other, all involve Sforza, and provide the three basic aspects of the earliest deck that we need to know:
1. Anghiari, the earliest, tells us the place of origin: Florence
2. Ferrara/Este courting deck of 1/1/41 the number of trumps: 14
3. CY wedding deck of October 1441 tells us which subjects (all but three,
easily surmised from Brambilla and completing the Virtue series). [Michael’s proposal of 26 trumps is unlikely in the extreme - no reference anywhere to this number and why would the nearly identical Papess and Faith be in the same deck, something that would confuse card-players?]
1 and 2 did not survive, which leaves us with the purpose and subject matter of 3, the CY deck (and to a much lesser extent, the Brambilla).
You might want to date it to the wedding of October 1441, but I don't know on what basis you would do so. There is, for instance, no heraldic union of Sforza and Visconti in the pack - it is all Visconti.
Muzio Attendolo’s hometown symbol of the quince (Cotignola = quince) is clear as day on the highest court card of the CY, the king of swords’s breastplate:
A later Sforza stemma showing a lion
holding the quince:
This otherwise extremely odd card - the king averting his eyes away from a helmeted page - is explained by Muzio’s death: drowning in his armor while trying to save his favorite page who had fallen into a river (relevant here is the genre of depicting saints – in this case, the deceased - with the instruments/manner of their deaths). Sforza’s fief of the Marche was newly acquired (and he also recently lost his Neapolitan possessions) and thus that was hardly his identity which was instead the virtue of his father, inheriting the nickname of ‘Sforza’ at his father’s death. The inclusion of Sforza’s father to represent his own stemma was appropriate for the wedding deck.
But let’s look at his bride Bianca which I believe to be represented in all three of these cards: the Lovers, the Chariot and “the World”. In the Lovers, the white cross on red field pennants represent s the arms of Pavia – when Filippo was crown prince he held the title of Count of Pavia and the Bianca/Sforza marriage implied the same with Sforza as heir (but this of course did not enter Filippo’s will, at least the one that survived him at the end). There is nothing else in this deck that supports the Savoy hypothesis - and why would Bona be offering a Visconti symbol on the chariot? Which leads us to…
Phaeded's objection that the Chariot couldn't show Chastity then loses its force, since the iconography of Chastity had not been settled yet (derived directly from the poem and canonized in Florence in the early 1440s), so that if someone knew about a Triumph of Chastity (or just "Virtue") they might have imagined a woman on a chariot more like Dante's Beatrice, which was an image already well established. And if Chastity as "all virtue" was understood (in Illicino 's commentary on the Trionfi "Chastity", personified by Laura, stands for "Reason"), then the expansion of the other three Cardinal virtues, on the mere suggestion of Petrarch's Triumph of Chastity, is also conceivable.
I argued earlier that the original Chariot would have featured Marian features and thus would embrace Beatrice/Laura exemplars, but the subject here is Bianca (or so I am arguing). More importantly there seems to be an irrational resistance on this forum to addressing the primary attribute being held up by the woman on the chariot: a coin with Visconti stemma. The coin is not a symbol of Chastity, before or after Petrarch gets illuminated. Again, in the Florentine Anghiari deck this figure would have been “Florentia” likely holding out a fleur-de-lis of the florin, canceled out here by the rival Visconti emblem. Dummet, in the same Bembo article, also comments on Bianca/Cremona which I find to be the key to the earlier CY deck: “She had a close connection with the city: she was born there, and Cremona was given to her as her dowry when she married Francesco Sforza in 1441”. Unlike Bona, who would be represented by Savoy or French emblems, it makes sense for Bianca, who was a Visconti, to be holding out a Visconti coin as a symbol of her Visconti dowry (the tax revenue of Cremona). Finally this leads us to “The World”…
“The World”: there is no encompassing circular ocean such as we find on Gloria Mundi, but rather a knight who sallies forth from a seaside domain to a maiden before an inland city on a large river. Translation: Sforza is proceeding from the southwest from Ancona/Marche located along the Adriatic towards the dowry city of Bianca’s Cremona, located on the Po, with Bianca before it (perhaps the “fishing pole” she holds is an allusion to yet another Visconti stemma of buckets attached to a burning torch, always angled forward like a rod?). Bianca is more prominently represented a second time on a Visconti cloud (commonly depicted in the Visconti Hours
but only employed for God or Visconti royals), the trumpet of fama extoling her virtues and the orb being rulership a bon droyt.
In military terms, the line from Ancona to Cremona represented a sort of limes
, a protective border between the Duchy of Milan and the Venetian Republic’s terra firma holdings, to be enforced by Visconti’s new son-in-law, Francesco Sforza. That Sforza immediately took his bride to Venice and was feted there, unsettling Filippo (who undoubtedly wrote him out of his will at that point), is beside the point.
“The World” (Cremona/Ancona now under Bianca/Sforza’s joint control) and Ancona/Marche (1564):