The Papi and the Duplicate Cards of the Trump Suit

Here I am assuming that the Bolognese treatment of the four papi was borrowed from Florence as part of the original game. I follow Ross’s theory, that the original game was intended for four people in 2 fixed partnerships and that the number of trump cards was determined mathematically as the number of cards needing to take the counting cards of the court (16), in addition to positing 4 new counting cards from the trump suit itself. This resulted in only 20 trump cards, which of course leaves the last two to account for. I find Ross’s proposal that the cards accounted for the concept of dealer’s privilege to be a sound one, although I think the idea occurred to the inventor(s) after the sequence of the trumps in order A had already been determined, though not yet released or published. I cannot escape the conclusion that the cards of the Popesse and the Empress were an afterthought, one that occurred after the sequence of the trump suit had been set. I base this assumption on the following points:

1). The term “papi” very likely relates or was derived from the term, “papi ed imperatori,” or “popes and emperors.” Even if the terms are unrelated, the “papi” would still carry the connotation of male gender, which I bring up because every example we have of Italian decks from the 15th and 16th century shows gendered pairs of rulers (when present). For example, the Popesse and the Empress in the Visconti-Sforza Tarot, the Rosenwald Sheet, and the Budapest Sheet. Even our earliest Bolognese example, the Fine dalla Torre (c. 1660), shows depictions of the Empress and the Popesse, which makes me think that the original symbolic convention for differentiating the papi was gender, and only later, perhaps in the 17th century with Mitelli, did other means of differentiation arise.

2). The trends in further Bolognese differentiation maintained the original symbolic separation of secular and religious power inherent in the figures of the Emperor and the Pope, which suggests that it was part of the original conception. For example, in the 18th century Tarocchino by Al Mondo, housed in the British Museum, the four moors are symbolically situated into two groups by use of a shared symbolic theme that also differentiated them in terms of secular or religious power. The first pair holds either a bow or an arrow, martial instruments, referencing secular concerns. The second pair holds a staff topped with either a moon or a sun, symbols of the celestial sphere, and thereby of the religious realm. In the 19th century, this secular/religious split disappeared, leaving four female rulers, all without any hint of religious symbolism, which were eventually reduced to just three, akin to the three secular rulers of the Minchiate.

3). In those areas that either did not adopt, or else quickly abandoned the originating concept of the papi, these initial symbolic differentiations settled into distinct and separate cards - the Empress and the Emperor and the Popesse and the Pope.

4). Of all the cards in the trump suit, the only two that lack an established artistic or iconographic presence in the 14th century, especially when considered in relation to the remaining twenty cards, are the Popesse and the Empress. The Pope Joan legend carries no weight because her iconographic presence was almost universally ear-marked by the presence of a baby, which is absent from all known depictions of the Popesse. It is also difficult to imagine selecting such a controversial, and seemingly heretical figure on purpose and then failing to add her most distinguishing symbolic attribute. Additionally, since the Tarot increasingly seems to have originated in Florence, the idea that the Popesse may have somehow reflected the personage of Manfreda Visconti fails to hold water. I can think of no relevant depictions of a female Empress, which would have been apparent to 15th century Italians, which would have served as a possible source for that card.

5). Every other card of the trump suit carries a unique symbolic theme. The Popesse and the Empress are the only cards to repeat symbolic themes, mainly those of the Emperor and Pope. And if we posit that the Empress or the Popesse, for example, carry a symbolic theme that differs from the Emperor or Pope, we then have a unique situation among the trump cards: a symbol with no apparent presence or precedent in the artistic milieu of late medieval Italy, which seems to undermine one of the fundamental assumptions regarding the selection of the symbols in the trump suit.

6). The only way in which to add two additional cards to an already completed sequence (here taken at 20 cards), without disturbing its meaning, would have been to duplicate two of those cards and to then place them all within an undifferentiated grouping. Since the Emperor and the Pope already possessed their well-attested and established symbolic attributes, and thereby the split of secular and religious rule, the initial solution may have been to visually differentiate the duplicate cards in a way that maintained the general symbolic attributes of the Emperor and the Pope, without altering their theme. The result was a female Emperor and a female Pope.

7). For those who believe the trump suit to contain a sequential allegory, we might also say that the allegory was established with the original twenty cards, since the duplicate cards do not alter the meaning of the sequence.

Given the preceding information, I find it difficult not to arrive at the conclusion that the Empress and the Popesse were duplicate cards, introduced after the sequence had been determined. The burning question, for me at least, is why the duplicate cards were deemed necessary?
While I agree that it may have been to account for dealer’s privilege, one wonders why this was not a consideration from the beginning?

Re: The Papi and the Duplicate Cards of the Trump Suit

Hi Ben,

My own theory is that all 22 trumps were part of the original calculation of the ideal number the four-person game. Four counting cards, and four papi (not counting) included. I believe that the papi are four to represent those worldly powers higher than the four kings, evenly split between those ruled by the pope and those ruled by the emperor (the archetypal political division of the time, "guelf" and "ghibelline", although the real political consequences of those designations had faded in the course in the 14th century).

For the calculation, the inventor had to imagine how many cards each player got. In this theory, the 16 trumps that can take the court cards are first "empty" trumps - trump cards in themselves worthless, but able to take any kings and lower. That is 72 cards total, which is 18 each dealt among four players. That would seem to be enough, with no discard.

But that is not what we have, so I have to imagine that the game among the counting trumps was part of the original conception. That is, two highest, and two lowest, all worth the same in tricks or play, but ranked differently, obviously. Thus the owners of the highest trumps have a powerful advantage, which is offset for the lowest trumps by giving the Fool and Bagatto special powers of their own, namely in forming sequences as wild cards, a Bolognese feature which I take to be original as well, and for the Fool a primordial role as "Excuse", able to excuse a player from a round without penalty and able to keep the points (and form sequences with him, with the partner too).

So there are now 16 empty for the basic trump role of winning court cards and winning lower trumps; and four counting trumps which are an additional layer to the trump game. 76 cards gives 19 to each player, with no discard.

So the theory seems to demand a discard rule as an original conception (I believe it would have been present in other games before Triumphs, but we have no evidence of it), either one or two extra trumps. The inventor chose two.

Another approach is take the ranking as indicative of the designer's conception. In Bologna, there are only 20 "numbered" trumps, from the four papi to the Angel, while the Fool is unnumbered and the Bagatto is ranked but not numbered. Bagatto is lowest, but is not "number 1". We know this because from the earliest numbering of Bologese cards, in the late 18th century, Love always starts the numbering at 5. The four moors and Bagatto and Fool are never numbered (still are not), and Stella is the last numbered card at 16, with Luna, Sole, Mondo, Angelo (17, 18, 19, 20) not numbered. So the conception of 20 would-be-numbered cards is primordial in Bologna, and thus, on my theory, in the original Florentine game. The Bagatto is ranked, has an ordinal position, i.e. "first", but he is not considered to have a number (by contrast, the papi are neither ranked nor numbered, any of them only ranking higher than the Bagatto).

So to come back to the designer's original calculations, if a discard of two was desired from the original conception, then the choices of the number of trumps for an even distribution among 4 players is either 74 or 78, i.e. 18 cards per player with a dealer's privilege of two, or 19 cards per player (76 total) with the dealer's privilege. I theorize that the four counting trumps were non-negotiable as part of the calculation, with two that are unnumbered. The counting trumps cannot be discarded (nor the kings), so the "empty" trumps, those which can take court cards, had to be extended by two, i.e. to 18, in order to preserve the privilege of discarding two empty cards.

Re: The Papi and the Duplicate Cards of the Trump Suit

I follow your line of reasoning, but I'm still inclined to see 20 trump cards as forming the developer's initial sequence, or prototype. For one, it is difficult to imagine someone creating a sequential ordering of symbolic themes and then intentionally leaving the lowest two cards unnumbered, presumably to ensure Death assumed position 13, if we are to credit Dummett's suggestion.

It seems much more natural to imagine that ALL the cards were numbered at some point early in the creation process. In fact, if you remove two papi (the ones I theorize were duplicated) from the sequence, then Death naturally assumes position 13. I have difficuilty imagining that the inventor did not account for this seemingly universal convention, which coincidentally, is why I don't see it as a coincidence that only 20 cards are numbered in Bologna.

The obvious challenge is to try and understand why the additional two cards might have been added after the initial sequence of twenty cards had already been determined. If the discard and dealer's privelege was a consideration from the beginning, then the wonky numbering system doesn't make much sense and has the distinct appearance of being a post-hoc solution.
I believe that the papi are four to represent those worldly powers higher than the four kings, evenly split between those ruled by the pope and those ruled by the emperor (the archetypal political division of the time, "guelf" and "ghibelline", although the real political consequences of those designations had faded in the course in the 14th century).
I agree that the imperial/papal division was reflective of the Guelf/Ghibelline divide, although I don't see the need to posit four papi, rather than two, especially since none of the papi were counting cards and the four Kings were. The only connection that leaves is a symbolic one and I don't see any evidence that the trump suit is continuing some symbolic theme from the regular pack. I also think it would appear more natural to have a single Emperor and a single Pope, especially since every card of the trump suit has a unique symbolic theme and "doubling" the papi would violate this principle. This is one of the primary reasons that I think the two additional papai were post hoc additions, although at present, I have no idea why.

Re: The Papi and the Duplicate Cards of the Trump Suit

Some other considerations for you on the number 13 - ... -card.html

My view is that the number itself played no role in the designer's choice. But when people began writing numbers on the cards, starting from the Bagatto, Death got 13, and this itself fed into the 13 superstition. In the 16th century, Tarot cards were known in most European countries, including England and Spain, so this might have been the century when the evil notion of the number really took root where it did. But I should note that Friday the 13th is nowadays noted as a *lucky* day to gamble on the Loto in France, so I think it must not be so straightforward a superstition as it seems.

I see the subject matter of the trumps as a kind of symbolic capstone on the "four kingdoms" moralization of the regular deck. That is, the inventor thought "how can I continue this symbolism?" So the first choice were those higher than kings, popes and emperors, and so there were four of them.

But the ideal number came first, which I argued for above, considering empty cards, four players, and the discard, had to be 22. So the papi were only the first group in the subjects. The second were moral themes, and the third celestial things. The first group in importance were the four counting trumps, the two highest and lowest, for which the designer chose respectively the highest subjects imaginable, the whole world-system and the Final Judgment, and two "low" kinds of characters, marginal ones. All of them are instantly recognizable as groups, and easy to put in order when learning to play at the table.

For your theory, if you want to see the papi as evolving, remember the game "8 emperors", whose existence, whatever it was, precedes Triumphs. Mike argues, I believe, that it might have been a "four kingdoms" game, where the 8 emperors were effectively trump cards with their own internal order.

Re: The Papi and the Duplicate Cards of the Trump Suit

To expand on Ross's last remark:

Prof. Arne Jönsson wrote about one of the games presented by John of Rheinfelden ( “Card-playing as a Mirror of Society. On Johannes of Rheinfelden's Ludus cartularum moralisatus,” In O. Ferm & V. Honemann (Eds.), Chess and Allegory in the Middle Ages, Sällskapet Runica et Mediaevalia, Stockholm, 2005, pp. 359-371, on p. 370):
As regards the four suits, they represent, in Johannes’ opinion, four kingdoms, namely the four successive world monarchies, Babylonia, Persia, Macedon (or Greece), and the Roman Empire. As his symbol the Babylonian king has a man’s head, the Greek king has bells, and the Roman king an eagle. Johannes tells us that he does not understand the Persian king’s symbol.
Besides John (probably in 1377 but surviving only in a later copy of 1429) there is a similar identification of empires in a 1747 century allegorical interpretation of Minchiate reported by Andrea Vitali in his 2018 essay “Note allegoriche al Giuoco delle Minchiate”, (for the English translation (click on British flag top right).
Si può assimigliare questo gran mazzo di Carte alla Catastrofe delle vicende mondane; tutte insieme è come il Genere Umano, che vive alla rinfusa su questa Terra; le 4 seguenze sono come le 4 Monarchie” (7).

1 monarchia = quella degli Assiri o Caldei, iniziata con Nino e terminata con Dario
2 monarchia = quella dei Persiani, da Ciro a Dario Codomano
3 monarchia = quella dei Greci con Alessandro Magno
4 monarchia = quella dei Romani

(One can assimilate this great deck of cards to the Catastrophe of worldly events; all together it is like the Human Genus, which lives scattered on this Earth; the 4 sequences are like the 4 Monarchies" (7).

1 monarchy = that of the Assyrians or Chaldeans, beginning with Ninus and ending with Darius
2 monarchy = that of the Persians, from Cyrus to Darius Codomannus
3 monarchy = that of the Greeks with Alexander the Great
4 monarchy = that of the Romans
The author does not observe that Cyrus conquered the Chaldeans (i.e. Babylonians), Alexander the Great conquered the Persians, and the Romans conquered the Greeks, but the mention of these conquerors or their empire should be enough. He seems to be mistaken in thinking that Darius was a Babylonian; he was the third successor to Cyrus.

Since these "kingdoms" were actually empires, the "VIII Imperadori" could well be the Emperor and Empress of these four kingdoms, above the usual court figures, perhaps forming a hierarchy of their own according to who conquered who. That both genders would be represented is not duplication: there were female roles and male ones. In particular, the Empress's job was to produce princes. This role might be what is conveyed sometimes by the shield being on her lap as opposed to by her side, the usual place an infant would sit, from countless Virgin and Child paintings. Certain other functions followed from that role: education in morals and religion, matters of health in the empire.The Emperor also does not duplicate the role of the King of that suit. The King rules the home territory of the empire, while the Emperor, as a trump card, goes about capturing other kingdoms.

With four "papi", we might imagine them as just the males of the four empires. Or else the Emperor and Empress of two of them. At this time, before 1453, there was the Eastern Empire and the Western Empire. We need not get stuck on the word "papi". That word is not documented early on. "Imperadori" by contrast applies to mixed male and female as well as all-male. I should add that the Empress is among the earliest surviving trumps in both Florence (the Catania deck, which used paper dating from the late 1420s, as Emilia Maggio has written -search for her name in this forum) and Milan (the Cary-Yale). I do not know why you are concerned about a lack of iconographic precedent: there were surely more depictions of empresses before the game became popular than of street hustlers. Empresses also featured in pious stories, such as that of the Empress of Rome. For an iconographic model, there was also the crowned Virgin as Queen of Heaven among other things, as a kind of empress.

Besides Emperors and Empresses, there were the Pope and the Church, the latter having the Empress-like job of producing more popes. My problem with these last two as being original is that members of the clergy would have objected to including such a personification in a card game, as they did later. If nothing else, it would be an occasion bring up Pope Joan. It would not be my first choice as a subject for a game that I desired to be officially sanctioned by the law (triumphs was not legal in Florence until 1450). To a certain degree the same applies to the Pope, as too dignified to have is likeness in a tavern game. It may be that there were only two rulers initially, and the other two were added once the game was legal and popular.