The 14 + 8 theory

[Part One of Five]

[ I started writing this well before the invasion of Ukraine, and it seems quite frivolous to spend so much time thinking about such matters now, in the light of the horrific suffering there and the calamity that the war is unleashing on all of us. But we all need an escape from the horrors of the world from time to time, and playing-card history has been mine for more than two years now; I believe it also provided similar relief to Michael Dummett from the efforts of his academic work and his anti-racist activism. So I persevere... ]

I should be writing a post on something quite different at the moment, but after reading the excellent catalog of the Tarots Enluminés exhibition, I couldn't resist finally sharing my own wild speculations on the origin of tarot, which I currently think of as "the 14 + 8 theory."

Tarots Enluminés repeatedly raises the much debated question of whether tarot, or Trionfi as it was originally known, was invented in Milan or Florence, the two most credible candidates. One advantage of my preferred hypothesis is that it allows the invention of tarot to be shared between both these cities. Indeed, it requires the involvement of at least two separate creators, and it is entirely possible that one could have been in Milan and the other in Florence.

It is a tarot creation theory of the type that postulates a process of two or more steps. This contrasts with those that propose a single act of creation, in which the 78-card tarot deck with the standard set of 22 trumps are entirely designed in one single moment, as one unitary vision.
To my mind, the single-act theories all fail to adequately address the following problems:

1. The "messiness" of the standard set of 22 trumps.

The standard 22 are an assemblage of disparate subjects that was bizarre even by the standards of the 15th century. It includes real human figures, abstract concepts, stars and planets, and religious subjects—all mixed together in a sequence which, by the 16th century at least, had no immediately understandable meaning to anyone. Even in the 15th century, the sequence and some of its subjects do not seem to have had an obvious meaning to most people, judging by the names given to some of the cards. The relatively obscure allegorical subject of Time ended up being simply called "the Old Man" or "the Hunchback" in most regions, and the Tower seems to have been prone to a very wide variety of interpretations, reflected in names which ranged from Thunderbolt to Fire and even Hell. The "Triumphal Chariot" (as it was generally known at the time) surely did not begin its life as the simple representation of Triumph which it was generally taken to be, because every card in the trump sequence triumphs over those below, and it is inherently illogical for Triumph itself to triumph over anything at all. So this "Triumph" card must have been derived from something else, the meaning of which was then lost in the stages of the deck's development.
As Michael Dummett pointed out on p. 388 of The Game of Tarot, it is also unusual to find only the Sun, Moon, and a "Star" rather than the full series of the planets, and it is odd that the Pope and Emperor are not accompanied by figures of other ranks—this is especially hard to explain in the case of the Pope, who appears in isolation from the rest of the clerical hierarchy (the Emperor is at least accompanied in the deck by kings and knights).
But the messiest feature of all is the presence of only three of the four cardinal virtues, and none of their three theological sisters. The proponents of single-act theories have made various attempts to explain that peculiar omission, but none have been convincing.

It is therefore extremely hard to believe that anyone would have deliberately put together a sequence like this as a single creative work. If the sequence were born of a single coherent vision, one would expect it to have a certain beauty or elegance, like Marziano's Sixteen Heroes, but the standard tarot sequence has no such elegance. It must surely have been a further development of something that came before.

2. The existence of a 70-card tarot deck at the court of Ferrara in the mid-15th century.

There is a record from 1457 of two very valuable trionfi decks made for the ducal court of Ferrara with 70 cards per deck (see, for example, Gherardo Ortalli, "The Prince and the playing cards. The Este family and the role of courts at the time of the Kartenspiel-Invasion," Ludica 2 (1996) 175-205, p. 186). Either this was some kind of direct precursor of the 78-card tarot deck, or it was an early variant in which the 78-card deck was shortened in some way. The single-act theories would require the latter explanation, but the problem there is that Ferrara evidently abandoned the 70-card deck before long in favor of the 78-card standard version. The "Este" tarot deck, made for the wedding of Duke Ercole and Eleonor of Aragon in 1473, appears to have been a standard tarot deck, and the "Steele Sermon", likely written around 1480 or 1490, also appears to be describing a standard deck. Early tarot decks from the Ferrara-Venice region, such as the Sola-Busca deck, the Leber-Rouen deck, and the non-standard Boiardo deck all appear to have had 78 cards. If Ferrara started with a standard 78-card tarot deck, shortened it to 70 cards, and then returned to the 78-card version just a few decades later, this would be an absolutely unique and extremely unusual development in tarot history. We know of several instances when the deck was shortened in some way (normally by removing some of the numeral cards) but there is no known instance of players then abandoning their shortened deck and returning to the original larger one. Therefore—unless this 70-card deck was nothing more than a fleeting variant produced only for some special occasion and otherwise never used—it is likely to have been a early version of the tarot deck which predated the standard 78-card form and which was eventually ousted completely by that later form.

3. The relationship between tarot and the sudden emergence of a widespread (and lasting) interest in illustrations of Petrarch's Trionfi poem cycle in Florence in the early 1440s.

As is well documented by Ada Labriola in her essay "Les Trionfi de Pétrarque" in Tarots Enluminés, illustrations of the six Trionfi ("Triumphs") in Petrarch's poem cycle became very popular with wealthy people in Florence from about 1440 onward. Prior to this time, most manuscripts of these poems featured few or no illustrations of their subjects, and interest in the poems themselves appears to have been limited. But in the 1440s, Florence produced numerous fully illustrated manuscripts of the poems, and images of their six subjects began to adorn many precious household objects and gifts, like cassoni and birthing trays.

Tarot was known as Trionfi for the first half-century of its life. The first reference we have to the Trionfi deck is from 1440. The subjects of Petrarch's six poems are the Triumphs of Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time, and Eternity, in that order. The standard tarot trumps include easily recognizable depictions of three of these: Love, Death, and Time. They also include the Last Judgment, which is mentioned in the Eternity poem. The subjects of the remaining two poems appear on early hand-painted cards from Milan: Chastity is clearly depicted on the Chariot card of the Visconti di Modrone deck, while the Issy Chariot card looks very much like a depiction of Fame.

Scholars like Thierry Depaulis are right to say that it seems like there would be some connection between the images in the newly created Trionfi deck and the Trionfi images being produced at the same time in Florence (see Depaulis' "Introduction" to the Tarots Enluminés catalog, pp. 19-20). But as Depaulis goes on to observe (p. 20), it is hard to see exactly what the nature of this connection could have been. The Petrarchan subjects in the tarot deck were not ranked according to Petrarch's order (tarot's Death comes after Time, not before it as in Petrarch's cycle), and the depictions of them on the cards differ significantly from how they were portrayed in the Florentine illustrations. Moreover, only four of the six are readily identifiable in the surviving cards from Florence: Love, Death, Time, and the Last Judgment from Petrarch's Eternity. We have no Florentine card which shows anything like a standard depiction of Chastity or Fame. The Florentine World card, with its allegorical figure holding symbols of sovereignty, looks like it could represent the divine sovereignty of God over the "mondo novo, in etate immobile ed eterna" as described in Petrarch's Triumph of Eternity, but nevertheless the adjacent presence of the Sun, Moon, and Star in the standard sequence suggests that its creator thought of the World merely as a representation of our own earthly world, and not Petrarch's eternal "new world" of Heaven after the Last Judgment.

So the deck does not seem to have inspired the Florentine illustrations nor vice versa, yet their co-emergence must surely be more than mere coincidence. The only likely explanation is that both had a common source in some earlier development. Could that earlier development simply have been a new interest in the poem cycle in 1430s Florence? This is conceivable, but does not well explain why this would then give rise to a fashion for various kinds of pictorial representations of the poem subjects, nor why the images on the cards would differ so much from the Florentine illustrations. It seems more likely that there was an earlier type of Trionfi deck, more closely based on the Petrarchan poem cycle, which was linked to both of these later developments.

To address these and other difficulties, I propose the following hypothetical creation process, involving three steps (each of which I will elaborate later in this thread):

Step 1:

A proto-tarot deck and game are created, inspired by Petrarch's Trionfi poem cycle and based on previous games like Marziano's Sixteen Heroes (which is likely to have been the earliest Italian game of the type). The deck has 14 trump cards with a symmetrical structure: seven represent Petrarch's six Triumphs (with the highest Triumph, Eternity, being honored by two cards) and the other seven are the cardinal and theological virtues. These 14 are added to a regular deck of four suits which themselves have fourteen cards each, including a queen among their four court cards (this being a reasonably common kind of deck in parts of Italy in the early decades of the 15th century, as evidenced by a sermon of San Bernardino from 1425). The resulting deck of 70 cards and the game played with it come to be known simply by the name of Trionfi. For reasons I will explain below, I think this step is most likely to have occurred at the court of the duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti. The game and deck then spread from Milan to Florence and Ferrara. In Florence, it inspires a newfound interest in Petrarch's poem cycle, and in pictorial representations of the six subjects of that cycle.

Step 2:

Someone has the idea of taking this Petrarchan Trionfi deck and merging it with the deck used for the game of Imperatori.
I am assuming that Imperatori was closely related to the German game of Karnöffel, and featured eight special cards with names such as Emperor, Pope, and Devil, which functioned in the game in a broadly similar way to the trumps of the Petrarchan Trionfi deck. At least some of these cards were probably specially made cards like the Trionfi trumps which depicted the named figures (rather than simply being names and roles assigned to normal cards of the regular deck, as in Karnöffel). The Imperatori deck could have had other similarities to the Petrarchan Trionfi game too, such as four suits of fourteen cards each, with queens.
These similarities between the two games are what gives someone the idea of combining them, to form a deck with four suits of fourteen cards each as before, but now with a set of 22 trump cards (14 + 8). The game played with this new deck is much closer to the Petrarchan Trionfi game than to the Imperatori game, and is consequently seen as an improved, expanded version of the former. So it has the same name: Trionfi.

Step 3:

Many people, especially the less educated, who are not familiar with Petrarch's poems, find it very difficult or impossible to remember the ranking of such a large number of trumps. So changes are made to the subjects that make up the set of 21 ranked trumps, to make their order easier to remember, without reducing their number in total (the larger number of trumps being the most appealing feature of the newly merged game). Fame and Chastity, both showing similar allegorical female figures riding chariots, are thus replaced by just one Chariot card, and four of the virtues are replaced by subjects that include the Sun, Moon, and Star, which are easier to identify and to rank. Modifications are also made to the ranking of other cards, to make the overall sequence more intuitive.
This step must have occurred in direct succession to Step 2, very shortly after it, and it could be better to view the two not as separate steps at all, but simply parts of one process in which the earlier Petrarchan Trionfi deck and Imperatori deck were transformed into the new, larger Trionfi deck. We can therefore assume that this Step 3 would have occurred in the same city as Step 2: possibly Florence, possibly Milan.
This new, more enjoyable version of Trionfi then begins to spread. Not surprisingly, the cities which are most receptive to it and which adopt it first are those where the earlier form of the game was already played: Florence, Milan, and Ferrara. At the end of the 1440s, it begins to spread to cities where the earlier version was never played, including Bologna.

Re: The 14 + 8 theory

[Part Two of Five]


We have the following evidence for the existence of a 14-trump proto-tarot deck based directly on Petrarch's Trionfi poems:

- The record from 1457 of two 70-card Trionfi decks made for the ducal court of Ferrara. It's possible that these 70-card decks could have been an isolated variant, produced only for a special occasion and not used for long. Michael Dummett thought the 70-card deck could be 4 suits of 13 cards each (no queens) + 18 trumps ("Where do the Virtues go?", The Playing-Card 32 no. 4 (2004) p. 166). But I am inclined to agree with those who believe it had a 5 x 14 structure, based on a record from the ducal court from 1441 of XIIII figure (14 figures) painted by Jacopo de Sagramoro and sent to Bianca Maria Visconti for celebrations on 1 January of that year, while she was staying at the Ferrarese court. It is not clear from the record that these figure were playing-cards, but figure was the standard term for the picture cards of a deck, they were painted on the same kind of paper used for playing-cards, and Sagramoro is mentioned as a painter of trionfi cards in several records from the court not long after, including the earliest explicit reference to such cards at that court, in 1442. This suggests that not only did the 70-card trionfi deck have a 5x14 structure, but it may also have been introduced to the Ferrarese court by Bianca Maria Visconti.

- The tarot trumps themselves, and especially the surviving early trump cards from Milan, strongly suggest the existence of an earlier Petrarchan deck in which the six Triumphs were represented by a total of seven cards. All six Triumphs can be identified on the cards from Milan, with both Chastity and Fame riding chariots (the consequent similarity in appearance of these two cards was probably a major factor in a later decision to merge them into just one "Chariot" card: see Step 3 below). Eternity, the highest Triumph, was given two cards, one representing the Last Judgment, the other representing eternal life in the "new world" of Heaven under God's benign sovereignty. The fact that the six subjects were spread across seven cards strongly suggests to me that the trump sequence must have had a symmetrical structure, with these seven cards being accompanied by the seven traditional virtues. To put it another way, it is the traditional number of the virtues which explains the decision to divide Eternity between two cards.

- The trump order with World as highest, followed by the Last Judgment and then the Sun, Moon, and Star, which we know from Milan and Ferrara, is something else that points to this earlier, more Petrarchan version of tarot. It has often been observed that this order seems very unintuitive: Surely the Last Judgment should be the last card in the sequence, and surely the World should be followed immediately by the other three cosmological subjects. And we do indeed find such an order being used in Florence, seemingly from the very beginning, which has prompted some to argue that it must have been the original tarot order, and the reversal of the top two trumps in Milan and Ferrara must have been a strange deviation from it. But it seems very unlikely that such an unintuitive deviation would spread to two cities, if it was not part of the original order. The best and easiest way to explain the existence of this "unintuitive" order, and especially its dominance in two of the three early centers of tarot, is through the Petrarchan interpretation I have outlined above: If the World was in fact originally a representation of everlasting life in Heaven after the Last Judgment, then placing it at the top of the trump order makes perfect sense, and even more so if the Sun, Moon, and Star were not present in the deck at the time. In other words, the best way to explain the trump order in Milan and Ferrara is by positing the existence of an earlier deck in which the Petrarchan Triumphs were accompanied by only the seven virtues, and not by the Sun, Moon, and Star at all.

- The sudden interest in Florence in the Petrarchan Trionfi cycle and in pictorial representations of it around 1440 is consistent with this Petrarchan Trionfi game becoming known to at least some of the educated elite in Florence in the years before. We do not have direct evidence of such a game in either Florence or Milan, but this is not fatal to the hypothesis, because (a) we have very little evidence of any cards or card games from that time at all, (b) this earlier game and deck must have been superseded fairly rapidly by the later, standard version of Trionfi, and (c) the game was probably never played beyond a relatively limited circle of educated people, because anyone unfamiliar with the poem cycle would have found the trump order very hard to remember. Even for those who were familiar with the poem cycle, remembering the ranking of the seven virtues must have been somewhat challenging.

- Difficult though the order could have been to remember, it still would have constituted a marked improvement over Marziano's Sixteen Heroes in that respect. The ranking of the Petrarchan cards would have been clear from the poems. The theological virtues would have naturally ranked higher than the cardinal virtues, and presumably in the order given in the bible (Faith, Hope, Charity, with Charity highest: 1 Corinthians 13). Their natural position in the overall order would have been immediately below the Last Judgment. Only the ranking of the four cardinal virtues would have been truly arbitrary (both their ranking relative to one another and also their positions in the overall hierarchy). I think the difficulty of remembering its trump order would have been a major drawback of Marziano's game, and a major reason why it never seems to have caught on anywhere, even at the Milanese court; the unfamiliarity of its suit cards may have been a disadvantage too. This gives us to another reason to suppose the existence of something like the 14-trump Petrarchan Trionfi game: It supplies the "missing link" between Marziano's game and tarot. The hypothetical 14-card deck and game are so much like the Marziano deck and game that it seems likely to have been created as an attempt to improve on the latter, by using a trump sequence which was much easier to remember and adding it to a regular, familiar deck of cards. In all other respects, it seems it would have been quite similar to the Marziano game, with an elegant and internally coherent trump sequence (unlike the standard tarot deck), probably with Love as the lowest trump, much like Cupid in Marziano's deck. The most significant new development, other than making the game and deck more user-friendly, is that the Petrarchan game's creators must have realized that Marziano's trumps effectively constituted a suit of their own. So they rendered the trumps as a fully fledged suit in the new Petrarchan game, with exactly the same number of cards as the regular four suits. In this respect too, this hypothetical Petrarchan Trionfi deck forms a link between Marziano and the later tarot deck: the trumps go from being integrated into the four suits as an extension of each of them, to being a suit of their own like the other four, and finally to being a sequence quite separate from the regular suits, with no perceived need to be the same length as them.

This likely relationship to the Marziano game is one of the reasons why I am inclined to think that this Petrarchan proto-tarot would have been created at the ducal court of Milan, as opposed to Florence or elsewhere. But there are several other reasons to think this too:

- The Ferrarese record from 1441 regarding the XIIII figure says they were sent to Bianca Maria Visconti, who was staying at the Ferrarese court at the time. This suggests that she may have introduced the Ferrarese court to the Petrarchan Trionfi game, created at her father's court in Milan.

- Filippo Maria Visconti's court seems exactly the environment where we would expect a Petrarchan Trionfi game like this to be created. We not only have the evidence of the earlier Marziano game, but also Filippo Maria's enthusiasm both for playing-cards in general on the one hand, and for Petrarch's Italian poems about his beloved Laura on the other, poems which include the Trionfi cycle.

We have ample evidence of his long-standing love of cards: In 1420, he issued a decree about card games, not banning many of them like the decrees of so many governments of the time, but instead ordering people to play them properly. Many sumptuously decorated cards survive from his court, arguably the most beautiful of any illuminated cards we have from Italy: the Visconti di Modrone deck, the Brera-Brambilla deck, the Issy-Warsaw cards with their backs covered in silver, and most exquisite of all, the two jacks in the Museum August Kestner in Hanover, covered in gold on both back and front. Moreover, Pier Candido Decembrio tells us quite directly in chapter LXI of his biography of the recently deceased duke that he was an avid player of card games, and that he was willing to spend an enormous amount of money to have Marziano create the Sixteen Heroes game and deck.

In the following chapter of that biography, Decembrio also tells us that Filippo Maria had a particular interest in Petrarch's Italian sonnets: eruditus est autem praecipue ex Petrarcae sonitiis, confectis materno carmine, quorum lectione adeo afficiebatur, ut princeps etiam aliquo assidente annotari faceret, proponeretque, quae prius, quaeve posterius legi cuperet ("Filippo's core curriculum in literature consisted in the sonnets of Petrarch, written in Italian verse. He was so affected by his reading of these poems that when he became duke he insisted that someone in his entourage be designated to comment on and elucidate them. And it was he himself who established the order in which he wanted them to be read"—translation based on Gary Ianziti's in Pier Candido Decembrio, Lives of the Milanese Tyrants, ed. Massimo Zaggia, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2019, p. 125). Petrarch's sonnets form the main part of his Italian poetry about his muse Laura, a corpus which also includes the Trionfi poems; it is therefore highly likely that Filippo Maria's fascinated enthusiasm extended to those as well as the sonnets.

In other words, he was exactly the kind of person to commission a Petrarchan Trionfi deck.

- The tarot cards which display the greatest affinity to Petrarch's Trionfi poems are from Filippo Maria's court, despite the above-mentioned Florentine interest in pictorial representations of Petrarch's Trionfi poem cycle at the time. As discussed already above, the early tarot cards from Florence do not show any clear connections to Petrarch's Triumphs of Chastity and Fame, nor to God's eternal reign over the "new world" of heaven from the Triumph of Eternity (which became the standard Florentine depiction of that subject in the 1440s). The earliest cards from Milan, on the other hand, do show such connections.

The Chariot card of the Visconti di Modrone deck (a.k.a. the Cary-Yale or CY deck) is indisputably a representation of Petrarch's Triumph of Chastity (or Pudicitia as she is called in the original): She is depicted holding a jousting shield in one hand (clearly visible in high-resolution images) and a simple wand in the other. The wand is much like the simple branch or frond that Chastity was usually shown holding in traditional representations of this allegory, including several early Florentine depictions of this Triumph. The shield is a less traditional element, and comes directly from Petrarch's description of Chastity in the poem:
Ell'aveva in dosso, il dì, candida gonna,
lo scudo in man che mal vide Medusa.

I'm not aware of any Florentine illustrations of the Triumph of Chastity from the 1440s which show her with a shield. But an illustration attributed to the workshop of a Milanese artist known as the Master of the Vitae Imperatorum does show Chastity with one hand on a shield (discussed by Mike here). It also shows a pair of white horses pulling her chariot, just like the Visconti di Modrone card, whereas the Florentine illustrations always have unicorns in their place. The works of the Master of the Vitae Imperatorum date to 1430-1450, but some authors attribute this particular manuscript to 1445-1450; whatever the date, it seems to be generally accepted that it was made for the Milanese court, this artist being the "preeminent miniaturist in Milan" in that period. This manuscript therefore provides a link between the Petrarchan imagery of early tarot cards and the Milanese court's tradition of Petrarchan Trionfi illustration, whereas no comparable link can be established between the early cards and the Florentine Trionfi illustrations.

Another aspect of that link is that the Milanese manuscript shows only three of its six Trionfi riding on chariots (Love, Chastity, and Time). The Florentine Trionfi images, on the other hand, consistently place all the allegorical figures on chariots except for the Triumph of Eternity. In the early tarot cards, most of the Petrarchan figures are not riding chariots. Indeed, other than the Visconti di Modrone's Chastity, the only truly credible example of a tarot card depicting a Petrarchan Triumph riding a chariot is the Chariot card preserved at the Musée Français de la Carte à Jouer in Issy-les-Moulineaux. Like the Visconti di Modrone Chastity, this card can be attributed to the milieu of the ducal court of Milan in the 1440s (see Roberta Delmoro, "Milan s'amuse," Tarots Enluminés, pp. 95-6) and it looks very much like a Triumph of Fame: The female figure is holding a sword in one hand and a golden ball in the other, the two objects held by worldly Fame in Boccaccio's Visione Amorosa (la Gloria del popolo mondano, in canto VI, lines 55-60). In mid-15th century Italian depictions of this allegory, Fame is always a female figure and is regularly shown holding those two objects. However, it should be noted that the Issy Chariot is not quite as clearly a depiction of Fame as the Visconti di Modrone card is a depiction of Chastity, because the objects are held in the "wrong" hands (the sword is normally in the right hand and the ball in the left, in accordance with Boccaccio's description), and the Issy figure is also accompanied by a female entourage, which would be more appropriate to Petrarch's Chastity than to Fame (who has a largely male entourage in the poem).

If Issy Chariot card was indeed intended as a depiction of Fame, it could in fact be from a 14-trump Petrarchan Trionfi deck, and not from a standard 22-trump tarot deck as is usually assumed. This would be the only known example of such a deck to survive to us.

Finally, there is the World card of the Visconti di Modrone deck, the most clearly Petrarchan of any World card. The "world" itself appears here as a landscape below a semi-circular arc, strikingly similar to the lower half of several early depictions of the Triumph of Eternity, including images from 1440s Florence. The allegorical female figure above it rises from an enormous crown, recalling God's rulership over the eternal mondo novo of Heaven: quei che governa il cielo solo col ciglio. Early depictions of the Triumph of Eternity usually showed God Himself enthroned in this position, but the designers of this deck no doubt balked at putting Him on a playing card (even angels on playing cards were enough to draw the ire of preachers in 15th century Italy) and opted instead for a more innocuous allegorical figure (female because Eternità is a feminine word, like Fama and Pudicitia). The figure is holding a winged trumpet in one hand, a very common symbol of Fame, but here it is only a minor element in the image, no doubt intended to represent the eternal heavenly fame that is mentioned in Petrarch's poem:
e non avranno in man li anni il governo
de le fame mortali, anzi chi fia
chiaro una volta fia chiaro in eterno.
[ and the years will no longer hold in their hands
the governance of mortal fame: those glorious once
will be glorious for eternity. ]
In her other hand, the figure holds a smaller crown, which Michael Hurst interpreted as the Crown of Life promised in the bible to the faithful who love God. This is not specifically mentioned by Petrarch, but it does seem very plausible that if one of the two objects held by the figure represented a reward that believers could expect in Eternity, the other object would represent another such reward, namely that of eternal life, which is what the biblical Crown of Life was generally interpreted to mean.

It might be argued that the Milanese court simply took the standard tarot images and modified them to look more like illustrations of the Petrarchan Trionfi poems, but this is not very convincing. It is extremely unlikely that something like the Chariot card of the Catania deck, for example, could have prompted anyone to think of Petrarch's Triumph of Chastity and to modify the image accordingly. However, the converse is quite conceivable: It is relatively easy to imagine that someone might take a card like the Visconti di Modrone Chariot card, misinterpret or disregard its Petrarchan meaning, and modify it into a simple image of a triumphant victor (see also Step 3 below).

It is doubtful that the Petrarchan associations of the cards could have been lost so quickly in the deck's city of origin while being retained for years in another city to which the deck had spread, so the designs of these cards support the view that the earlier Petrarchan deck would have come from Milan.

- There is another tarot trump whose design supports a Milanese origin of the hypothetical Petrarchan deck, namely Love. Unlike Chastity and Fame, the Love cards do not depict their subject riding a chariot, even though this is the only one of Petrarch's Triumphs which is explicitly described in the poem as riding one. This is highly unusual; I am not aware of any illuminated manuscript of the poems that depicts Love without a chariot. But the tarot cards always give pride of place to a pair of lovers instead, and consign the figure of Love himself to a small section of the card, usually at the top. In most cases, there is not enough space left for Love's chariot without making the card excessively crowded. The most obvious explanation for this anomalous design choice is that the original card was intended to honor a married couple, and therefore had to give them prominence in the design. The only example we have of a Love card which actually does honor a married couple is in the Visconti di Modrone deck, from the ducal court of Milan.

Counter-arguments in favor of Florence as the source of the hypothesized 14-trump deck would include:

- Decembrio does not mention this Petrarchan Trionfi deck as one of Filippo Maria's achievements, even though he does mention the Sixteen Heroes deck. One can imagine possible reasons for this—perhaps the Trionfi deck was commissioned by someone else at the Milanese court, perhaps Decembrio didn't mention it because it wasn't as much of a novelty as the Sixteen Heroes deck had been and didn't attract as much attention, or because it was so quickly superseded by the 22-trump version (which I assume was not the work of the Milanese court: see Steps 2 and 3 below)—but it is a salient omission nevertheless.

- The paucity of Petrarchan associations in the known Florentine cards could simply be because of the fact that, except for the Rothschild Emperor card, the earliest surviving Florentine tarot trumps date from about 1450, which is over a decade after the 14-trump deck would have been invented. The card designs may simply have lost their more Petrarchan elements over time.

Regardless of where it originated, I hypothesize that this Petrarchan Trionfi game must have become known to at least some educated people in Florence sometime at the end of the 1430s, and there it sparked an interest in Petrarch's poem cycle and in pictorial representations of that cycle. However, it would never have spread much beyond those who were familiar with the poems, because anyone else would have found the trump order nearly as hard to remember as that of Marziano's game. It could never become a truly popular phenomenon without substantial alteration.

Re: The 14 + 8 theory

[Part Three of Five]


The first substantial alteration came, I believe, when someone decided to enlarge the trump sequence to 22 by adding the eight trump figures of the Imperatori game.

The idea that the latter game featured eight trump figures (or quasi-trump figures, at any rate) comes from the earliest reference we have to it, a record from the Ferrarese court in 1423 saying that an expensive, gilded deck of "VIII Imperadori" cards was imported from Florence for Duchess Parisina. The Italian wording, uno paro de carte da VIII Imperadori, indicates that the game was called VIII Imperadori (literally "Eight Emperors"), but in all the later references this is shortened simply to Imperatori. There is another record from 1434 of another pair of similarly expensive Imperatori decks imported from Florence for the Ferrarese court. The Imperatori decks the court was buying in the 1440s were much cheaper, but the prices of those early gilded decks are comparable to the prices of the gilded luxury tarot decks of the 1440s. The name VIII Imperadori suggests that the game had eight cards which were collectively known as the imperatori.

We have no direct evidence of exactly what these eight cards were. But we do know that the Imperatori deck was somehow quite distinct from the normal playing-card deck (see Ortalli, "The Prince and the playing cards," pp. 187-188). This probably wasn't simply due to a difference in the number of numeral cards, because this would not have justified buying special decks, and certainly not at such high prices. Given the name used for the game in that 1423 record, the most likely difference was that at least some of those eight imperatori were special cards like the tarot trumps, with specific images painted on them, different from the usual numeral or court cards.

Ortalli (idem, p. 187) took the eight imperatori to literally mean eight emperors, rather than just one as in the standard tarot sequence. However, it is also possible that the term imperatori was being used in much the same way that papi was used later in Bolognese tarot, namely as a quick and easy way of referring to all of the eight special cards collectively even though several were not actually emperors, by the pars pro toto principle. Ross has cited another, similar example from the world of card games, namely a German variant of the tarot game called the Siebenkönigsspiel, literally the Seven Kings Game. The "seven kings" were in fact the three point-scoring trumps (World, Bagatella, and Matto) and the four actual kings. The name Trionfi for the tarot deck is of course another pars pro toto name, because it was used for the entire deck, despite technically applying only to less than a third of it (the 22 trumps).

For further evidence of what the Imperatori game may have involved, playing-card historians look to the German trick-taking game of Karnöffel. The earliest references to this game are from the 1440s, from the southwestern part of the German-speaking world (Augsburg, Würzburg, and Alsace), but the game could easily be a few decades older than that. Already in one of the earliest references (Paul Wann de Kemnat, Würzburg 1443–1455), we find its alternative name of "Emperor game" (ludum ... imperatoris; Kaiserspiel in German). Both of its names continued to be used in various German-speaking regions for centuries. There were many different variants of the game in different times and places, but what they all had in common was a small ranked series of special cards (usually between four and seven) which functioned like trumps, in that they beat most of the other cards in tricks and also any of the other special cards that ranked lower than themselves. The highest ranked of these special cards (called the Karnöffel) was able to beat all the other cards in the deck; one or two others could beat all the numeral cards and court cards, and the others had only restricted trump powers: some were able to beat only numeral cards, while some could beat one or two of the lower court cards as well, but not the kings.

These special cards were created simply by assigning special trump powers to ordinary cards from one of the four suits of a regular deck; this suit was randomly selected at the start of the game. At least some of those cards were given special names as well. It is these names which suggest a link to the Italian game of Imperatori, because they include three of the tarot trump subjects: not just the Emperor, but also the Pope and the Devil. Our earliest source for these names is a somewhat cryptic poem by a poet named Meissner in 1450 or earlier, and they appear consistently in the early German sources thereafter.

Some historians have speculated that the names in the German game could have originated in the Italian tarot game. But it seems more likely that the influence went in the opposite direction, from the German game to the Italians, for several reasons: First, the existence of an Italian game called Imperatori with eight special cards sounds much closer to the German Karnöffel/Kaiserspiel than tarot does, and because Imperatori is older than tarot, the influence could not have originated with the latter. But could Imperatori have been the original source, which influenced both tarot and the German game? This also seems unlikely. Imperatori probably had dedicated cards for at least some of its (quasi-)trumps, rather than just assigning functions to ordinary cards as in the German game, and it is much easier to imagine a process starting with ordinary cards being given special functions and names, which were then transformed into dedicated cards depicting the named figures, rather than the reverse. So the German game is likely to be the original source, and the Italian game a derivation from it.

Another very important point is that the German-speaking lands seem to be have been by far the most fertile ground for innovation in playing-cards and card games in the early decades of their history in Europe. While the rest of Europe seems to have kept to the same four suits (swords, batons, cups, and coins) and largely the same deck structure (four suits each comprising three male court cards and nine or ten numeral cards), we have a wealth of evidence to prove that the Germans were experimenting in all kinds of ways very soon after playing-cards first appeared in Europe around 1370: They invented new suit symbols, they increased the number of suits, they changed the number and gender of the court cards, and—of particular significance to the current discussion—they painted other social ranks and occupations on the cards, in addition to the usual court figures. These developments were documented as early as 1377 by "Johannes of Rheinfelden" (who was actually from Freiburg in southwest Germany; see Arne Jönsson, "Der Ludus cartularum moralisatus des Johannes von Rheinfelden," transl. by W. Haas, in D. Hoffmann, Schweizer Spielkarten 1. Die Anfänge im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert, Schaffhausen: Museum zu Allerheiligen und Cartophilia Helvetica, 1998, pp. 135–147). They can also be seen in some of the luxury cards produced in southwest Germany and adjacent areas along the Rhine to the north (see, for example, Timothy B. Husband, The World in Play: Luxury Cards 1430-1540. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016).

In the first half of the 15th century, we know of a number of games featuring trumps, or something very much like trumps, both north and south of the Alps. In Italy there was Marziano's Sixteen Heroes followed by tarot, and in Germany not only Karnöffel, but also the game described by "Meister Ingold" in Strasbourg in 1432. Meister Ingold's game was played with a regular four-suited deck except that the two lower court cards in each suit were replaced by eight figures representing various ranks and professions in society: nobleman, usurer, priest, prostitute, pimp, innkeeper, wine-seller, farmer. These eight were ranked in the game in that order, each beating those below. As Huck has observed, if those eight cards also ranked above all the numeral cards, as may be supposed, the resulting game would be remarkably similar to Marziano's game, except that in Marziano's game the special cards are fully-fledged trumps, able to beat the kings as well, and there are sixteen of them rather than eight. Marziano does not mention any other court cards except the kings, so it is quite possible that the sixteen "heroes" had taken the place of the other court cards, just like the eight special figures in Ingold's game. Huck also pointed out that if there had been a German deck with five court cards in each suit which had been transformed in the same manner as the Ingold deck, the result would be extremely close indeed to the Marziano game...and in the text by Johannes of Rheinfelden, we learn of a 60-card deck which did have five court cards and ten numeral cards in each suit. Not only that, but its numeral cards also depicted various occupations such as baker, miller, doctor, etc., providing yet another example of a German deck with this kind of unusual extra figures.

So it seems highly probable that the deck that Huck speculates about did in fact exist, and provided the direct model for Marziano's game. It certainly seems extremely unlikely that the basic concept of trumps would have emerged independently on both sides of the Alps at around the same time (Meister Ingold, the Sixteen Heroes, and Imperatori are all approximately contemporary, and Karnöffel could very well have existed at that time too). The German games and decks discussed here are all known from the southwest of the German-speaking world, separated only by the Alps from the areas of northern Italy where Marziano's game and Imperatori were played. So I think we can safely conclude that the trade routes over the Alps must have brought these innovative game features from one side to the other, and that it was the German side from which they originally sprang, given the sheer profusion of innovations in that region at the time. It is highly likely that the trump concept, in a primitive form, first appeared in one early game in that southwestern German area, eventually went from that game into both Meister Ingold's game and Karnöffel, and then games of that sort crossed the Alps and gave rise to the Sixteen Heroes and Imperatori in northern Italy.

So our speculation that Imperatori could have featured cards known as the Emperor, Pope, and Devil, and may have had just one emperor, not eight, rests on reasonably solid foundations. There is even a possibility that Imperatori may have been derived from a German variant of Karnöffel in which at least some of the special figures were depicted on the cards, like the special figures of Meister Ingold's game and Johannes of Rheinfelden's 60-card deck.

We also have another piece of evidence which is consistent with the idea that the Imperatori deck had only one emperor, and that is the game created by Fernando de la Torre sometime around 1450 for Mencía Enríquez de Mendoza, Countess of Castañeda in Spain. This game had one trump card, an Emperor, which was a separate card depicting the actual figure, like the trumps of Marziano and tarot. As Ross has observed, it is extremely unlikely that its creator invented the concept of trumps independently, so he probably took it from a game he had experienced while living in Florence in the early 1430s ("El Juego de naypes of Fernando de la Torre: A Fifteenth-Century Spanish Card Game," The Playing-Card 39 no. 1 (2010), p. 33). This is seems too early for tarot, but it is exactly the period when the court of Ferrara was importing Imperatori decks from Florence. So Imperatori could well have been the game that inspired Fernando de la Torre's single Emperor.

Nevertheless, the Italian game was always called Imperatori, using the plural form of the word. It is possible that there may have been only one Emperor and that the other seven special cards were called imperatori simply by pars pro toto. However, all the instances given above of pars pro toto terms in card games—the papi, the trionfi, the Sieben Könige—were all admittedly based on a plural number of the thing in question, never just one of it. The term papi in tarot must have originally referred to both the Pope and Popess together, for example. Consequently it is probable that Imperatori's single Emperor was accompanied by an Empress, and that the two of them together—the imperatori—then gave their name to the game. As noted above, the four suits of the Imperatori deck may well have included queens alongside the kings, which would have made the presence of an Empress alongside the Emperor quite natural. (Incidentally, if queens were present, then the Rothschild cards in the Louvre could be from an Imperatori deck, and it would be our only surviving example of one, in the same way as the Issy Chariot's deck could be our only surviving Petrarchan Trionfi deck.)

So it seems likely the Emperor, Empress, Pope, and Devil might all have been among the eight special cards taken from Imperatori to expand the trump sequence of the Trionfi game. But what were the other four likely to have been?

I should point out here that not all eight would necessarily have been retained in the standard set of 22 tarot trumps; one or two of them could have been replaced by other subjects in Step 3 (see below). However, let us assume for the moment that they were all retained. To identify the most likely candidates for the remaining four Imperatori cards among the standard 22 tarot trumps, we can start by noting that the four already named above have one salient feature in common, a feature that sets them apart from most of the other tarot trumps, and which they also share with the special figures of the Meister Ingold game and the 60-card deck of Johannes of Rheinfelden: They are all personages, actual beings, as opposed to allegories or abstract concepts. As it turns out, there are precisely eight such "personages" among the standard 22 tarot trumps, with the other four being the Bagatella, Popess, Hanged Man, and Fool.

I initially had my doubts about the Popess, but she could well have been in the Imperatori deck, especially given that the Empress was very likely to be there. She actually fits very well with the notorious carnivalesque irreverence of the German game, in which the Devil could beat the Pope and low numeral cards could beat the kings and Emperor too. Moreover, papal prestige was never lower than in the first decades of the 15th century, the climax of the Great Schism, so it is entirely believable that people at that time would have created a figure implying gentle mockery of the pope. She could have been added in either Germany or Italy, with the Italian game no doubt retaining something of the essential irreverence of its German parent.

The other three tarot personages, the Fool, Hanged Man, and Bagatella, all seem like perfect candidates for Imperatori cards. For one of them, the Fool, we have a hint that such a card may have existed in the German Karnöffel game too: Meissner's poem contains a line that appears to refer to a character called "Heintz eff mich" ("Heintz make-a-fool-of-me") which could be one of the cards in the game. "Heinz" is a name that appears to have been associated in Germany in the 15th century with the figure of the Fool (see the discussion here). The role of the Fool in the tarot game is certainly broadly in keeping with the kind of functions the special cards had in Karnöffel: It was like a trump in that it could not normally be won by other cards in tricks, but at the same time it did not have the power to take any other cards. This is a little like the Devil in Karnöffel, which could never beat any of the other cards unless it was led to a trick, in which case it beat everything except the Karnöffel (and in some variants of the game, seemingly the Karnöffel too).

The variants of Karnöffel in Germany are full of these kinds of specific rules governing the powers of each of the game's special cards. This is what makes me think that the Hanged Man, too, could easily have been an Imperatori card. In Italian, it was usually known as il Traditore, the Traitor (note that it was not called Treachery: it was a Karnöffel-style personage, not an allegory of an abstract concept). This name sounds like it too could have had some special power in Imperatori, not unlike that of the Karnöffel Devil, a power which enabled it to beat high-ranking cards under certain specific circumstances.

Finally, there is the Bagatella. What makes this card in particular seem very likely to have been an Imperatori card is the fact that it is the only trump in the tarot sequence whose name seems to have been chosen solely because of the card's function in the game: It was the lowest ranking trump, and so it was called Bagatella, meaning trifle, thing of little value. The figure that was then actually depicted on the Bagatella card seems to have been chosen based on wordplay: It is a fast-talking street magician or juggler, which was another meaning of the word in the first half of the 15th century (see discussion here). This use of the word's double meaning thus looks like an ingenious solution by the card designer to the challenge of creating an image for a figure whose name referred only to its function. If the card's name was not originally associated with a particular character or being and referred only to its function, this makes it very likely to have derived from a game like Karnöffel originally, where the special cards were simply regular suit cards that were given special names and functions in the game, but did not show the named figure on the card itself. In other words, the Bagatella probably started its life simply as a numeral card that was assigned the function of being the lowest-ranking trump in the Imperatori trump sequence. At some stage, the decision was made to create a special dedicated card for it with a figure painted on it, like the other special cards.[1] It is at that stage that the figure of the street trickster would have been created, as a pictorial representation chosen to match its (originally) purely functional name.

In the history of the German Karnöffel game, there is a direct parallel to the Bagatella name. A satirical poem from 1537 contains the earliest known mention of the name "fauler Fritz" ("lazy Fritz"). In a later variant of the game, all of the lower court cards in the non-trump suits were called "fauler Fritz" because they were usually kept in reserve by the players until the last stages of the game, after all the trump cards had been played (see Rudolf von Leyden, Karnöffel: das Kartenspiel der Landsknechte. Seine Geschichte vom 15. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart, Munich: Heimeran, 1978, pp. 21 and 25). In the poem from 1537, the name appears to refer to just one card, apparently a low-ranking trump, capable of beating only the numeral cards, not the court cards; this trump would presumably have been likewise kept back until the last tricks of the game. In other words, the name "fauler Fritz" was probably given to the lowest trump in the Karnöffel sequence in some early versions of the game because of its low trump power—exactly like the name Bagatella in tarot.

The merger of the Imperatori cards with the Trionfi trumps could have happened in either Florence or Milan. But if it happened in Milan, it probably wasn't done at the ducal court, but rather by someone in the city. I say this because the addition of the Imperatori cards completely disrupts the elegance of the symmetrical Petrarchan 14-card sequence, so it seems unlikely that they would have been added by the same people who created that Petrarchan sequence, and I am assuming that those people were at the ducal court (for the reasons outlined above in Step 1). If we further assume that the changes then made to the merged Trionfi sequence in Step 3 were done by the same people who added the Imperatori cards, it becomes even less likely that the same people could have been responsible for the original Petrarchan deck: see Step 3 below for further discussion of this point. So it is very likely that neither Step 2 or Step 3 happened at the court of Filippo Maria Visconti, and it is quite possible that they occurred in either the city of Milan or in Florence.

The expansion of the Trionfi deck to include the Imperatori cards probably happened quite soon after the Petrarchan Trionfi game arrived in Florence, because no evidence at all of that earlier game survives from that city—so if my hypothesis is correct, then the 14-trump Petrarchan game could have been ousted in Florence by the expanded Trionfi game in less than a year, most likely by some time in 1439. The original Petrarchan game probably held on somewhat longer at the ducal court of Milan, but no later than the mid-1440s. However, it appears to have survived for considerably longer at the Ferrarese court, until at least 1457. The court of Ferrara also continued playing Imperatori as a separate game until at least 1452 (see Ortalli, "The Prince and the playing cards," p. 188).

[1] : This may have happened in the evolution of Imperatori, or it might only have happened when Imperatori's special cards were adopted into the tarot deck. As suggested above, it's possible that only some of the "VIII Imperatori" were actually depicted on dedicated cards. Some may have remained regular suit cards that had their roles assigned to them at the start of the game, as in Karnöffel, and the Bagatella might have been one of those. In some later variants of the Karnöffel game (see Rudolf von Leyden, Karnöffel: das Kartenspiel der Landsknechte, pp. 24-29), some of the trumps became fixed cards; to quote the example of the Thuringian game, the 8 of Leaves, 9 of Hearts, and 9 of Bells were always trumps, while the other trumps were from whatever suit was randomly selected as the trump suit at the start of the game. So a similar development might have occurred in Imperatori, with the fixed trumps becoming special cards depicting the named figures, while the variable trumps remained ordinary suit cards.

Re: The 14 + 8 theory

[Part Four of Five]


The prices recorded in the archives of the Ferrarese court for the Imperatori decks purchased in the 1440s were quite low, so the game was presumably popular across several social classes, not just among highly educated aristocrats. Adding its cards to the Trionfi deck would have therefore not only made the Trionfi game more enjoyable by increasing the number of its trumps, it would have also roused the interest of a lot of people who had probably hardly heard of Petrarch, let alone his Trionfi poems (and would not have been able to read them even if they had). Such people may have wanted to play this Trionfi game now, but would have found it extremely difficult to remember the ranking of the Petrarchan cards and the virtues. They would have been unable even to identify some of Petrarch's Triumphs on the cards, and the sequence of those Triumphs would have been utterly opaque to them; as for the virtues, only the theologicals had any generally accepted ranking at all, and even that would have been unfamiliar to less educated people who were not intimately acquainted with the exact wording of the Latin scripture (fides, spes, caritas [...] maior horum est caritas).

So shortly after the addition of the Imperatori cards, changes would have been made to the trump order, by replacing some of the trumps from the original Petrarchan deck with subjects that were much easier to recognize and to rank, and by reshaping the entire sequence in a way which made it more intuitive to the less educated, but which paid far less regard to Petrarch's poem cycle and his ranking of his six Triumphs. The result was no longer very Petrarchan, but was evidently very successful, with the game spreading throughout society and then throughout all of Italy and beyond.

The changes that I think were made are as follows:

- The two chariot cards were reduced to just one, which became known simply as the "Triumphal Chariot" with no manifest allegorical significance other than Triumph itself. The two chariot cards were probably somewhat confusing in terms of ease of recognition, because both would have shown female figures with an object in each hand riding a chariot drawn by two horses. But they would also have been confusing in terms of their ranking, because both were Petrarchan Triumphs and therefore their ranking was obvious only to those familiar with the poem cycle. So they were cut down to one, which occupied the rank formerly held by Chastity (just above Love, separated from it only by one or more of the virtues, or by nothing at all), but with its imagery based on either one chariot card or the other, or some combination of both of them, seemingly according to the preferences of the various designers at the time: Some early "Triumphal Chariot" cards show a charioteer holding a scepter and orb (the scepter presumably derived from Chastity's wand and the orb coming from Fame) while others were based more strongly on the earlier Fame card, with the figure holding both the sword and the orb. (The Issy Chariot could in fact therefore either be a Fame card from an earlier 14-trump Petrarchan deck, or a "Triumphal Chariot" card from a standard 22-trump deck, with the sword and orb taken from Fame but the figure's female entourage taken from Chastity.)

- The makers of the modified deck did not wish to reduce the total number of trumps, so they added a new one to replace the lost chariot card; the card most likely to have been added is probably the Wheel of Fortune, which occupies a position roughly in the vicinity of where Fame would have been, around the middle of the trump sequence. The Wheel of Fortune seems to have been put in 11th position originally, exactly in the center of the sequence. This must have seemed perfectly intuitive, with the Wheel forming the "hub" around which the rest of the sequence revolves. But it is of course completely wrong from the perspective of the earlier Petrarchan deck for Fortune to outrank cards like Justice or Chastity. Like all these changes, it indicates a distinct lack of regard for the former Petrarchan sequence on the part of the makers of the modified deck.

- The seven virtues of the Petrarchan deck were reduced to just three. As noted above, the virtues must have been particularly challenging to the less educated players. Not only did such players have no intuitive way of ranking them, but the virtues also would have all looked quite similar, making them even more confusing. As Michael Dummett wrote in The Game of Tarot (p. 388), "in a pack of cards what is essential is that each card may be instantly identified; so one does not want a large number of rather similar figures, especially before it occurred to anyone to put numerals on the trump cards for ease of identification." The first step was probably the replacement of the three theological virtues by the Sun, Moon, and Star, which must have seemed an enormous improvement: The new cards were immediately and easily identifiable by the image of each celestial body near the top of the card, and their ranking could not have been simpler or more obvious. As noted above, the theological virtues had probably been immediately below the Last Judgment and the World, i.e. the two cards of the Triumph of Eternity (which was entirely devoted to God and Heaven and was sometimes even called the Triumph of Divinity). Those modifying the order, however, evidently interpreted the World card as our own earthly world rather than Petrarch's eternal "new world" of Heaven, and added the Sun, Moon, and Star to create a cosmological quartet. It is likely that the World was demoted to second-highest trump at this time, and the Last Judgment promoted to become the last trump in the sequence, as its name must have suggested it should be; the Sun, Moon, and Star would then have been placed in their most logical position directly below World. This matches the earliest trump order known from Florence, and it is quite possible that Steps 2 and 3 took place in that city: see below for more on this point.

- Another virtue, Prudence, was also removed. It is less clear what her replacement is most likely to have been, but the Tower seems the best candidate. I think the Tower was probably added when those modifying the sequence realized that there was no obvious reason why the Star, Moon, and Sun should triumph over the Devil. I am assuming that the Devil was immediately below those cards in the ranking at the time, because that position would have made perfect sense when the theological virtues were still there: Faith would have been the lowest of the three, and it would have been perfect for Faith to triumph over the Devil. But it made no sense at all for the Star. So I think the Tower card, representing something like the Wrath of God and taking its inspiration directly from the Book of Revelation (especially 20:7-10), was added primarily to have something there that could suitably triumph over the Devil. And because the makers of the deck were unwilling to place a greater burden on the players' memories by adding any more cards to the sequence, they removed yet another virtue to balance out this addition. This was no doubt viewed as an ideal solution, because it made the order more logical while also eliminating another of those confusing virtues at the same time.

- The ranking of Time and Death was changed. In the Petrarchan order, Death ranks below both Time and Fame, but the order was now changed so that Time was just above the Wheel of Fortune, and Death was two positions higher, just after the Traitor. I think this change was primarily motivated by the ranking of the latter. I suspect there was a keen desire to have the Traitor at position 13, because of an association with Judas, viewed as the 13th attendee at the Last Supper (see Ross's blog post here).[1] No doubt it was felt to be quite wrong for the Traitor to triumph over Death, so if the Traitor was placed at 13, then Death had to be moved up so that it triumphed over the Traitor instead. In yet another sign of disregard for the Petrarchan ranking, no such need was felt to also move Time to a more appropriate position, so it ended up lower than both Death and the Traitor.
Incidentally, the placement of the Traitor in position 13, which was followed in later years by various modifications of the trump order to assign that number to Death instead, is the earliest indication we have of any negative superstition associated with the number 13. As Ross said in his blog post, this is probably because it was a popular belief, not shared by the educated classes, who seem to have had positive associations with the number, if anything. It is not until 1584 that we find any direct evidence of triskaidekaphobia among the literate classes. This can be taken as further evidence that this series of modifications to the trump order was made for the benefit of relatively uneducated people.

By now, it is no doubt quite clear why I am of the view that the people responsible for Step 1 could not also have been responsible for Steps 2 and 3. Not only were those who produced the standard 22-trump sequence completely uninterested in the elegant symmetry of seven virtues and seven Petrarchan Triumph cards, they also do not seem to have cared about what some of the Petrarchan cards signified, nor what sequence Petrarch had put them in: They saw the World as earthly rather than heavenly, they felt no need to have Chastity or Fame in the sequence at all and reduced them both to a single "Triumphal Chariot," and they did not bother to ensure that Time came after Death. By contrast, they evidently were quite concerned to link the Traitor to the number 13, something which the highly educated creators of the earlier 14-trump Petrarchan deck would have no doubt regarded as uninteresting at best, and possibly as completely inappropriate.

Therefore it is quite possible that Steps 2 and 3 could have taken place in the city of Florence; I certainly do not think they could have taken place at the court of Filippo Maria Visconti (or any other aristocratic court, for that matter). But while we can rule out the court of Milan, there is nevertheless a possibility that they happened in the city of Milan, among the common people there.

The strongest argument in favor of Florence for Steps 2 and 3 is the sequence of the top five trumps in the Florentine trump order. As noted above, the earliest known Florentine order places the Last Judgment in the last (highest) position, above World, Sun, Moon, and Star. This seems the most likely order for these trumps to have been given at the time when the Sun, Moon, and Star were added to the deck.

In Milan and Ferrara, on the other hand, the top two trumps in the 22-card sequence occupied the same positions as they would have in the hypothetical earlier 14-trump deck. If Florence were the origin of the 22-trump sequence, then we could hypothesize that when Milan and Ferrara adopted the new expanded deck, they refused to accept the change to those top two trumps. An analogous refusal occurred in Piedmont when the Tarot de Marseille decks were introduced there: Piedmontese players, who had previously used a trump order with the Last Judgment as the highest card and the World as the second highest, steadfastly refused to accept any change to the ranking of those top two trumps, even though this required them to ignore the actual numbers written on the cards themselves. So it is not hard to imagine something very similar happening in Milan and Ferrara in the mid-15th century, when there were no numbers on the cards at all. The most likely scenario here is that the expanded deck went from Florence to Milan or Ferrara initially, then the people in that city (whichever of the two it was) swapped the top two trumps and also altered the ranking of the virtues,[2] and then the expanded deck with that altered order went from that city—Milan or Ferrara—to the other of those two cities. This would explain why the earliest trump orders from Milan and Ferrara are closer to each other than they are to that of Florence.

Other, somewhat weaker arguments in favor of Florence here:

- Florence was a major card-making center, exporting to other cities including Milan and Ferrara. This would have assisted in the spread of the 22-card deck to those other cities, although it doesn't fit quite as well with the idea that the deck went to Ferrara via Milan rather than directly from Florence. In any case, Florence certainly seems to have been the location from which tarot spread to most of Italy (starting around 1450) and its large card-making industry was no doubt an important factor in that.

- Ferrara used cards with trump designs in the Florentine style. This can be seen in the "Este" deck from 1473. The easiest way to explain this is that the 22-trump deck reached Ferrara directly from Florence, but again that doesn't fit with the scenario of the deck spreading to Ferrara via Milan as described above. But it's possible that Ferrara initially had a Milanese-style 22-trump deck which was then replaced by a Florentine-style one, either imported directly from Florence or from the nearby city of Bologna. We know that the Ferrarese court imported cards from Florence on several occasions, and Bologna and Ferrara influenced each other's playing-card traditions in many ways over the years, so this is certainly plausible.

The arguments in favor of the city of Milan for Steps 2 and 3 can be summarized as follows:

- The scenario described above to explain why Milan and Ferrara had similar trump orders is somewhat complicated and messy. A simpler and more elegant explanation would be that the 22-trump deck originated in Milan and went from there to both Ferrara and Florence, and its trump order was then altered in Florence before the deck then spread from Florence to many other regions.

- The earliest known Milanese designs for a few of the cards in the 22-trump deck look like they could be closer to the "original" designs than those known from the Florentine tradition. The Sun, Moon, and Star of the Visconti Sforza deck are considerably closer in their general design to the theological virtues (as seen in the Visconti di Modrone deck, for example) than are the Sun, Moon, and Star of the Florentine decks. The Milanese versions of these three subjects were also evidently designed as allegorical figures, very much like the many other allegorical figures in the trump sequence: Moon and Star are represented by female figures, because their names in Italian are female (Luna, Stella), while the Sun shows a male figure, because the Italian name is masculine (Sole). All three are shown holding the celestial body which identifies them, in exactly the same way as the other allegorical figures hold symbolic objects which identify them. The Florentine designs simply show the celestial body at the top of the card (which is also where it is on the Milanese cards) with an appropriate tableau below. The Florentine designs are arguably more attractive and more interesting, and that fact plus the similarity of the Milanese designs to the other trumps (both to the other allegorical figures in general and also to the theological virtues which these three cards presumably replaced) suggests that the Milanese type of design was the original, which was then altered for aesthetic reasons in Florence.
The Popess is another card where the Visconti Sforza card looks more "original" than any Popess cards from regions influenced by Florence: The Visconti Sforza card is the only Popess who looks like her designers had someone specific in mind when they created her. The cards from the Florentine tradition simply show a generic figure who is almost indistinguishable from the Pope. Furthermore, the Florentines seem to have been by far the earliest to remove the Popess from the deck—they did so before the end of the 15th century—so one may well wonder if they would really have been the ones who added her in the first place, just a few decades before.

I'll conclude my discussion of Step 3 with a few remarks on the spread of the 22-trump deck. It must have spread initially among the three cities where the 14-trump version was already being played, and which were therefore naturally more receptive to it, before spreading—mainly from Florence—to many other cities and regions, starting with the period of relatively rapid expansion around 1450 which has been termed the "tarot explosion." There are a couple of points to make here:

- There is nothing to suggest that tarot was played in Bologna before the "tarot explosion." Bologna has sometimes been presented as one of the "four early centers" of tarot, but there is really no evidence to justify categorizing it together with Milan, Florence, and Ferrara in this way. Indeed, the fact that the Bolognese order and the Bolognese trump designs were closely related to those of Florence, whereas the trump order in Ferrara was quite different and much closer to that of Milan, strongly suggests that tarot reached Ferrara some time before it reached Bologna (whether from Milan or from Florence).

- The court of Filippo Maria Visconti must have adopted the 22-trump deck relatively early, within a few years of its creation. If my suppositions are correct regarding when particular cards were added to the deck, both the Brera Brambilla deck and the Visconti di Modrone deck must have been based on the 22-trump deck. However, the latter contains several elements that indicate that Filippo Maria had not entirely embraced the modified 22-trump sequence. The three theological virtues were present in the Visconti di Modrone deck, which suggests that
(a) the Sun, Moon, and Star were probably not in it, and
(b) Prudence probably was in it, instead of or in addition to the Tower.
Also, the surviving Chariot card in the Visconti di Modrone is very clearly still the Triumph of Chastity, whereas no other Chariot cards are known to have preserved that image. Given that Chastity was still present, it is quite possible that Fame was too, as a second "chariot" card. However, the presence of a trumpet of Fame on the World card in this deck could mean that Filippo Maria had reconciled himself to the elimination of the Triumph of worldly Fame and was content to compensate by adding the element of heavenly fame to the Triumph of Eternity (he may have been loathe to mess around too much with the 22-trump sequence that everyone else was using).

[1] : My views on this point have evolved considerably from my earlier post on this topic here.

[2] : In an earlier post, I postulated a reconstructed original order for the virtues as follows: 6. Temperance 7. Love 8. Justice 9. Chariot 10. Fortitude; in a Florentine-origin scenario, this order would be original only to Milan and Ferrara, not Florence. The earliest known orders for Milan and Ferrara adhere to this order except that at some stage Milan promoted Temperance to the upper end of the trump order while Ferrara did the same to Justice. But in the earliest known Florentine order, and the orders used in all regions whose tarot traditions can definitely be traced back to Florence, all three virtues are clustered together, either between Love and Chariot or to one side of that pair. If Florence was the origin of the 22-trump deck, then we could hypothesize that the order of the virtues in that deck was originally 6. Love 7. Temperance 8. Justice 9. Fortitude 10. Chariot. This order then goes to Milan where the virtues get spaced out as above, and then that order goes to Ferrara. Some years after that, Milan and Ferrara promote Temperance and Justice respectively (and Florence meanwhile swaps the ranking of Justice and Fortitude, making Justice the highest in the cluster).

Re: The 14 + 8 theory

[Part Five of Five]


The difficulty with this theory is obviously the lack of direct evidence. We can't be certain exactly what was in the Imperatori deck. Even worse, we have no records that refer to two different types of Trionfi decks with different trump sequences—not even from Ferrara, where the court should have been aware of the existence of both of them for several years, and where we have a substantial number of surviving court records. On the other hand, our documentary evidence for the earliest years is still extremely sketchy in general. There are only a very few documentary references of any kind at all, especially for the years before about 1445. Moreover, in my hypothesis, the 14-trump game would not have been played for long anywhere except the ducal courts of Ferrara and Milan, so we would be lucky to find direct evidence of it anywhere else. And from those two courts, we do appear to have a little evidence of it (namely the record of the 70-card deck from Ferrara, and (less directly) the Visconti di Modrone deck and Issy Chariot from Milan).

Ultimately all of this is, of course, quite extravagant speculation on the shakiest of foundations; the discovery of a single card or one brief historical record could bring down the whole house of cards (as it were) in an instant. And there are bound to be some obvious points that I have overlooked, or things that will occur to me and cause my ideas to evolve further. But at the moment, this the best explanation of the observed facts that I can come up with.

UPDATE: I have now added an update to this post here.

Re: The 14 + 8 theory

There you have a lot of stuff .... :-)

Well, I give you some info.
A 5x14-theory developed in May 1989 within 3 weeks.
In the period 1989 till 2001 it was communicated to Detlev Hoffmann (telephone), Michael Dummett (letters), Stuart Kaplan (personal contact at Frankfurt book fair and then letter), Bob O'Neill (Internet). The reactions were so, that they were not really interested.
The theory was based only on the study of Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo-Tarocchi and the observation, that there were 2 painters, not on the two 70-cards decks, which were noted in the Ortalli article of 1996 (found by Francesschini in the Este archives). Franco Pratesi had noted the 70 cards mentioned by Ortalli in one sentence in one of his articles. As it seemed later, none of the members of IPCS reacted on this. Contact was made to Franco Pratesi, as one Tarot internet article had the information, that Franco Pratesi had found the original document of Marziano and the Marcello letter to the Queen of Lorraine. The email address of Franco was found in the web and this contact was very positive. Not that Franco accepted the 5x14-theory, but he did send via post mail a lot of material of his work, between in it naturally the material to the Michelino deck, but also his article, which contained the sentence about the 70 cards note.
An address of Ortalli was found and a mail caused, that we got a free Ludica edition of 1996. With the 70 cards note. With a lot of other material, which wasn't really received by the IPCS before. And this was material new to the whole web, that existed in this period ... Internet was still at an early development stage . Additionally we found a note about a present to Bianca Maria in Ferrara at 1.1.1441 (which possibly might be an early Trionfi card note).

That was 2003 and we founded a new email-list LTarot (focussed on the first 50 years of Trionfi and earlier) and formed first websites, between them - Oldest Tarot cards (Michelino deck) - Ferrara articles - 5x14-theory .... article of 2003 to the 5x14-theory

LTarot was given up in 2005 and we went more or less to at Aeclectic. Then at 2008 this forum developed.

In the early time of our research it wasn't so clear, how much Trionfi cards were produced in the early years of the Trionfi cards. With the Pratesi and Esch researches it became clear, that there were much cards and that Florence had a state of "very important". In 2003 was that not clear, only Franco Pratesi had the confidence, that Florence played a key role.


The 5x14-theory had its importance in 2003, cause Dummett, Decker, Depaulis had given the authoritative statement, that the deck with 22 special cards had become the dominating version in 1450, which was definitely nonsense. "A Wicked Pack of Cards: Origins of the Occult Tarot"
Michael Dummett, Ronald Decker, Thierry Depaulis, Bloomsbury Academic, 05.12.1996
"But the Tarot pack had certainly been standardised, as regards the number and identity of the cards, by 1450: the archtypical form was that which resulted from that standardisation."
The first clear deck with 22 special cards is the Boiardo Tarocchi poem, which I personally would give for special reasons to 1486/87, and the next is the Soila-Busca Tarocchi with the prefered date of 1491. In this context it's possible, that the "22" was chosen by the close relationship to Pico de Mirandola (younger cousin to Boiardo), who published his work about Kabbala in Dezember 1986.

Pratesi's sentence ...
3.2. Tractatus De Deificatione Sexdecim Heroum
The pack was painted for Filippo Maria Visconti by Michelino but the actual treatise was written
by Marziano da Tortona in the 1410s. This case is unique among the several indicated here − the
connection with tarot is not a speculative one: we are in the presence of the earliest tarot pack or at
least a quasi-tarot pack6, here both book and cards are real, even though somewhat out of the
ordinary and deserve further comment. We have sixteen personages, all gods or mythological
personages, which are originally structured: they belong to four suits; however, their hierarchical
order is not dictated by these suits, but proceeds continuously across them. We can thus forget that
there are four groups of four cards and consider the set as a new series of orderly triumphs
increasing in power from 1 to 16.
We have here a systematic set, but it does not cover the whole standard series of tarot 0-21
triumphs. The six lacking cards could not be added by following the same scheme because it is not
possible to add three halves of court cards to each suit. The overall correspondence with the
standard sequence is not yet satisfactory, but this source-book may provide an explanation for the
manner in which the triumphal cards were inserted into the pack7. We can think of several evolution
steps leading to tarot. For instance, eight emperors added as higher courts; a different pack with a
fifth suit consisting of ten pips and eight higher cards; four of the higher cards entering among the
standard courts; a temporary pack consisting of five suits of 14 cards each; the addition to the latter
of another set of eight major triumphs. The fact is that initial packs of 70 cards are documented (Footnote 8), as
well as the peculiar Marziano series of 16 personages.

Footnote 8: G.Ortalli, Ludica, 2 (1996) 175-205.
Kaplan's note, Tarot Encyclopedia I, page 106
The Artists
There have been attempts to identify painters of the differentVisconti-Sforza Tarocchi cards. It is possible that the incomplete 74-card Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo pack, the 67-card Cary-Yale pack and possibly the 48-card Gallery pack were rendered by the same hand, with the exception of the six replacement cards in the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo deck.
The info appeared also in the single card discussion of the PMB.


You wrote:
Tarot was known as Trionfi for the first half-century of its life. The first reference we have to the Trionfi deck is from 1440. The subjects of Petrarch's six poems are the Triumphs of Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time, and Eternity, in that order. The standard tarot trumps include easily recognizable depictions of three of these: Love, Death, and Time. They also include the Last Judgment, which is mentioned in the Eternity poem. The subjects of the remaining two poems appear on early hand-painted cards from Milan: Chastity is clearly depicted on the Chariot card of the Visconti di Modrone deck, while the Issy Chariot card looks very much like a depiction of Fame.
This was discussed in October 2016

Fame appeared occasionally as Justice and with that all 6 Petrarca triumphs are inside the 14 cards of PMB.

assumed row of PMB-1
1 Magician
2 Papessa
3 Empress
4 Emperor
5 Pope
6 Love Petrarca-1
7 Chariot as Chastity Petrarca-2
8 Fame as Justice Petrarca-4
9 Father Time as Hermit Petrarca-5
10 Wheel
11 Fool
12 Hanging Man
13 Death Petrarca-3
14 Judgment as Eternity Petrarca 6


Re: The 14 + 8 theory

Huck was simply giving the reader some background material, as he has done much work in the past in favor of 14 trumps at one point in the tarot's development, often not received well. Normally, in published writing, one credits one's predecessors for their contributions, and you did not do so. That's fine here, because we're just kicking around ideas, and he can add his. But the reader who is not aware of what has come before does need to know about it. Compared to many other hypotheses, the differences between yours and what he has presented is not so great, at least in regard to the Cary-Yale and Ferrara. But you have elaborated a more detailed proposal in certain regards.

You are both advancing proposals and trying to defend them against other ideas, in a detailed way. For that to be persuasive, it needs to be weighed against other proposals. I, too, have made proposals, and they have much similarity to, but also differences from, yours. In the next few days, hopefully, I will try to write something about mine vs. yours, and maybe, who knows, I will modify mine (I have done so in the past!). This one is certainly worthy of serious consideration.

Re: The 14 + 8 theory

mikeh wrote: 10 Mar 2022, 15:18 Huck was simply giving the reader some background material, as he has done much work in the past in favor of 14 trumps at one point in the tarot's development, often not received well. Normally, in published writing, one credits one's predecessors for their contributions, and you did not do so.
I'm not sure that I was actually even aware that Huck was the first to propose the 5x14 idea... There has been so much discussion of it on this forum that it was not clear to me that it had originated with him, or anyone else exactly. He did not even claim that honor in his post above in this thread, because he expressed himself in the impersonal third person, but yes, I think his words mean that he was the inventor of the idea. So you're right, he does deserve credit for that, if he was the first to put that idea forward, because that did influence my thinking.

But my ideas about 5x14 actually have very little in common with Huck's. The only thing we have in common in that regard is that we both think the 70-card deck in Ferrara had a 5x14 structure. We disagree completely about why it had that structure, and what trumps it would have had.

We disagree even more about the Visconti di Modrone deck (the Cary Yale) because I think that deck must have had at least 22 trumps. See Part Four above, where I say that I think both the Brera Brambilla and Visconti di Modrone must have been based on the 22-trump deck. By that I meant that they both contain cards like the Emperor and the Wheel of Fortune, so they must date from after the merger of the Imperatori cards and the Petrarchan cards (according to my hypothesis). I think the Visconti court modified the standard 22-card sequence to restore some of the elements from the Petrarchan deck which had been removed by the creator of the 22-trump deck, but otherwise I don't think the Visconti court's Trionfi at that time would have been enormously different from Trionfi in Florence.

I very much agree with those who think the standard 22-trump deck must have been in existence by 1450. Indeed, I think it is most likely that it existed by 1440 and that Sigismondo Malatesta's deck was of that standard 22-trump type.

But it would be possible to come up with a variant of my hypothesis in which the Visconti di Modrone and Brera Brambilla decks were created after Step 2 but before Step 3, or at least before some of the changes in Step 3 at any rate. And one could easily speculate that Malatesta's deck could have been some version like that, or perhaps even the 14-trump Petrarchan version (i.e. Step 1 only, not even Step 2). But none of that is essential to my theory.

Re: The 14 + 8 theory

I'm not sure that I was actually even aware that Huck was the first to propose the 5x14 idea.
.... :-) ... so it was probably okay, that I gave you some information. Some of the members here know each other about nearly 20 years. It's clear, that somebody, who is new, cannot grab each detail of the past.

Everybody has the right on his own opinion. Perhaps we can agree, that ,,,

A 5x13 deck was described by John of Rheinfelden. Some believe, that JvR wrote 1377 and others, that he possibly wrote 1429. It's naturally possible, that players defined one of the 5 suits as a trump suit (if they already had card games, which used trumping as an idea). Well, we don't know this for sure. Naturally it would be also possible, that a region like Italy might have prefered 4 court cards instead of 3 and would have had 5x14 decks instead of 5x13. JvR knew versions with 3 or 5 court cards, I think, also a deck with 4 court cards wouldn't have surprized Johannes.
In the general consideration one might think about deck structures and find to the conclusion, that a deck with 4x13 + 85 trumps is less likely than a deck with
4x13 + 42 trumps, a deck with 4x13 +22 is more likely than a deck with 4+13 + 23 trumps and a deck 4x13 + 13 trumps is actually the most probable to develop in the reality of 14th century. A 5x14 deck is a little less probable than 5x13 deck, okay, but definitely it should have had also a preferred role, probably not the first place, but second or any other good position in the first 10 should be given.
Likely a 5x16 deck would be also more popular (or earlier) than a 4x14+22. The 14th century is definitely a time, when chess was very popular. Chess is played with 16 figure for each player.
Well, do you agree to this point?

We have 3 times the appearance of a 14 in the Trionfi documents.
1. The 1.1.1441 document, 14 pictures for Bianka Maria.
2. The 14 trump cards of the first painter of the PMB (1452 is assumed).
3. The 70 cards note (1457 Ferrara).

We have 3 times the number 16 ...
1. The Michelino deck, 16 gods (1418-25)
2. 16 cards in each suit of the Cary-Yale, possibly 16 trumps inside a chess concept (estimated around 1441)
3. 16 trump cards from totally 17 in the Charles VI, also possibly 16 Trionfi cards inside a chess concept (estimated around 1463)

We have 3 times the number 20
1. 14+6 in the trump cards of PMB (?)
2. a 4x20 in the Minchiate game structure (?)
3. a 4x20 in the structure of the very popular lot book of Lorenzo Spirito (1482)

We have 3 times the number 22
1. Pico de Mirandola writes Kabbala book (published Dezember 1486)
2. Boiardo Tarocchi poem probably for the wedding of Lucrezia d'Este (January 1486)
3. Sola Busca Tarocchi in 1491 Venice

Agreement to some points? Disagreement? Any questions ?

My disagreement:
You wrote:
- The Ferrarese record from 1441 regarding the XIIII figure says they were sent to Bianca Maria Visconti, who was staying at the Ferrarese court at the time. This suggests that she may have introduced the Ferrarese court to the Petrarchan Trionfi game, created at her father's court in Milan.
This was, what we had.:
1441 [1st of January payment to Sagramoro for painting "14 figure"]:
E adi deto (1 gennaio) lire due, soldi cinque marchesani, contanti a Magistro Iacopo de Sagramoro depintore per XIIII figure depinte in carta de bambaxo et mandate a Madama Bianca da Milano per fare festa la scira de la Circumcisione de l'anno presente... L.II.V.
Preliminary translation (by Ross Gregory Caldwell)
"And on the said day (1 January) two lire, five soldi marchesane, reckoned to Maestro Jacopo de Sagramoro, painter, for 14 figures painted on cotton paper and sent to Lady Bianca of Milan, to make festive the celebration of the Circumcision of the present year ... L. II. V."
The text was taken from Francesschini.

The notes "they [the 14 pictures] were sent to Bianca Maria Visconti" and "This suggests that she may have introduced the Ferrarese court to the Petrarchan Trionfi game, created at her father's court in Milan." looks to me like a bad confusing fiction.
Sagramoro, the painter, got his money from the Ferrarese court, not from Milan. He lived in Ferrara, not in Milan. As far I remember, there was no other document, that gave attention to this action "14 pictures".
What we added by other information was, that the 1st of January generally was used for gaming and gambling. So "something with playing cards" at this day was natural. Information to this theme was given in reports of Galeazzo Maria Sforza's biography, Lubkin was the name of the writer, I remember. We added also details of the journey to Ferrara, taken from Pizzagalli.
Possibly there was some confusion caused by Wikipedia articles. Sometimes information is changed by others.
As long Franco Pratesi hadn't made the research to Trionfi documents in Florence (2011-13) there was the justified opinion, that the Trionfi development came either from Milan or Ferrara. Ferrara had the oldest documents, Milan had the oldest decks. So the idea, that Bianca Maria eventually brought some knowledge about Trionfi decks to Ferrara was possible. But it was not possible, that Bianca Maria got cards from Milan during her stay in Ferrara. Sagramoro was a Ferrarese artist.

My disagreement ...
It's likely not a good strategy to post 5 articles with much pages at one moment. At least this is not a good strategy if you desire an answer. The reader (at least me) is "überfordert".

... :-)