Re: The Fool

I need to correct something I said a few posts back, at the end of viewtopic.php?f=23&t=383&start=80#p9705. I said:
This alchemical interpretation is the only one I can think of that unites the various details in all three Fool cards (adding the Noblet) in one coherent allegory. I think that the PMB Fool card ( ... vegni1.jpg, with Giotto's) says the same thing in Christian terms. That one is the Fool who dies at Carnival and is reborn, after seven weeks of putrefaction (the seven feathers in his hair), at Easter.
After re-reading Moakley (The Tarot Cards Painted by Bonifacio Bembo) and some other literature, I have to take back what I said about the PMB Fool card. That one, with the feathers on his head, is the personification of Lent, not the King of Carnival. The Giotto is a representation of him in his foolishness, preaching to the crowds from the sidelines at Carnival, about how they will burn in Hell unless they stop their materialistic excesses. Meanwhile he has a pot-belly himself. Here are both of them.


Moakley (p. 115) thinks that the protrusion indicates pregnancy; well, that is another meaning to this polysemous image, that he bears within himself the Resurrection, but not the primary one; I agree with Andrew Ladis, in "The Legend of Giotto's Wit and the Arena Chapel" in The Cambridge Companion to Giotto (at ... it&f=false, go to "contents" and then p. 225). He says.
Stultitia (Fig. 46) is a dumpy oaf who perches on a low rock and raises a heavy club to the heavens as he lets out a tongue-wrench screech. Spherical objects, probably stones, hang from an engirdling belt as thick as his wrist and keep this dodo on the ground. Like an exotic, avian prince, he sports a crown of bells and feathers and wears rags that trail behind him in a mock-elegant train. In the trecento, bloated, barefooted, would-be birds like this were a source of laughter.
Ladis has three long footnotes justifying this interpretation further (18, 19, and 20, on p. 289-290 of The Cambridge Companion to Giotto), but I think you get the general idea. He does not relate the image to Carnival; that is Moakley's idea (p. 114), and it is a good one.

However the PMB Fool has no paunch; in fact he looks emaciated. He is more an object of pathos than of pretentiousness. It is a different representation of Lent. He is someone who through foolishness, either natural mental retardation or acquired in the course of an arrogant and ignorant life, is involuntarily in the state that other people affect voluntarily during Lent. He is the Fool as penitent. And if he is truly penitent, and follows the lessons of the 21 numbered trumps of the tarot, perhaps he will be reborn at Easter.

The personification of Lent, on some accounts (, was burned in effigy on the evening of Easter Saturday, when the Lenten fast is broken. Other accounts have that figure as Death or Judas. During Lent, Moakley says, Lent's feathers "are pulled off one by one as the weeks of Lent pass." Her reference is Frazer's unabridged Golden Bough III, "The Dying God," pp. 244-245. These pages can be found, among other places, at ... 9_djvu.txt.

Yet I still think that the PMB Fool is related to the d'Este Fool and "Mantegna" Saturn. They--as well as the more obvious Jester figures in other decks--are the Carnival King, who is also foolish (Carnival derives from the Roman Saturnalia). The Carnival King meets his end at the end of Carnival, when he is overcome by Lent, Moakley tells us (p. 63), as in Breughel's painting "The Battle of Carnival & Lent" ( ... 4._066.jpg; Lent here is an old woman, as she often is in the descriptions of personified Lent). It seems to me that the Noblet, since he has both the Jester's hat and the rags of the PMB, combines both figures, Lent and Carnival, in one image. He is the Carnival King not yet penitent, but on the way.

Moakley adds that the Bagatto/Bagatino/Magician is often in the role of the Carnival King, the one whom Lent defeats. Thus he sometimes has the costume of the clown or jester. But that is another thread.

Moakley gives a list of other representations of the Fool as Lent or the Carnival King, some of which I have not seen, or noticed if I did see them. Most are in Hind's Early Italian Engravings. He is also in representations of the month of March, the month of Lent and penitence.


Two examples that occur to me (not mentioned by Moakley) are the "Wayfarer" paintings by Bosch. (There is also his "Stone Operation," already discussed on this thread; that is a different sort.) In the Rotterdam painting above, 1488 or later, a wayfarer, somewhat the worse for wear, is shown hobbling away from an inn, where he no doubt partook of various nefarious activities, some of which are pictured. Art historian Laurinda Dixon comments:
The wayfarer's bad foot suggests that he has paid an excruciating price for overindulgence in the vices harboured by the ramshackle tavern. The closed gate towards which he heads suggests that perhaps the door to salvation will not open easily for him. (Bosch pp. 94f.)
That bad foot is also a characteristic of Saturn, for example in the Sforza's 1460s De Sphaera ( ... 6CF65BF77B).

[Added next day:] Also, lameness is a symbol of his castration. In the ancient world, the foot or leg was a euphemism for the phallus, as the third lower member; for example, the name "Oedipus" means "swollen foot" and is thus not only descriptive of the forgotten maiming he received from his father but also his over-abundant sexual interest in his forgotten mother.

In contrast, the Prado Wayfarer (below middle, 1510 or later) is in better shape. His foot seems normal, and the rickety gate leading over a stream suggests a path toward heaven. Dixon says:
Whereas the path in the Rotterdam is blocked by a closed gate, that in the Prado panel leads without impediment across a small footbridge. In general, the Prado Wayfarer, though threatened, seems untouched by the elements of folly, danger and death that surround him on all sides. (p. 99).

Later in the chapter, Dixon shows us a German woodcut of c. 1488, the Mirror of Understanding, of which I show the relevant detail below.


Dixon observes
In common with the Prado Wayfarer, the Christian pilgrim in this image advances across a footbridge that leads from this life to the next. (p. 103)
These wayfarers seem much in the spirit of Moakley's characterization of the PMB Fool as Lent coming out of Carnival. Other elements in the paintings suggest the "Marseille" fool: the ragged clothes and threatening dog, for sure. The stream, too, appears in at least one version, i.e. the "Chosson" of 1672 (2nd above, left). In the Noblet 2nd above, right), that stream appears instead beneath the Bateleur's table.

[Added next day]: In the upshot, the PMB Fool, as much as the "Marseille," marks the transition from the materiality of Carnival to the spirituality of Easter, through penitence, meditation, and abstention. He is thus, like them, another symbol of what alchemy called the fixation of the volatile (his materialistic excesses as Carnival King) and the volatization of the fixed (a shift toward the spiritual)--also the transformation of Saturn into Christ--and not simply the putrefaction, in Lent, following the death of the Carnival King and preceding the albedo as Resurrection.

Saturn's castration viewed alchemically by Conti

I have recently found support for the alchemical interpretation of the myth of Saturn that I applied to the Fool card (viewtopic.php?f=23&t=383&start=80#p9705). It is in Conti's Mythologies, 1551,the chapter on Saturn. Here the "they" is the alchemists:
They claim the ancients say Jupiter castrated Saturn with a sharp sickle, threw his testicles into the sea, with Venus then arising from them and the sea-spume, because Saturn is a certain salt and is the father of Jove, as it were, because of a salt-preparation deriving from metallic salt. But because this "Jove" or salt-derivative exists in a glass vessel, and is released into a very subtle and delicate water through the action of fire, which is also understood as Jove himself, and, also, because this "Jove" carries off with himself the "virile parts," that is, cuts off and separates the sulphur hidden within the salt, the residue being received into a vessel placed for the reception of it, he is said to have cut off the potency of Saturn. (Anthony diMatteo, ed. and trans., Natale Conti's Mythologies, a Select translation, p. 67)
So the testicles are the sulphur or masculine principle, which Jove, a "salt-derivative," gets in castrating Saturn, i.e. extracting the sulphur from a certain salt, i.e. a sulphate or sulphite, that the alchemists call "Saturn." I am not claiming that this proves that the tarot is alchemical, just that it proves that the alchemical understanding of the Saturn myth is as I was surmising.

For what it's worth, Conti was from Milan and spent most of his working life in Venice (

Re: The Fool

I've talked about the following two Fools here:
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=345&p=10975&hilit= ... esi#p10975


Fool of Rovereto sheet - not clear date, but likely 17th century or even earlier


This is a vertically mirrored (and varied in the color) Fool of a woodcut of a Tarocco Siciliano (19th century)

Both have specific similarities as shown in the thread. From the given situation it seems, as if the Tarocco Siciliano motif descended from something, which was similar to the Rovereto Fool.

Now a third Fool (also Tarocco Siciliano, given as from 18th century, in a deck with strong motif similarities to the 19th century version) makes clear, that the pictures were often very rough and not clear in their attributes.


All the pictures together work to discover at the Rovereto Fool ...


... a drum and a wing instrument at the left, a dot of the hat at the top and wings at its back (right), which were partly lost in later editions of the Tarocco Siciliano.


Now we have here the Dodal Fool, one of the earlier Tarot de Marseille versions.


If we mirror this figure vertically, it gets the same walking-figure-form as the Rovereto-Fool. And if we look for the above mentioned attributes, we see that the drum had turned to be part of an arm, who holds his stick, the wing instrument has turned to become another stick, which carries the small sack at the back, which replaces the wings, which earlier were there in the times of the Rovereto Fool. The dot of the hat is still there.


The Vievil-Fool is less similar .. though he has the old direction of walking.


The Tarot de Paris Fool has the same walking direction.


"I really don't know, if I have anything to do with this ... "


"I've no sack for instance. No wings, only an eagle. I've also another direction. See you."

Hofämterspiel, c. 1455

B-) ... no wings indeed :-) ... oh ... O:-)


New species detected. Looks like a Folengo. ... :-)

But Emperor Frederick II had a favor for Sicily. Likely Sicilians were proud on the past of their island. When Charles V. became Roman king and later emperor, half an Emperor and half a Spanish king, it was time to remember this ...
The Hofämterspiel was found in Schloss Ambras. From Ambras (Innsbruck) to Rovereto (near Trento) it are just 200 km. From Innsbruck to Italy naturally one crossed Trento and Rovereto. From Rovereto to Rome it are 600, from Rovereto to Messina 1300.
The Rovereto-Fool couldn't have influenced the Ambras-Fool.

Re: The Fool

I'd made a lucky visit to a museum today and detected an interesting picture, titled "two musicians" ...


... and I saw, that it was made by Dürer and detected, that it was a self portrait of Dürer in the right musician.
That's the most common picture of Dürer ...


... and it is rather obvious, that musician and painter are the same man. The same opinion got this page ... ... tbildnisse

... and it offers other self portraits of Dürer and some of them are really funny. For instance this one:


It shows Dürer with his friend Conrad Celtis, the famous humanist ...


... and both seem well amused and look directly in the face of the picture observer, just as if they know about his presence.

And the both stand in a much larger picture, showing a lovely region in pleasant colors. And around them, however ... is the horror of the world, the "Marter der zehntausend Christen" (Torture of the 10.000 Christians), a heavy blood bath. The aggressive part is played by persons with Osman outfit ... and we know, they were indeed a real problem of the time, in which Dürer and Celtis lived.


This and other examples given at the page give evidence, that Dürer occasionally had his own ways to present himself on his pictures.

Back to the two Musicians: the "two Musicians" are placed on the right outside wing of the Jabacher Altar. From this Jabacher Altar (it seems to have been at a Jabacher Hof, which is now long gone, but had been once in the central city of Cologne; Jabach had been a person's name) I don't have for the moment enough information. I just conclude that it had an outer view (when closed) and that the presented scene had these musicians (and other pictures).

Dürer once had been the master of many Fools in the "Ship of Fools" of Sebastian Brant (1494) and this text became very quickly a bestseller, actually the most sold German book till the "Leiden des jungen Werther" (1776). The musicians are given to c. 1503.

I'm just fascinated to find the music instruments of this Fool tradition ....


Hofämterspiel c. 1455


Dürer 1503


Rovereto Fool with wings


modified Tarocco Siciliano woodblock 19th century

Re: The Fool


The Fool, Charles Vi Tarot. The figure without pants (space element). One figure pulls down on his leg (gravity) - earth element. Figure in black shirt directs him to another location (conversion) - fire element ---while figure in blue shirt assimilates stones - water element. Figure in rear stumbles away (movement) - air element.

This card clearly demarcates and interrelates the five elements: space, air, fire, water, earth.

The Mirror of Understanding

mikeh wrote:Dixon shows us a German woodcut of c. 1488, the Mirror of Understanding, of which I show the relevant detail below.

Dixon actually provides a pretty good reproduction of the print, which is a wonderful and complex 15th-century moral allegory. Like the Tarot trump cycle, it offers a representative of Everyman, in this case a Christian pilgrim. Like Tarot, it offers a vita humanae, an allegorical synopsis of man's lot in life. And like Tarot, it indicates that this world is transient and a greater world awaits after resurrection and judgment.

I've uploaded a 2,500px scan of Dixon's image to Wikimedia Commons, with a brief description. Here is a smaller version.
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

Re: The Fool

"15th century" for this card is likely wrong ...


Andrea Vitali in Il Tarocchino di Bologna, page 32 ...


... has 17th century, Tarocchi alla Torre

Other Bologna Fools have also the drum + wind instrument theme


Tarocchino al Leone, 18th century


Tarocchino All'Angelo, first quarter 19th century


Tarocchino Alla Fortuna, 3rd quarter of 19th century




Animal Tarocchi, collected in Sylvia Mann: "Alle Karten auf den Tisch", Fool + Pagat

All Fools are Musicians, as mostly in Tarock versions. The Pagat has mostly in the Animals Tarocchi a sausage in his hand, possibly addressing the then popular Carnival Fool, the "Hanswurst" or "Hans Wurst" (Wurst = sausage). Before it had been a figure of a sort of German "commedia dell' arte" and a hero of popular theater.


Guillaume Mann, Colmar, c. 1780


Backofen, Nürnberg, c. 1790


J. De Porre, Gent, c. 1795


Jacob Wocaun, Praha, c. 1815


Giuseppe Bendelli, Trient, c. 1835

One appearance of Hanswurst in theater.


Gottfried Prehauser as "Hans Wurst"

Another appearance of Hanswurst in early Cologne carnival on "a death paper" in a year 1831, when the carnival procession paused cause of protest against political prohibitions.

Image ... montagszug


The man with sausage might be not the Hanswurst (I didn't found a reall similar picture), but following "innkeeper" traditions in the Italian Tarocchi.

Re: The Fool

Phaeded posted at ...
(moved to this more appropriate place)
Phaeded wrote:Huck,
All your post has shown is that early tarot tradition always shows the Fool with a musical instrument(s), not a club. That change in attribute changes the meaning of the card.
Well, I've selected Fools pictures with music instrument, naturally these are then all with music instrument. But there are Tarot Fools without music instrument.

Not all Fools are Musicians. Not all Musicians are Fools.

... :-) ...

But this is a Musician and a Fool ...

... likely a Scottish one, living in Bohemia.

And she dances to it ...

... likely a gipsy from Hungary

And she cares for the money, some fools must be realists ...

... from France, which possibly were known for collecting money.


But this one, with drum and wind instrument ...


... is not from a 15th century Tarocchi, but from the Hofämterspiel and from Germany. And this one, too (Dürer himself) ...

Image also from Germany. As far I remember we've none 15th century Trionfi Fool with drum and wind instrument in Italy, and only one connected directly to music, the late 15th century Mato of Sola Busca Tarocchi.

Phaeded wrote:
Trumpters are always in a noble's livery and an extension of the lord (inclusive of liveried musciians of any type; even the jester ones are richly attired by the court in question). The context for a trumpeter is almost always heralding the lord, associated with his troops, at a wedding of nobles, or in a royal banquet scene where they are either announcing the arrival of the lord of the manor or providing musical entertainment. All of these contexts shows the trumpter as a perogative of the nobility. A peasant (not a court jester) with a trumpet is unthinkable...and indeed the later Bolognese tradition literally redresses that unfathomable precedent. So what was the PMB Fool with trumpet? The historical lesson of the anarchic mob of the Ambrosian Republic, that lynched several nobles durings its reign of terror in the last year of its existence. The classes of men are shown in the PMB - but the lowest ones, peasants and petty merchants, only in the two lowest cards - the Fool and the "Juggler".
As Michael I tend to believe, that the baton is not a trumpet at the PMB-Fool. We have three Italian Fools with feathers, Giotto's Stultitia Fool and the PMB-Fool ...


... and a third picture presented by Andrea Vitali ..
see the link to "figure 2"

... and the both others don't have a trumpet. Why shoul the 3rd suddenly have one.

The Charles VI Fool seems to relate to the stone-throwing battle of the Morgante, similar the Este-card Fool have a Fool under attack. Also the feather Fools might be partly considered as "under attack". The Charles VI Fool defends with a string of bells, which might be considered as "an action with music", but the major meaning seems to be, that he's attacked with stone-throwing.

The Boiardo Tarocchi Fool is a Fool on an ass (possibly a German motif) ... the possibly old Minchiate (?) fool of the Rosenwald Fool is a Fool with a able and attributes, which partly belong to the Bagatello usually.

The public role of the Fool in Northern countries might have had more acceptance than in Italy, so a useful role of musician might have some importance for Fools. We've courts with Fools as advisors or as "allowed critical voice". We've a "feast of the Fools", which seems to have been more present in France and Germany than in Italy.
In Italy we've with Gonella and another from 14th century "accepted court Fools" in Ferrara, but this function might have been not everywhere.
But why did the Bolognese tradition switch to other musical instruments? To me the answer is simply related to the artistic limitation of the aspects of a card - quattrocento trumpets were extremely long (look again at the contemporary examples I gave above) and thus difficult to depict on a card.It would have been practically impossible to show the trumpet being played, as the Bolognese fools are shown playing their shorter instruments, due to the lack of room. In the PMB the trumpet is held fairly low down at waist level and there still is not enough room to depict it all as the flaring end extends up into the frame:
PMB Fool trumpet detail.jpg
As you say, Bologna had some more tradition in their cards, which indeed points to the Fool with drum and wind instrument, as shown in the post before. Bologne has proven German card makers in 15th century, possibly they carried the motif "Fool as Musician" to Italy?

Generally there was a German explosion of Fool pictures and Fools at courts end of 15th/begin of 15th century. The "Ship of Fools" became a estseller and was quickly translated to other languages. We have a lot Fool literature, especially by Thomas Murner, who also made teaching playing cards. We have the Till Ulenspiegel and his manifestation as a prototype.

Well, Italy had Folengo and other Maccaroni poets to extend the satirical side of literature. And they loved Lucian.

Right, there's another type of 15th century Fool, the beggar of the Mantegna Tarocchi as the protoype of Momus, the work of Alberti. Momus had declared, that beggar was the best role on earth.

Well, somehow there should have been some diffeences, what Germans and what Italians found funny.

Re: The Fool

mikeh wrote:But it seems to me, Phaeded, that if the artist had wanted to suggest that it was a trumpet, he would have given more pictorial clues, because given his disheveled appearance, he is more in need of a club, to fend off attackers, than a trumpet.
No one is attacking the PMB fool, who is standing quite at ease – I’m not sure how you got “victim” out of “disheveled” - the latter merely implies his station in life: poor peasant. The attempt to stick with the historical misidentification of the object as a “long pole” has allowed you to imagine an attacked fool, but this fool is no longer simply the God-denying fool, as the bearer of a trumpet he is the embodiment of insurrection (in a very real class sense – keep in mind the Ciompi uprising had already happened as well)…not incompatible with the meaning of the later card of the Hanged Man. Not only did the trumpet blasts accompany the Ambrosian Republic auctions, which entailed the selling off of Visconti’s personal possessions, but they also accompanied the constant calling out of new gride, proclamations to regulate the distributions of bread during the starvation crisis caused by Sforza’s blockade (when Sforza entered the city his men were instructed to hand out loaves of bread). Filelfo was in Milan during this hell and again, I posit him as behind the PMB’s peculiarities. Compare the bodies of Giotto’s Foolishness with the PMB Fool again - the former looks almost pregnant with swollen legs; the PMB Fool is gaunt by contrast...because he represents a starving populace, ripe for insurrection.
This theme is addressed constantly in Filelfo’s work – see Ode 4.3 in particular where a characterization he calls “Lydus”:
From him who created the universe and brought forth the heavens and all the celestial bodies in the sky [note the 7 feathers on the PMB fool – uncomprehending and thus blown about by the planetary forces], nothing can be hidden. He sees the extent of the desire that holds you, when madness overturns a heart that is sick. Nor does he allow you to know the path to salvation. Thus he pours unremitting darkness over your eyes [clearly Filelfo has appropriated the “God-denying Fool” theme, but for the context of Milan in 1449] (Ode IV.3: 31-38; Tr. Robins, p. 235)
….”For whoever joins you in your evil habits and vile life you will praise. Nor does any talk flow from your lips which is guided by modesty or wisdom. You speak obscenities: you play the Timarchus, you as a boy and degenerate adult surpassed all others ion the corrupt nature of your decadent pastimes. (IV.3: 65-71, p. 237)
The Fool, just as in Giotto, is the polar opposite of Prudence, elevated to the highest card in the tarot. In one sense Prudence is precisely an understanding of the “celestial bodies in the sky” in terms of being an embodiment of Wisdom in understanding time, represented in her three-faced configurations or via the symbol of the book. The middle face with its forked beard from this Florentine plaque of Prudence, perhaps one that Filelfo was familiar with via other productions from the copy book from which it came, when he taught in that city, closely resembles the PMB Fools’ face; without the other two faces looking into the past or future one is simply a lustful animal engaged in the present:
PMB Fool - head detail.jpg
corn head.png
mikeh wrote:Attackers are also suggested in the "Charles VI" Fool, with the boys throwing stones.
The CVI fool is smiling and playing with his string of bells(?), oblivious to any “attacking”. In fact one can make the argument consistent with my interpretation that the specific Foolishness being depicted in this card is that of a erotically-charged mob, literally in the postures of anarchic throws, attacking their own leader. The Fool incites. The erotically-charged mob aspect of this card is more explicit the Este Fool, where the exposed pubic hair of the CVI is drawing in the attention of his followers. Even the PMB Fool indicates his pubic hair with his left hand – all three Fools drawing the viewer’s attention to the non-virtuous, libidinal stance in public. “Public morality” is at stake here through the agency of the Fool – not the safety of the Fool. The advice for princes here is clear – beware the mob.