Mike, when I read your posts, I sometimes get the sinking feeling that you and I are speaking totally different languages, rendering effective communication impossible...
The big problem, as I see it, is that you willfully ignore the whole basic mechanism by which the designs of playing cards evolve over time, which I described in detail in my "Telephone game" post in this thread
. You always talk about the design of every card as if it were created from scratch, not influenced by any preceding cards, except in the choice of the subject it was intended to depict (and even then, you sometimes take the view that the card designers "changed the allegory" that was depicted on the card).
So you look at every individual card and try to interpret the design as if it sprang entirely from the mind of the designer. But in reality, the designs of the cards were always largely based on the designs that came before, and they must always be interpreted in that light.
You ignore this because you want to see everything in the imagery on all the cards as symbolic and meaningful and deliberate, solely the result of the card designer's coherent creative vision—but if one recognizes the basic mechanism of card design evolution, one is then forced to acknowledge that that is very often not the case at all. So you never want to talk about that mechanism of iconographic evolution; instead you talk as if it just didn't exist. It's an inconvenient truth that you seem very reluctant to confront or admit.
You also refuse to accept even what the names of the cards themselves (as recorded in various sources from the Steele Sermon onward) are telling you, namely that the symbolic meanings of several of the cards (such as the Old Man, World, Angel, and Tower, as well as the Chariot) were not very important to anyone at the time. This is confirmed by the considerable variation in the symbolic imagery on those cards over time. As you no doubt recall, I discussed all of this in an earlier post.
So all of your speculations about allegorical meaning would have been of very little practical interest to the vast majority of the tarot players who played games with those cards in the fifteenth century, and they are of little interest to me either.
What I'm interested in is how the deck and the game evolved over time, and how they spread out from their point of origin to the rest of Europe (especially in the first couple of centuries). The symbolic meanings of the imagery on the cards are not wholly irrelevant to that story, but they are only relevant when considered in the light of the incremental, evolutionary nature of playing card design.
Another consequence of your desire to believe that each card's design was solely determined by its designer's personal creative vision is that you are not sufficiently interested in the standard contemporary iconography used for the subjects you are discussing (which is something you share with Huck). Instead of comparing the cards you think represent Puciditia or Fame with other representations of Pudicitia or Fame from the same era as the cards, you cast about wildly, catching bits of symbolism from here, there, and everywhere, and then trying to piece them together somehow to make the cards say something you find appealing. None of this is ever very persuasive.
The artists of the time did not usually invent representations of particular allegorical figures from scratch. The reason why is obvious: if they did, no one would recognize the resulting image—especially in an age of limited literacy, where it was not common practice to label images with captions telling the viewer their intended meaning. So they had to follow the established iconography for whatever subject they wanted to depict. They were not free to innovate to anything like the degree that your theories would require them to have done.
This was even more true in the case of playing card design, because there the artists were constrained not only by the established iconography of the various subjects, but also by the established designs of the preceding cards. The players needed to be able to recognize each card, and that meant the design of the cards in each new deck had to resemble the design of the cards in the preceding decks in various essential respects. The card designers did have a certain limited freedom to add ornamentation or to "enhance" the design in small ways, but mainly they had to stick to the existing image fairly closely. This was especially true for card subjects like the Chariot or the World, which were not identified on the basis of an allegorical figure which was commonly known to all like Love or Death - in the case of the latter subjects, the artists could theoretically have changed the depiction considerably while still being confident that the players would be able to recognize the card; they could not do that with cards like the Chariot or the World. And in practice, even the Love and Death cards usually remained fairly similar from one deck to the next, which simply underlines how important and fundamental this rule of playing card design was (and still is today): the artists generally adhered to it instinctively, even when they didn't really need to.
It seems to me that the "Charles VI" image was inspired by the guide in Boccaccio's Amorosa Visione
The designer of the Charles VI card did not invent that image from scratch. What it must have been "inspired by," above all, is the design of the World card in the preceding decks, which in this case effectively means the design of the World card in the earliest standard tarot deck, i.e. the deck that became wildly popular around 1450. That design almost certainly must have featured a woman holding an orb and scepter standing on top of a globe (which we can infer by comparing all the World cards from that era). That standard card would in turn have been largely "inspired by" something like the CY World, i.e. a card showing the landscape-world and the female figure above it decked out with symbols of sovereignty. Once we get back to that era—the earliest tarot cards that have come down to us—it does make legitimate sense to start talking about the innovative creative vision of the card designers and the intended symbolic meanings of all the cards, because that is the time when the cards were first invented. The designs must still have been based to some extent on the standard iconography used by artists at the time, of course, but not on the specific design of preceding cards, so those first card designers would have had significantly greater freedom in their work than all those who came after them. As for the CY World card in particular, it was almost certainly intended to represent Petrarch's Triumph of Eternity, not Boccaccio's guide.
But this is a thread about the Chariot card, so that is what I will talk about here, and I'll save further discussion of World for another day.
Mike, I'm not going to address your renewed attempts to establish a link between Chastity/Pudicitia and the various Chariot cards, as there is nothing there that I find persuasive and I have already made my own interpretation of those cards clear in my earlier posts. People can read my interpretation and your interpretation and decide which one they prefer.
I have nothing more to add to the discussion, except for one thing:
My view of the PMB Chariot card has changed somewhat. Looking at it again, I'm now inclined to think that it's no more likely that its designer understood its subject as Fame than that the designer understood it as Chastity/Pudicitia.
It depicts a woman portrayed as a sovereign, with a crown, orb and scepter, in a chariot pulled by winged horses. Only the female figure, the wings, the orb, and the chariot were typical of the standard iconography of Fame at the time, and I'm no longer convinced that this is enough for a reliable attribution. The figure does seem allegorical, at least: It is female, and its chariot and winged horses are like those seen in some contemporary depictions of allegories such as Love or Time. However, I'm not aware of any typical allegorical image from the time that fits this iconography. Chastity/Pudicitia certainly doesn't fit, because the standard contemporary iconography of that subject relied on attributes such as a palm branch, a shield (sometimes with a pillar), white garments on the figure, and unicorns, none of which appear here.
I don't believe a satisfactory explanation of this image's intended meaning has yet been offered, and until such time as we find a contemporary Italian image depicting something significantly similar, I don't think one will be forthcoming.
However, the PMB Chariot is still very useful to us in one way, and that is in helping us to reconstruct the appearance of the Chariot card in the first standard tarot deck, the deck on which all subsequent cards were ultimately based. As I have said numerous times, I think it's fairly clear that only the CY and BB decks represent an earlier pattern, one that was not influenced by that first standard deck; everything else must ultimately have evolved from that deck. So, by looking at the Chariot cards that survive to us from the other early decks and comparing them with each other and with the earlier CY Chariot, we can get some idea of what that very first standard Chariot card must have looked like.
Before the standard deck was first established, we have the CY Chariot card:
After that, there are six Chariots in total that have been fairly reliably attributed to the fifteenth century:
(see also http://cards.old.no/t/
- click the individual cards for high-resolution images)
Based on these cards, we can say with considerable confidence that the image on the first standard Chariot card would have featured the following:
- A chariot, most likely presented face-on (not in profile as on the earlier CY card), pulled by two horses, which were almost certainly white and wingless
- A female figure as the charioteer, as this is a feature of both the earlier CY card and two of the earliest of the later cards (both usually dated to about 1450-1465)
- An spherical, orb-like object held in one of the figure's hands, most likely the right hand, because that is where it appears on three of the six cards above, versus only one where it is in the left hand; furthermore, the presence of the orb in the right hand rather than the left on the Issy card (top center in the above image) is the only way in which that card's image deviates from the standard iconography of Fame (which was probably the Issy card designer's understanding of the image, as I argued in my earlier posts here). The easiest explanation for this unusual deviation is that this detail was adopted from the standard card.
This object was probably colored gold (or at least yellow) and was probably merely a sphere on the original standard card; it almost certainly would have lacked the cross that surmounts it on the PMB card, as that is the only one of these cards which shows the orb as a classic globus cruciger.
The orb/sphere was probably also being held up for prominent display by the figure, much as the shield is held up on the CY card, as that is the case with all four of the charioteers here who are holding orbs, and on the Rosenwald card (bottom center), it is the only thing the figure is holding.
- A baton or scepter held in the figure's other hand
- No crown on the figure's head, unlike the PMB card and Rosenwald card
From this, two points follow:
1. The first standard card seems to have been very much like the CY Chariot, with the only significant deviation being the sphere in the place of the shield. This is why I think the orb that we see on the later cards was the result of someone not realizing the meaning of the shield and misreading it as a sphere, as I discussed in my first post here
. The standard card was evidently not understood as representing Chastity, neither by its designer nor probably by those who saw it—and certainly not by the designers of the later cards. In all likelihood, the designer of that first standard card—probably an engraver of a cheap woodcut deck for the masses—had no clear understanding at all of exactly what it was meant to depict, and was just copying what they (mistakenly) thought they saw on an earlier card.
(Something makes this mistake even more understandable is that by the end of the 1440s, there was an established iconographic tradition for Chastity/Pudicitia, and it didn't usually involve her holding a shield or a baton. It normally showed her with a palm branch and dressed in white, neither of which is the case on the CY Chariot card. So it's very easy to imagine the artist failing to spot the card's intended meaning.)
2. The PMB card must have looked rather different from the standard card.
I think the reason why the PMB card is so difficult to interpret is because it wasn't based on any standard iconography of any subject, but resulted from the designer having to emulate an earlier design that no longer really made any allegorical sense. Like the designer of the Issy card, the PMB card's designer seems to have attempted to address this by deviating significantly from the earlier design in order to depict an allegorical figure of some sort, but the result ended up being quite strange and hard to interpret (unlike the Issy card, where the designer changed the baton to a sword to create a fairly standard depiction of Fame).
So we may never know exactly what subject the PMB card designer thought they were depicting. Both Fame and Chastity/Pudicitia seems quite unlikely, but we probably can't entirely rule out either of them.