Page 5 of 5

Re: Strength

Posted: 08 Jun 2018, 07:23
by Pen
Mike, I added the link from one I posted in this thread: ... =12&t=1283 as I couldn't find many illuminations in this one. You've made some incredibly thoughtful points.

Interestingly, Young's literal translation on this page: calls the lion 'a whelp'. Not so courageous then. 'History' is not to be trusted.
And Samson goeth down -- also his father and his mother, to Timnath, and they come unto the vineyards of Timnath, and lo, a lion's whelp roareth at meeting him,

Re: Strength

Posted: 11 Jun 2018, 04:39
by mikeh
Pen wrote,
Mike, I added the link from one I posted in this thread: viewtopi ... =12&t=1283 as I couldn't find many illuminations in this one...
I am not sure what link you mean. If you have more, they would be worth seeing.

Pen wrote: Interestingly, Young's literal translation on this page: calls the lion 'a whelp'. Not so courageous then. 'History' is not to be trusted.

And Samson goeth down -- also his father and his mother, to Timnath, and they come unto the vineyards of Timnath, and lo, a lion's whelp roareth at meeting him.
The interlinear,, has "ă·rā·yō·wṯ" for lion , which means "lion" in all its biblical occurrences: Then for "young" it has "kepir", which means, apparently, "young" as applied to lions; at least I don't see other applications in the Bible. At Ezeikiel 19:3, we see both "whelps/cubs" and "young lion" (kepir) in the same sentence. But the word for "whelps" (or "cubs") is "ḡū·re·hā ( and the following). Again, "whelp" is not "kepir" but "gur" at Genesis 49:9 ( "So I'd guess that what is meant in Judges 14:5 is not a whelp/cub, but something older, not yet fully grown but more than a match for a man.

But here are some more considerations, which don't depend on knowing anything about Filippo. I am basing my argument on Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 123, a. 3 (both at
It belongs to the virtue of fortitude to remove any obstacle that withdraws the will from following the reason. Now to be withdrawn from something difficult belongs to the notion of fear, which denotes withdrawal from an evil that entails difficulty, as stated above (I-II:42:3; I-II:42:5) in the treatise on passions. Hence fortitude is chiefly about fear of difficult things, which can withdraw the will from following the reason. And it behooves one not only firmly to bear the assault of these difficulties by restraining fear, but also moderately to withstand [aggredi, elsewhere in this Question translated "attack"] them, when, to wit, it is necessary to dispel them altogether in order to free oneself therefrom for the future, which seems to come under the notion of daring. Therefore fortitude is about fear and daring, as curbing fear and moderating daring.
There is an error in translation in the above, in the choice of "withstand" to translate aggredi; apparently too strong a word for these gentler Dominicans.

There is also at q. 123, a. 6:
Now it behooves one to hold firmly the good of reason against every evil whatsoever, since no bodily good is equivalent to the good of the reason. Hence fortitude of soul [animi, also meaning "of spirit"] must be that which binds the will firmly to the good of reason in face of the greatest evils: because he that stands firm against great things, will in consequence stand firm against less things, but not conversely. Moreover it belongs to the notion of virtue that it should regard something extreme: and the most fearful of all bodily evils is death, since it does away all bodily goods. Wherefore Augustine says (De Morib. Eccl.[ xxii]) that "the soul is shaken by its fellow body, with fear of toil and pain, lest the body be stricken and harassed with fear of death lest it be done away and destroyed." Therefore the virtue of fortitude is about the fear of dangers of death.
Now, about the images in question depicting Fortitude (which we can also call courage, to differentiate it from physical fortitude): it seems to me that a peculiarity of the image at Chartres (reproduced againfar left below) is that Samson is not shown exerting much effort in vanquishing the lion; he seems merely to be playing with its jaws. In contrast, Judges 14:6 says, "He tore the lion as he would have torn a kid in pieces". Either way, it is easy; but if so, how does that express Fortitude? Courage is different from the performance of a task, even that of killing a dangerous animal, if it is easy to do. "Grave danger" has to be involved (according to Aquinas), including the danger of death. This question is relevant not only to the Visconti image, in which a lady replaces Samson, but also, at least from the mid-17th century, to the French versions that followed, and preserved even in the occultist versions of the 19th and 20th century.

I think the answer to this question is that Samson did not know beforehand that he would have the strength to kill the lion so easily. Even his Nazirite status (which forbade him to have his hair cut, among other things) does not automatically convey super-strength. As far as he was concerned, it was a "grave danger" requiring him to "curb his fear" and face the lion. Then "the spirit of God entered Samson," enabling him to accomplish the task; but that this would happen was no means certain. With a young and presumably non-muscular girl, facing an attacking lion instead of a presumably non-attacking baby goat, with her bare hands instead of a spear or club, and grasping its most dangerous part, the jaws, the image emphasizes even more the "grave danger" that is being faced. That is the essence of the cardinal virtue Fortitude.

Then there is the issue of whether it is courage that is being represented, or recklessness/rashness, which for Aquinas was an excess, i.e. a vice, and not a virtue. In some situations that would be the case. But Samson really had no choice. Given that "a young lion met him, raging and roaring" (Judges 14:5), fleeing would have been fruitless, while standing one's ground often dissuades an animal from attacking. What he had to do was to curb his fear and hope for the best.

There are milder images that could have been used for the virtue. For example, Giotto had used the most typical one, that of a soldier with a shield and a sword or lance (2nd from upper left below, c. 1305 Padua). The image does not show the danger he is facing, but presumably it is one or more other soldiers similarly equipped. There is an image of a lion on her shield, but that identifies the lion with the possessor of the shield and not her opponent. There is no courage in just standing there, of course; but it is courageous all the same, because the person is prepared to face "grave danger" and the threat of death if the occasion demands it. Unlike the images of Samson and the lion, that aspect is not shown directly by Giotto.. The image of a girl with the lion, putting his or her hands on the lion's most dangerous part, as in countless depictions of Samson, makes the idea of courage more vivid than in Giotto's image. It shows both the "grave danger" and the firm response that Fortitude requires, that of "curbing fear," in a very focused and dynamic way. Hence the Visconti (2nd from upper right below) is more vivid and actually truer to the virtue in what it actually shows, namely, someone exhibiting fortitude.
However with the girl on the card, especially as later images of Samson consistently emphasize his physical prowess (e.g. Rubens, 17th century, above lower left), there is the problem that she is shown increasingly gentler and less muscular and forceful (Noblet, above upper right; Conver 1761, above lower right), the latter a design that goes back at least to the beginning of that century). As such, she is no Samson and is surely not able to block the lion's jaws with her hands alone. Thus without some other interpretation it would seem that the image illustrates reckless daring rather than courage. There are a number of possible solutions to examine: (1) Like Samson, the girl hopes God will give her the necessary strength to overcome the lion. (2) The girl is deliberately sacrificing herself to draw the lion there, where the hunters can lower a net they have previously placed above that spot: (3) It is only an allegory about "curbing fear", which is the most important aspect of the virtue, rather than "moderating daring"; (4) The lion is induced not to attack, in admiration for the girl's courage; (5) the girl has trained the lion not to attack her; and (6) the allegory is not about the cardinal virtue, but about fortitude in the broader sense defined by Aquinas, of firmness against the passions and instincts when they go against what reason requires, with the lion representing these passions and the lady the force of reason to block them.

The interpretation in (1) may work in the 15th century, for people familiar with images like that at Chartres or Bamberg, but by 18th century Paris, the contrast between the gentle maiden of the card and the muscular, aggressive Samson is too great to be ignored. (2) compares her to the early martyrs of the Church, whose sacrifice shows the seriousness of their belief, which will eventually win out over their persecutors. However now the problem is that the lion does not look like it is about to devour the lady (3) needs no explanation, but more seems to be going on, and it contradicts an important defining aspect of the virtue, even if not the primary one. (4) draws on the apparent implication that unless the animal were indeed letting her grasp its jaws of its own free will, it would never give the lady such an opportunity as we see on the card

In the case of (5), it is not only the lion that must be trained, but also the girl, to overcome her fear in the course of the training. The lion is given rewards when it succeeds in curbing its fear, and punishments when it fails to restrain its impulse to attack, in gradually increasing increments of proximity on the part of the girl. The girl meanwhile reduces her fear based on her experience of the animal. In addition, just as a lion can learn to trust a person's touch, so the person touching can develop trust, along with courage, through positive experiences of increasingly heightened fearful situations. This alternative emphasizes a point made by Aristotle that the development of a virtue includes training in its exercise.

However it is hard to imagine that by reward and punishment alone, the lion could possibly show such restraint as we see on the card. The training would seem to require the building of trust and respect between the lady and the lion. Such training and trust, once established, reduces significantly the amount of courage required on the part of either--although courage is still required, since you never know with wild animals. But in that case it may not be the lady alone who represents Fortitude, but the mutually supporting combination of the two, as in Plato's well-organized state, in which the guardians trust the rulers to lead and vice versa, and the same in the soul, where reason leads and the "spirited part" defends.

The difference between (6) and the rest is a subtle one. In (5), the issue is curbing fear and daring only; in (6) it is curbing not only fear and daring, but also anger and lust, and not just sexual lust, but that for vengeance, power, over-eating, strong drink, and all sorts of satisfactions that reason recognizes as harmful to a life lived well. Firmness against such temptations is fortitude in a general sense (Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 123, a.2), a requirement of every virtue, as opposed to the cardinal virtue, which is only about fear and daring, to curb the first and moderate the second. However in the context of the whole sequence, with Temperance and Justice also present, it is the cardinal virtue and not the general aspect of all virtue that needs to be emphasized.

Thus of these alternatives, (4) and (5) are the ones that seem to fit the card the best, especially in France by the 18th century, because there seems to be some sort of positive connection of the lion to the lady, such that it willingly submits to the lady's grasping of its jaws.

This opens up to associate to the card other situations involving a person with a lion besides that of Samson, adding their nuances, once the applicability of Samson is less tenable Most notable are the stories of Jerome and Androcles and their lions, in which there is clearly a bond between the two, and the unspoken one of the "unicorn tapestries". I have already written about these,

Re: Strength

Posted: 12 Jun 2018, 13:11
by mikeh
One short follow-up, this one to my previous post, where I was comparing the Cary-Yale card with the topos of Aristotle and Phyllis. I never noticed this before, but the Cary-Yale lady is sitting on the lion, which is one way that Samson and the Lion were depicted, as well as the most popular way Phyllis is shown riding Aristotle, side-saddle, as it were.

Here is the Cary-Yale, for re-inspection: ... rength.jpg.

For Phyllis and Aristotle, one of the more interesting web-pages is at ... e_ID=31988.
It focuses on a bench cover, of all things, "commissioned by Johannes Malterer, either for a marriage or for the convent where his sister Anna was a nun (Smith, 1990)." It shows not only Phyllis and Aristotle, but also Samson and the Lion, Samson and Delilah, the Lady and the Unicorn, and other scenes. The brief article concludes:
Scholars have debated the purpose of employing this “Power of Women topos” on a tapestry meant for a convent, arguing that the narrative warns of the dangers of fleshly love over spiritual love. If the tapestry celebrated the occasion of a marriage, however, the imagery may have been intended to demonstrate the transformative power of love itself.
I see no reason why both themes wouldn't apply. The only thing I would add is that if for a convent the second interpretation would also work, in this case the transformative power of love even on Christ, i.e. the power of the Virgin to intercede on behalf of the souls of sinners.

The whole textile is at ... mplete.jpg

Re: Strength

Posted: 09 Aug 2018, 04:00
by Phaeded
Not sure why Ross's excellent article on this subject is missing in this thread, but the link:
The key iconographic finding:

The gist is that Ross has found an illustrated printed edition of d'Abano's Astrolabium Planum in which a "victor in war" degree in Aries bears a striking resemblance to the PMB Strength card. My issue has always been the late date of the 1494 printing found by Ross - i.e., was there an earlier drawing in a manuscript showing the same?

The occasion for thinking of it now is that I came across an article that identified a different zodiacal decan/degree from the 1488 printing in the famous Palazzo della Ragione fresco scheme (Dd'Abano's influence on this work is well-known but I did not know of a specific link to the 1488 printed edition).

The work in question:
Title: Padua and the Stars: Medieval Painting and Illuminated Manuscripts
Authors: Canova, G. M.
Journal: The Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena VI. Proceedings of a conference held October 18-23, 2009 in Venezia, Italy. Edited by Enrico Maria Corsini. ASP Conference Series, Vol. 441. San Francisco: Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 2011

The zodiacal degree in question, in both the 1488 printing and the Palazzo's fresco program:

It doesn't matter if the degree in question does not go back to the original program of Giotto/d'Abano, and that it merely dates from the post-fire repainting by Nicolò Miretto and Stefano da Ferrara, working from 1425 to 1440; the point is the 1488 illustrations (or 1494 edition) date to an earlier source that pre-dated the c.1451 PMB deck, something we can assume for the "victor in war" degree (whether the corresponding date to the 26th degree of Libra means anything eludes us, but I would posit Sforza's famous victory at Carvaggio on 15 September 1448 might fit the bill).

Re: Strength

Posted: 14 Mar 2020, 10:05
by A-M
I am a new member on this forum. I just finished my blog on the symbolism in the Strength card. I realise my MO may be a little too esoteric for some members, but I hope others will enjoy a fresh point of view. I apologise for any grammar/spelling errors, as English is not my native language.

One of the things I have tried to solve in my blog is the riddle of the naked leg on the Tarot de Marseille-Jacques Vieville card.
Any comments are more than welcome!
Tarot of Jacques Vieville, Strength.jpg Tarot of Jacques Vieville, Strength.jpg Viewed 5365 times 51.88 KiB

Re: Strength

Posted: 14 Mar 2020, 20:51
by Huck
welcome Anne-Marie
(from )
might be a forerunner for your Vievil card. Although it's not a bare foot, but a foot with a sandal. ... the one sandal reminds me on the Jason legend, who lost a sandal when crossing a river ... .-). The one sandal of Jason might mean nothing in the context of a Tarot card in 16th century, but one never knows, at least it is far closer than the 6th chakra from an Indian yoga system.

The card is from the Tarot de Paris (... sorry, I first wrote Catelyn Geofroy 1557, but this was an error)

I made once some research, where the strange surname "Vievil" might have developed. It looked to me, as if it would come from a nowadays Belgian region, not too far from the city of Tournai, which had a very early and intensive playing card production, first documentary mentioned in the 1420s.
Some years ago Arnold Esch published a short article about the import of playing cards to Rome in the period 1453-1465. The article doubled the number of very early playing card documents, which contain the word "Trionfi" or similar. Before the Esch publication this number with the condition "till 1465" was about 100 and after the publication it was 207. So it's clear, that this article has and had a high importance.
In the article Esch presents material about Flemish traders who imported playing cards (between them also Trionfi decks) to Rome in the late 1450s and early 1460s.
It's a possibility, that these "Trionfi cards from Flemish traders" were simply material, that the Flemish traders had bought in Florence or took as a commission from Florentine producers for transport and trade in Rome (Florence is assumed to have been the most important card producer in Italy). But it also could mean, that Flemish Trionfi decks (whatever this might have been) from Flemish playing card production reached Rome and Italy. It's clear from other documents, that German playing cards reached (only occasionally ?) Italy. It's also clear, that German card producers produced occasionally Italian suits for export. I don't know, if there are many examples of such interactions. For foreign Trionfi decks (whatever Italian speakers might have identified as such) we've no early examples. Or? Possibly 1 or 2.
Depaulis stated, that it might be a French production at the end of 15th century (without the red circle).
"in 1985, when the exhibition "Tarot game and magic" was in full swing, two forgotten tarot cards were exhumed by Gisele Lambert, then curator at the Bibliotheque Nationale, responsible for the inventory of the "first Italian engravers." A Hermit and a Queen of Cups, engraved on wood and colored with the help of stencils, acquired at the beginning of the 20th century, waiting their turn at the bottom of a Box (18). The surprise was total. I soon published these cards, dating them from the end of the 15th century. They are significantly smaller than the painted tarots and measure only 99 x 58 mm. The backs are white.

Attributed, for lack of anything better, to Milan when they were discovered, these two cards might well be, upon reflection, ... French. One thinks of Lyon because of the Queen of Cups, which presents some similarities in the shape of the arm and hand, the treatment of the face, and the veil under the crown, with the queens of Lyon cards.

In addition, these cards have straightforward [francs] borders, no trace of the flap onto the back so typical of Italian cards."
The second card was just a queen.

Re: Strength / Fortitudo

Posted: 15 Mar 2020, 10:39
by Huck
Various material to Fortitudo

for instance this remarkable Iustitia/Fortitudo picture of 1340

As I found out, it's a praising text for Robert, King of Naples. ... nsicht.pdf