This is a transcript of Moakley's first thoughts on the Tarot, in The Bulletin of the New York Public Library, Vol. 60, No. 2, February 1956, pp. 55-69. Its footnotes reveal sources not mentioned in her book, for example the catalog by Hargrave, which (although she doesn't say so) has pictures of a few of the PMB (Tarot di Modrone, Visconti-Sforza Tarot) and a brief discussion of them. There are also a few differences between this article and her book: for example, in the Minchiate, this article has the card with "Fama Sol" (i.e. Judgment) representing Fame; in her book, the Minchiate cards of Hope, Faith, and Charity play that role.
A couple of updates: the "Mantegna Tarot" is in the style of Padua and Ferrara; the artist most recently proposed is Nicola di Maestro Antonio, for which see Il segreto dei segreti. I tarocchi Sola Busca, ed. Laura Paola Gnaccolin (summarized at https://pinacotecabrera.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/document9.pdf). Secondly, the French "Le Mat" is almost surely from the Italian "Matto", which is derived from the Latin mattus, meaning "drunk, intoxicated"(https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/matto#Etymology_2).
The Tarot Trumps and Petrarch's Trionfi: Some Suggestions on Their Relationship
By GERTRUDE MOAKLEY (Cataloging Office, Circulation Department)
STRANGEST of all playing cards are the Tarot cards of Italy and southern France. They are still used as a game in that part of Europe;(1) but in France and the English-speaking countries they have a more romantic
reputation. Occultists have persuaded themselves that there are mystic meanings in this pack. It consists of seventy-eight cards. Part of these are the suit cards, corresponding to the four suits of our familiar bridge deck. But there are four court cards in each suit: king, queen, knight and page. And the signs of the suits are different; swords, cups, batons and coins, instead of our spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds. Besides the suit cards there are twenty-two special picture cards, each showing a different figure. One of these is a wild card, called Il Matto (Checkmate,(2) or Fool). The others are the trionfi (triumphs, or trumps), sometimes called atutti or atouts (3) These trumps have fascinated the occultists.
The Tarot pack is not the only one that has these special trumps. The Minchiate pack of Florence has six wild cards and thirty-five trumps.
1.The rules are given in Culbertson's Hoyle, by Ely Culbertson (New York, 1950) under "Tarock," p. 355-838, and also in Larousse du XXe siècle, under "Tarot," and the Enciclopedia Italiana, under "Giuoco: Tarocchi."
2. Most modern packs have French titles, and this card is Le Mat. For the Latin word mattum and its cognates in other languages see Murray, Harold J. R., History of Chess (Oxford, 1913), p. 159: 401-402. For a reply to Murray see "The Earliest Evidence of Chess in Western Literature," by Helena M. Gamer, in Speculum, Oct. 1954 (vol. 29), especially p. 736.
5. Most of the magazine articles written in English or French call them atouts, but the Enciclopedia italiana consistently calls them trionfi, and mentions an early card game of the same name.
We seldom hear of this pack, although in some respects its trumps are closer than those of the Tarot to what I believe to be the common source of both packs. Another cousin of the Tarot is the Bolognese Tarot, which has fewer suit cards but the same number of trumps. The order of the trumps differ in one slight respect, however; the twentieth and twenty-first are transposed. A much more distant relation is the Tarot (or Tarock) of northern Europe. It has the same number of cards, divided in the same way: 56 suit cards, a trumps and a joker. But the designs of the trumps vary greatly from pack to pack, and the suit signs are different. The occultists have no patience with these packs.
Besides these packs of actual playing cards, there is a series of fifty engravings often called the "Tarot of Mantegna." When one mentions the Tarot to the art expert, it is this series he will think of. They are not actually by Mantegna (I believe they are supposed to be the work of Baldini). They are probably not playing cards either; they are too large and too thin. But they obviously derive from the Tarot trumps somehow. Like the trumps, they start with the lowest character, a beggar ( instead of the Tarot's Juggler) and proceed in ascending order, ending with the First Cause. This last picture has the four living creatures in its corners, like the last card of the Tarot trumps. There is nothing mysterious about the story these "Mantegna" trionfi tell. The whole series is more philosophical and dignified than the ordinary Tarot. It has the Pope, but the Popess of the Tarot is omitted. There is no Hanged Man, and no Fool standing mysteriously outside the whole series, For this very reason, perhaps, the "Tarot of Mantegna" has also been large neglected by occultists. (4) The ordinary Italian Tarot is at least as old as the middle of the fifteenth century, but the occultist tradition dates only from 1781. (5) In that year French scholar, Antoine Court de Gebelin, published the eighth volume of
4. The "Tarot of Mantegna" is considered in the following works, most of which were kindly suggested by P.rofessor Erwin Panofsky: Die Tarocchi; Zwei Italienische Kupferstichfolgen, by the Graphische Gesellschaft (Berlin, 1910); "Ein Edles Geduldspiel," by Heinrich Brockhaus in Miscellanea di Storia dell'Arte in Onore di Igino Benvenuto Supino (Firenze, 1933), p. 397 416; the Gesammelte Schriften of Aby M. Warburg (Leipzig, 1932), vol. 1, p. 412, and numerous other references reached through the index at the end of vol. 2 under "Tarocchi"; and Catalog of Early Italian Engravings Preserved in the British Museum, by Arthur M. Hind (London 1910), p. 17-25.
5. The Tarot suit cards were sometimes used before 1781 for a simple kind of sortilege like the Book of Fate, which has also been claimed to be Egyptian in origin, although it contains a reference to Dick Whittington.
his Monde Primitif. (6) It contains a chapter on the Tarot. In it he tells how he happened to see some ladies playing the game, and was struck with the pictures on the trump cards. He had seen Tarot cards in his early youth, but forgotten about them. Now, seeing them again, he felt that they had serious meaning.
Even in our own day, when so much more is known about the past, one shares this feeling on seeing the trumps for the first time. When the cards are laid out in sequence (in modern packs all but the wild card are numbered) they seem to be telling some mysterious story. The curtain is raised, so to say, by the Juggler. Then come powerful figures: Popess, Empress, Emperor and Pope. Gods and personified virtues follow, then the Hanged Man, Death, with the angel of Temperance, the Devil, and a burning Tower. Stars, the Moon and the Sun are next, and then the Last Judgment, followed by that enigmatic card called the World, a semi-nude woman dancing in the midst of the four living creatures, the symbols of the four Gospels.
Court de Gebelin had been studying things Egyptian, as well as anyone could at that time, and it seemed to him that the cards were Egyptian. He was convinced that they must be an ancient book, the Book of Thoth. This book, he said, must have been deliberately disguised as a game and given the ancestors of the Gypsies, many centuries ago, by ancient Egyptian priests, who trusted that a book in the form of a game would have a better chance of survival. It would surely be preserved in its original form until e wise man appeared who could decipher it. And now Court de Gebelin had done it! He read them backwards, and found in them the story of the seven ages of man. The Golden Age was represented by the cards for the World, the Last Judgment (really the Creation, he said), the heavenly bodies the blazing Tower, and the Devil, who of course put an end to the Golden Age, The next seven cards were the Silver Age, and the rest the Iron Age.
This romantic theory is quite unsound, as Arthur E. Waite has pointed out. In the first place, no twentieth-century Egyptologist has given it any support, and it is unlikely that the ancestors of the Gypsies lived in ancient Egypt, as Court de Gebelin assumed. Then, too, the designs of the cards and
7. Court de Gebelin, Antoine. Monde Primitif, vol. 8 (Paris, 1781). The chapter on the Tarot is on p. 365-410. A folded plate at the end of the volume shows the trumps as Court de Gebelin knew them, with a dancing Prudence instead of the hanged Man. 8. Waite, Arthur Edward. The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (London, 1910; and published in the U.S. as The Illustrated Key to the Tarot, by L. W. De Laurence, (Chicago, 1918), p. 23-32 in the American edition. He gives a. full and amusing account of the growth of the occultist tradition up to.the time he wrote. He believed, nevertheless, that the cards had an occult meaning, but he did not think that they were much earlier than the fifteenth century.
their order have changed from time to time, so that we must discard the idea of the faithfully preserved codex. Most of all, it is significant that the decks of the cards aroused no curiosity among those who first played with them in the fourteenth or fifteenth century. A disguised Egyptian book, suddenly appearing in Europe, would surely have stimulated lively discussion. In fact there was great interest in Egyptian symbolism at just about the time the cards appeared. The discovery of Horapollo's Hieroglyphica in 1419 had stimulated this interest. (8) But Horapollo's designs are very different from those of the Tarot, and it is not until more than a century later that questions about the meaning of the Tarot trumps are recorded. We can only conclude that the designs were so familiar as to arouse no comment.
None of these considerations has put a stop to the occultist legends. Nor has their inconsistency with each other discouraged the invention of new ones. The Hebrew Kabbalah is now often associated with the trumps, and Gypsies, supposed by Court de Gebelin to be ignorant keepers of the Book of Thoth, have become its most respected interpreters in some quarters.
The first to take up Court de Gebelin's theory was Etteilla (Alliette), 1783, and he was followed by many others. In the twentieth century the most influential writers on the Tarot have been Papus (Gerard Encausse), whose The Tarot of the Bohemians is the occultist's basic text, and Arthur E. Waite with his Pictorial Key to the Tarot.
Traces of their influence may be found in novels and poetry, notably Charles Williams' mystical novel The Great Trumps, and T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land. Jessie Weston took Tarot very seriously in her From Ritual to Romance, which Eliot mentions as the chief influence on his poem. From the tone of Miss Weston's book, or would gather that she belonged to some occultist group such as the Order of the Golden Dawn, to which the poet W. B. Yeats belonged for a while.
The occultist Tarot lore is still growing. In every occultist bookshop the are books about it, and new ones keep coming out. Two of the newer ones are worth looking at: Le Tarot de Marseille, by Paul Marteau (in which all the attractive cards made by Grimaud are reproduced in full color), The Painted Caravan, by Basil 11. (published at The Hague by L. J. C.
8 Panofsky, Erwin. Meaning in the Visual Arts (Garden City, 1955), p. 152. This book, and: same author's Studies in Iconology (New York, 1939) will be found invaluable by anyone who wants to pursue the subject of the Tarot symbolism further. Also indispensable are two books by Raimond van Marle: Iconographie de l'Art Profane au Moyen Age et a la Renaissance (La Havre 1931-32), especially vol. 2: "Allegories et Symboles," and The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting (The Hague, 1923-28).
9. For Yeats' nerve-racking struggle with Aleister Crowley, see The Great Beast; the Life of Aleister Crowley, by John Symonds (New York, 1951), p. 20-34.
Boucher, 1954). has modified the designs of the trumps to suit himself, as many occultists have done. He has also added a design for T. S. Eliot's fictitious card, the Phoenician Sailor. In books published under Jungian auspices, rather uncritical references to the Tarot are beginning to appear. Such a book is The Great Mother, by Erich Neumann, published in English translation in 1955 as part of the Bollingen series. It contains a reference to the Tarot backed up by Rudolf Bernouilli's essay, "Die Zahlensymbolik des Tarotvstems," which appeared in the Eranos-Jahrbuch (also a Jungian publication) for 1934. Bernouilli's authorities are not very impressive.
Even cataloguers of playing cards have given rather serious attention to Court de Gebelin's ideas. The two most useful catalogues are A Descriptive Catalogue of Playing and other Cards in the British Museum, by William H. Wilshire (entered in most library catalogues under the author heading “British Museum") and A History of Playing Cards and a Bibliography of Cards and Gaming, by Catherine P. Hargrave. Since no scholar has arisen to do for playing cards what Murray did for chess, the cataloguers have had to do the best they could, and their work has a strong tincture of Court de Geblin. The anonymous cataloguer who described the Morgan Library's lovely old painted Tarots has followed the same line.
Before we go on to discuss the real meaning of the trumps, it might be well to give the location of some collections of playing cards easily accessible to New Yorkers. The great collection described by Miss Hargrave is unfortunately out of their reach. It is the property of the United States Playing Card Company, and is now on permanent loan to the Cincinnati Art Museum, being housed in its Print Department. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has two incomplete packs which must be Tarot cards (quite modern) and some very old uncut sheets of what look to me like Minchiate. The Cooper Union Museum has an incomplete pack of Minchiate. The Morgan Library has thirty-five fifteenth-century Tarot cards, some of them painted by Cicognara. Part of this set has been beautifully reproduced in full color in Connoisseur, March 1954, pages 54-60. Our own Library has a pack of the modem Tarots made by Grimaud in Paris, with the maker's name and the date 1930 on the two:of coins. It also has a pack of Tarots made in Brussels, which resembles German Tarock cards, though the suit signs are our own familiar spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds; and a pack of fortune-telling Tarots like Etteilla's. We may never know how the entire Tarot pack developed. The suit cards have grown out of the game of chess, or they may have come from the Middle East, as some people believed in the late fifteenth century. And if
the origin of the suit cards is so hard to discover, will it not be even harder to make any sense out of those far more mysterious cards, the trumps?
Not when we once get on the right track. We have two valuable clues: their Italian name, trionfi, and the original absence of curiosity about their meaning, showing that it must have been taken for granted. The word trionfi means triumphs as well as trumps (in fact, the English word trump is only another form of the word triumph). In the Italian Renaissauce these trionfi, as revivals of the ancient Roman triumphs, became very popular. They were quite a different thing from the ancient triumph, however. That had been a strictly military celebration. Dressed in the regalia of Jupiter Capitolinus, the victor had ridden in a car drawn by four white horses. His captives were chained to his chariot wheels, and the processions often included other trophies, such as exotic animals brought from the conquered country. The trionfi kept this basic pattern, but blossomed out into something more like circus parades or Mardi Gras processions. They seem t have been an important part of the Carnival celebration. The triumphal car became a float, and the place of the human victor was given to some allegorical figure such as Fortune or Peace. (10) These triumphs became popular all over Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Francis Bacon in his Essays, assumes that they will play an important part in social life:
"You cannot," he says, "have a perfect palace, except you have two several sides; a side for the banquet . . . and a side for the household; the one for feasts and triumphs, and the other for dwelling . . . I would have on the side of the banquet, in front, one only goodly room above stairs, of some forty foot high; and under it, a room for a dressing or preparing place at times of triumphs." (11)
"These things are but toys," he says in another essay, "to come among such serious observations. But yet, since princes will have such things, it is better they should be graced with elegancy, than daubed with cost . . . Let the scenes abound with light, specially coloured and varied . . . The colours that shew best by candle-light are white, carnation, and a kind of sea-water green; and oes, or spangs, as they are of no great cost, so they are of most glory. As for rich embroidery, it is lost and not discerned ... Let antimasques not be long; they have been commonly of fools, satyrs, baboons, wild-men,.
10. cf. Burekhardt, Jacob. The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy (London, 1914), pt. v, chapter viii: The Festivals. cf. also Chartrou, Josephe. Les Entrées Solennelles et Triomphes a la Renaissance; and Weisbach, Werner. Trionfi (Berlin, 1919).
12. Bacon, Francis. The Essayes or Counsels, Civil/ dr Moral (London and New York, 1925). Essay xxv: Of Building, p. 134.
antics, beasts, sprites, witches, Ethiopes, pigmies, turquets, nymphs, rustics, Cupids, statues moving, and the like." (12)
The greatest artists of the time designed the arrangements for such festivals. At Milan, Leonardo da Vinci designed them for the festivals of the Duke. (13)
But long before the triumphs took the form of actual processions, they had been the theme of paintings and literary works, and I think we may connect e Tarot trumps with one of these, the poem by Petrarch entitled I Trionfi (The triumphs ).
Petrarch was still working on this poem when he died in 1374, and for more than two centuries after his death it was the most popular of his works, (14) and next to Bible stories the theme used most often in illumination, tapestry, painted marriage-chests and birth-trays, pottery, enamel work, relief sculptures, and engravings. (15).
Petrarch's poetry became such a fad that people began to exaggerate about the strength of their devotion to it and the early date when it began. 16 Finally the fad became ridiculous. "By the close of the fourteenth century," says Burckhardt, 17 "the love-lorn wailings of Petrarch's sonnets and others of the same kind were taken off by caricaturists; and the solemn air of this form of verse was parodied in lines of mystic twaddle." But Petrarch was still popular, as we have noted, for the next two centuries, and one will sometimes see in
12. Ibid., Essay xxxxvii: Of Masques and Triumphs, p. 115-116. This list of characters reminds me of the figures used on the playing cards of fifteenth-century Germany.
13. Burckhardt, op. cit., p. 417; and Enciclopeclia dello Spettacolo (Roma, 1954-), vol. 1, 359. So far only the first volume (A-Bar) of this encyclopedia has appeared. Forthcoming volumes should be useful on the subject of trionfi).
14. Throughout the manuscript period the Triumphs were markedly more popular than the Canzoniere; of 213 14th-15th century MSS. listed by Narducci as containing one or both of the two works, some 85 contain the Triumphs alone, some 79 both Triumphs and Canzoniere, and only some 49 the Canzoniere alone." — Wilkins, Ernest H. The Making of the "Canzoniere," aud other Petrarchan Studies (Roma, 1951), p. . For the popularity of I Trionfi see also Massena, Victor, prince d'Essling. Petrarque (Paris, 1902), p. 102, note 3. Hind, A. M., Catalogue of Early Italian Engravings (London?, 1910), p. 10 (quoted in Harvard University. Fogg Museum of Art. A Loan Exhibition of Early Italian Engravings (Intaglio), (Cambridge, 1915), p. 51. On page 104 of the Fogg Museum work there is mentioned a "game of the Triumphs of Petrarch" as one of the entries in the Rosselli inventory, and the game is described as consisting of three pieces.
10. cf.Wilkins, op. cit., p. 217. He quotes an inscription by the owner of an illtuninated copy of the poems, who said that he wanted to have his darling Petrarch beside him in bed and at table, and to live and die with it. He also claimed that he had had the copy made at a date (1370) which Wilkins calls "unreliable."
14. Burckhardt, op. cit., p. 159.
portraits of the time the fat, elaborately tooled little book, a "Petrarchino,” in the hand of some melancholy young man. (18)
It is clear, then, that Petrarch's Trionfi not only has the same name as our cards, but that it was a poem so universally familiar that the cards could have alluded to the poem and been instantly recognized for what they were by anyone who saw them. Now let us compare the cards with illustrations of the poem. (19)
The poem celebrates six triumphs: the triumph of Cupid over gods and men, the triumph of Chastity over Cupid, the triumph of Death over Chastity, the triumph of Fame over Death, the triumph of Time over Fame, and the triumph of Eternity over Time.
Those who illustrated the poem paid very little attention to the text they were illustrating. In fact, Massena suggests that they were following some lost commentary on the poem, rather than the poem itself. I wonder if this "commentary" was not some carnival procession remembered by the artists.
These illustrations usually show the triumphant Cupid as a naked boy, (20) riding on a car drawn by four white horses. He aims his arrows (or his darts) at his captives, who include Anthony and Cleopatra, Petrarch himself as the lover of Laura, Aristotle, Virgil, and a personage in ecclesiastical dress who is shown sometimes as wearing the tiara of the Pope. (21) This papal personage heads the other captives in the fifteenth-century manuscript copy of Petrarch's Rime owned by The New York Public Library. And he looks very papal indeed in another fifteenth-century Italian manuscript of which Max Jaffe has issued a reproduction, owned by the Library's Picture Collection. At the end of the procession in. this picture is Aristotle being ridden by Phyllis, but Virgil in his basket (a much naughtier story) is not shown.
18. e, g. "Giovane con Petrarchino" by Lotto, reproduced in Berenson, Bernard. Lotto ( Milano, 1955), plate 64.
19 Most of the illustrations will be found conveniently assembled in two books: Massena, Victor; prince d'Essling. Petrarque (Paris, 1902); and Reid, George William. Works of the Italian Engravers of the 15th Century, first series (London, 1884), which has only the engravings by Fra Filippo Lippi, but is very useful because it includes the text of a complete English translation of I Trionfi.
20 For Cupid see Panofsky's Studies in Iconology, chapter iv: "Blind Cupid."
21 A tempting conjecture is that the Pope in the Petrarchan illustrations, and the Tarot Popess and Pope, were meant as a deliberate anti-clerical witticism. Then, if anybody objected, they were not really the Pope and Popess, but Jupiter and Juno in old-fashioned clothes (see Seznec, Jean. The Survival of the Pagan Gods (New York, 1953), p. 94-95,162-165, and the illustration cn p. 157). But I must not conceal the fact that Professor Panofsky has serious objections to this. He points out that in the "Mantegna Tarot" we have both the Pope and Jupiter, without any confusion of the two.
Here, then, we have a group of figures corresponding to the first group of Tarot trumps, as they are usually numbered today (we must remember that the oldest Tarot trumps bear neither numbers nor names). The first trump, the Juggler, may be only the master of ceremonies, or he may represent one of the gods or rulers who have fallen captive to Cupid. The next six cards are certainly Cupid's captives: the Popess (replaced by Juno in most of the Tarot cards of southern France), (22) the Empress, the Emperor, the Pope (or Jupiter in southern France), and the Lovers with Cupid above, all correspond quite closely to the illustrations of the triumph of Cupid. How different from the dignified opening group of the “Tarot of Mantegna"! In this Cupid group we have plenty of "box-office" appeal: opportunities for ribald wisecracks and sentimental expressions of several kinds. No wonder Petrarch's poem was so popular!
Next comes the triumph of Chastity over Cupid. We may take the cards that represent the virtues as the companions of Chastity, and the card called the Car seems intended as part of this group. Even though the car is drawn by the white horses of Cupid (and not the unicorns of Chastity) the card follows the first group of virtues in the Minchiate sequence, and therefore seems to belong to that group rather than to the first one. Furthermore, in the oldest cards (23) the figure riding in the car is a long-robed woman or an armed warrior (as in the modern Tarot), not at all like the naked Cupid. The virtues are Justice, Strength, and Temperance (in modern packs displaced into the Death group). Nowadays the Hermit is placed in this group, but he is actually Father Time, the only remaining representative of the triumph of Time, as I hope to show a little further on. Another card belonging to the Chastity group is the Wheel of Fortune, with its four figures saying "Regnabo; regno; regnavi; sum sine regno." We know that the card belongs to this group because Fortune appears in some form in a few of the illustrations for this part of Petrarch's poem. She is probably there as one of the captives of tri-
22 "Jupiter and Juno replace the usual Pape and Papesse in most of the tarots of southern France." — Hargrave, op. cit., p. 37 (illustrated). See also Linde, Antonius van der, Geschichte des Schachspiels (Berlin, 1874), vol. 2, p. 390. Linde rejects the idea that chess and cards are connected, but his list of the trumps begins: "1. Gaukler; 2. Juno (friiher Papstinn); 3. Kaiserin; 4. Kaiser; 5. Jupiter (friiher Papst) ...
23. Including the card in the Morgan Library's set. The long robe alone would not argue against her being Venus, and possibly in the oldest Tarot sets the first group of cards was thought of as the triumph of Venus.
umphant virtue. Sometimes she is represented by tempest-tossed sailors, for "fortuna" can mean "tempest" in Italian. (24) The third section of the poem is the triumph of Death over Chastity, commemorating Laura's death, supposedly in the Black Death of 1348. In the illustrations of the poem Death is an emaciated woman brandishing a scythe, and riding in a funeral car drawn by black oxen. In the sky above, angels. carry the souls of the blessed to Paradise, and devils carry the damned to Hell. This group is plainly represented in both Tarot and Minchiate packs by Death, the Devil, and the .burning Tower. In modem packs the Tower is struck by fire from heaven, but in the old cards it is a regular Hell-mouth emitting flames of its own. (These Hell-mouths were favorite features of Carnival processions, and other out-door performances. Once one of the burned right through a bridge). The Hanged Man must also belong to this group, for he has been called the Traitor. (25) He has also been called the Acrobat (see Linde's list of the trumps in footnote 22). In some Tarot packs he is not hanging by one ankle, but dancing on one foot, and if one turns th Hanged Man upside down he usually appears to be dancing. (26) This suggests that in actual carnival processions he was attached by one ankle to his framework, and tried to keep his balance by standing on top of it, poised on one foot. Occasionally he would lose his balance, and then he would appear as the Hanged Man, the traitor Judas. In the Minchiate pack he has a bag of
24 "Fortuna e tempesta di mare; e dicesi: fortuna di mare; il mare fa fortuna (quando comincia) e in fortune. (turbato gth tutto). E il Manzoni in modo assoluto: quando ingrossa ruggendo la fortuna. Dicon anco, una fortune di vento; ma sempre sulle acque. Il fortunale e piu rapido, non sempre con piu rovinosa calamita. Ne fanno l'accrescitivo fortunalone." — Tommaseo, Niccolo, Nuovo Dizionario de' Sinonimi della Lingua Italiana (Napoli, 1935), p. 1093. A footnote to this passage quotes Horace as calling Fortune "Te dominam acquorum." See also Patch, Howard R., The Goddess Fortuna in Mediaeval Literature (Harvard University Press, 1927), p. 106-107.
25 cf. the British Museum catalogue mentioned above. It was common to paint traitors as hung b their feet. Vasari tells us that Andrea del Sarto refused to paint a group of traitors in this position for fear of being called "Andrea of the Hanged," as another Andrea had been called after painting the traitors who tried to kill Lorenzo the Magnificent. The tradition seems to have persisted; Mussolini and his mistress were hung by the feet after their ignominious deaths. A photograph in the New York Times Magazine for October 16,1955, shows a bust of Eva Peron hung upside down after Peron's overthrow. Could this: custom have begun when Cola di Rienzi's headless corpse was hanged by his murderers during Petrarch 's lifetime?
26. Professor Panofsky writes me: "The dancing posture which he (as you rightly observe) assumes when the picture is turned upside down is a very good classical motif very frequent in Bacchic reliefs and vase paintings and assimilated by the Italian Renaissance at an early data and with great enthusiasm (see, for example, Pollaiuolo's frescoes at Arcetri, first connected, so far as I know, with those classical prototypes by F. Saxl, "Rinascimento dell'Antichita," Repertorium fur Kunstwissenschaft, 43 ( 1922), p. 220ff.) There would seem to be a strong possibility that some kind of mix-up is involved, especially since those dancing bacchantes often carry cymbals or timbrels in their hands that might easily be reinterpreted into bags."
coins in each hand (the thirty pieces of silver?) If the carnival acrobat had these, the moment when he lost his balance would be the moment for a give-away show, unless he could manage to keep the bags right side up as he fell. This he seems to be doing in the so-called "Charles VI" pack. (27) The lines of his clothing show that he has only just lost his balance, but he has managed to turn his bags right side up, just as a coin appeared at the mouth of each one.
The triumph of Fame — of Laura's fame over her death — has dropped out of the Tarot sequence entirely. But we do find it in the Minchiate pack, here it is represented by one of the six wild cards, an angel blowing two trumpets at once, with the inscription “Fama Vola." It is also represented by the second group of virtues, the more heroic virtues that lead to Fame: Hope, Faith, Prudence and Charity. In the illustrations of the poem, Fame is usually blowing a trumpet with several mouths and one mouthpiece, and is accompanied by virtues, as well as the great men and women of the past.
The triumph of Time over Laura's fame is represented by one card only, the Hermit. As we have already noted, he is really Father Time. He appears in the Petrarchan illustrations riding on a car drawn by stags (in Mantegna's lovely version their branched horns harmonize with the leafless branches of the winter trees through which the car is making its way). He leans on two sticks, and has an hourglass. (28) In the Minchiate pack he still has the two sticks, the hourglass, and one of the stags. In the oldest Tarot cards. (29) he has the hourglass, but in modern packs the hourglass has become a lantern, and the original meaning of the card has been forgotten. It seems to have taken on the idea of old age rather than time, and in the Minchiate pack is so numbered as to be the first card of the Death group. There are other symbols of Time in both Tarot and Minchiate packs, but they must be considered part of the triumph of Eternity, since they appear in the Petrarchan illustrations as Eternity's captives. They are the Stars, the
27 The cards once thought to be those painted for King Charles VI of France in 1392, but now believed to be part of a Venetian set painted much later. cf. Willshire, op. cit., pt. I, p. 19. These cards are far more like modern Minchiate cards than like modern Tarots, and I would not surprised if scholars decided some time that they actually are Minchiate cards. They are reproduced full-size in Jeux de Cartes Tarots et de Cartes Numerales du 14. au 18. Siecle, published by the Societe des Bibliophiles Francais (Paris, 1844), and far less satisfactorily in Hargrave (op. cit., p. 32 and the plate facing p. 38). Massena mentions them (op. cit., p. 130, note 4) as showing that the ideas of I Trionfi were already in the air when Petrarch began to write them, but Massone accepted 1392 as the true date for the cards.
28 cf. Panofsky, Erwin. Studies in Iconology, chapter III: Father Time.
29 Including the card in the Morgan Library, although it has been described as a man carrying a lantern. I am convinced, after inspecting the card, that it is an hourglass.
Moon, and the Sun, whose office as the measurers of Time becomes useless in the full light of Eternity. The Minchiate pack has a very elaborate sequence of cards here, including the elements of fire, water, earth and air, and the twelve signs of the Zodiac. The Minchiate Star is the Star of the Wise Men, recalling the Epiphany processions of Milan, (30) and suggesting that there were similar processions in Florence, the home of the Minchiate cards.
The cards of the Last Judgment and the World show Eternity itself. In the Petrarchan illustrations there are trumpeting angels on the triumphal car, like the angel (or angels) in the card of the Last Judgment. The car is drawn either by the four Evangelists themselves, or by the four living creatures that symbolize them: the angel, ox, lion and eagle. In one illustration the Evangelists draw the car while the four creatures walk sedately ahead of them. So in the last trump card; the World, the four living creatures appear in the four corners. The dancing woman who is now the central figure of this card was not part of the design in the old painted cards. There is sometimes an angel, but no naked lady. She seems to have taken the angel's place when the original meaning of the card had been forgotten. Possibly she is the earth goddess who has survived as "Saint Bertha" in the Alpine country.(31)
Now let us go back and look at the sequence as a whole. Notice that we need not do much rearranging of the modern numbered cards to make them fit our theory. Only the ninth and fourteenth cards need to be displaced. Notice also that each succeeding trump is more virtuous or more powerful than those before it.
The Triumph of Cupid:
II.The Popess (or Juno)
III.The Empress, more virtuous than the Popess
IV. The Emperor, more powerful than his consort
V. The Pope (or Jupiter)
VI. The Lovers (Cupid as conqueror)
30. Showy affairs with the whole city as stage, a star and an angel moving about on a wire, and with apes and baboons in the procession that followed the Magi. See Cualvanei de la Flarnma. Opusculum de Rebus. Gestis ab Axone, Luchino et Johanne Vicecomitibus, ab anno 1328 usque ad annum 1341, chapter xxviii: De Festo Trium Regum. (in Muratori, L. A., Regum ltalicarum Scriptores, v. 12, pt. 4, p. 22). I spent many hours searching through Muratori and other collections of old Italian chronicles, hoping to find a record of some actual procession based on Petrarch's Trionfi. I found nothing, but the literature is so immense that a scholar trained in its use may yet find something. All I got was an impression that the trionfi may have been at first connected with the processions that began the medieval tournaments. The famous palio of Siena bears this out. cf. Toor, Frances. Festivals and Folkways of Italy (New York, 1953), p. 295.
31. Hastings, James, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 3 (New York, 1951), p. 228, art. "Carnival."
The Triumph of Chastity:
VII. The Car
X. The Wheel of Fortune
The Triumph of Death:
XII. The Hanged Man
XV. The Devil
XVI. The Tower
The Triumph of Fame (in the Minchiate pack only)
The Triumph of Time:
IX. The Hermit (Father Time)
The Triumph of Eternity:
XVII. The Stars
XVIII. The Moon
XIX. The Sun
XX. The Last Judgment
XXI. The World (22)
Fool, or Checkmate (Not actually part of the procession)
This last card, the Fool or Checkmate, may be Lent, which checkmates the Carnival (33) in which the triumphal floats appeared. At the end of the Carnival there is usually some ceremony of killing or burying the Carnival. Sometimes there is a mock trial, when the Carnival is accused of having kept people up late, made them drunk, and caused all kinds of disorder. The figure of Lent sometimes goes along with the judges and executioners, to see that Carnival gets his just deserts. The Fool in the Morgan Library's set has some striking resemblances to this figure. He is dressed in rags, and has seven feathers in his hair, recalling the Italian custom of attaching seven
32 Called "EI mondo ave dio padre" in one old record. cf. Hargrave, op. cit., p. 227. 33. There seems to be a special connection between gaming and the Carnival. Gaming was prohibited in fourteenth-century Italian towns except at Christmas time (cf. Archivio Storico Italiano, 4. ser., t. xvm (1886), p. 28-29) from the custom of allowing gaming at the Saturnalia, and the Saturnalia is generally considered to be an ancestor of the Carnival.
feathers to "the Lent." At the end of each week in Lent one feather was pulled out, and just before Easter the "Lent" itself was destroyed. (34)
The probability that the Tarot trumps are closely connected with Petrarch's poem will strike one with special force if one considers it after looking for traces of the history and meaning of the cards in the history and symbolism of medieval and Renaissance alchemy, magic, and witchcraft, (35) or in other literary works of the time. (36) A comparison of the cards with these other sources leaves us baffled. They do not give us the plot of the story the trumps seem to be telling. It is only when we come to Petrarch's Trionfi that we find something like this plot.
And once we have adopted the hypothesis, other details help to corroborate it. We find that it was for Petrarch's patrons, the Visconti family, that some of the earliest cards were painted. Then, too, it is in Italy and southern France, where Petrareh lived, that the cards have persisted the longest and seem most at home.
Perhaps we may conclude, then, that the Tarot trumps appeared first in Italy, and that they are meant to represent a Carnival procession telling the story of Petrarch's love for Laura in allegorical form. It is ironic that the hard-headed Petrarch should have started something which has ended in the occultist bookshops. Superstition never had a deadlier foe than this great poet, who has been called the father of humanism. He disapproved of fortune-telling, and argued his friends out of listening to the persuasions of
34 Frazer, Sir James G. The Golden Bough, pt. III: The Dying God (London, 1951), p. 244-245. The accounts of the death and burial of the Carnival are in the same chapter. At the mock trial of the Carnival figure, Caramantran, Lent marches to the trial at the head of the procession, with the judge and barristers (an indication that the first of the Tarot trumps may have originally been a judge). I wonder whether some of the customs Frazer describes may not be vestiges of the triomfi. He remarks himself: "The very abstractness of the names [Carnival, Death, and Summer] bespeaks a modem origin; for the personification of times and seasons like the Carnival and Summer, or of an abstract notion like death, is not primitive." This is not to deny that the Carnival itself harks back to the Saturnalia, or that the killing of the Carnival reflects the killing of the Saturnalian king after his short reign. If we are to find mystical meanings in the Tarot, it is here we might look. Robert Graves' The White Goddess and Watch the North Wind Rise might be read with this in mind, and on the mystical and cultural meaning of play in general see Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga (London, 1949; recently issued in the United States by Beacon Press as a paperback), and Behold the Spirit, by Alan W. Watts (London, 1947), p. 174-184 and 220.
35 The modern witch coven sometimes adopts the Tarot, but that is another story. cf. Witchcraft Today (New York, 1955), by Gerald Gardner, "member of one of the ancient covens." I suspect his coven is no more ancient than Aleister Crowley. On medieval witchcraft see Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft, edited by Henry C. Lea (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1939).
35 As William M. Seabnry did in his The Tarot Cards and Dante's Divine Comedy (New York, privately printed, 1951).
37 Such a scholar would be able to follow up a clue kindly given me by Dr. Alfred L. Hall-Quest: that the Tarot pack may have some connection with the mnemonic texts used in medieval universities. A similar clue is a footnote, in Burckhardt (op. cit., p. 409, note 1): "About the year 970 Bishop Wibold of Cambray recommended to his clergy, instead of dice, a sort of spiritual bezique, with fifty-six [the exact number of the Tarot suit cards] abstract names represented by as many combinations of cards. — "Gesta Episcopori Cameraecens: in Mon. Germ, SS. vii., p. 433." As to why the number of the trumps is twenty-one, there is the fact that two six-sided dice yield twenty-one possible combinations, for each of which there is a special Chinese name. cf. Culin, Stewart, Chess and Playing Cards (Washington, 1898), p. 833. The string of Spanish lottery balls shown on p. 906 of this book might be compared with the siring of balls held by the Juggler in the "Charles VI” cards.