Monday, February 22, 2016

Feb. 12, 2016: Milanese and Florentine Triumphs

Translator's introduction
(by Michael S. Howard)

This is a continuation of Franco's previous note on the Cary-Yale deck, dated Jan. 17, 2016. Comments in brackets, ostly giving the original Italian, are mine. The original is at, dated Feb. 12, 2016. I posted the translation first at and
After the translation itself, I have put some comments of my own, from

Milanese and Florentine Triumphs - Hypotheses and Comments
(by Franco Pratesi)

1. Introduction

This note can be considered as the continuation of one written month ago (1) on the Visconti di Madrone or Cary-Yale tarot pack, which will be referred to simply by the initials CY. That note had as subject title "elucubrazioni "; Michael S. Howard,  who had contributed that study, translated it with [i]ruminations[/i] (2), and that term has led me to recognize that the subject was not digested enough. In fact, the conclusion of the previous note was not really conclusive, especially the uncertainty on the interpretation of the CY deck as a precursor of standard triumph decks or as a variant of such packs already in common use.

I turn to the subject by discussing some additional consideration on the virtues and assumed links with the Florentine minchiate. The CY being examined is and remains the same: no change at all whether  considered in one way or the other; however, its historical significance changes, and that very much: in light also of the teaching of Sylvia Mann: the importance of an original specimen before a standard is incomparably superior to that of an extravagant variation on a theme already known.

2. The Virtues.

The era of the introduction of the triumphs coincides with that of the early Renaissance, and among the poetic and pictorial cycles of the time were very popular both the triumphs (with influences of non-immediate derivation from classical civilization and from Petrarch's poem), and the virtues, often presenting their victory over the corresponding vices. In short, that we find among the triumphal cards some triumphs and some virtues does not occasion any surprise;
1. [translated in this blog as entry for Jan. 17, 2016].

possibly a few other correspondences [risconti] are to be found in the tarot.

Everyone knows that the virtues are seven, four cardinal and three theological, but perhaps it is useful to provide some official clarification in this regard; this is how they are defined under the title, In summary, in a catechism of 790 pages (3).
1833 Virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good. 1834 The human virtues are stable dispositions of the intellect and the will that govern our acts, order our passions and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They can be grouped around the four cardinal virtues, prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. 1835 Prudence disposes the practical reason to discern, in every circumstance, our true good and to choose the means for achieving it. 1836 Justice consists in the firm and constant will to give God and neighbor their due. 1837 Fortitude ensures, in difficulties, steadfastness and constancy in the pursuit of the good. 1838 Temperance moderates the attraction of pleasures of the senses and provides balance in the use of created goods. 1840 The theological virtues dispose Christians to live in relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have God as their origin, motive and object, God known though faith, hoped for and loved for himself. 1841 There are three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. 1842 By faith, we believe in God and believe all that he has revealed to us and that Holy Church proposes for our belief. 1843 By hope we desire and await from God, with faith, eternal life and the graces to merit it. 1844 By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. It is "the bond of perfection" and the form of all the virtues.
I do not know if and how this doctrine of the virtues has been superseded by more recent versions of the official catechism, but for our purposes it seems to me already more than sufficient; if necessary, one should resort to the doctrine of the time, it will not be easy to find in a similarly "official" form . I add only (Fig. 1) a photo of Faith and Hope, designed by Andrea Pisano a century before the time in question here. Now we know enough to continue our reflections.
3. Catechismo della Chiesa Cattolica, Città del Vaticano 1992, pp.466-467.

[Translator's note: I was not able to get a good reproduction of Franco's photo to put here; you may go to page 7 of the original, but I found one on the Web just as good, at There are also very clear photos of the two separately at and, by Mary Anne Sullivan at]

 Figure 1. Florence, Baptistry, detail from the South Door

Anyone interested in the tarot cards, in their various forms, structures and orders, certainly will bump into the problem of the virtues. The triumphal cards are ordered so as to see a growing power of the same - a necessary condition for using them in the game with no writing on them directly of their number in the series. Michael Dummett, having discussed at length the various kinds of orders for the major Italian cities, stressed the fact that precisely the three cards that represent three of the seven virtues (indeed, three of the four cardinal virtues) are the most erratic in the "canonical" orders of the triumphal card sequence. On issues like that I can defer to what is recurrently discussed in the literature, at least from 1980 on.

The reason why I will deal briefly with the virtues  now is that the three theological virtues are in the CY; in this case  three are preserved out of three, and the case is presented unusually favorably. As for the four cardinal virtues, only one of them is preserved, fortitude, and, on the other hand, the card of Prudence is absent in almost all tarot packs.

3. Direct Construction of the virtues.

By direct reconstruction I mean the supposition that the CY is a variation on the theme of the tarot existing in their canonical form, and therefore attempts are made to associate the three "intruders" cards of the theological virtues, which would all be absent there at the beginning, to others replacing precisely  those three. No one, to my knowledge, has suggested that the hypothetical complete sequence of triumphal cards in this deck was made up of at least 25 cards: the traditional 22 plus 3 new cards, precisely those of the theological virtues in question. Therefore, is it established that some figures of the tarot were inserted instead of the three theological virtues?  Unfortunately an association group to group is not seen, and one should proceed to try different analogies for each individual card. For reports of this kind I can I can use as a basis the famous Encyclopedia of Kaplan (4).
The trump cards Hope and Charity (and the card Faith, which is not shown) do not appear in traditional seventy-eight card tarocchi decks but are found in minchiate packs, which generally comprise ninety-seven cards. For this reason, some researchers believe the Cary-Yale tarocchi pack is either a minchiate deck or an intermediate game in the development and evolution of either tarot or minchiate. Hope depicts a crowned female figure in profile wearing a long robe, kneeling in prayer, with an anchor tied to her wrists. At the bottom of the card is a hunched figure of a man with a rope around his neck and with the words “Juda traditor” written in white letters on his purple garment. The despairing figure of vice is Judas. It has been suggested that the card of Hope may be a substitute for any one of several traditional Major Arcana cards missing in the Cary-Yale pack – Temperance, or The Hanged Man (suggested by the rope), or The Star with its symbolic meaning of rising new hope. Charity shows a crowned and seated female figure facing front who carries a silver torch in her right hand while supporting a suckling infant with her left arm. Charity is richly robed in an ornate gown with ermine cape. At her feet, beneath the throne at the bottom left of the card, is a crowned king suggesting King Herod. Charity may be a substitute for The Popess, but the image of a woman breast-feeding her child is inconsistent with the traditional imagery of The Popess. The Faith card depicts a female figure with a cross in her left hand; the index finger of her right hand is upraised to ward off evil spirits. Beneath her throne is a crowned king, possibly the figure of Heresy. Faith may be a substitute for The Pope or The Popess.
4. S. R. Kaplan, The Encyclopedia of Tarot. Vol 1. New York 1978, p. 91.

When the same Kaplan puts all the preserved Visconti-Sforza cards in a long table on p. 64 of the same first volume of the Encyclopedia, he adds the three theological virtues above the 21 World, and also, with a question mark following, the Popess-Charity , Pope-Faith, and Hope-Star associations. But we read in the text copied above that Hope, as well as replacing the Star, could have substituted for Temperance or even the Hanged Man. On the other hand, in place of the Popess could also have been inserted Faith, alternatively Charity.

As a source, the Encyclopedia is not perfect because it does not distinguish sufficiently the associations suggested by the author from those suggested by other experts, who also are mentioned in general and collectively, without being named individually. For our purposes, absolute accuracy is not required, however; it is sufficient to understand if indeed there could be such a substitution. The very fact that recognizable clues were found and interpreted in favor of such associations can be considered a confirmation of that possibility.

4. Inverse Reconstruction of the virtues.

By an inverse reconstruction I mean that there obtains in the CY a situation preceding the canonical form of the tarot and that, correspondingly, the three theological virtues were already present in this experimental and pioneering form. What card has subsequently substituted for that which was originally a theological virtue? Our task here becomes easy: we do not have to study the situation again, but we can take advantage of what has already been suggested. One simply has to copy down the similarities found before. Was it true that the existing Popess could have turned into a figure of Charity in the CY? Good; then it can also be said, now, that the pre-existing figure of Charity was then transformed over time (she may have lost the milk) into the canonical one of the Popess. The same applies for the Faith-Pope, Hope-Star couples and other hypothesized associations between a theological virtue and a "canonical" card.

In short, at first sight pairs of associated figures work in both directions. Looking more closely, however, it is not at all certain that the symmetry is really respected: it is possible, even probable, that a likeness suggested in one way proves far less convincing

when viewed in the opposite direction. There is also an asymmetry for the same basic reasons in the replacement of the figures: having a homogeneous group of three figures, how is it possible to "break it up" into three independent figures, or at least into one independent figure and a reduced group of two?

Furthermore, it is naturally more reasonable to find the three theological virtues together in a high position on the list, rather than away from each other or in the front positions. In short, if a replacement there was, it would seem more logical to the group the theological virtues and move them up in the ranking (direct reconstruction), rather than vice versa, their break-up and movement down (inverse reconstruction). On this basis one could conclude that the CY was obtained from a standard deck and not vice versa. However, one might also conclude that it is the very idea of a replacement that does not find sufficient handholds. The situation remains unclear; I will go back over this after pursuing another detour through ... Florence.

5. Comment on minchiate

In traditional Florentine minchiate there are no fewer than 41 triumphal cards; it seems unlikely that this deck, which has been used for centuries, was born with all its 97 cards. In particular, the cards of the four elements and the twelve zodiac signs are presented as a rear insertion within an already standardized sequence ; All historians agree on an interpretation of this sort. Among other things, it  is a sequence that has an order recognizable in itself (which turned out not to be sufficient for their use as trump cards in a game, so that to ensure the order the cards were marked with the actual numbers). For example, this is quite reasonable given that the zodiac signs were not added so that one follows the other, in the same way as the corresponding constellations in the heavens succeed one another in the passing months. This is already a sequence a little different from that of Petrarch's triumphs, in which the victory and the triumph were more obvious and corresponded almost to victory in a battle.

What was the initial form of minchiate? No one knows. The only thing that is known is that the game of minchiate in 1477 was done

in multiple ways and that only the one in which cards were won was allowed. It was the difference between the cards taken which determined the final score, but how many all the cards in play were we do not know. Let us assume, just for the sake of argument, that the minchiate pack was originally a deck of 80 cards like the hypothetical CY reconstructed in the study described above, with the help of a possible analogy with minchiate, if only for the theological virtues. One would also be satisfied to have finally seen a minchiate with a "reasonable" structure. However, the discussion cannot end here. How did that CY, which looks like it was invented in the Visconti court, not leave traces in Milan, but leave them some time later in Florence? As if only in Florence had survived an experiment that in Milan would be born only to die very quickly after its birth.

Any reconstruction of the type [genere] ends in leaving us perplexed. Let us try once more to see the situation in reverse: is it possible that a primitive minchiate pack already in use in Florence has generated the Milanese CY? By primitive minchiate pack I mean here the pack of Florentine triumphs purchased by Giusto Giusti in 1440 (5), which will be indicated from now on with the initials GG.

6. Two links in a chain

To continue the discussion some preliminary hypotheses. in part already used or under consideration. are necessary: we have already assumed that the CY was originally a deck of 80 cards, 40 pips [numerali, numbered], 24 courts [figurata], 16 triumphal [trionfali]; we admit that the GG Florentine triumphs (whether already called minchiate or not) has existed with its own composition not only before the corresponding standard of 97 cards, but even before the tarot of 78. While holding in the background the appropriate "standard" decks of tarot and minchiate as ultimate goals, we will examine three decks of "experimental " playing cards " as schematically shown in Fig. 2, that of Marziano da Tortona, referred to as the MZ, and also the CY and the GG. Unfortunately, the discussion must be based mainly on assumptions, advanced in succession: none of the three decks is precisely known; of the third, the only one for which we know with
5. Th. Depaulis, Le Tarot révélé. La Tour-de-Peilz 2013, p. 17-18.

certainty the date of production, no card has survived; the only pack of which we have cards is the second, but not all are there, we are not sure how many and which are now lost. The first two packs present themselves as originating in the Milanese court of the Visconti, the first definitely linked, and partly due, to Duke Filippo Maria; perhaps also the second, at least if we accept an early date among those proposed. Already in these first two decks there are uncertainties. The MZ certainly  has four kings and sixteen triumphal cards; uncertain is the number of cards of the four suits, including court cards possibly present alongside the king. Especially uncertain is whether this first known deck of triumphs, could really represent the first-ever attempt to create a pack of the type [genere]. with additional cards superior to the others. It also remains uncertain whether it was a totally isolated attempt, with no direct sequel, or if it can be considered as a link in a chain in which successive attempts take into account the prior ones (the identity of place is a clue especially favoring the chain).

The CY also has several uncertain points. The date of 1441 often proposed is not secure. For completing the preserved triumphal cards there are several possible scenarios and no certainty. The hypothetical reconstruction of 16 triumphal cards is based on a possible analogy with chess pieces and (especially in my opinion) on a possible analogy with the MZ - so that would in fact be a previous link on the same chain - with the same number of triumphal cards but already changed in the direction of the standard decks to follow.

The temporal sequence between the two is secure (in the sense that no one has yet proposed a date of the CY prior to the MZ), as is the fact that going from the first to the second we approach the typical tarot form, while not reaching it. Having admitted that the CY triumphal cards were originally 16, the same as those of the MZ, it is easy to assume that the gods or deified heroes are transformed into other triumphant characters, but with a similar structure (at the limit [al limite] also in so far as [per quanto riguarda} the "transformation" of the triumphal series into cards of the four suits, if the allocation proposed into four groups by Michael Howard is convincing).

The clients of these special packs cannot be overlooked. Especially for the CY, the origin in the ducal court of Milan unfortunately only serves

to explain the extraordinary character. This uniqueness could be of two different types, precisely those that we would like to distinguish, either an elegant variation on the theme of the traditional triumphs or an innovative intermediate structure that will lead to the  standard triumphs. To decide, only Einstein  with his space-time can help: understanding the place to be that of the court of Milan, the time coordinate will be decisive and the prototype of great historical interest will be all the more likely the further back in time one can push the dating; Already 1441, the most often suggested, is too recent.

7. The third hypothetical link in the chain.

At this point it may be useful to introduce into the discussion Florentine minchiate. What links minchiate with the above? Exactly nothing, it would be said, and so said all the experts, with the exception of some art historian ... not knowing the history of playing cards. But if we agree to call minchiate the first Florentine triumphs [Ma se accettiamo di chiamare minchiate i primi trionfi fiorentini], here in 1440 Giusto Giusti is ordering a pack, and no one knows how this GG might be constituted, except that it had especially the for us hardly useful coat of arms of Sigismondo Malatesta. There could not be a big difference between the Florentine and Milanese decks if the same Sigismondo Malatesta receives both for his use from Florence in 1440 and from Milan and Cremona some ten years later.

The cards of the Florentine triumphs could be born and developed in a manner completely independent of those of Milan, but this presents itself as a hardly logical reconstruction, and it appears rather likely that the two developments were somehow connected. There must then be considered the hypotheses that the Milanese triumphs gave rise to the Florentine and also, at least in principle, that the Florentine triumphs gave rise to the Milanese ones.

It may seem strange that I do not take into account Ferrara, also having in mind the subtitle of the fundamental book of Dummett, From Ferrara to Salt Lake City. There is something not quite right about that [Qualcosa non torna.] Surely the courts of Milan and Ferrara were in close contact, but when in 1444 those two ducal courts played a little trionfi with special cards, players of the people in Florence were playing in the streets with

common decks. (6)  They are precisely those packs of Florentine triumphs that could solve most of our remaining doubts in our historical reconstructions, necessarily [up to now] the result of unverifiable speculation. I am able to imagine "ordinary" packs like that, used by the people, as even [perhaps] produced by Milanese handicraft, in addition to Florentine, although I personally have some difficulty with Ferrara, where early triumphs are actually documented in court circles. [In response to my request for clarification, Franco tells me, "I am not able to imagine in Ferrara an active handicraft capable of producing a big amount of card packs, and people playing in the streets with ordinary cards of local production – as certainly was possible in Florence and maybe! in Milan.] (If anyone thought also of Bologna, or other cities, there might be clues in favor, but they can be overlooked in this discussion.)

(Figure 2. Scheme of packs discussed
[Milano = Milan; Firenza = Florence])

From Florence we have no information [notizia] of decks as old as the MZ, but certainly already in 1440 the GG presented no extraordinary novelty; it was enough to order its production at any of the local manufacturers of playing cards. For the dates attributed to the packs discussed, it does not appear impossible that the GG influenced the CY. However, since it is reasonable to bring  the CY back to a local development from the preceding MZ, we would need to make a nice unsupportable somersault [un bel salto mortale] to suppose that the same Marziano had had the idea of his Milan deck from a somewhat similar effort underway in Florence when he was finishing, right there, his university studies. At the state of our current knowledge, this would be an acrobatic act hardly recommendable.

Consequently, we should reconstruct the chain as a derivation of the Florentine triumphs from previous ones in Milan, though not
6. [translated in this blog under Oct. 12, 2015].

from the Milanese standard ones but from the intermediate, so to speak, precisely the type of the CY. Then in Milan that deck would have been changed to the standard tarot, while in Florence it would remain as the basis of the next expansion of the traditional minchiate. Necessary conditions for the plausibility and validity of a reconstruction of the type [genere] are the CY being as close as possible to that of the MZ as dated and structured and absolutely not the later and extravagant occasional pack purposefully different from the ones already used at the time.

8. Return to the virtues.

One cannot consistently follow a logical thread between preserved objects and others of an existence, or at least of a form [forma], only hypothesized. In particular, there are secondary observations that, taken individually, may steer in one direction or in another, but that overall perhaps lead to still greater confusion. Of these observations, I would begin with the previously suspended discussion of the virtues.

In the minchiate sequence (the real one respected for centuries, and the other, purely hypothetical, suggested on the same basis as the CY in the previous note) the theological virtues are found in very high position. It may be reasonable, because the theological virtues certainly cannot be put in a hierarchical order below those of the cardinals, or under other subjects that are lower or even with negative characteristics. However it cannot easily be understood why the cardinal virtue of prudence is inserted, unexpectedly, within the group of the three cardinal virtues.

Once this strange order has been accepted, departing from the GG (assuming that it already respected the sequence of minchiate) and from the CY (if it really was in conformity with the suggested reconstruction), we understand that there may have been interactions between the two decks, Florentine and Milanese. If the theological virtues, all three together, had been inserted into a deck that had none, thus getting in Florence the minchiate (or sooner the GG), one would expect to find them inserted as a compact group, no Prudence in the middle, as indeed is found in the same minchiate for the four elements or twelve zodiac signs.

In conclusion, if one can speak of an “error” in the positioning of Prudence, this would be explained

preferably as present first in Florence, and then eventually repeated in Milan, rather than born only later in Florence, at the time of the "new" theological virtues. To be convinced of a passage like this, however, it would be necessary to acknowledge either that the MZ had been an isolated experiment, not followed in Milan, or that the MZ and GG cooperated together at the birth of the CY; however the task appears daunting.

9. The court cards.

Probably the most original characteristic of the CY is the presence of six court cards in each of the four suits, for a total of 24 cards of which only 17 are preserved. One interpretation, actually suggested by some experts - which is not completely convincing, but yet does not seem absurd  - is that that particular pack was intended for a lady of the court, and had the intention of enhancing alongside the knights and military leaders [condottiere] also the corresponding female figures who lived in the ducal court: therefore also ladies in waiting [dame di compagnia] and maids [cameriere ], next to the queen in the cards. A similar explanation can be advanced for the pack described to the card historians [agli istorici delle carte] by [da] Ross Caldwell (7): that deck being dedicated to a noble woman, why not insert a superior card as Emperor-Empress, by identifying her precisely with the same lady, after the other cards are attributed to personages [personaggi] who live next door?

A different explanation for the court cards and pips may be based on analogy with chess pieces, with a queen’s side alongside the king’s, easily converted into female characters on one side and male on the other. This hypothesis was advanced independently in the previous note, but was already suggested earlier by Lothar Teikemeier in 2003 (8).

These are hypotheses, and other might be proposed; but let us see the case as that ring of the chain that was mentioned. For the MZ and GG we do not have enough information, but in none of the known tarots is there such multiplicity. The deck in part, but only in a small part, is still approaching that of minchiate,

because in it there are at least the two male and the two female pages. Some hints could be received of possible interaction between the GG and CY; However, if we limit our attention to the court cards, it appears easier to explain the CY as a quirky variation on existing successes in a more traditional form.

10. Conclusions

An earlier discussion of the Cary-Yale tarot, or Visconti di Modrone, has been continued, commenting on various assumptions on the cards of the theological virtues and, more generally, the potential reciprocal influences between Milan and Florence. For Florence there is not the information given comparable with that of the Milanese triumph pack [mazzo dei trionfi] of Marziano da Tortona, the only known triumphs definitely of the first quarter of the fifteenth century, and this is a strong argument in favor of a Milanese priority. However, at the dates of the precious Visconti-Sforza packs, Florentine triumphs were already circulating among ordinary people, and it would be precisely those that  should be a priority to find and study. For the Cary-Yale deck it still remains uncertain whether it could be an historically important prototype, but the indications against seem more significant than those in favor. The discussion cannot certainly be considered exhausted, but on these issues, and especially on the Milanese tarot, there is felt more the lack of further documentation than (the lack) of an umpteenth contribution to the debate on the little that has been preserved.

Franco Pratesi – 12.02.2016

Comments on "Milanese and Florentine Triumphs"
(by Michael S. Howard)

My comments about Franco's second note on the Cary-Yale, previously posted, divide into two parts. Part A is specifically on sections 8 and 9 of the note; I have no problems with the note up until then.  But it seems to me that Franco has oversimplified the assumptions. I want to go over the same issues but in a way that takes into account all the assumptions up to that point. I am not trying to substitute a different set of assumptions that are somehow more reasonable, or more grounded in fact. The main subject, as I see it anyway, is to reconstruct how Marziano's game might relate to the later tarot and minchiate.

Part B is more general, having to do with the whole concept of why there are changes in the order of triumphs among the different regions, extending also to changes in the subjects of some of the cards, including substitutions, subtractions, and additions at various times.

These comments are taken from More discussion can be found there as well, by myself and others.


1. Hypothetical and real orders of triumphal cards.

In section 8 Franco says:
In the minchiate sequence (the real one respected for centuries, and the other, purely hypothetical, suggested on the same basis as the CY in the previous note) the theological virtues are found in very high position. It may be reasonable, because the theological virtues certainly cannot be put in a hierarchical order below those of the cardinals, or under other subjects that are lower or even with negative characteristics.
The problem I see is that up until section 8 there were two hypothetical constructions for the CY, Franco's and mine. They both need to be examined. For reference, here they are again.

 The subjects in italics are hypothetical cards. My reconstruction, admittedly, does not have the theological virtues in a high position. I was trying to make a link between the Marziano and the Cary-Yale by means of a division of 16 triumphal cards into four groups, using the schema that was passed on by the Cary Family and filling in the blanks as best I could. There are various ways of ordering the virtues. That is part of an answer to Dummett's question of why the virtues appear in such different places.  Does faith trump prudence, or fortitude trump temperance? A rationale can be provided, but so can rationales for other orders. If you look at the line-ups of the seven virtues as they appear in various frescoes (i.e. Giotto c. 1305, miniatures, and cassone (e.g. Pesselino 1460s, dal Ponte 1430s, among others), sometimes Charity is most prominent (taking the center position) sometimes Prudence, sometimes Justice. The others are similarly variable. 

In the CY order I propose, the cardinals are ordered in the way that they appear in a 15th century Bolognese illumination by Nicholas da Bologna which for some indeterminate time has been in Milan. Bologna was often under the control of Milan in the 14th century. 

The theologicals are in St. Paul's order: Faith, Hope, Charity. What is needed is a memorable order. Allegories can be constructed to help one's memory. It is not hard to remember that in the face of a bad turn of the Wheel, one must have not only fortitude but faith, the basis for hope; then Charity comes next, following St. Paul.  This seems to me not illogical nor hard to remember. It is an adequate basis for a sequence. With it, most importantly, one can play whatever the game was that Marziano designed, one that  required the four groups.

What I want to suggest is that the ordering of the CY-type and the GG-type might have been different. The GG-type can be the proto-minchiate order and the CY-type can be my suggested order, based on the structure of the MZ and the assignments passed on by the Cary family.

2. Return to the virtues, in terms of "direct" as opposed to "inverse" constructions.

Franco continues
If the theological virtues, all three together, had been inserted into a deck that had none, thus getting in Florence the minchiate (or sooner the GG), one would expect to find them inserted as a compact group, no Prudence in the middle, as indeed is found in the same minchiate for the four elements or twelve zodiac signs.
This seems to be meant as a refutation of the "direct" construction of the theologicals, from different previous cards. But no matter whether these cards were replacements or put there originally, even as part of the original ur-tarot, it is still unexpected. The oddness is not something that one can draw any conclusions from, regarding whether it resulted from replacing other cards. Presumably it was done for a reason, whenever it was done. I would guess that people had a sense that prudence was very high in the virtues and it should be put with other high virtues.

What needs to be done is just what Franco did earlier: look also at the inverse construction of the virtues, and then compare the two. So if the theologicals were there already, what cards would they be replaced by? For Franco, this perhaps would be a nonsense question, because they never were replaced in minchiate.  But there were two permitted games in Florence, at least in 1477, one called "triumphs" and the other called "minchiate". They seem also have had two different decks as well. The Charles VI, Florentine if only because of its Medici palle on the Chariot card, would seem to be a triumph deck. It could be that someone removed all the minchiate-only cards, but that seems unlikely with beautiful works of art. The Charles VI has a Moon card and a Sun card, so likely a Star card as well. The Star, Moon, and Sun form a group, without any subtlety required. There is also a lightning-truck tower in the Charles VI, a card called ""Lightning-bolt" (Saetta or Sagitta, literally "Arrow") or Fuoco (Fire) in the early lists. And if you look, Fire, Star, Moon, and Sun are in exactly the same part of the sequence as the three virtues plus prudence in the Minchiate. It would seem to me reasonable that the game called "triumphs" replaced the 3 theologicals plus prudence with Fire, Star, Moon, and Sun. Just as the four in one group are all virtues, the four in the other are all lights, of increasing strength. Then another deck was for people who didn't want the theologicals removed; at some point it was called minchiate.

It seems to me that the inverse construction makes more sense than the direct, because it has one coherent group replacing another in exactly the same places in the sequence. It is like the replacement of the Popess by Juno and the Pope by Jupiter in the Besancon, where Juno took the Popess's position and Jupiter the Pope's.

3. Interrelationships between the two proposed orders, the CY-type (my proposal) and the GG-type (Franco's proposal).

Clearly there is a relationship between the CY-type (Milan) and the GG-type (Florence). If nothing else, they have the same cards, at least on the hypotheses that Franco and I were considering, mine and his. But what is the relationship?

There are four possibilities, excluding for the sake of argument the influence of other cities:

(1) the card-selection was generated in Milan on the basis of the MZ and then passed to Florence, which gave them a different order that they found more "logical".

(2) The cards were generated in Florence in an order that made sense to them, passed on to Milan and rearranged there on the basis of the MZ.

(3) The cards were generated in Milan but then rearranged due to influence from Florence.

(4) The cards were generated in Florence and rearranged due to influence from Milan.

On hypothesis 1, the 16 cards, organized according to the "four groups" order I proposed, came to Florence. Either the card makers didn't know the Milanese order or they thought that the sequence there was illogical. They didn't know about Marziano and his game, and how spreading out the cardinal virtues fits the idea of the four groups. They only knew about other trick-taking games, and the 4 + 3 groupings of the virtues. The theologicals should be near the top, they reasoned. And time should be before death, because that is when it counts. They think that Petrarch, with his desire for Fame, was an elitist. The average person isn't going to be famous no matter what he does. To him it doesn't matter that Time destroys Fame; Time is what happens before Death. The result in Florence is then Franco's order of the 16 triumphal cards.

On hypothesis 2, the cards are generated in Florence, using the same reasoning I have just gone through for that city. Then they go to Milan, where Filippo sees the cards from the standpoint of the Marziano game and re-orders them.

On hypothesis 3, Milan adjusts its cards after seeing what Florence has done. For example, it puts prudence between hope and faith, puts the virtues into two groups, and raises the three theologicals plus the one intellectual virtue to a higher level.

On hypothesis 4, Florence adjusts its cards' order after seeing what Milan has done.

I see no justification for hypothesis 3, at least during Filippo's lifetime. Nothing suggests that  prudence was ever between hope and charity there. It is true that we can do an inverse construction, based on the 16th century lists, that puts these four virtues in the same place as in the proto-minchiate. But such replacement could have been done at any time, and is more likely after 1450, when there was a new duke of Milan, one in alliance with Florence and friendly with the Medici, and when tarot in Milan was more likely not the preserve of the court but of the populace.

Hypothesis 4 is unlikely because the proto-minchiate order is in fact Florentine, and there is nothing about that order that suggests Milan's influence on it in particular.

Hypothesis 2 has the problem of explaining why exactly 16 cards were chosen, and not only that, but ones that fit the Marziano structure so well. First, why 16 in particular? Why was it necessary to borrow a triumph from Boccaccio, that of Fortune. And if one, why only one? Boccaccio had other triumphs, namely Riches and Wisdom. (Wisdom was seen by some as higher than Prudence, while others made no distinction.) Then in particular, the four cardinal virtues fit Marziano's structure well. If the cards were generated in Florence, without Marziano's influence (he hadn't been in Florence since 1407), it is a striking coincidence that it fits Marziano so well.

So I would redo Franco's flow chart. Given the assumptions Franco and I developed, the triumphal cards most likely went one way in the 1430s, from Milan to Florence. Then, if the four "replacements" --perhaps three, if Prudence was simply dropped, and Fire added considerably later--happened in Florence, these changes went back to Milan, when the city was under new management. Or, if the "replacements" came from somewhere else, such as Ferarra, the same process occurred but from a different city. Less likely, I think, it could have happened in Milan itself, and spread to other cities from there. In any case, the game was now for the masses in Milan as well as Florence, and Marziano's square array of four groups and four cardinal virtues a thing of the distant past.

Below is my proposed flow chart. It ignores most intermediate steps, if any. It also ignores influence from other cities. In Florence, I see that as particularly important in the development of its non-minchiate "triumphs", both before and after the GG of 1440, and in changing the triumphs in Milan after Filippo's death. It may also have been important in forming the CY-type in the first place. I make a point of emphasizing that is the order of a CY type that is being hypothesized, not just of the physical object that has been preserved. I assume that is what Franco means by "CY' in his chart, but it is not totally clear. The same is true of the "GG type" (even if it may be that the GG itself is not of this type, as I will explain later). By “GG” in the chart I mean “Franco’s GG-type, and possibly the GG itself”.
And for comparison here is Franco's again.

4. The court cards.

There is the question of whether, as far as the court cards, the CY is "a quirky variation on successes in a more traditional form", as Franco concludes (stravagante variazione sul tema di trionfi già esistenti in una forma più tradizionale) , or, alternatively a quirky early form that became eclipsed by later successes. I am not sure exactly what "traditional forms" he means, but presumably one at least without female knights, and probably with half as many female pages.

But again, there is the magic number 16 to consider. Decks in fact did vary in the number of suits, but as far as we know, all the pre-triumph decks in which the suits had equal priority had the same number of cards in each suit (whether Marziano is an exception is unknown; there it is more likely that including the triumphal cards in each suit, the suits had the same number as the triumphal cards alone). That is one reason for thinking that the number of cards per suit would have equaled the number of cards in the triumphal cards, grouped as a suit. Another reason is the various bits of odd documentation suggestive of such a hypothesis. In 1422 Ferrara there are "13 new playing cards" with backs the same as the old (; on Jan. 1, 1441, there are "14 figures"; in 1457 there are orders for decks of "70 cards", which could either be 14 x 5 or 4 x 12 + 22; late in the century Franco finds that the cost of a triumphs deck is in a 5:4 ratio to the cost of an ordinary deck. None of this proves anything, to be sure.

Dummett's hypothesis, that the ratio of triumphs to cards per suit was 3:2, has going for it the various lists of 21 triumphs (the fool not being a triumph) from a variety of sources and cities. But these are late in the 15th century at their earliest. Can we really infer from generalizations made some distance after creation to a time near the invention? If so, then refrigerators never had unsightly bulbs on top, and automobiles never ran on steam.

So there was a very good reason for females in all ranks: to make the number in a suit equal 16. There was already a precedent for females in all ranks in the Stuttgart Playing Cards, c. 1430, where two of the four suits were all-female and two all-male. Admittedly, none of the courts were on horseback. But for that there are the Courtly Hunt Cards, of the 1430s: the queens in herons and falcons are on horseback (( That this theme reached the common level is suggested by some French 1490s woodcut cards (their suit signs not yet stenciled on) reproduced in Hinds' Introduction to a History of the Woodcut, vol. 1, here.

There is every reason to think that the innovation would have been well received by its intended audience. In Milan and nearby the game was a social occasion that included and perhaps was presided over by women, at least among the nobility and the rich (which is all we have any evidence of). The Borromeo fresco, c. 1445-1450, had three women and two men, with the dominant figure being the center woman ( There is an extant description of the lost frescoes at Pavia done for Galeazzo Maria Sforza, which depicted "Elisabetta [Maria Sforza] and damsels playing cards and other games" (I am quoting Lubkin, A Renaissance court, p. 309, citing Welch, "Galeazzo and the Castello di Pavia", p. 373). There is the fresco at Malpaga Castle, on the border between Lombardy and the Veneto, shown in an essay by Andrea Vitali,, near the end; the card players are all women. There is also Viti's letter and illustrations to a lady of the court in Urbino about the Boiardo deck (

On my favored hypothesis 1 about the triumphs, the deck that would have gone from Milan to Florence would have been such a deck, before the Florentines adjusted it to their own taste. This is where Fernando de la Torres' verses and ekphrases (descriptions of imagined paintings) to Countess Casteneda in Spain of c. 1450 are relevant (Ross Caldwell at They did more than create an all-trumping female Emperor (never called Imperatriz) to extol his patroness and her virtues. He made most of the 48 other cards females, as can be seen by looking at the individual verses and descriptions, even while retaining the traditional male titles of rey, cavallero, and sota for the courts. That is precisely the kind of gender-bending that the female knights of the CY have. If, as Ross surmises, Torre may have got the idea of a trump card from his stay in Florence in 1434-1435, he likely would have got the idea of feminizing male cards from the same source.

There is not the same evidence for female dominance in triumph-playing in Florence as in Milan. What there is, is of men playing with men: two men arrested for playing "trionfi" in 1443, Pulci and Lorenzo playing "minchiate" in 1466. There may be social reasons for this. Men didn't marry until 28 or 30. So fathers locked up their daughters and young men developed the habit of socializing with each other (see references 56 and 57 at; their section on Florence is also helpful). So it is harder to imagine female courts of all ranks arising in Florence than Milan. Milan-style suit cards in Florence probably changed fairly soon, I'd guess by 1440, because even in Milan of the mid 1440s the Brera-Brambilla has the standard four courts. And with this change went the need for precisely 16 triumphs and the link to the suits. Whether the GG of 1440 was a proto-triumph or a proto-minchiate, I would not hazard a guess.

So I would say that the CY-type, as far as its courts, was most likely a quirky beginning, or early phase, first in Milan and then Florence, that was soon eclipsed, sooner in Florence than in Milan, by later successes.

5. Conclusion.

I started with two hypothetical orders of the same 16 cards, presumably derived from Petrarch, Boccaccio, and the 7 medieval virtues, to fit the structue of Marziano's deck in Milan. Various possible ways the triumphs could have evolved between Florence and Milan were examined. One order of triumphs, suggested by documents passed on by the Cary Family, is closest to Marziano's structure and therefore associated with Milan. The other is associated with the later minchiate and therefore Florence. Most likely the cards would have gone from Milan to Florence, where, not knowing about Marziano, card makers rearranged them on a different basis, in particular moving the theological virtues up in the order. At the same time the 16-card suits would have been adopted for a time, as evidenced by Torre's use of feminized suit cards in Spain; but at some point Florence would have dropped female knights and relegated female pages to just two of the suits. The result is then the basis for the game later identified as "minchiate". Further changes, replacing prudence and the theological virtues with other subjects, perhaps already used in other centers, would result in a deck at some point identified as "triumphs". What these terms actually referred to in Florence at the times of their various early uses has not been assigned a probability. Also unassigned are influences from other tarot centers that might have impacted the process, and Florence's and Milan's influence on other centers. All of this is contingent upon at least one of the hypothetical structures, mine or Franco's, having been at some time before 1440 actually existing.

B. More general remarks

I want to put my previous remarks into a wider context. I base myself on the work of Dummett's that I consider fundamental, namely his 1993 Il Mondo e l'Angelo. He talks about a developmental period in the history of the tarot, before the deck was standardized (p. 98).
Il mazzo Visconti di Modrone fornisce una prova che il mazzo dei tarocchi subì una certa evoluzione, come era da attendersi. Quest’evoluzione deve aver toccato senza dubbio i soggetti dei trionfi, e forse anche il loro numero. Poiché la serie dei trionfi è estremamente incompleta in tutti i gruppi di carte da tarocchi dipinte a mano, a parte il mazzo Visconti-Sforza e i tarocchi ‘Carlo VI’, si possono avanzare ipotesi di vario tipo. E nondimeno probabile che, a partire dal 1450, fosse ormai fissa la composizione standard di un mazzo di tarocchi, per quanto riguarda sia il numero delle carte che i soggetti dipinti sui trionfi.

(The Visconti di Madrone pack provides evidence that the tarot pack underwent a certain evolution, as was to be expected. This development undoubtedly must have affected the trump subjects, and perhaps even their number. Since the set of trumps is extremely incomplete in all groups of hand-painted tarot cards, apart from the Visconti-Sforza pack and 'Charles VI' tarot, one can advance hypotheses of various types. It is nevertheless likely that, beginning in 1450, the standard composition of a tarot pack was now set, as regards both the number of cards and the subjects painted on the triumphs.) 
This is in the context of what will be his hypothetical date of invention of 1428-1430 in Milan (p. 106). It seems reasonable to me that the standard subjects were in fact prevailing by 1450 in at least some places. It may have taken a little longer to actual standardize the standard in all regions, and even then there are holdouts and exceptions. Prudence pops up in the list of Lollio/Imperiali, and in the Anonymous Discourse, not as an addition but as a kind of substitute, in the first case for the Traitor and in the second for Temperance. And there is Alciati's curious list, with Fama in place of Temperanza. Dummett argues that the earliest list, in the Sermones de Ludii should rightly be considered 1480-1500. It appears in a volume which has been dated as possibly as early as 1450. Dummett observes:
Ricerche più recenti di Ronald Decker suggeriscono una data più tarda per lo stesso volume, perché alcuni fogli hanno filigrane del 1500 circa. Ovviamente la scrittura del libro può essere stata di molti anni posteriore alla predica del sermone, che è perciò da datare fra il 1480 e il 1500.

(More recent research by Ronald Decker suggest a later date for the same volume, because some papers have watermarks circa 1500. Of course, the writing of the book may have been many years back to the preaching of the sermon, which is therefore to be dated between 1480 and 1500.) 
Later he discusses the famous three groups, achieved by comparing the 18 or so different lists when the virtues are taken out. It is a purely formal operation that has nothing to do with any conceptualizing of what links the members of the groups together. Then there is the question of how to account for these differences. It is an explanation that in fact is not limited to just the order, but also the subjects themselves, in the developmental period (p. 177f).  In what follows, the part I want to emphasize is in bold print:
Continuamente osserviamo che i giocatori di una data città o paese giocano solo fra loro e non conoscono quelli di una città vicina; le regole specifiche e talvolta il genere stesso di gioco praticato, variano da città a città; i giocatori di una data cerchia ignorano completamente il modo di giocare di [178] quelli di un’altra e spesso la loro stessa esistenza. I diversi ordini di trionfi che troviamo in Italia devono rappresentare pratiche diverse adottate in città diverse, presumibilmente in uno stadio anteriore a quello in cui cominciò l’iscrizione sistematica dei numerali sui trionfi. E evidente che, quasi immediatamente dopo l’invenzione dei tarocchi, i giocatori di città e regioni diverse svilupparono particolarità locali nel modo di giocare e che esse, in Italia, coinvolsero anche l’ordine convenzionale dei trionfi;q uesto fenomeno deve essersi verificato prima che, da qualche parte, divenisse consuetudine l’inscrizione di numerali sui trionfi — e quindi prima della fine del XV secolo. I diversi ordini dei trionfi attestano non la dipendenza dai soli numerali per l’identificazione, ma 1’esistenza, fin dai primi tempi, di una vasta gamma di variazioni locali nel modo di giocare.

E questo elemento, più ancora delle differenze fra i modelli standard usati nelle diverse aree, a fornire la discriminante principale per distinguere tre diverse tradizioni di Tarocchi, la cui origine risale ai primi stadi dello sviluppo del gioco. Non siamo in grado di stabilire se i diversi ordini di trionfi furono adottati come deviazioni intenzionali dalla pratica dei giocatori di altre città, o semplicemente come conseguenza di un imperfetto ricordo di tale pratica; ma è evidente che almeno le caratteristiche principali di ciascuno dei vari ordini possono essere state fissate solo nel primo momento in cui il gioco fu introdotto nell’area che osserva quel dato ordine. Vedremo che l’ordine di tipo A rappresenta la pratica dei giocatori di Bologna, quello di tipo B la pratica dei giocatori di Ferrara e quello di tipo C la pratica dei giocatori di Milano.

(We continuously observe the players in a given city or region only play with each other and do not know those of a neighboring town; specific rules and sometimes the kind of game played itself, vary from city to city; players of a given circle completely ignore in manner of play [178] those of another, and often their very existence. The different orders of triumphs that we find in Italy must represent divergent practices in different cities, presumably at an earlier stage than when the systematic entry of numerals for triumphs began. It is clear that, almost immediately after the invention of the tarot, players of different towns and regions developed local particularities in the manner of play and that, in Italy, the formal order of the triumphs was also involved. This phenomenon must have occurred before, somewhere, the inscription of numerals on the triumphs became the custom - and thus before the end of the fifteenth century. The different orders of triumphs does not attest only to the lack of dependence on numerals for identification, but to the existence, from the earliest times, of a wide range of local variations in the manner of play

It is this element, even more than the differences between the standard models used in different areas, that provides the main discriminant to distinguish the three different traditions of the Tarot, whose origin dates back to the early developmental stages of the game. We are not able to determine whether the different orders of triumphs were adopted as intentional deviations from the practice of players to other cities, or simply as a result of an imperfect recollection of this practice; but it is evident that at least the main features of each of the various orders can only have been laid down the first time the game was introduced in the area that observes the given order. We will see that the order of type A is the practice of the players of Bologna, one of type B the practice of Ferrara players and type C the practice of the players of Milan.)
However there is also the phenomenon in Florence where two different but in many ways similar decks do not differ in their order but do in the precise subjects and number of cards, namely trionfi and minchiate. And there is the phenomenon that Prudence continues to pop up in various places, not only between Hope and Faith in minchiate, but in place of the Traitor in Lollio/Imperali (see and and of Temperance in the Anonymous Discourse (see There will be a different rationale in each case.

This principle of the localization of play, it seems to me, can affect the subjects of the cards as well as their order and in that case is even not limited to the developmental period. It is a phenomenon we will see again in the Protestant/Catholic border areas when the Popess and Pope are replaced by other cards, Juno and Jupiter or Captain Fracasse and Bacchus. There does not even have to be facilities for the local mass production of such cards. It is only necessary that the authorities have a sample of what they want, created by one of their artists, and require the producer in the other place to produce cards of that type.

There is no reason why Milan should somehow be unique in this regard, and be the only place to produce a somewhat different deck for its own reasons in response to a new phenomenon elsewhere. It is possible, but it is just as likely to go the reverse. That a Milanese deck actually exists that does not conform to the standard verified later does not preclude others having followed the principle earlier but with cheaper decks that did not survive.

I think we can go one step further than Dummett regarding this principle. The variability of a card in the different orders is a measure of how early in the developmental process the card was introduced. When a deck arrives from one place from another, the card makers and players may not only find the order illogical but come to prefer a somewhat different selection of subjects. That seems to have in fact happened. Prudence seems to have been a particularly hard subject to fit in; it occurs in several places in the sequence and most commonly not at all. The virtues are the most variable, so they are among the oldest. Some of the "Petrarchan" cards are also variable, but some more than others. On the other hand, there are other factors: ambiguities and alterations in meaning might have affected the variability. There is a Petrarchan Chastity, represented by a female Charioteer, which becomes the Chariot, often with a male charioteer. The meaning is different. Time is represented by an old man, who logically then might be put before Death. Fame was represented in Boccaccio and some of the illuminations of Petrarch as a a lady and a circle with a landscape and castles. Is it the World? Or is it the New Jerusalem, as in the 2nd artist PMB card? Its position in the order fluctuates accordingly, which then affects the place of the Angel of Judgment. Love, the Wheel, and Death are fairly clear; their order fluctuates the least. The Emperor and Empress, whom we know are early, are also clear.

Some cards are virtually fixed in their order. The sequence Devil-Fire-Star-Moon-Sun is always the same. They are non-Petrarchan, not virtues, not Imperials, and do not fit in the chess analogy. There are not in the Cary-Yale, and the theologicals are in their place in the minchiate. All these factors together suggests a late addition, at least in some places, at a time when  there was much more interaction among regions than previously. The same can be said for the Bagatella, which is always first, and the Traitor always 12 (except the Sicilian, but that is not very early).

All of this is additional argument for the 16 cards of Pratesi's and my reconstructions, and my proposed shifts in the order and eventually the subjects as well, toward replacements and expansions.

There is one thing I could use some help on, in these reconstructions. I can see the rationale for substituting  Prudence for Temperance, as in the Anonymous Discourse. Prudence, in the ordinary sense of the word, is knowing the correct means toward a desired end and acting on that knowledge. "Cleaving to the mean" is a good guide to follow in one's means toward achieving the objective. So it includes Temperance. In the case of the Traitor, Prudence is what needs to be followed to avoid what is pictured on the card. To the extent that the Traitor is Judas (the 12th disciple), Prudence involves following God's will so as to be with God in eternity. That puts Prudence higher in the hierarchy.

But what is the rationale for putting Prudence between Hope and Charity, as we see in minchiate and in Franco's reconstruction of a proto-minchiate? I have a tentative solution, but it needs filling out in relation to Florence of the 1430s or later. First, Prudence involves knowing one's true good, not only the means toward attaining a good. The true good is God and being with God, loved by and loving God. So it belongs with the theological virtues, if one is going to put with one set rather than another.  Then for why it is between hope and faith, all I can think of is that while Jesus's coming to earth and dying for our sins gives us hope of attaining our true good, faith involves knowing rationally that that end is attainable and how to attain it. It is like crossing a bridge. When I get to it, I may hope that I with my heavy load can cross it. But examining the bridge with the eyes of an building engineer, who knows how to build a bridge, and seeing the example of others, can give me faith that in acting in a certain way will help me to attain the goal. So hope plus prudence leads to faith. Reason is Faith's handmaiden. And God's Charity is what I will need to get there, since my own merits are inevitably deficient. If God is to be charitable to me, I must be charitable to those in a weaker position than me.

This is a somewhat ad hoc rationale. I am curious to know what was actually said about Prudence in relation to the theological virtues in that time--a textual justification, if possible, not for the whole sequence but just that small part.

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