Saturday, December 23, 2023

Sept. 5, 2023: Triumph and Lament: Tarocchi in the Vatican

 This translation is of "Trionfo e Lamento: Tarocchi in Vaticano," dated Sept. 5, 2023, in Italian at In the original Italian, it contains transcriptions of two 16th-century tarocchi poems, both already known here and extensively discussed (see Franco's footnote 3 below) but only in regard to the trump order implied in each and not transcribed. In the Italian original, Franco presents full transcriptions of each. In this translation of Franco's essay, with his considerable help, I present them in English translation. It was not easy!

Here again, the numbers by themselves in the left margins correspond are the page numbers of what is below them of Franco's original. The footnotes are at the bottom of the corresponding page. Comments in square brackets are mine.

As far as the content, one thing I found interesting was that the author of the first poem treats the bagattino as an artisan rather than an illusionist. It makes me wonder what the card looked like for him. In the second poem, it is unclear which he is. Franco has a few comments of his own.

Triumph and Complaint: Tarot in the Vatican

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

The first tarocchi appropriati [appropriated tarot – tarot subjects associated with given personages] I came across was the Triomphi de Troilo Pomeran, and I described it together with the Barzeletta nova, also from the Veneto region; [note 1] since then, about forty years have passed and many things have changed. Other tarocchi appropriati have been found, and experts have often used them, especially to discuss the order of tarot cards in different times and places; I limit myself to indicating a reference that years ago was quite complete; [note 2] today, entering "appropriati" as a search term on the discussions on Tarot History Forum, you get something like 134 entries as a response! [note 3] The procedure for bibliographic research has also changed a lot since then: in those days one could not even imagine the development of digitized catalogs, inserted into the Internet, with data received from an ever-increasing number of libraries and archives.

My study of the history of card games has proceeded intermittently, with long pauses; at least twice, I thought I had closed research in the sector forever, and then with some surprise I found myself starting again. Lately, this "phenomenon" has occurred to me again, probably thanks to my "discovery" of the progress in the digitization of catalogs. I was used to visiting the ancient collections of numerous libraries and archives in person; now I can have them near me via e-mail.

One of the latest catalogs I consulted is that of the Vatican Apostolic Library. I found some items of interest there, particularly on the tarocchi. I had no idea whether they had already been studied or not, precisely because I had lost contact with the progress of research in the sector for some time. I then asked Ross Caldwell to update me, and I learned that my "discoveries" had actually been known to experts for about ten years. Evidently, my consultation of the digitized catalogs had not been a pioneering operation.

After having noted that all the major experts in the sector have discussed the topic, I can limit myself to the main references on the two poetic compositions taken into consideration here from the sixteenth-century manuscript Vat. Lat. 9948: 342, Triompho delle nobili donne di Cesena (Triumph of the noble women of Cesena) and 313, I tarocchi, dove uno si lamenta della sua inimica (The tarocchi, where one complains about his enemy); fortunately, a digitized copy of the manuscript is available online. [note 4] Andrea Vitali included both compositions among those discussed by him. [note 5] An extensive discussion, in which the most authoritative experts participated, took place in the Tarot History Forum. [note 6] However, I have not found a transcription of the poetic compositions in question.

I know well that the greatest usefulness is that relating to the tarot order, already extensively described and commented on. On the other hand, going back from here to the Cesena environment to identify who the women "sung" in the Triompho were and finding other information about them is a task of little interest, and not only for the history of playing cards. The same, or almost, for the author of the Lamento. Despite everything, I thought that the transcription of these two works could be useful to someone who has difficulty reading the manuscript, and I got to work.

2. Transcription from the manuscript

I tried to maintain the handwriting of the text, regardless of the numerous error reports from the Word checker, which I had never seen so busy. I only took the liberty of
3. search.php?st=0&sk=t&sd=d&sr=posts&keywords=appropriati
6. viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1160&p=18795&hilit=Cesena#p18795

using a capital letter for all the verses, because it seems to me that this was also the author's intention (with his numerous omissions, however). Understandably, I may have misread some terms, but overall for a more fluent reading - and to find the words in the dictionary for those who need them - the writing could advantageously be modified with more "convenient" corrections; for example, an easy first change would be to replace all j's with i's. Another notable step forward would be made just by "correcting" the simple or double consonants; similarly for the accents.

[For the verbatim transcript, see Franco's Italian original. What is presented here is a translation into modern English - not an easy task, due not only to archaic words found only in Italian-Italian dictionaries (if then), but to flexible word order, which is seen also in English poetry but much more extensively here. Moreover, subjects of verbs are often merely implied, and some possessive adjectives have uncertain antecedents. In Italian, "suo" and "sua" are masculine and feminine depending on the noun that follows. In English, whether it is "his," "her," or "its" depends on locating the right antecedent. And it doesn't help that there is minimal punctuation (supplemented by me somewhat in the first poem). So translation is inevitably interpretation. I hope we got most of it.

(f. 331r) Triumph of the Noble Women of Cesena
made to signification of the tarocchi

Let those who want sing the bloody deeds
    Of proud Mars, and the honored laurels:
    Write who wants how Jupiter descended
    From heaven, forced by stranger loves.
    Say whoever wants, how Apollo once took
    A shepherd’s form, and of his sweet ardors:
    I will sing of these beautiful women,
   Who vanquish all the stars with splendor.

        Angelo The Lady Bianca of Bagno
The first is Bianca, who in beautiful sculpted
    Eyes holds Love’s quiver:
    And it seems that so much grace overflows in her
    That it fills every soul and every heart with joy.
    She has written on her brow, infirm mortals and fools
    Born to bear pain and grief,
    Don't make any desire to love me,
    Because I am all intent on my Angel.

         (f. 331v) World M. Lucretia Romanini
Life-giving Lucretia appears, whose health
    Is so good that it amazes everyone on earth;
    And prescribed on her brow, she holds virtue,
    Which shows the hearts a continuous war;
    Let all languages remain silent,
    For when speaking of her every mortal often errs;
    Having to bear such a heavy burden,
    With the right hand holding the World.

        Sun M. Giulia Masini
Here Giulia appears, in whose presence
    You can see written Love and gracefulness,
    Rare virtue, knowledge, high intellect,
    Grace that seems today to be without equal:
    Pleasure jokes with her, and she has delight
    Imprinted on her forehead, and she seems endlessly
    To want to say, without me, the great planet
    That defines the hours does not distinguish itself.

        (332r) Moon M. Veronica Bucci
Spring in the heart, honor in the eyes
    Grace on the face, and hope in the mouth,
    Lace in the hair, where in sweet error,
    We see Love moaning for his love,
    Piteous effect, and chaste and holy ardor
    In Veronica appears; indeed, whoever holds
    The triform goddess [Hekate] as insignia leads
    Those they deign to love at the extreme hours.

        Star M. Silvia Bertuccioli
Everyone who looks upon and contemplates intently
    The beauty of Silvia remains happy
    And one can well say that a paradise on earth
    Is with her, without her pain and torment.
    With her eyes she calms the sky with laughter
    To remain makes everyone intent to gaze at her,
    Then she says, don't be surprised that I'm beautiful,
    That's what my benign star wants.

        (332v) Lightning [Saetta, also = arrow] M. Ippolita Beccari
Never tired of shooting arrows at people
    Ippolita comes full of flames;
    In whose brow there is so much burning fire,
    And in her eyes, which you can barely see.
    (She seems to say) if my sudden burning
    Brings to you mortals torment and pain,
    It only proceeds that I was chosen by heaven
    Lightning [Folgore] of Jupiter or rather arrow [Saetta] of love.

        Devil M. Laura Masini
I carry an evil spirit in my forehead
    As you see, it doesn't come from me,
    Laura said, wherefore I urge each one
    To never break his firm faith:
    Because to the proud Enemy, rightly or wrongly,
    It demonstrates the badness that only evil possesses.
    But if he does not harm me, let him not harm you,
    Because he is my business, and I am not his.

        (333r) Death M. Isabella Venticelli
Here appears the generous and beautiful
    Woman who already adorned the city of Manto [i.e. Mantua]
    I say the very honest Isabella
    For whom Amor lives in anguished tears.
    O my wicked, O my perverse star
    (She seems to say), if I am so beautiful,
    Yet my wicked fate has granted me
To bear dark Death as insignia.

        Justice M. Margherita Masini
Of a graceful purple color in sight
    Margherita comes out beautiful and kind,
    At whose appearance every soul afflicted and sad
    Changes its bitterness into a sweet style.
    Her grace with beauty mixed
    Makes every rough and cowardly heart gentle,
    And she holds, to make herself
    To the world unique and worthy,
    The justice of heaven for her true insignia.

        (333v) Traitor M. Francesca Cappa
The great light of the sun, serene and clear
    Is called light because it lights and shines,
    And with its light down here one learns
    The great virtue that descends from its rays,
    Such of Francesca is the rare beauty.
    Rare beauty that vanquishes and takes everyone,
    And inflames with treacherous eyes
    In one time a thousand souls and a thousand hearts.

        Time M. Cornelia Budi
Cornelia appears, in whose beautiful eyes sits
    As much strength of love as reigns among us,
    And that it is true, honest love in her wise
    Thoughts can be seen at all times.
    Of as much good Nature can give heir to,
    She [Nature] has made her on earth, and says that [if] you want more
    From me, daughter, I deliver you to time,
    Which without, you will never be able to be on the beat.

        (334r) Wheel of fortune M. Faustina Toschi
Faustina comes, for whom shines
    However much virtue there is from the Ganges to Tile [Thule]
    True principle where my tongue takes
    New object of love and new style.
    Thus her beautiful eyes light up every vile soul,
    And she makes every harsh, proud one humble with her words,
    So much so that nothing can harm her,
    Since she holds fortune by the hair.

        Triumphal chariot M. Caterina Gaulagnini
On a triumphal chariot with a thousand scattered.
    Trophies around comes haughty Caterina:
    In whose beautiful eyes makes now sojourn
    All the beauty that spring can show.
    And to do insult and scorn to Love,
    She has a graceful host of Nymphs with her;
    And it seems that she says in a humble and pious voice
    I have vanquished Love. This is my glory.

        (334v) Fortitude M. Alexandra Mori
After her comes with sweet accents
    Kind Alexandra, and she seems to say,
    At my speaking, all the winds are stilled,
    And every mortal toil endures for me;
    Love follows me and with ardent sighs
    Says my flame is nourished only in you
    I am fascinated by your beauty
    And give you fortitude as insignia.

        Temperance M. Diana Pasolini
My chaste desire, the firm desire
    That I have to follow my longed-for Goddess,
    Tempers the desire that often makes me want to love
    Against the desire created within my heart.
    I don’t want love to push or take me away in any way
    From my honor; so said to herself
    The life-giving Diana, and demonstrated outwardly
    Tempering with temperance the arrows of Love.

        (335r) Love M. Ludovica Fiorà
The pilgrim’s habit lights up my heart
    Lights up my soul and consumes my heart.
    So much that my tired life gives itself up to it,
    Lodovica said, full of love,
    My heart does not desire or take any other cure
    If not to do my husband honor,
    Overcome by the virtue that nestles within him
    I have taken Love as my [master?] and guide.

        Pope M. Margherita Fantauzzi
Here is Margherita's true example,
    Example true that amazes Nature:
    Love, I don't know if in your sacred temple
    Soul may receive purer than she.
    This one does not cause torment, nor cruel havoc,
    But true faith which lasts forever.
    And that it be true of the great Shepherd in her,
    The carved imprint has the god of all the Gods.

        (335v) Emperor M. Portia Pasolini
The superb insignia of the fifth Charles
    Given to him in the world by supernal Jupiter
    Imprinted in Portia sits and worthy of herself,
    Appears happy and doesn't know to go elsewhere.
    Every other care, every other thing it disdains,
    Nor by chance does it ever move,
    And seems to say, Charles, do not presume
    That I look at him, but only into Portia's lights.

        Empress M. Livia Marri
Envy she will not make, nor jealousy
    That I am not the Livia I used to be.
    Say, please, whoever wants, and humble and pious,
    I will always be, and devoid of all pride.
    My happy and longed for company
    I keep as a guide, nor want anything else:
    It can make me happy at all times,
    And of the world and of the sky empress.

        (336r) Bagattino M. Orsina Gottofreddi
At night, in the day, the day loaded with stars
    I make appear, with every industry and art,
    Things of form to be so beautiful
    Which seem to have most of the sky.
    Someone will say that I make bagatelles,
    But he is foolish and ignorant in this part,
    Orsina says: it is my destiny,
    Which makes me do what Nature cannot.

        Matto M. Elisabetta Bertuccioli.
Cruel Love does not have among his followers
    A Woman who can compare to this one,
    I say about this one, for whom it never seems
    Heavy to follow love, but vigilant and prompt
    She shows herself and says in a sweet and gentle tone,
    I am Elizabeth, nor does it bother me,
    This insignia of the Fool, because I make
    Him go mad, and often others.


(307v) The Tarocchi: where one complains
about one's enemy

Top: Copy from the [Signore] Brunor' Tampescho
my patron

The more ardent love grows in me
    Virtue my enemy, the more I become
    Crazy in loving you, alas, at all hours
I make bagatelles without ingenuity
    It's like a fairy tale to the vulgar and I realize it
    And it makes me indignant about it myself
I care nothing about the world, what is still worse
    Everything seems ugly to me and you Sun only beautiful
    And I still rave about whether it's true
I'd even like to hear some just news
    That reason gives to those who always crave it
    So be as just as you are beautiful
Not wanting to wait for the Angel to call
   One of us and tell me come
    I highly suspect a worthy cause for those who love
Only when I look at you do I become happy
    You are the first sun, it is the second
    Now hurry up with this net of yours
(308r) O old moon that give light to the world
    In the dark, murky, misty night
    Bring the wicked desire of this one to the bottom
I want to tell you now without fear
    My ancient star that in beauty
    Surpasses you and has great fortune
With so much impetus, never with much harshness,
    Never shot a lightning-bolt from high to low
    Just as I come to you with great sweetness
The Devil isn't so low
_    As I am every hour alone thinking of you
    And I will stay (?) for you cold and slow every hour
I go desiring death every hour
    For life being so bitter for me
    And this happens for banishing me
I don't want to hang myself but I want a rare
    Death if you won’t give me comfort
    Which lets my fame be clear to the world
Like a ship I am that would want
    To take port against various winds
    And the old man its patron [owner?] is upset about it
(308v) This cruel wheel follows neither the planets
    Nor the winds, but makes fun
    Of those who are crazy but were prudent
Of body here strength has no place
    In abonio (?) how much I have longed for and do long for
    But patience is needed little by little
This high god of love, the more I call him
    And I beg him and I implore him and I ask him
    Alas, to let me possess what I love.
Answer he gives me not if not by singing
    He goes on a chariot for his amusement
    And poor me I'm thinking about it
Tempering suits me these days of yours
    I know love well but I can't
    Do it so soon, or maybe I'll do it later
If indeed the Pope or the King came upon him
    This god of love who is blind and naked
    Would defeat him with just one shake
If the emperor were much more cruel
    Than was ever that cruelty of Nero
    Love would conquer him: now I conclude here
Whoever wants him, love, makes his prison.
3. Discussion and comments

As stated in the Introduction, both the Triumpho and Lamento have already been studied and discussed in depth with regards to the order of the tarot subjects, and therefore for this, which is the most significant element, I refer to the literature already cited. I have few points left for some comments.

A first comment on the Triompho concerns these women from Cesena. They are all indicated as M., probably Madonna - or in any case a similar term - except for the first, indicated as Lady. Her origin, or perhaps her family, could then be of interest: from Bagno; I believe that it is precisely Bagno di Romagna (today in the Cesena-Forlì province), a town and spa that was also quite popular at the time. While Cesena then belonged to the Papal State, Bagno di Romagna was located in the Tuscan Romagna, within the Florentine Republic and then the Grand Duchy. In short, she must have been a country lady, but one who seemed to have a higher social status than her companions from Cesena. Of the group of women, I can only observe the presence of three with the surname Masini and two with the surname Pasolini, which seems to indicate a rather limited circle of acquaintances. I can't imagine anything else, at least for the moment.

What can be said about the poetic work? Not much here either, after so many years that I no longer do my schoolwork. There are very few points that struck me. One is that our poet manages to turn to advantage even the tarocchi symbols that would have more easily distinguished an ugly and unpleasant woman. An indicative example can be the Traitor, in which the woman is praised in everything, and the “betrayal” appears only at the end, fleetingly in her traitorous eyes. Above all, there is a kind of refrain that could make our Giacomo Leopardi turn in his grave. Do you remember? “The Sun hurts me, which between distant mountains, / After the clear day, / As it falls, disappears, and seems to say / That blessed youth is failing.” Here, this poetic Par che dice [seems to say] is found four times, and the author cannot have taken it from Leopardi.

Finally, I would like to add a couple of technical observations on the tarocchi, and in particular on the World and the Wheel. “Having to bear such a heavy burden, / With the right hand holding the world.” The world held in the right hand seems to indicate a card set simply in the same manner as a King or Queen holding the symbol of their role. But to correspond to the "heavy burden,” a sphere of small dimensions would not be enough, as one can see, but rather one should think of something more realistic and weighty, like the world that is observed in many tarocchi decks, and in minchiate under the Angel's feet - but that's another card. In the Wheel, the detail of Faustina grabbing Fortune by the hair is interesting: this could also indicate a reference to a particular detail present on the corresponding card, but in the tarocchi, Fortune possibly has an active and not passive role.

Moving on to the Lamento, I find even less to add. The spelling, if possible, is even more incorrect than the Triompho, according to our scholastic criteria. The fundamental information is that of the single card indicated more or less explicitly in each triplet, but this is now established and already discussed extensively; other than this I cannot extract any other useful information from the few sentences present.

However, the figure of the author is interesting, because this time it is a well-known character: "Brunoro II Zampeschi (Forlì, July 1540 - Forlimpopoli, May 1578) was a man of arms, captain of fortune, Prince, Count, Governor of Crema and Dalmatia, Dux (Duke) and Plenipotentiary Governor of Candia, Sovereign Lord and Perpetual Pontifical Vicar of Forlimpopoli, Lord of Giovedia, of San Mauro and of Tomba," as we read in Wikipedia together with other important information. [note 7]

The most surprising thing is that this gentleman from Forlimpopoli (coincidentally only about fifteen kilometers from Cesena) was mainly a leader who passed from one military enterprise to another. Despite this, and despite the fact that he lived only thirty-eight years, we find news of

his literary works, such as L'Innamorato, printed in 1565. On his literary activity, as well as on the three dialogues of this work, useful information can be found in a recent reissue.

If one thinks of using Zampeschi's biography to date the Lamento, it can be considered logical that the copying took place while the author was still alive; then the only uncertainty remains of whether it was one of his first or last poetic compositions, with a possible leap from the early Sixties to the second half of the Seventies; in short, only about fifteen years before or after, but with - in this case - little probability for an intermediate value.

I can conclude with an opinion on the transcription: there are some uncertain words that can be clarified later, but this is not the main problem. In fact, I fear that those who could not decipher the manuscript and were waiting for a transcription will still have to wait for a future version in the current language, unless they are quite familiar with the Italian language of the past, and with its freer orthography.

Florence, 05.09.2023

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