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GALLERY INDEX
~~ Gallery 5 ~~
The Tarot and other Early Cards
· page VI ·

THE VISCONTI TAROTS
BRERA-BRAMBILLA
CARY-YALE VISCONTI
PIERPONT-MORGAN BERGAMO VISCONTI-SFORZA

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GALLERY INDEX


other pages

page I
classic
tarots
page II
regional
tarots
page III
trump card
arrangements
page IV
modern &
non-standard
page V
theMulûk
wa-Nuwwâb
page VII
the tarots
of Ferrara
page VIII
the tarot
of Marseille
page IX
the Tarot
de Paris
page X
Viéville's
Tarot
page XI
the
Minchiate
page XII
Mitelli's
Tarocchino
page XIII
Mantegna's
Tarot
page XIV
the
Hofjagdspiel
page XV
the
Hofämsterspiel
page XVI
the deck by
Jost Amman
page XVII
the Italy 2
Moorish deck



go to
PART 1  ·  PART 2  ·  PART 4



· part 3 ·

PATTERNS OF THE VISCONTI TAROTS
Although these decks were probably painted by the same hand, in the same years and in the same geographic area, comparing their patterns a number of remarkable differences can be told.
Such a difference may appear strange, but by the mid 15th century, when these cards were made, a standard pattern for tarots had not yet been developed.
A full comparison can only be made between the Cary-Yale and Pierpont-Morgan tarots, since the Brera-Brambilla deck lacks all the trumps but two, and several suit cards, as well.


CYV ~ Charity
~ THE TRUMPS ~

The Pierpont-Morgan deck has the same 22 subjects found in a typical Marseille deck, the "classic" tarot known in most western countries; the absence of the Devil and the Tower cards, now missing, does not throw any doubt on this well-known ordering. Therefore, the Pierpont-Morgan tarot can be considered the earliest example known of C type tarot (according to M.Dummett's classification), or western group (according to T.Tadfor Little).
See page III  for further details about the tarot pattern groups.

The Cary-Yale deck, instead, is more peculiar. Among its trumps are three subjects that never belong to Marseille tarots: Faith, Hope and Charity, the three theologic Virtues; on the other hand, over half of the original subjects in this deck are now missing.

In early tarots, trumps did not feature numbers: it is difficult to tell whether the Cary-Yale's set was made of 22 cards or had more, and therefore to state which was the exact rank of each of the surviving subjects.

Early trumps did not even state the names of the subjects. The ones we use today are partially based on written sources which describe decks of cards, and on paintings and drawings featuring well-known allegories from which the trump figures might have been inspired.



The following tables list the trump subjects found in both Visconti tarots.
In the Pierpont-Morgan series, the six cards painted by a different author are shown in green.

CYV ~ Faith

BBV
the Emperor

BBV
the Wheel of Fortune
For an easier comparison, the surviving subjects of the Cary-Yale tarot have been given the same rank as the Pierpont-Morgan ones (although this might not be their original sequence), while the three mismatching virtues have been left in a neutral position.
The only surviving trumps of the Brera-Brambilla tarot are the Emperor and the Wheel of Fortune.


· = extant
· = replaced
- = missing
PIERPONT-MORGAN
BERGAMO
VISCONTI-SFORZA

CARY-YALE
VISCONTI

BRERA-BRAMBILLA
VISCONTI

standard subjects
the Trivial Performer
· - -
the Popess
· - -
the Empress
· · -
the Emperor
· · ·
the Pope
· - -
Love
· · -
the Chariot
· · -
Justice
· - -
Time (the Old Man)
· - -
the Wheel of Fortune
· - ·
Fortitude (Strength)
· · -
the Traitor (the Hanged Man)
· - -
Death
· · -
Temperance
· - -
the Devil
- - -
Lightning
- - -
the Star
· - -
the Moon
· - -
the Sun
· - -
Judgement
· · -
the World
· · -
the Fool
· - -
non-standard subjects
Faith
·
Hope
·
Charity
·



Hope, holding an anchor (14th century
illumination by Nicolò da Bologna)

Considering that the three theologic Virtues also appear among the subjects of the Florentine Minchiate deck, and having the latter pattern very likely sprang from a traditional tarot, we may think that the rank given to the three non-standard subjects of the Cary-Yale deck was probably not too different. In the CYV deck, Hope, Faith and Charity are the 16th, 18th and 19th trump, respectively, coming immediately after the Tower, and being followed by a long series of non-standard subjects (the four Elements and the twelve Zodiac Signs), after which the usual cards the Star, the Moon, the Sun, etc. appear again.

CYV ~ Hope
(note the same anchor)

However, the three Virtues alone are probably not enough to claim a clear relation with the arrangement of the Florentine cards, despite the Cary-Yale tarot and the Minchiate share another unusual element (see THE COURT CARDS, in part 4).


A debated subject of the Pierpont-Morgan deck is the the Popess.
It features a female figure wearing a monastic cloak, and a papal tiara with three crowns. An interesting theory by scholar Gertrude Moakley suggested that this "nun-popess" might represent Sister Manfreda, a member of the Visconti family and follower of a religious sect, founded by Guglielma of Bohemia and inspired by the profecies of a 13th century Italian monk, Gioacchino da Fiore.
Apparently, Manfreda had been elected "pope" by her sect; but in year 1300, the first Jubilee declared by Urban VIII, she had followed the fate of many other hereticals of her time, being sentenced and burned.
As a curious coincidence, the triple crown here worn by the alleged Sister Manfreda, is a papal symbol said to have been introduced by the same Urban VIII.
The HISTORICAL BACKGROUND paragraph already mentioned that there had also been political friction between this family and papacy.

PMBVS
the Popess
Despite in 1329 Azzo Viconti had officially reconciled with the pope, one among four surviving cards of the Bartolomeo Colleoni Tarot (by Antonio Cicognara, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London), features Death in the shape of a skeleton dressed as a cardinal of the Roman Church, an allusion that suggests how the two sides might have still disliked each other.
On these grounds, Manfreda would have been likely chosen as a subject for a Visconti tarot, giving birth to the well-known Popess personage, always found in the Marseille pattern. This would also explain why, in time, other patterns changed the subject into a less embarassing one, such as one of the four Moors (Bologna), or the Grand-duke (Florence), or Juno (Switzerland), or Captain Fracasse (Belgium), or even dropped this card (Sicily), see trump table in page III.

Death in London's
Victoria & Albert Museum

Also the Pope, the subject more closely related to the Popess, probably carries a vague trace of such "heretical" opposition to papacy.
Anthropologist C.Gatto-Trocchi remarked how from year 1362 to 1503 all popes but one did not wear a beard; this apparently insignificant detail, whose historical proof though is confirmed by portraits and paintings, was scrupolously followed also by tarots featuring Ferrara's pattern (not belonging to the "Visconti group"), such as the so-called Charles VI's Tarot, whose Pope is actually shown without facial hair. In the Pierpont-Morgan deck, instead, this card features an old man wearing a fluent beard; despite his triple crowned tiara, his long sceptre topped by a cross, and his blessing hand, more than a pope C.Gatto Trocchi sees in this personage a "pontifex".
The pontifex (from Latin pons = "bridge" and facere = "to make") was a high religious authority, who in pre-Roman times supervised the making of bridges, by means of which the primitive houses resting on timber piles over swamps were connected to the surrounding land.

PMBVS
the Pope

Charles VI's Tarot
the Pope
This charge was retained in Roman times, although the different religious functions of the pontifex slowly changed, and finally, after christianization had taken place, it became the Latin word which indicated the head of the Roman Church ("pope" was only adopted in the early Middle Age, being a name of Greek-Byzantine origin).

Therefore, the Pierpont-Morgan card might suggest that the Viscontis would have been ready to accept a high moral or religious authority ....but not Rome's pope.
Also Hierophant (from the Greek ierwn = "rite" and jainw = "wizard"), master of mystic rites in ancient Greece and Egypt, a name chosen for this card in the 18th century by the tarot's occult tradition, seems to match the original spirit of this personage.



PMVS
Time
An interesting subject is the 9th trump of the Pierpont-Morgan deck, Time, a subject whose name would have been turned into the Hermit by later tarots.
A comparison can be made between Time and card number 47 belonging to the so-called Mantegna's Tarot, of similar age, though probably not intended for playing the classic tarot game.
The latter subject, bearing the name Saturn, shows the Greek myth of Kronos.
In both allegories, an old man holds a symbol of time (an hourglass in the Pierpont-Morgan version, a serpent biting its own tail in the latter deck), and a long stick, which in Mantegna's Tarot is the shaft of a scythe, whose blade is partially hidden. Despite a few differences, their attitude and their symbolic meaning is indeed very similar.

Saturn in
Mantegna's Tarot


The opposite interpretation given to the Fortitude trump by the two tarots appears as a curious discrepancy. The Cary-Yale deck remarks the virtue's higher aspect, classically shown as a female figure, i.e. moral fortitude, who easily overcomes physical strength, symbolized by a subdued lion (or, in other tarots, by a broken column).
The Pierpont-Morgan deck, instead, seems to stress the subject's physical nature, featuring a young man in the attitude of slaying a lion with a club (a reference to the myth of Hercules). This apparently material and almost brute concept of Fortitude may be explained considering that the alleged owner of the deck, Francesco Sforza, was a military man, whose very surname had been turned into "Strength".
Furthermore, this is one of the six cards of the set of trumps that was replaced, and painted by a different hand.
CYV and PMBVS ~ Fortitude
We may even think that the original subject of the Pierpont-Morgan deck was different, and that the second author (or maybe Francesco Sforza himself) wanted this subject to be modified according to the spirit of the family's ideals, although the card does not feature any of the Sforza devices.
The slain lion, however, is not an allegory of Venice, on whose side the captain had fought before taking the lead of Milan's troops.


go to
PART 1 PART 2 PART 4

further reference to tarot decks can be found in Trionfi and in The Hermitage



page I
classic
tarots
page II
regional
tarots
page III
trump card
arrangements
page IV
modern &
non-standard
page V
theMulûk
wa-Nuwwâb
page VII
the tarots
of Ferrara
page VIII
the tarot
of Marseille
page IX
the Tarot
de Paris
page X
Viéville's
Tarot
page XI
the
Minchiate
page XII
Mitelli's
Tarocchino
page XIII
Mantegna's
Tarot
page XIV
the
Hofjagdspiel
page XV
the
Hofämsterspiel
page XVI
the deck by
Jost Amman
page XVII
the Italy 2
Moorish deck



OTHER GALLERIES

non-standard patterns advertisement decks sizes, shapes and colours standard pattern variants non-suited cards Mercante in Fiera Uta Karuta, Iroha Karuta, Dôsai Karuta Âs nas
regional patterns: Italy regional patterns: Spain regional patterns: Germany regional patterns: Austria regional patterns: Switzerland regional patterns: France regional patterns: Sweden regional patterns: Portugal regional patterns: China regional patterns: South-Eastern Asia regional patterns: Japan regional patterns: India uncut sheets mottos and proverbs

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Introduction
INTRODUCTION
AND HISTORY

Multi-language Glossary
MULTI-LANGUAGE
GLOSSARY
the Fool and the Joker
THE FOOL &
THE JOKER
Index Table
INDEX
TABLE
Regional Games
REGIONAL
GAMES
Playing Card Links
PLAYING CARD
LINKS