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

MITELLI'S TAROCCHINO


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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 VI
the Visconti
Tarots
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 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


~ NOTE ~
The reproduction of Mitelli's Tarocchino shown in this page is an edition by Il Meneghello (Italy). The cards are uncoloured, as they would have been after the sheet was printed.
A hand-coloured replica of the same deck, i.e. what the finished product may have looked like in leaving the workshop, is manufactured by Dal Negro (Italy): samples of this version can be found in The Hermitage and in Tarot Passages.




This deck of large sized cards was drawn by Giuseppe Maria Mitelli around 1660-65, for the Bentivoglio, a noble family of Bologna, the same city where the artist was active. The owners' crest is featured on the ace of Cups.

the Conjurer
As explained more in detail in page II, the tarot pattern of this city has only 62 subjects, whence its name tarocchino ("small tarot").
What makes Mitelli's edition unique is the attempt of producing a deck with a regional pattern using illustrations that go beyond the mere traditional subjects (trumps, courts and pips), in the attempt of obtaining an artistic product. It could almost be said that the artist used the tarot as a pretext for showing off his exuberant talent.
In fact, although the subjects are the same ones found in Bologna's pattern, the standard trump illustrations were reinterpreted by Mitelli, who also embellished the suit cards with rich details, and gave the pips an unusual arrangement.

ace of Cups
In short, this tarocchino is probably the earliest specimen of non-standard or fancy tarot based on the pattern of Bologna; by the time it was made (17th century), it must have been considered an absolute novelty. As far as now, it is also the only edition of this kind known, as any other fancy tarot made since the 16th century has always been modelled on the pattern used in France and in the rest of Europe, now better known as tarot of Marseille.

THE TRUMP CARDS
To fully relish the beauty of Mitelli's deck, one should bear in mind the standard design of the tarot pattern of Bologna, and the ordering of its trumps, which slightly differ from the well-known Marseille versions (see page II and page III for details).
The trump illustrations do not feature the subject's name (also ordinary versions of the Tarocchino Bolognese are nameless), but their numbers too are omitted, so that the ranking of the trumps is left to the player's own experience.

The following cards are among the most interesting ones of the deck.

The first trump, previosly shown, is quite different from what the Conjurer (a.k.a. the Magician) usually looks like: it features a street artist performing with a dog, surrounded by a crowd of public. But in all tarots, including the Marseille pattern, the Magician is actually a performer of trivial acts (i.e. not a wizard, as the English name might wrongly suggest), so the difference in Mitelli's Magician is mainly graphic, without any real difference from the subject's original meaning.

The following card features a seated figure who holds a scroll over one knee, seen frontwards, indeed recalling the Popess; the personage, though, has a beard. The subject is, in fact, one of the Popes, the four subjects with the same rank that in Bologna tarot temporarily took the place of all four civil and religious authorities (namely, the Popess, the Empress, the Emperor and the Pope itself), later turning into the Moors, a typical feature of the Tarocchino, as explained in page II.

Mitelli's sixth allegory features a blindfolded Cupid with his bow and arrows, holding a flaming heart. The absence of the well-known loving couple shows well how the name of this subject in Bologna was still Love (i.e. not the Lovers), as it used to be in the nearby Ferrara and, more in general, in all the earliest tarots.

Also the twelfth card of the set takes us back to the origins of the tarot. In fact, the old winged man helping his faltering pace with crouches is an allegory of Time, also known as the Old Man, which in tarots belonging to Dummett's group C (i.e. Marseille and others) was replaced with the Hermit, probably around the 16th century. Mitelli's graphic interpretation blends the two original names.

Time, or the Old Man
In modern editions of the tarot of Bologna, Time never really turned into a "hermit", except for its name: the allegory still featured today is that of an old man with wings on his back, in front of a column, although the subject is now double-headed, and bears number 11.


the Traitor
Fortitude is featured as a female figure embracing a column, in this differing from the corresponding allegory of the tarot of Marseille, usually portrayed in the attitude of opening the jaws of a lion.
Death and the Devil, instead, are not very different from the illustrations found in standard editions of tarots from Bologna and Ferrara.


The following subject (left) is probably the most famous and peculiar of the whole set.
In Bologna's tarot, the thirteenth trump features the Traitor, which corresponds to the Hanged Man of the tarot of Marseille. Mitelli chose to depict the subject as a man on the point of slaying from the back a second sleeping figure with a large hammer. Since the 15th century, the tarots used in north-eastern Italy (not only in Bologna, but in Ferrara and Venice too, i.e. the eastern group, or Dummett's B pattern) used to include the Traitor among their trumps.
Whether the more common subject known as the Hanged Man sprang as a variant of the aforesaid allegory - in some cultures, traitors and debtors were hung head down as a form of punishment - has often been a matter of debate, although in the relevant tarot pattern groups they undoubtly represent the same trump. In modern editions of the tarot of Bologna this personage is now featured as a man hung by one leg, but its popular local name remains the Traitor.


Lightning
In most tarots, the sixteenth trump is the Tower, whose subject is a reinterpretation of an older one, called Fire, or Lightning; the well-known allegory of a tower stricken from the sky and catching fire is clearly related to the obsolete trump.
In Mitelli's deck, this subject is still Lightning, which does not strike a building, nor a tree (as in the French Vieville's Tarot variant), but a human figure, who reacts to the thunderbolt by lifting his cloak as a shelter. Therefore, this subject was probably still alive in 17th century Bologna, although in modern tarots the name of this trump has changed into a standardized the Tower.

the Star

The seventeenth trump, the Star (above right), features a traveller, or maybe a tramp, walking at night-time under a starry sky, and lighting his way with a lamp (similar to the one usually carried by the Hermit). In the uncoloured version of the deck, the real subject of the trump, i.e. the six-pointed star above the man, is barely noticed in the background, whereas in the painted version the same detail may have been more visible, on the dark colour of the nightly sky (see an example in Tom Tadfor Little's pages).


the Moon
For the next card of the set, the Moon, Mitelli sought inspiration in classic mythology: goddess Diana, who is traditionally related to this heavely body (the hound and arrow are her other typical attributes), is here depicted in the attitude of turning her eyes to the small crescent above her head.

Also the nineteenth trump, the Sun, is based on a similar scheme: a small blazing sun spreads its rays from behind the head of god Apollo, who holds a lyre.
In the Star, the Moon and the Sun, once again the allegory catches the observer's eye much more than the main subject of the trump does.

The last two illustrations of the set, Judgement and the World, respectively feature a flying angel with a trumpet - the name of this subject in modern tarots of Bologna has remained the Angel - and Samson bearing the world on his shoulders. Strong analogies with these allegories can be found in the Minchiate and in Sicily's regional tarot (see page II).


THE SUIT CARDS
The signs used in this tarot are the classic Italian ones (Coins, Cups, Batons and Swords), but Mitelli wanted also suit cards to look rather fancy.


ace of Batons
In the Coins suit, grotesque heads decorate the pips in each of the six cards (the tarot of Bologna has number cards from 6 to 10, and an ace or 1); court personages, instead, hold full bags of coins, which allude to the suit sign.
In Cups, each card features vessels with different shapes. The Cavalier of this suit is shown exactly from the back, a rather bizarre standpoint.
In Batons and Swords, the pips are arranged in a peculiar fashion, and the wealth of additional decorations makes them look even more attractive. The Swords pips also change shape from subject to subject (i.e. sabres, scimitars, etc.). The aces of these two suits carry a Latin motto, never found in ordinary editions of the tarot of Bologna, which respectively reads: "[it is] hard [to pursue] virtue" and "guardian of custody".

ace of Swords

7 of Coins, cavalier of Cups, 10 of Swords and 8 of Batons

ABOUT THE ARTIST
Giuseppe Maria Mitelli (1634-1718) is especially known for his many tables inspired by popular subjects. Most of his etchings are witty caricatures, often with a touch of humor. Among his best known works is a collection of illustrated proverbs, dating to the late 17th century.
Despite the popular taste of his works, Mitelli's artistic skills were excellent. Besides the Tarocchino and the proverbs, he also engraved a series named Alfabeto in Sogno ("Alphabet in a Dream", 1683; see a sample), in which letters made of human bodies are surrounded by detailed studies of the eyes, the nose, etc.; this shows how the artist was indeed confident also with more traditional forms of graphic art, although his favourite subjects were humorous caricatures.

One of his most extravagant compositions bears the title Il mondo è per lo più gabbia di matti ("The World Is Mostly A Cage Of Fools"); a crowd of human characters, representing different crazes and whims, carry out their many tendencies in a gigantic bird-cage. A further element of fancy is the title of the print, spelled with a mixture of words and tiny illustrations, as in a picture puzzle.

ace of Coins,
bearing the author's name

Several other works by Mitelli also reveal the artist's particular taste for details: more than featuring a single subject, his tables are often a collection of tiny individual elements bound by a common theme, which could be enjoyed one by one, sometimes with the help of a magnifying glass. Therefore, the set of subjects of the tarocchino may have represented an ideal challenge for the artist's lively imagination.



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 VI
the Visconti
Tarots
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 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