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GALLERY INDEX



~~ Gallery 5 ~~
The Tarot and other Early Cards
· page IX ·

THE TAROT DE PARIS

part 1
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GALLERY INDEX







go to part 2


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 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


the replica of the Tarot de Paris is a limited edition by Grimaud (France)



I wish to thank Mario Ostidich for his contribution to the iconographic sources





the Star
The Tarot de Paris is an early 17th century deck kept in the same city's National Library. The name refers to this particular deck, not to the pattern once used in Paris as a local standard.
Many interesting features make the Tarot de Paris somewhat unique. One of them is that it is considered the oldest tarot in the world whose full set of 78 cards has been preserved.
Another aspect is that this deck seems to be the eclectic result of several types of playing cards blended together. In fact, during the 16th century three main varieties of cards likely converged in Paris, due to the city's many commercial and cultural relations: the Italian tarots coming through Lyon, where they had been Frenchified, the Spanish cards of Arabic origin, which were gaining popularity along the Gulf of Gascogne, and the German hunting decks.

Although the latter never became popular in France, their eye-catching illustrations had certainly stirred the attention of the local card makers. The earliest French tarot known, some cards of which are extant, was a fancy edition made in Lyon in 1557, now referred to as tarot of Geofroy Catelin after the maker; it had animals in place of the usual suit signs, clearly inspired by the German hunting card fashion.


In the Tarot de Paris several subjects are consistent with the southern French scheme (i.e. what we now call tarot of Marseille), but some others differ, both for their design and for the featured subjects.

the routes along which, during the 1500s,
the Parisian tarot was likely influenced
Furthermore, all the suit cards are designed in a rather glamorous, almost whimsical fashion, suggesting that this tarot too, as the aforesaid one of Geofrey Catelin, was a fancy edition, with non-traditional illustrations yet based on the same themes found in standard packs.

Curiously, in the 16th century fancy tarots were not at all uncommon. But this was probably due to the lack of a consolidated tradition by any playing card pattern; we could even say that the same concept of "pattern" as a fixed scheme was still under development.

The woodblock engravings of the Tarot de Paris, which in the finished deck cannot be fully enjoyed due to a hasty stencil colouring that covers many small details, are certainly not those of a luxury edition, i.e. a deck with hand-painted illuminations and additional details in silver and gold, whose only specimen would have been presented to a local lord. There is not even a subject nor a detail that may suggest a commemorative purpose, to celebrate an important event.
Nevertheless, we may assume that the maker, whoever he was (see below), hired a good artist for making what we would now call a "special deck", an eye-catching novelty, maybe printed in limited edition; the unusual attitude of some courts, as well as the peculiar arrangement and decorations of the pips seem consistent with this hypothesis.

two subjects that should have mentioned the maker's name
The cards of the replica, which the pictures shown in this page were scanned from, maintained the original chequered frame, actually the flap of the lining on the back, which was originally folded on the front and glued to the rim, a feature common in Italian tarots and minchiate of the same age.

The author of the Tarot de Paris remains unknown. Curiously, the subjects that should have stated his name, i.e. the 2 and 4 of Coins, and the 3 and 4 of Cups, bear an incomplete reference that reads ·FAICT·A·PARIS·PAR· ("made in Paris by"). The name of the maker is clearly missing from the empty spaces reserved for it, i.e. not obliterated nor rubbed off, as if whoever printed the deck had in mind to add his name later on, rather than to omit it: this is suggested by the last word  ·PAR·  ("by").

THE NAMES OF THE TRUMPS
The trumps bear their names in French, though their spelling is somewhat more uncertain than in any other early edition, e.g. LE PANDUT for LE PENDU, LA TREMPANCE for LA TEMPERANCE, and so on (see also the Tarot of Marseille part 1 for a comparison).

I · LE BATELEUR
the trivial performer
VIII · JUSTTICE
justice
XV · LE DIABLE
the devil
II · LA PAPESSE
the popess
VIIII · LERMITE
the hermit
XVI · LA FOULDRE
lightning
III · LINPERATRICE
the empress
X · LA ROUE DE FOURTUNE
the wheel of fortune
XVII · LESTOILLE
the star
IIII · LANPERREUT
the emperor
XI · FORCE
strength
XVIII · LA LUNE
the moon
V · LE PAPE
the pope
XII · LE PANDUT
the hanged man
XVIIII · LE SOLEIL
the sun
VI · LAMOUREUS
the lovers
XIII · LA MORT
death
XX · LE JUGEMENT
judgement

VII · LE CHARIOT
the chariot
XIIII · A TREMPANCE
temperance
XXI · LE MONDE
the world
LE FOUS
the fool

Skimming through the 22 subjects, the first impression is that this series is not really too far from the traditional pattern of Marseille, but it is in the second half of the set that the trumps of the Tarot de Paris reveal most of their differences. The farther each subject shifts from Marseille's scheme, the closer it moves towards the north-eastern Italian one, particularly the old tarots from Ferrara; interestingly, in Italy a similar blend between the tarot of Lombardy (i.e. Marseille's ancestor) and any other variety was never reported.


the Moon from the
tarot of Charles VI
The aforesaid relation is probably explained by the tarot of Charles VI, still belonging to the early tradition of hand-painted cards specifically made for important clients. According to an obsolete theory, this deck, only a few subjects of which are now left, was made for the king of France who reigned from 1380 to 1422, remembered for his madness more than for his feats. But most experts now agree that these cards likely date back from the following century (late 1400s), and that they were probably made in northern-eastern Italy, although they are now kept in the National Library in Paris. The tarot of Charles VI is consistent with others related to Ferrara and its surroundings (Dummett's group B, or eastern group).
We may believe that the author of the Tarot de Paris was likely aware of the tarot of Charles VI, which may have represented an archtype in the area of Paris.


THE SUBJECTS OF THE TRUMPS
In the Tarot de Paris the subjects face directions opposite to those belonging to Marseille's pattern. This feature is discussed more in depth in the gallery about Viéville's tarot.

The first trump features a performer of tricks, watched by other figures, i.e. by his public, whose caricatural faces remark the triviality of man's material activities, confirmed by a dog and a small monkey playing beneath the table. Additional human figures are a detail never found in any other tarot belonging to the Marseille group, whereas they are constantly present in Bologna's Tarocchino, as well as in the luxury packs made between Ferrara and Venice (see regional tarots).

the Trivial Performer

The Empress and the Emperor are both portrayed in a standing attitude, whereas normally they are sitting. Furthermore, the female figure lacks the usual insignia (black stylized eagle on a yellow background, crest of the king of Germany and emperor of the Western Roman Empire) whose presence had been constant since the Visconti tarots; the Emperor, instead, wears a full coat of armour, and is somewhat reminiscent of a suit card king.

The Lovers card is similar to Marseille's pattern, but the elder figure that usually accompanies the couple is missing.
In the Chariot we see a curious detail: the vehicle is not drawn by horses but by geese; one of them is ridden by a child, despite the seated figure bears the typical attributes of the triumphant roman general, i.e. a laurel crown and a sceptre.


the Chariot drawn by geese

the Hermit before a doorway
After a two-headed and blindfolded Justice with her traditional sword and scales, comes the Hermit in a pilgrim-like attitude, featuring two minor yet unusual additions: a rosary, held in one hand, and a building (a hospice or convent) whose doorway he stands in front of; interestingly, still today in Bologna's tarot by the Hermit stands a square column or pillar, whose shape is similar to this building.

Also the Wheel of Fortune, whose picture is shown at the bottom of the page, is faithful to Marseille's tradition, although the personages are four (one is kneeling below the wheel, as in the Pierpont-Morgan-Visconti tarot) instead of the usual three, and do not have animal-shaped faces.

Force and the Hanged Man without any noticeable detail are followed by Death, whose only elements of difference are the lack of severed heads of kings and popes scattered on the ground, a heritage of the southern French tradition, and the presence of the subject's name, LA MORT, which the same aforesaid tradition tended to dropped, likely for superstitious reasons.
A standard Temperance precedes the Devil, whose design, instead, is clearly not the one of Marseille: pictured sideways (not frontally), standing on the ground (without a pedestal), with no minor demons tied by his sides, and an additional grotesque face on his belly, all elements often found in the equivalent subject from Ferrara'a and Bologna's tarots.

The following card is probably the most interesting of the series: inscribed LA FOVLDRE (for la Foudre, "lightning"), it is a subject that the Tarot de Paris pattern retained from earlier tarots in place of the Tower or la Maison Dieu. Burning thunderbolts or balls of fire fall from the sky (see also this subject in Vieville's edition), and while humans desperately seek shelter, a demon, the central figure of the composition, dramatically remarks the rage of the heavens with the thundering sound of his drum.

Lightning (i.e. the Tower)

Among the cosmological subjects, the Star trump is in line with the scheme discussed more in depth in Viéville's edition, as it features an astronomer with his compass, but the following two certainly represent a digression from the usual themes.

the Moon
In the Moon, a serenade is in progress below the window of a damsel, for whom a gentleman is playing a small harp. This interpretation rejects any reference to hermetic symbolism (the lobster, the dogs, etc.), and almost foresees the genre scenes found in the modern French-suited tarot. Illustrations such as the one shown on the right, from a 15th century edition of the Roman de Paris, (one among the many French romances written in the late Middle Ages, but still popular in the 1500s), could have easily been a source of inspiration for this subject.

book illustrations such as this one
may have inspired the Moon's subject

In the Sun, instead, a woman looks in astonishment towards a monkey holding a hand-mirror, that sits besides her. The monkey with a mirror is a detail also found later on in the Minchiate pattern; therefore, we may think of this as a well-known allegory among card players.


A rather normal Judgment is followed by the World, another subject that represents an element of connection to Ferrara's tarot.
But in this case the archangel was replaced with a female figure; she holds a curtain with both hands, while balancing on a globe blown by cherubs; the globe is shaped as the one that old monarchs used to carry as a sign of power, i.e. topped by a cross.
Furthermore, still today in Bologna's Tarocchino a similar personage stands upon a globe, although his attributes were turned into those of god Mercury, see regional tarots, part I.
Since this is the highest subject of the series, the curtain may represent the mythical threshold or gateway that man should pass at the end of his moral progress towards purification, to reach the highest level of spiritual perfection (according to the Renaissance view of the cosmos, organized by progressive circles or levels, see Mantegna's tarot).

the Sun

the World
However, a rather similar representation, dated 1505, is found in Siena (central Italy), in the city's cathedral, whose floor is covered with marble-inlayed panels. One of them features a woman, in this case the allegory of Fortune (on the right), balancing with one foot on a sphere and with the other on a boat, and holding a sail above her; the latter is quite reminiscent of the aforesaid curtain. In this allegory Fortune actually represents man's fate, whose uncertain progress is symbolized by the precarious steadiness of her standpoint.
Next to this panel is another one depicting a classic Wheel of Fortune; this one is earlier, from the late 14th century, and although it was completely replaced by a modern copy, made in the 1870s, due to the original's bad condition, the image is still faithful to its early appearance.

Lastly, the Fool is not too special, but it curiously looks like a modern joker, dressed as a typical jester.

floor panel from the cathedral in Siena


the Wheel of Fortune, and the relevant floor panel in Siena's cathedral


go to part 2


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 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