Friday, December 20, 2019

From Marziano to the Ludus Triumphorum - Exploring Tarot Origins

Note: This is the written text, with some additions made Oct.. 2019-March 2020, of an oral presentation made by the author on Sept. 22, 2019, at the annual convention of the International Playing Card Society (IPCS), held in Catania, Sicily.  As of March 16 it is still being revised.

General Summary: This essay, in two parts, attempts to investigate the origins of the tarot by examining patterns in the earliest orders among the three regions of the ludus triumphorum (game of triumphs) in relation to what is known to have come before them.

Part One identifies four early contributors to the later orders: (1) Marziano da Tortona’s game of “deified heroes”, which provides a matrix in which the trump cards attach to suits by rows and also form a hierarchy of their own by columns; (2) the four cardinal virtues, arranged in a hierarchy and correlated  with the four suits; (3) the six triumphs of Petrarch's Trionfi poems, all but one in Petrarch’s order, correlated with the virtues; and (4) four leaders in society, or two high and two low, in some combination, following the example of pre-existing card games using trumps. The result is 14 cards in a 4x3 matrix, with a virtue and Petrarchan in each row plus two Petrarchans above.

Part Two will show how such a matrix would naturally develop into the later orders and partial decks known to us. The structure with which Part One ends fits the orders of Florence and Bologna best. In Lombardy and Ferrara, it is proposed, the horizontal associations in rows of the original matrix became vertical ones by columns. The three theological virtues are also incorporated, as in the Cary-Yale deck and Minchiate. Then celestials take the place of theologicals, and Devil and Tower complete the sequence. Horizontal associations having become vertical ones, a matrix is not needed to associate virtues with Petrarchans, and it has also become too cumbersome. Marziano’s association of suits with groups of trumps is abandoned and the game we know is born.

Part One: the Basic Fourteen

1. Introduction: the Order of Trumps

The argument to be presented here is essentially an inference from the various trump orders embedded in poems and surviving partial decks from 15th-16th century northern Italy, projected back to before the first attested use of triumphi or trionfi referring to a card game in 1440.1 By looking at what changes and what remains the same in these orders, I arrive at 14 original cards, which can then be used to play a game similar to one described by Marziano da Tortona sometime before 1425.

We know the early tarot subjects from surviving cards and also lists embedded in poems. Tarot historian Michael Dummett put this information together in 1980, from which he inferred that there were three regions of the early tarot, which he called A, B and C, with a chart for each.2 For my part I have put the earliest known orders, including some Dummett did not know, into three columns of one chart, with variations indicated in parentheses.

For clarity in English, I have put the titles in English instead of Italian, with two exceptions. In Italian the term “Bagatella”, the earliest term for the card now called the Magician, has less association with magic, as opposed to tricks, and a double meaning harrd to preserve in English. In Italian at that time, the word “Bagatella” meant both a sleight of hand artist and something of little significance, like the lowest in a series.
In English there is a similar play on words with “trifle”, meaning both a thing of little significance, and to play tricks on someone. The word for the person wold be "trifler", a word that we do not normally use for a sleight of hand artist. To avoid confusion I will stick with the Italian. Different lists use different Italian words for that card,  but for clarity I will stick with “Bagatella”.3 The other title I want to keep is “Matto”; while interchangeable with "Folle" in Italian, the English “Fool” and “Madman” are not precisely equivalent, the second suggesting more mental derangement than the first.4

Other cards also had a variety of titles. The card we know as the Tower was called Lightning Fire, House of the Devil, House of the Damned, and finally House of God. “Trumpets” and “Angel” were both the card we call Judgment. The Hanged Man was also the Traitor. Our Hermit was the Old Man or the Hunchback. Etc.

For region A my basis is the small handwritten numbers found on many of the so-called “Charles VI” cards, Florence c. 1460, added within a few decades of when they were painted..5 Titles are not on the cards, so I have used those, presented in almost the same order, found in a Florentine strambotto (a type of song) of c. 1500.6  The Popess (High Priestess) is not among these titles, nor is it certain from the numbers that the “Charles VI” ever had it; it is inferred from its presence in another A deck, the Rosenwald, which seems to be from Perugia, post-15017. Another card missing from the “Charles VI” is the Empress; it is present in both the Rosenwald and a partial deck that looks similar to the “Charles VI”, the “Alessandro Sforza”.8

Another historical Florentine deck is Minchiate, with 20 additional trumps. At least three of these additions, quite uniquely, are in the earliest surviving deck, the Cary-Yale (also known as the Visconti di Modrone).9  These three and one more, Prudence, comprise Minchiate’s cards 16-19, which I have put next to Moon and Sun in my chart. Minchiate’s last five cards are the usual ones, but to be clear I put them the chart next to World and Angel. The other sixteen (the four elements and twelve zodiacal signs) have no tarot equivalents.

Like the strambotto and possibly the “Charles VI”, Minchiate lacks a Popess. A partial list of the 1530s, without any indication of the order, mentions only Pope, Emperor, and Empress.10 The Tarocco Bolognese has four, but all have the same title, “Papa”, without any number or rank; the one played last in a trick has priority.11 It is unclear how far back the practice goes.

There are other minor variations. The “Charles VI” and Minchiate have Justice after Fortitude and Chariot after Wheel, but the strambotto, Rosenwald and  Bologna have the opposite, the latter also putting Chariot below the virtues.12 The Sicilian tarot has an unnumbered Miseria, just below number 1 Bagotti.13 Quite uniquely, the Sicilian puts Love above the virtues.

Below the chart are sources and dates. (Readers may want to skip over this documentation, in this paragraph and the three following.) The dates sometimes give a misleading impression. According to Dummett the first verification of Bologna’s order is "1664 circa", but, he says, it goes back much further, due to the “extreme conservatism of the players”.14 Likewise Minchiate’s full order is verified not until the 17th century, but some of its unique cards are mentioned in 152615 in relation to "Sminchiate", and references to a game by that name, "Minchiate" or a third name for the game, “Germini”, go back every 10 to 20 years, until the first clear reference in 1466.16 That tarot came to Sicily in 1663 is from Dummett’s main source, a short work by the Marchesa of Villabianca (1720-1804).17 Dummett argued that its subjects were the standard ones, but with some name changes, most for religious reasons, with Pope and Popess probably changed earlier, in Rome.

Region B is mainly Ferrara and Venice. The earliest list is in the Sermones de Ludo (Sermons on Games) of 1470-1500 ,18 which is the basis for that column. Later lists, including the numbers on some cards on sheets now in the Metropolitan Museum cards, exchange Popess with Emperor and Chariot with Love.19 The anonymous Discorso of c. 1565, from the region around Pesaro, seems to present cards 2-5 backwards, in two different ways (I have given the first).20  It is hard to know what precisely was meant.

The C orders are Lombardy, Piedmont and France. The earliest seems to be one that Depaulis dates to 1525-1540 and calls “Pavia”, due to contested authorship.21 Another C list, that of Alciato in 1544 or 1547, is the same except for exchanging Chariot and Fortitude.22 Piscina’s Discorso, published in 1565 Piedmont, has the same order as the “Pavia” except for putting World before Angel, a placement that persists in Piedmont today.Also, while saying the Emperor is of lesser authority, he adds, “it often happens that the Emperors win and imprison the Popes”; the rule is probably like that of Bologna, where the one played last had priority.
23  To keep the chart from getting too cluttered, I have omitted the “Tarot of Marseille” titles and indicated its differences by number instead; it is an order verified as far back as Lyon 1557.24
While the C lists are somewhat later than the A and B, among extant cards there is an almost complete 15th century Lombard deck, the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo (also known as the Colleoni-Bagliati), which has 20 of the 22 special cards, 14 of which are from the 1450s. The Cary-Yale and another partial deck, the Brera-Brambilla, are even earlier.

2. Some generalizations from these lists

What primarily distinguishes the three regions is the placement of the three virtue cards, which I have highlighted in bold. In the A order they are one right after the other, following either Love or Chariot and beginning with Temperance. In B, Temperance is before Love, Fortitude three cards later, and Justice is next to last. In C, in the “Pavia” order, it is Justice first, then Fortitude two cards later, and Temperance after Death. So there is no separation between virtues in A, while there is in the other two, wider in B than in C.

In contrast, some parts of the sequence do not change at all, either among regions or within them, most notably the lowest ones, Bagatella and Matto, and the five cards from Devil to Sun. Given that “Bagatella” also meant “trifle”, that it is the lowest trumps makes sense. The Matto is not really a trump at all, since it cannot “triumph” in tricks. The invariability of the five cards from Devil to Sun, however, is odd: surely someone someplace would have put the Moon, being closer to the earth, below the other two celestials, or Fire/Lightning lower than the Devil, or Devil at the end of the sequence, as the French esotericists did in the late 19th century. The only variation is in Minchiate, but even it only inserts other cards between the first two and the last three, keeping those at the end for reasons pertaining to the game.

About these five we might wonder if perhaps they spread outside their home region at a time when standardization among regions was more important than earlier, after the Peace of Lodi, finalized in 1453, when there is a general desire for peace and cooperation as opposed to an earlier period of competition and differentiation when the tarot was first disseminated.  If we exclude these five cards and the Fool as late additions, 16 are left. If two other trumps were also additions, the total number would be 14, the same as that for regular suits, as attested as early as 1425. There are in fact a couple of suggestions of 14 special cards in the documents, both Ferrarese: a “14 figures” in 1441 and an order for triumph decks of 70 cards each (i.e. perhaps 5x14) in 1457.  Since the earliest deck known, the Cary-Yale had 16 cards per regular suit, 16 might fit there.

Notes to section 1:
1 Depaulis 2013a, p. 1,citing a diary note of Giusto Giusti, a notary associated with the Medici, regarding a pack of hand-painted trionfi made for Sigismundo Malatesta, Lord of Rimini.
2 Dummett 1980, pp. 399-401.
3 For “Bagatella” as a sleight of hand artist: see Caldwell,, 2011, for a 1396 poem quoted by Muratori 1751, pp. 171-172. For “Bagatello”, see Depaulis 2007, p. 42. For “Gannellino” and “Gallerino”, Vitali n. d. (no date) (1). For “Papino”, Vitali 2018a, citing Brunetti 1747. For “Bagotti” and “Picciotti”, Dummett 1980, p.373l (left column). For “Bagato”, Caldwell, Depaulis and Ponzi 2010, pp. 14-15.

4 See Andrea Vitali’s essays on these two cards, 1995a and 1995b, especially the translator’s prefaces.
5 Depaulis 2013a, p. 21; 2007, p. 44;.I put the “Charles VI” in quotation marks because it came about on the false inference that this deck was one recorded in the account books of Charles VI of France in 1396.
6 Depaulis 2007, p. 44.
7 For the order of the Rosenwald, Depaulis 2007, p. 42. It is pictured in Kaplan, 1978, pp 130-131. The date and place is suggested by a page
glued to the back of another copy from a book identified by Pratesi, 2017, as printed in Perugia 1501-1502.
8 Maggio 2016. Sforza (1409-1473) was a son of the legendary military commander Muzio “Sforza”Attendola.
9. Depaulis 2013a, pp. 19-21, Dummett 1986 and many others.
10 Renzoni, 2012, pp. 85-86, building upon Pratesi, 1987. Depaulis 2007, p. 45, gives later titles; Papa 1 for the Bagatella, then Papa 2, etc., up to Papa 5 for Love I find their first attestation in 1747 (quoted in Vitali .2018a).
11 Vitali and Zanetti 2005, p. 23.
12 Depaulis 2007, pp. 42-44
13 Dummett 1980, p. 373l.
14 Dummett 1980, p. 416; 1993, p. 225 (and for next two sentences). A “1664 circa” document is not mentioned by others. The next oldest is one assigning cards to Bolognese ladies, 1668; see Pratesi 1989a.

15 Singer 1816, p. 27.
16 Pratesi 2015; Vitali n. d. (2); Vitali 2007, citing Paolo Menucci (his treatise was in 1676, per  
17 Dummett 1980, p. 376r-377r.
18 Steele 1900. Depaulis 2007, pp. 39-40.
19 For these sources, see M. M. Filesi at
20 Caldwell, Depaulis and Ponzi 2010, p. 54-55
21 Depaulis 2013b, p. 112.
22 Alciato 1544 (per WorldCat, but 1547 in the Biblioth
èque Nationale), Book VIII, pp. 72-73; interpreted in Depaulis 2013b, p. 113.
23 Caldwell, Depaulis, and Ponzi 2010, pp. 16-17 and editors’ note 8.
24 Depaulis 2013a, p. 38.
25 Dummett 1980, pp. 68r-69l; Depaulis 2013a, pp. 20-21.
26 In favor of at least two stages as a realistic possibility are Teikemeier, n. d., Decker 1974, 2013, p. 77; Vitali 1995c, p. 5; Berry 1987 and 2004; , Pratesi 1999, p. 151, and Dummett 2004.
27 For 14 cards per regular suit, Bernardino of Siena, sermon of 1425, quoted in Vitali 2009.
28 For the sources see 70 cards could also be 22 triumphs plus 4 suits of 12 each
29 For 16 cards per suit: Dummett, 1980, p. 414r. The additions are a female page and knight in each suit. 

2. Some objections anticipated

I will try to anticipate some objections to the hypothesis just proposed. First, how can we assume that the various lists, all of them considerably after the earliest report of the game, 1440,30 represent the earliest order in that region? The main type of game then was the trick-taking type, which depends on the cards having a certain order. Since the numbers were not on the cards, players had to memorize the order. If so, there will be a strong tendency to keep the same order in the same place – not absolute, as we can see from the variations that there were changes in the same place, (For example, in all three of Florence, Ferrara, and Pavia, the position of the Chariot changed at points near in time to each other.) Still, such variations do not make educated guesses impossible. These guesses can be refined further by looking at the actual cards that survived, for example the type of crown that they wear, papal or imperial.

It might be objected that once a deck is established in a region, the conservatism of the players will prevent new cards being added, even more if they are from some other place. This seems to me too extreme. If a few new cards are merely inserted into the order without changing it otherwise, they can be incorporated easily enough, if, and more easily if a few are added at one time in one place in the order and a few others at another. If people can adjust to changes in the order over time, surely they can adjust to new cards, in a period of perhaps lessened antagonism among regions and increased travel, with a tendency toward standardization among regions.

It might be objected that if a sequence of fourteen or so was disseminated and later augmented, we should see different additions in different regions; but the cards are the same everywhere. Actually, the three theological virtues of the Cary-Yale (also called Visconti di Modrone) are not seen elsewhere except in Minchiate, where their presence is documented much later. It is an accident of history that the Cary-Yale is preserved; other subjects may be gone without a trace or been incorporated into a larger standard deck later.

It might be objected that the variability of the virtues is due to the whims of the game-playing rulers of Milan and Ferrara, or perhaps dominant card makers there, and so needs no explanation. I do not deny such influence, but even if it was an order by edict, an explanation is in order for why such an edict would put the virtues where they did; as we will see in Part II, there is a pattern to the placements.

On the section from Devil to Sun, it might be objected that its order is invariable even after the time of standardization, when other changes still occur: so its invariability has nothing to do with standardization. But it may have been the very invariability of that part among the different cities that made it somehow sacrosanct.

It might be objected that the postulation of two stages violates Occam’s Razor, which says that entities should not be multiplied without necessity. But necessity for what? To account for the observed facts, I would think. That includes explaining the particular choice of subjects and their order, and also the variation in the placement of the virtues from each to the next, and the invariance of five of the cards. There is also the variation in the designs on the early cards to be considered. There are also the variations in the designs on the early cards to be considered. How many “entities” need to be postulated to explain these results is a matter for evidence-based investigation, much of which, given the dearth of evidence, will be speculative. But the result will have more explanatory power than one that ignores these facts. 

Also, card games are in the category of human inventions, which are often experimental until a version is hit upon which achieves a sufficient market for the intended audience. There are not merely technical improvements, such as sturdier paper, but also those concerning what makes a "good game" for the intended market, whether those who prefer pure luck, enjoy strategy, or want an educational purpose. Once successful, it has some stability, while the previous products, which would have reached a smaller audience over a shorter time period, for the most part do not survive. It is reasonable to suppose that the number of different decks in the "experimental" period would be more than is necessary to produce the known result.

But yes, I need to say more. I will start by looking at another game with a permanent trump suit, that contained in a treatise written to Duke Filippo Maria Visconti of Milan by a secretary of his, usually known as Marziano da Tortona, sometime between Filippo’s accession in 1412 and Marziano’s funeral oration in 1425.32  Then I will go to other games with similarities to Marziano’s. In that context I will propose that the tarot has three basic sources, not only for the subjects but also for their order, which then interrelate by means of a practice utilized by Marziano, that of correlating subgroups of trumps with suits.

Notes to Section 2:
30 See note 1.
31 Pratesi 1989b; Caldwell and Ponzi 2019, p. 6 and Appendix 1. He was also known as Marziano da Samt’ Alosto and Marziano da Rampini.

3. Marziano’s game

Marziano presents a game whose trump suit is a “fourfold order” of what he calls “deified heroes”, actually Greco-Roman gods and demigods. What I want to address first is in bold:32
...Thus by observation of them [the “several most famous heroes, whose virtue... made gods”], be ready to be aroused to virtue.

The first order is indeed of virtues: Jupiter, Apollo, Mercury, and Hercules. The second of riches: Juno, Neptune, Mars, and Aeolis. The third of virginity or continence. The fourth however is of pleasure: Venus, Bacchus, Ceres and Cupid. Subordinated to those are four kinds of birds, being suited by similarity. Thus to the order of virtues, the Eagle; of riches, the Phoenix; of continence, the Turtledove; of pleasure, the Dove. And each one obeys its own king. However the order of birds is that none of their types has right over another, yet this arrangement they have alternately – Eagles and Turtledoves the many command the few, that is to say it goes better for us when many cultivate virtue and continence; but for Phoenices and Doves, the few rule over the many. That is to say, the more there are of the followers of riches and pleasures, the more they lead to the deterioration of our station. Every one of the gods, however, will be above all the orders and the kings of the orders. But the gods are held to this law among themselves: that who is first designated below, he should lead all the others following in sequence. ...
These relationships can be shown as follows, numbering the gods in the more usual way and remembering that “Virtues”, etc., apply directly to the gods; “Eagles”, etc., are then their “followers”:
As Franco Pratesi has pointed out,33 the bird orders are probably  variations on the standard suits. He suggests Swords for Eagles, as the followers of Virtues; Coins for Phoenices, as the followers of Riches; Cups for Doves, as the followers of Pleasure. That leaves Batons for Turtledoves, as the followers of Continences or Virginities. In support of this idea, I would observe that the Phoenix, according to Lactantius, had yellow metal on its tail, and gold was used for money.34 In Pleasures we see the god of wine, which he taught to dilute with water. Between Swords and Sticks, both are weapons, but swords the more powerful. Correspondingly,  the gods in Virtues are all male, and Virginities all female. Eagles are also more powerful than turtledoves.On the other hand, Ross Caldwell has suggested that sticks might symbolize the scepters of rule, appropriate to the highest order and Jupiter, and swordsthe militant followers of Virginity (

In Marziano’s account the order of trumps from 1 to 16, determining which card takes a trick, seems to supersede the division into 4 orders. If that is all there was, however, the subgroups would be irrelevant to the conduct of the game. Once the order of 16 had been memorized, the subgroups could be ignored. That is odd, given that he presented this schema so prominently. He asked the duke to “Consider this game, ... with its fourfold order.”35 How does the game involve a fourfold order, if its distinctions, as they pertain to the trumps, are to be ignored once presented? Instead, vice, i.e. the gods of Riches and Pleasures, triumphs over virtue, the gods of Virtues and Virginities, almost as much as the reverse. Caldwell and Ponzi say that there is a process of abstraction: “Then he abstracts the hero-gods from this fourfold structure, and puts them into their own hierarchy from highest to lowest.”36 Yet in the descriptions of the gods that follow, vices are connected with the gods in Riches and Pleasures, but none with those of Virtues and Virginities.37

Pratesi’s suggestion, supported by Decker,37 is that each group of four gods comprises what Pratesi calls “supercourts”, that is, extensions of the four suits beyond the king. But again we have to ask: how would this relationship be expressed in the rules of the game? Here are two possibilities. First, it might have been allowable to play a god-card that is an extension of the suit led even if one still had cards in that suit. In that way a low trump could win tricks early in the game. Second, there might have been a rule that among trumps, preference in winning a trick goes to the highest trump that is an extension of the suit; for example, if a Dove is led, and someone out of Doves puts down Jove, Cupid could beat it, being in the extension of Doves. In support of this idea I cite the last sentence of the treatise where Marziano says of Cupid: “With a full bow, the wanton and wicked Cupid wanders through heaven and earth; whose arms, pestilent to gods and men, Jupiter himself was not able to escape.”38  How could that be represented in the game? It is a riddle that such a rule would solve.

Admittedly Marziano does not state such a rule in so many words. Perhaps he had not realized the difficulty, or had not decided what the rule should be. Or perhaps such a rule was already conventional for games with permanent trump suits and so did not need to be stated. It is not impossible that the only connection was an allegorical one: by putting the gods in such matrices, each group of four with one of the suits, one can keep in mind the allegory as one plays, even if such an awareness is not essential to the game. But a rule making it essential would reinforce the lesson by rewarding those who remembered it, improving the game’s educational function.

A remaining question is how the game would have been scored, i.e. what counts as winning. I would think that the main emphasis would be to reward knowing both the hierarchy of gods and their four moral orders. It might be as simple as the number of tricks won.

In any case what seems useful is to take from Marziano the idea of the 4x4 matrix, or at least 4 by something, by which rows of trumps are matched allegorically with suits, and also that it was an educational game, to teach not only the classical gods but also virtue and vice.
Notes to section 3:

32 Caldwell and Ponzi, pp. 22-25, with the original Latin.
33 Pratesi 1989b, p. 34.
34 (“The Phoenix”, attributed to Lactantius, perhaps 4th century. I owe this reference to Ross G.R. Caldwell, Tarot History Forum 2019)
35 Caldwell and Ponzi 2019, p. 23.
36. Ibid, p. 13.
37 For specifics, see what I have written at, post 45.
38  Pratesi 1989b, p. 43; Decker 2013, p. 74.
39. Caldwell and Ponzi 2019, p. 93.

4. The four cardinal virtues

The four suit signs were Spade (Swords), Bastone (literally sticks, but shown on playing cards as Lances or Batons), Coppe (Cups) and Denari (Coins, Money). As Gertrude Moakley argued in 1966,40 Justice conventionally had a sword, Fortitude a column or stick, Temperance cups, and Prudence a mirror, round like a coin (Fig. 1, first four). For a stick and shield representing Fortitudo, an example is that virtue on the door of the baptistry of Florence's cathedral, done by Andrea Pisano in 1330-1333. (Fig. 1, far right, my photo).

Such correlations are also vaguely suggested by a passage in the 1404 funeral oration for Gian Galeazzo Visconti that Moakley cites. While certainly referring to the four cardinal virtues, they may also have indicated the four suits:
“O chiara luce, o specchio, o colonna, o sostegno, o franca spada, che la nostra contrada mantenevi sicura in monte e in piano!”

[“O clear light, o mirror, o column, o support, o confident sword, you kept our territory safe in the high places and on the plain!"]
An explicit example is that of Innocentio Ringhieri in 1551 Bologna, an allegorical game of his devising, where Cups correlate to Temperance, Columns to Fortitude, Swords to Justice, and Mirrors to Prudence.41  The relevant text (Fig. 2) is from the original, Google Books. It is part of a longer allegorical card game called "The Game of the King".
The virtues came in different hierarchical orders. In Plato’s Republic (427C-445B) Temperance governed the belly and sex organs, Fortitude the lungs and heart, Wisdom the head, and Justice the whole. For Aquinas, Prudence, i.e. “Wisdom for man”, was the highest,42 the order followed by Ringhieri. A difficulty is that Prudence is verified only in Minchiate, although the Invettivo of Lollio and Imperiali, c. 1550, mentions it, as does the anonymous Discorso, each probably referring to one of the standard trumps.43 But perhaps it was replaced rather than having never been. The result is a 2x4 matrix with virtues and suits:
Notes to Section 4:
40 Moakley 1966, p. 41, n. 1.
41 Cento Giuochi liberali et d'ingegnio, Bologna 1551, p. 132 (online).
42 Aquinas 1920/1274, Second Part of the Second Part (II-II), Q. 47, Art. 2, Reply 1: “sapientia viro”: See also II-II-23-6: “...prudence, which by itself attains reason, is more excellent than the other moral virtues” (Sicut etiam prudentia, quae attingit rationem secundum se, est excellentior quam aliae virtutes morales).
43 For Imperiali, Pratesi 1987a. For anonymous, Caldwell, Depaulis and Ponzi, p.38 and 54-55.

5. Petrarch’s six Trionfi poems

Another reasonably possible source for a Marziano-like matrix, one often cited in the past,44  is the six Trionfi poems of Petrarch, which form a hierarchy according to who conquers whom: Eternity is on top, triumphing over Time, Time over Fame, Fame over Death, Death over Pudicizia (Petrarch's term,45 not precisely the same as the usual "Chastity"), and Pudicizia over Love. Four of these subjects are obvious enough: Love, Death, Time, and Eternity, this last victorious when the Angels trumpet at the Last Judgment. The “Charles VI” has all four (Fig. 3) among its extant cards, as does the PMB (Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo, for the two institutions holding the cards, also known as the Colleoni-Bagliati) in its "first artist" cards.46 
Time is the card later known as the Old Man or Hunchback, which often had an old man holding up an hourglass, or else on crutches with wings, which matches his earliest depiction in illustrations of Petrarch "Triumph of Time". Petrarch had put this triumph after Death and Fame, as the eons of cosmic time that defeat all earthly Fame. But besides speaking of time in cosmic terms, he also described it in ways that suggest the hourglass and wings: “Delay not ... until Death shall transfix you with his fatal dart,” he advises. The card was sometimes even called Tempo, Italian for “Time”, e.g. in the tarocchi sonnets of Teofilo Folengo, in the list by Pomeran, and in Minchiate.47 This characterization applies before Death.

 The hardest of Petrarch's triumphs to find in the tarot are Fame and that which is customarily called Chastity but which he himself called Pudicizia, in English Pudicitia.

The clearest example of Fame is in the earliest extant tarot deck, that of the Cary-Yale, also known as the Visconti di Modrone (at far left below). The lady on top holds a trumpet in her right hand and a crown in her left, with a knight directly below, in a scene with castles and water.48. What suggests her identification as Fame the most is the trumpet, a frequent attribute of Fame. An example is a birth tray illustrating that Triumph (3rd from left, by Lo Sheggio, probably done at the birth of Lorenzo de' Medici, c. 1449): winged trumpets can be seen extending from the globe on which the winged figure of Fame stands. Trumpets are to spread the news, and wings do so rapidly. Early manuscript illustrations have the same features. The crown on the card substitutes for the small sphere that is usually in her hand. The corresponding card in the "Charles VI" (far left) has a female figure holding out a golden globe in one hand and a scepter in the other, while standing on a circular scene of castles and hills. Is this Fame?
It seems to me that the "Charles VI" image (fourth from left) should be seen in the light of Boccaccio's Amorosa Visione. A similar figure appears to the narrator in a dream:49
...I raised my eyes to her blonde head
adorned with a crown and more splendid
and fair then the sun, and her comely
clothing seemed to be of a violet hue.
Smiling, she had in her right hand
a royal scepter, enclosed in her left
she held up a beautiful golden apple.
Her description rather closely matches the lady on the "Charles VI" card, except for not standing on a circle with hills and castles in it. And it is not quite an apple, but the familiar golden globe. But the globe is held out from her body, as though a prize, as opposed to how the Emperor holds his globe, close to his body. The golden apple, mythologically, was on the one hand the prize - the apple of Discord - awarded by Paris to the goddess he judged most beautiful, and on the other hand the fruit of the tree given to Hera as a wedding present. If a golden apple from that tree is offered, it is in virtue of the esteem of heaven. Gold, the most precious metal, which in pure form does not tarnish over time, also makes it symbolic of the Golden Age when humans and gods lived together. In alchemy red had similar symbolism.

In the poem, the lady leads the narrator to a narrow gate, with a steep path beyond; it leads to "the high place where your soul will be in glory [gloria]."50 "Gloria" and "fama" are fairly equivalent in Italian. The lady seems to be offering him a path to Fama, but of a different kind than that which the trumpet-master on the Angel card offers. The Cary-Yale was for a high member of the Visconti court, someone who could aspire to fame in this world. In Florence the game was of the people, and the corresponding Fama seems to be one anyone can aspire to, if perhaps as rarely won, the esteem of heaven.

Boccaccio doesn't say who his lady is. The poet utters a prayer to "you who move the third sphere" -  Celestial Venus - to make his account pleasing, after "she" - the guide - has led him to the high place.51 Whether the guide is Celestial Venus herself is left unclear. Vittore Branca, in his introduction to Hollander's translation, says: 52 
She is the Guide sent by heaven to the Poet; she is, if we really want a definition, the aspiration to virtue which lies at the core of every soul.
For the circle on the "Charles VI" card, on which the lady stands, we have to read on. Boccaccio's protagonist wants first to go nearby, where he hears "festive sounds."53  The entrance hall is lined with frescoes. The first one features a beautiful lady with figures from legend or history at her feet, all philosophers or poets. She holds a book and scepter, typical attributes of Wisdom. The next fresco has another beautiful lad with another golden apple, she holds a sword. A banner overhead proclaims her as "the Fame of worldly folk";54 the people around her are mostly people who won fame by force of arms. He adds that "around about this supreme lady ...was a perfect circle", declaring: 
I do not believe there can be anything
in the whole world, town or country, domestic or foreign,
which would not appear within this circle.
The lady is inside the circle, which goes "from beneath her feet to above her head," not above it, as in Pesellino's wedding chest. The card's designer seems to have taken the circle from one section of the poem and placed it below the lady of another section. It seems to be a matter of where the two ladies consider home: one in the world and the other above it.It is possible that the World of the World card is not this world at all, but rather that of the New Earth, as indicated by its position in the clouds. But I don't think so. It was part of the Ptolemaic world-view that our world was a round globe surrounded by the "upper air". And there is nothing suggestive of the New Jerusalem inside the circle we see.

Then, in frescoes around the room, the narrator sees ladies representing Wealth and Love, surrounded by famous rich people and lovers. In the next room he sees, triumphing over all, Fortune and her companion Death. He then meets his dream-beloved and after getting acquainted  the two resolve to undertake the trek up the mountain together. Then he backslides, but the intent was there.

It seems to me that Boccaccio has two Famas, each holding out her own "apple." By disregarding earthly fame, one can focus on achieving eternal Glory (which does not negate earthly glory, if it happens), the gift of God's esteem, which is the goal of the mountain climb, the climb being the life of virtue. 

Here it is relevant to see how the card serves its possessor in the game: it is the second most powerful card and can win many points when the score is totaled at the end of the game. He can still lose it to the Judgment card, but hopefully that won't happen, if he plays his cards right. That, I think, is how this card lives up to its appearance,having the trappings of Fame but not the same fame as a lower card in the deck might signify. In other words, the figure on the Rosenwald card is saying, this golden ball can be yours. 

Yet it is also a Fama in this world. The circle is divided into the usual three parts indicating Europe, Africa, and Asia. There is sometimes a cross on top: it is the Fama of a Christian life of virtue, to be played in triumph during the game and also a source of reward in the afterlife.  

The other Petrarchan triumph to be located is that of Pudicitia. Pudicitia is a person's excellence in gender-related virtue, either masculine or feminine. So for a woman it would be chastity among other things, and for men more about honor, bravery and other manly virtues. When Petrarch spoke of "her of whom I write" ("Triumph of Pudicitia", line 23), he was thinking of the feminine side, and of his beloved Laura. Since virtues were typically represented as female, the feminine gender will do for both.

If so, where is Pudicitia in the cards? The earliest known Chariot cad is that of the Cary-Yale, with a feminine figure in the chariot (Fig. 5, center). In 2008 Jean-Michel David on Tarot History Forum identified the object held by the lady on the Cary-Yale Chariot as a jousting shield (Fig. 5, center).56 There is a thin red line that seems to be there as a guide to the artist.The shield held by the Empress (Fig. 5, left) is more easily identifiable because of the black lines..
In Petrarch's poem, Pudicitia is described as locked in combat with Love (lines 49-50):
Never was there a fencer so adept
At turning blows aside.
and so on. Of special interest is this (lines 118-119):
She wore, that day, a gown of white, and held
The shield that brought Medusa to her death.
The Visconti radiant dove is not the head of Medusa, so we cannot say that lady on the card is the virgin Athena. But at least we have the white horses, the color of purity. What makes the shield particularly that of Pudicitia is the psychomachia tradition in which Petrarch wrote, the battle between virtues and vices, with virtues paired with their opposing vices. Pudicitia or Castita was paired with Libido, the kind of love associated with Cupid.57 This is what is in the poem, and also in the Cary-Yale Chariot card, situated between Love and Death. Yet the card also departs from Petrarch: She carries no chains, and there is no bound Cupid. Moreover, a male groom minds the horses; the victory seems a joint eff58 Pudicitia's chariot becomes chaste Bianca Maria's wedding carriage entering her dowry city of Cremona, the joining of two famous families, ducal for her and military for him.
ort..Such an interpretation also fits the probable occasion for the deck, a commemoration of the wedding of Bianca Maria Visconti with Francesco Sforza.
In the A order decks the figure on top is clearly male, the "Charles VI" (Fig. 6, below, far left) and id (Fig. 6, center) and probably male, such as the figure wearing masculine clothing in the "Alessandro Sforza" card (Fig. 6, 2nd left, also called the Catania or Castello Ursino, from its present location).59 The chariot emulates that of the Roman military leaders in the triumphal processions celebrating their victories. With the Medici "palle" (balls, in a circular pattern) on its front and the foot-soldier's halbern, the "Charles VI" chariot might signify the triumph of the Florentine citizen-soldier under Medici leadership.

These seem to express the manly side of Pudicitia, gender related excellence. It is a departure from Petrarch, but no more than the Cary-Yale does in its portrayal of Love. Both require the overcoming of Love's instinctual and emotional attachments and fears characteristic of Pudicitia in both genders.
Other early cards have feminine figures on top  (PMB, Fig. 6, 2nd from right, from the Pierpont- Morgan Library in New York; far right, from Musée Français de la Carte à Jouer [French museum of playing cards], Issy-les-Moulineaux, both early 1450s). As in the case of the A order World cards, there are objects and figures on them resembling those on chariots illustrating Petrarch's "Triumph of Fame": a golden disc or globe, a sword, a horse-drawn chariot. Boccaccio's figure of "fame of worldly folk", who holds a sword and golden apple, rides in a chariot drawn by four horses. In the PMB the horses even have wings, another attribute of Fame.

Animal-drawn chariots appear on the mid-century illustrations of all six Petrarchan triumphs: Fame is not unique. Horses in particular are also on the "Triumph of Love". Also, a sword as much as a shield associates the figure with the combatant of Petrarch's poem. In the original Psychomachia of Prudentia, Pudicitia "pierces Libido's throat" with a sword.60 Feminine Pudicitia is also suggested by the abundance of ladies: she is their queen. As for flying horses, they were seen on depictions of the chariots of the sun and moon. In literature, there were the winged horses in Plato's Phaedrus, then a work to which much attention was being paid: Chastity is specifically mentioned in such a chariot (Phaedrus 254).61

In this regard we might ask, why would a lady representing Pudicitia, or a man representing the triumph of arms, be on a chariot at all, given that Petrarch gave only one of his triumphs a chariot, namely Love? I see two possibilities. On the one hand, the artists thought first of the triumph of arms, for which a chariot was the custom. Alternatively, as the only one of the Petrarchan truimphs that actually has a person triumphing over forces beyond his or her control, it represent the soul trumphant over its lower nature, which is what Plato's image was about, too. In the case of the Cary-Yale, this triumph would be a joint product of the man and the woman on the card.

Yet all these card do exhibit characteristics of the "Triumph of Fame": the golden ball and a weapon or scepter. If so, it is worldly fame, fame before death, as indicated by the card's place in the sequence. Excellence in pudicitia brings fame. Some unclarity remains, then as now. It is no wonder that the card became known simply as "Carro" without further specification, just as the other became simply "World". However a relationship to Petrarch's "Triumph of Pudicitia", I hope, is at least plausible, even if the cards depart from Petrarch's own treatment of the theme in one way or another.

Adding these six to the matrix we have:

What I want to draw attention to are the horizontal associations between virtues and Petrarchans through sharing the same row. Temperance is the virtue governing Love, Fortitude is necessary to achieve excellence, Prudence, in one placement,  manages Time, and Justice is to be had after Death, in the recognition of one’s merits by Heaven and in the rewards and punishments of the Last Judgment. Putting Justice with Time is not such a good fit, although it is possible: justice in one’s lifetime can only be hoped for. But Prudence is a better fit: depictions of the virtue often showed her with two or three faces, one behind, one in front, for past and future, and perhaps one in between, for the present. In the so-called "Tarot of Mantegna”, c. 1465 Ferrara or Venice, Prudence looks both to the past and to the future; the mirror serves the same purpose (Fig. 7, left). An explicit example is a famous painting by Titian and his assistants, Allegory of Prudence Governed by Time, c. 1550-1565 Venice (Fig. 7, right), with three faces; the third looked toward the viewer. On the painting was the motto, "From the past / the present acts prudently / lest it spoil future action.62

If these associations were part of the early game, then knowing them would have been as important as knowing the gods in each order would have been for Marziano. As I have argued in his case, some special status for trumps in the same row as the suit led would serve an educational function, teaching no less than the relationship of the virtues to handling major life-concerns. As such it would have been part of a long tradition of games designed to teach the virtues. Emilia Maggio observes that:63
In the tenth century, Bishop Wiboldus of Cambrai had contrived an elaborate dice game in which Charity would finally beat the vices. The purpose of this game was to dissuade students from gambling and lead them, through pleasure, to the practice of virtue.
In the same place Maggio also cites Johannes of Rheinfelden, probably writing in 1377, about a card game whose purpose was to “teach noblemen the rule of life ... and inform [the people] of the way of laboring virtuously.” Marziano too, declared, in the quote already given, that his goal was for the player "to be aroused to virtue”.

If trumps have to be learned in rows, virtues in company with corresponding life-concerns  it is a perfect game for children and their parents. In Ferrara 1442 it was in fact for two children that a deck of triumphs was purchased, the 9 and 11 year old brothers of Leonello d’Este. It is one of numerous references to playing cards for children collected on

Notes to Section 5:
44 Manucci 1676 (cited in Vitali 2007), Moakley 1966, pp. 47-48; Shephard 1984, pp. 34-37; Pratesi 1998, p. 111, Vitali 1995c, p. 5. Moakley and Shephard identify the six Petrarchans with groups of cards within a full sequence of 21 or 22; the others are unspecific. I am identifying them with individual cards.
46 On, search "Tarot dit Charles VI". For the PMB, see Dummett 1986.
47 Folengo 1527, p. 156 (Mullaney transcription and translation, p. 143). Pomeran: Dummett 1993, p. 421. Minchiate: Depaulis 2007, p. 43.
48 Pesellino:; Apollonio: For the "Charles VI" card, see note 46. For the Cary-Yale card, see "Visconti Tarot" on the website of the Beinecke Library, Yale University,
49. Boccaccio 1986, p. 7 (Canto I, lines 36-42)..
50. Ibid, p. 9 (Canto I, lines 68-69)
51. Ibid, p. 11 (Canto II, line 2).
52. Ibid, p. xx of Vittore Branca's introducion..
55. Ibid, p. 1 (Canto II, line 45).
56 Post 12 at
57 Katzenellenbogen 1964, p. 2, for Pudicitia, and 21 n. 1, for Castita.
58 Depaulis 2013, p. 20
59. For Catania card (on right), Maggio 2016; for "Charles VI" (left) see note 46.
60 Katzenellenbogen 1964, p. 2, n. 1.
61 Plato 1987, p. .
63 Maggio 2014, p, 229, citing Balderic's Chronicon Cameracense et Atrebatense, Book I, Ch.87. The next reference is to Johannes' De Moribus et Disciplina Humanae Conversationis.
64, trans. Ross Gregory Caldwell, ed. Lothar Teikeimeier, citing Franceschini 1996 (1993?), p. 170. The other references are at The earliest is in the Chronica di Morelli, an addendum to Malespini 1718, p. 270. Morelli began his chronicle in 1393 (p. 217) and died in 1444.

6. The secular and spiritual powers

To attain fourteen subjects, equaling the number of cards per suit, there needs to be four more cards. Given that the cards below the trumps are headed by kings, it makes sense that at least one of them would be an emperor. In Italy at that time, there were two basic systems of authority, each with its own traditions. At the head of each was one man, the Emperor for one and the Pope for the other. In the tarot lists there are often four such personages, Emperor, Empress, Pope and Popess. In two, the strambotto and Minchiate, there are only three, omitting the Popess. In one, the Bolognese, there are four, but all are designated by the same masculine term “papa”. Among the partial decks that survive there are three that have one or two imperials but no papals among its surviving cards: "Alessandro Sforza", Brera-Brambilla, and Cary-Yale. So which of these alternatives came first?

There were other card games in the early 15th century besides Marziano’s that seem to have had trumps, in the sense of cards superior in trick-taking power to the highest cards of the other suits. One is “VIII Imperadori”, documented in 1423 Ferrara, for a deck made in Florence.65 All we have is the name, but 8 is twice 4, so perhaps 2 served as extensions of each suit, as Pratesi has proposed.66 We don’t know who these “Imperadori” were, but one possibility comes from Johannes of Rheinfelden, who described a game where the suits represented four empires. Arne Jönsson of the University of Stockholm writes:67
As regards the four suits, they represent, in Johannes' opinion, four kingdoms, namely the four successive world monarchies, Babylonia, Persia, Macedon (or Greece), and the Roman Empire. As his symbol the Babylonian king has a man's head, the Greek king has bells, and the Roman king an eagle. Johannes tells us that he does not understand the Persian king's symbol.
These same empires are assigned to the suits in an essay on Minchiate in 1747, indicative of a tradition.60  The highest suit, the Roman, notably has the eagle as its symbol, the same as for Marziano, while Bells are what correspond in German and Swiss suits to Coins. These two would then be the same as those Pratesi postulated as the basis for Marziano’s suits. We could then imagine, for "VIII Imperadori", two figures for each empire as extensions of the suits, arranged hierarchically with Romans highest, since each empire conquered the one before it.

However it is not important that the eight “Imperadori” have been those in particular. It is the number, which is 4x2, suggesting pairs, coupled with imperials, personages whose power crosses national boundaries, that matters.

Actually only one such personage is needed per suit, if there are other trumps. There were two transnational hierarchies then, one headed by the Pope and another by the Emperor. The Emperor had a spouse, the Empress. So did the Pope, in his case the Church. Aquinas had said, “The Pope, who is the viceregent of Christ throughout the entire Church, is called the spouse of the universal Church.”68 Such figures could be arranged hierarchically, either spirituals or males first. There were also the Western Empire and the Eastern Empire, each with a secular and a spiritual head. In the West there were also rival claimants to the throne of Pope or Emperor; they could be considered Popes and Emperors, too. In such a context it is no wonder that Bologna's cards are of ambiguous gender. The only thing clear is the division between spiritual and secular. (Fig. 8, the little numbers on these Bibliothèque Nationale cards must be late additions by someone in France, because they continue on the other trumps in precisely the "Tarot de Marseille" order.)
With this kind of doubling there isn’t a hierarchy between those with the same title, Pope or Emperor, until one resigns or is defeated. That could explain why in Bologna and Piedmont there seems to have been no ranking among them, priority being given to the one played last in a trick.69

Another card game with trumps was Karnöffel, first recorded in 1426 Bavaria.70  That was over the Alps from Italy, but many Italian nobles and church people had been in that region for church councils in Constance and Basel. In further support, there is an edict of 1420 in in Milan where Filippo found occasion to outlaw games “not in accord with the ancient system.”71 What that means is not completely clear, but it is not likely that he meant games that have Aces as the most powerful number card in two suits and Tens in the other two, because his own game did that, and others. He more likely was thinking of games like Karnöffel that made low cards, allegorically characters at the bottom of the social hierarchy, the most powerful.

The game used an ordinary deck, but one suit was picked randomly to have some trump cards. It is hard to reconstruct precisely how many there were capable of beating the kings and below, but at least four are mentioned, of which the highest was called the Karnöffel. Playing card historian David Parlett says of this card:72
In fact its primary meaning is a scrotal hernia and, by extension in some contexts, the testicles. By further extension it also came to mean a rough, uncouth and violent rogue, thence a Landsknecht or lansquenet [foot soldier], and, later still, satirically, a cardinal of the church. 
There was also the Devil, a trump when led. Next were the Pope and one or more Emperors; Parlett says just one, which is consistent with a c.1450 German poem, but a 1546 dialogue gives four, for the four empires described by John of Rheinfelden. That information plus the name "Kaiserspiel" for the same or similar German game, suggests a relationship to "VIII Imperadori" in Italy. The c. 1450 poem speaks of "holy figures" without giving a number. Whether they all beat the kings is also unknown.73

There is a certain parallel in the Tarot: the Bagatella is a kind of small Devil, in that his profession is deceiving people. Likewise the Matto is a kind of Karnöffel. We only have to put the Pope highest, then the Emperor, then the other two. In that case the game of Karnöffel suggests an alternative to doubling the Pope and Empero: there might have been one or two of the low characters instead. While the Empress card corresponded to a real person, the Popess did not, and could easily be interpreted as the Pope’s mistress or the legendary “Pope Joan”, who got elected pope disguised as a man. Some might make fun of the Church by means of this card. To avoid brawls it could be omitted. In that case something analogous to the Karnöffel or Devil might substitute, as the lowest trump rather than the highest, although in Milan it still probably would be unacceptable to have such a figure trumping kings. In Minchiate the Bagatella even looks like a father with his children, comparable to how some of the early dignitaries were shown, such as the "Alessandro Sforza" Empress, Rothschild Emperor, and "Charles VI" Pope (Fig. 9, far left).74
But he is not a dignitary, and the Matto, shown in Minchiate playing with two children, even less so.Since the Empress is well enough represented in the early cards (in the A-order's "Alessandro Sforza" and the C order's Cary-Yale), I do not think it very likely that one low figure would be grouped with three high ones at the start. But I cannot rule it out, nor even two such figures..

I will use the terms “papa” (Italian for “father”, and by extension "big man") and “papi”, plural, even when one or two are female or low characters, as the simplest shorthand for the four.

There are now three or maybe four sources, besides the four regular suits, for the game of triumphs: the four cardinal virtues, the six subjects of Petrarch’s Trionfi, and either the game of Eight Emperors, for the “papi” and the idea of trumps as extensions of the suits, or Karnöffel, at least one of whose trumps might count as a “papa”. The “papi” would naturally be in the low part of the order, because allegorically they are subject to the virtues and Petrarchans. We get a 4x3 matrix plus two outside the matrix. Below, the "/" sign means "or".
It might be that one or two of the two lowest “papi” would more properly be put below the matrix, as Bagatella and/or Matto. However the present matrix is more meaningful, in that there is a column for each source. Above, if I put only one “low” figure in parentheses, it is to keep the matrix simple.

What remains is to see how this postulated ur-tarot, as the original from which the various orders sprang, would develop into what came later.

Notes to Section 6:
65 Franceschini. 1993, lines 137ff under “i", cited by Caldwell at
66 Pratesi 1998, p. 112; Pratesi 2016.

67 Jönsson 2005, p. 370.
68 Vitali, 2018a, citing Brunetti, 1747.
69 Contra impugnantes, pars 2 cap. 3 ad 22: "Et ideo Papa, qui obtinet vicem sponsi in tota Ecclesia, universalis Ecclesiae sponsus dicitur" and "...Unde Christus et Papa et episcopus et sacerdos non computantur nisi unus sponsus Ecclesiae." Cited by Marco Ponzi at  

70 Caldwell, Depaulis and Ponzi, p. 17 and note 8, pp 30-31.
71:, citing F. Malaguzzi Valeri, La corte di Ludovico il Moro (Milano, Hoepli, 1913-1917), vol. I, p. 268. 

73 The variations are admirably summarized by "Huck" (Lothar Teikemeier) on Tarot History Forum, At, post 30, he discusses the 1450 and 1546 sources. 
74 Minchiate: Empress: Maggio 2016. Emperor: Pope: (search terms “tarot dit Charles VI"). All except the Empress are held by the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

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PRATESI, Franco, 2017. "1501-1521: Carte da Perugia e città vicine",, trans. at
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RENZONI, Nazario, 2012. "Some remarks on Germini in Bronzino's Capitolo in lode della
Zanzara" The Playing Card 41:2, pp. 85-87. Online in "Ask Alexander" search engine.
SHEPHARD, John, 1985. The Tarot Trumps: Cosmos in Miniature, Aquarian Press, London
SINGER, Samuel Weller, 1816. Researches into the History of Playing Cards, with Illustrations of the Origin of Printing and Engraving on Wood, by T. Bensley and Son, for Robert Triphook, London. In Google Books.
STEELE, Robert, 1900. "A notice of the ludus triumphorum and some early Italian card games: with some remarks on the origin of the game of cards", Archeologia LVII, pp. 185-200, selection at
TEIKEMEIER, Lothar, 2004. "5x14 Theory-Spotlights", (more on sidebar). Other notes by Teikemeier in footnotes.
VITALI, n. d. (1). "Ganellini seu Gallerini Il gioco delle Minchiate a Genova, Roma e Palermo (secc. XVII - XVIII)", with English translation.
VITALI, Andrea, n. d. (2). "Farsa Satyra Morale: Sminchiata voise dir da sciocchi", with trans.
VITALI, Andrea, 1995a. "Il Bagatto",, with trans.
VITALI, Andrea, 1995b. "Il Matto (Il Folle)",, with trans.
VITALI, Andrea, 1995c. "L'Harmonia Celeste", La Carovano dei Tarocchi: Storia, Arte, Magia, pp. 5-8,
VITALI, 2007. "Il Malmantile Racquistato - Un Generale che amava troppo i Tarocchi", with trans.
VITALI, Andrea, 2009. "San Bernardino e le Carte da Gioco Carte regolari e trionfi nelle cronache sulla vita del Santo"., with trans.
VITALI, Andrea, 2018a. "Note allegoriche al Giuoco delle Minchiate",, with trans.
VITALI, Andrea, and ZANETTI, Terry, 2005. Il Tarocchino di Bologna: Storia, Iconografia, Divinazione, dal XV al XX secolo, Edizione Martina, Bologna.

Part Two: The development of the orders

Summary: Part One of this essay presented the various trump orders as later known and discussed some sources for them, notably the four cardinal virtues, the six subjects of Petrarch’s Trionfi poems, and previous games using trumps. The tentative result is 14 cards in a 4x3 matrix, with a virtue and Petrarchan in each row plus two Petrarchans above. Such a structure fits the orders of Florence and Bologna best. In Lombardy and Ferrara, it is proposed, the horizontal associations in rows of the original matrix became vertical ones by columns. The three theological virtues are also incorporated, as in the Cary-Yale deck and Minchiate. Then celestials take the place of theologicals, and Devil and Tower complete the sequence. Horizontal associations having become vertical ones, a matrix is not needed to associate virtues with Petrarchans, and it has also become too cumbersome. Marziano’s association of suits with groups of trumps is abandoned and the game we know is born.7. Putting the three sources together in a Marziano-style matrix

7. Putting the three sources together in a Marziano-style matrix

So far three sources for the game of triumphs have been identified: 4 virtues, 6 Petrarchans, and 4 “papi”, i.e. either four high dignitaries reflecting the two main hierarchies of 15th century society, or two or three of them plus a “low” character modeled on the “Karnoffel” in the game of that name. Putting them together we get four “papi”, 4 virtues and 6 Petrarchans, yielding a 4x3 matrix with 2 outside it. Between the hierarchies of spiritual vs. secular, spiritual was generally considered higher, males above females, and of high figures over low. Different arrangements of these dichotomies are possible. The following matrix includes most of them, leaving out only ones involving the Matto, but including Bologna’s, four “papi” without further specification or ordering.
If we look at this matrix in terms of rows defined by the virtues in it, there are some nice horizontal associations, i.e. associations through sharing the same row. Temperance is the virtue governing Love, Fortitude governs the achievement of excellence, Prudence, in one placement, manages Time, and Justice is to be had after Death, in the recognition of one’s merits by Heaven and in the Last Judgment which the Angel’s trumpet announces. Putting Justice with Time is not such a good fit: Justice in one’s lifetime cannot be counted on; still, over the course of Time, Justice may be hoped for. Either way, the result is then a similar attachment of trumps to suits as in Marziano.

This order of trumps is close to what we actually see in the A orders, where the virtue cards characteristically come one after the other. Here is the “Charles VI” list put into a matrix:

I put the Matto at the bottom because it functioned as a wild card, not part of the order. Minchiate’s order, for the cards it has in common with the tarocchi, is the same except for definitely leaving off the Popess. Once the cards not in A14 are removed, this order departs from my proposed ur-tarot in two ways. First, Prudence is not there. Second, Love appears below Temperance. Prudence can be added in two ways, as follows:

In relation to my proposed ur-tarot, this matrix, in so far as it teaches that Temperance governs Love, goes in the direction of trading a horizontal association for a vertical one. This is something that happens in a more thoroughgoing way in the B and C orders, as we will soon see. So the above is probably a later development, too. But it should be borne in mind as a possible matrix for the first transmission to other regions.

The situation gets more complicated if we take into account the Rosenwald and Bolognese orders. Besides putting Love before Temperance, these have Fortitude above Justice, something in neither Plato nor Aquinas. Historically it is possible to find such a sequence in the Christian tradition, although not implying a corresponding hierarchy.75 It is again unclear where Prudence would go, although in the sources it is somewhere in the middle. In addition the Bolognese sequence puts Chariot between Temperance and Love, as though to emphasize that excellence must be achieved in accordance with moral virtue.  It seems to me that these changes should be considered as later developments, part of the normal process of switching nearby cards over time. But they do complicate my postulated transmission to the other regions, since it is unknown whether the exchanges happened before or after such transmission. Here are the resulting matrices, first the Rosenwald and then the Bolognese:

Note to section 7: 
75, citing Wisdom of Solomon 8:7 and Ambrose, Commentary on Luke, V, 62. 

8. Lombardy, Piedmont, France (Dummett’s Region C)

Below is the earliest C order, which Depaulis calls “Pavia”:

And here is the same order after removing all the cards not in my proposed ur-tarot, A14:

There is a kind of pattern here. Below each of the virtues is the Petrarchan that is on the same line with it in matrix A14. Prudence by this reasoning would go above Old Man, but putting it there would result in two virtues in one row. It is not easy to find a place where Prudence can successfully go. In fact I can find only one such place, resulting in the following;

This order, with Temperance high and Prudence and Justice low, is the exact opposite of what is needed for my hypothesis. Dummett once speculated that the Popess might have taken the place of Prudence.76 That is possible: there could still be the Bagatella at 1. Moreover, Prudence often was shown with a book, like the Popess, and even with both book and cross-staff.77 That would put the Popess or Bagatella as the first trump. Neither is a traditional image in educational contexts: in fact, the word “papessa” is unheard of before tarocchi and the image of a sleight of hand artist was new to iconography. Moreover, neither was one that Filippo would consider more powerful than the kings. It is not hard to suppose that he might have preferred something different from either.

We know that at least one early Lombard deck, the Brera-Brambilla, had a Wheel of Fortune card.78  In Boccaccio’s Amorosa Visione, Fortune with her Wheel had been the major triumphator, overcoming love, riches, and fame. As such it is a natural extension of Petrarch’s six. It was also an allegory of some importance to the Visconti, who had a fresco of one in their castle on Lake Maggiore:79
This matrix is more likely than the preceding one because it fits the overall pattern better: with a virtue almost every other card. The only exception, two cards between Fortitude and Prudence, is a necessary one, to have a virtue in every row. But can it be derived from my ur-tarot? For comparison purposes here it is again: In A14, Prudence is horizontally with the Old Man, and in C14bb Prudence is vertically just above Old Man. In A14 Fortitude is horizontally with the Chariot, and in C14bb Fortitude is vertically above Chariot. What was a horizontal relationship has become a vertical relationship. The same is not true with Justice and Temperance; but if they are switched, then it works: Justice with Love in the vertical, and Temperance with Death. Such switches happen often between variations in the order, perhaps by accident and perhaps on purpose. Why does it happen here?

We do not have the Brera-Brambilla's Love card, but we do have that of a deck of the same decade, the Cary-Yale (Fig. 10, right). Here we see the couple’s contractual handshake: it is love defined by what each owes the other, i.e. Justice Although absent from this earliest deck, Temperance in the next Lombard deck and every other show a lady pouring from one vessel to another (Fig. 10, right). Perhaps the allegory is that Death can be forestalled by temperate living, or overcome entirely by the power of the Eucharist, in which the act of pouring water into wine takes place. The angle at which the water falls is reminiscent of the angle at which the Holy Spirit inserts the Father's seed into Mary in depictions of the Annunciation. Such details suggest that the switch was on purpose, probably by the will of Filippo himself.

In the new matrix horizontal associations exist along with the vertical ones: Temperance is associated with both Love, the Wheel, suggesting rational control over the appetites as a way of mitigating Love’s excesses and the Wheel's turns. Fortitude for Aquinas was especially a virtue in the face of Death.80  Justice governs Time, one of the alternatives in my ur-tarot: the hope of Justice eventually, if not by man then by God.

It is of some interest that Prudence, between Old Man and Death, is where the Hanged Man or Traitor appears in the later lists. That the Hanged Man substituted for Prudence in fact has some documentary support: Vincenzo Imperial's reply to Lollio's Invettivo in c. 1550 Ferrara. He goes in order from top to bottom: At Death he says “Death brings another dance, prudence, and malice down here.”81 In the next line he mentions the Old Man. By "prudence" he obviously means the Hanged Man, whose dance is on the gallows. Perhaps it was thought by someone in authority that a card showing the penalty for betrayal, and so the prudence of loyalty, was more important to have than a card showing a lady looking in a mirror. But to change the subject at this point would be to violate the principle of one virtue in each row.

Of the two alternate matrices I gave earlier, the one with the Bolognese order also requires just one exchange, that of Temperance and Prudence. Here are the two again:

If Temperance is 8, then it is paired horizontally with Death in A15B, as is the case vertically in C14bb, and so on. As to which is the ur-tarot, we will see when we get to the B order.

Given that the available images for the Chariot and World cards refer more directly to the themes of Pudicitia and Fame presented by Petrarch than their counterparts in Florence (with male charioteers and heavenly rather than earthly fame), it might be wondered whether the Lombard order might have come first and the Florentine been a kind of rationalization of that order, putting the virtues all together instead of every other card. It is certainly possible. But since the "dignitaries" are all in a row, it seems more likely to me that the virtues were, too, originally. Also, the general tendency, given the preceding games as I have hypothesized them, is to replace associations via a matrix, i.e. as extensions of the four suits, with associations purely in virtue of the order, i.e. vertically, entirely as a separate suit. Finally, we don't know how old the designs we see on the Florentine cards are, and what the earliest Florentine triumphs looked like. They might have been more similar to the extant Lombard ones. But the argument on the other side certainly has some force.

Another extant partial Lombard deck is the Cary-Yale, which unlike the Brera-Brambilla had 16 cards per suit; so perhaps there were 16 trumps as well. The surviving 11 include the three theological virtues (Fig. 11, lfrom left, Hope, Faith, Charity).82 That they are additions to an earlier order without them is supported by the lack of a small antitype on its Fortitude card (below far left); when antitypes are given, as they are on all three of the theological virtues - the little figure on the bottom - it is normally on all seven.83 Whether these three subjects came from an expanded deck in Florence or were original to Lombardy is unclear. In any case they are an addition to the C order, which has them nowhere else, unlike in A where they are part of Minchiate.
The theological virtues, too, had a hierarchy: As a group they are above the cardinal virtues, closer to God, and that is where Aquinas put them, too,84  first Faith, then Hope, then Charity, as in I Cor.13:13. But in Minchiate of the 17th century Hope was first, then Faith. My only explanation is that Aquinas also said that even though “absolutely speaking” faith precedes hope, yet “hope is called the entrance to faith, ... because thereby man begins to be established and perfected in faith".85  Already in the early 15th century we can see the three virtues depicted in Florence in the order Hope, Faith, Charity, on the funeral monument of Cardinal Pietro Corsini, who died in 1405 (Fig. 12); the monument is mentioned in documents by 1422.86 There seems to have been no requirement to stick to one order. Since they are being added as a unit, which comes first makes no difference. Since I have to put something and I lack anything better I will assume they are in the same order and place in the Cary-Yale as in Minchiate. This order gets some confirmation by a visual comparison with the later PMB Star, Moon and Sun, and the scenes on some of the others, which I wall discuss at the end of this section.

Adding 3 virtues to 14, one card has to be subtracted in order to get the same number of trumps as cards per suit, 16. The Cary-Yale has among its cards both an Emperor and Empress. I think that the one removed would been the Pope, as some in the church considered the pope's appearance in playing cards offensive.87

Adding the theologicals does not change the spacing of the virtues and Petrarchans. Everything but they and Prudence remain in the “Pavia” order.

This order, besides keeping the same vertical connections as the Brera-Brambilla, has some additional horizontal ones: Justice with Angel (at the last judgment) and Hope (for Justice) Temperance is now the way to lasting Fame. Charity requires Fortitude in overcoming selfish concerns, and Prudence requires Faith..

In this layout there is a curious analogy between details on these cards and on corresponding chess pieces, as Lothar Teikemeier has observed.88 In the first column (from the right above) are the Emperor and Empress, corresponding to the King and Queen on the center of the chess row. In the next column are cards with old men in them, at least on my hypothesis: Lothar simply has a question mark, since both cards are absent. But there is an old man on the Brera-Brambilla Wheel, (Fig. 13, far left), and an old man as Time is in all the early depictions. In chess, on either side of the royals are the bishops, called banners in Italian. I do not know what association old men might have had with banners – perhaps none, or something I don't know about. In the same column and the next are two cards with horses, Chariot and Death (Fig. 13, second and third from left).In chess, correspondingly, there are the knights, depicted as horse-heads. In the last column of C16 are two cards with towers, World and Angel (Fig. 13, the two cards on the right) and the pieces furthest from the center in chess are the rooks, shaped liked towers. The pawns correspond to the seven virtues plus Love. Such parallels would surely have pleased Filippo Maria Visconti, an aficionado of games.

In these cards I think that Piscina’s placement of the Angel last is indicated,89 as opposed to the World, as the “Pavia” order has it. The scene on the World card appears to be a very this-worldly knight among this-wordly castles, with this-worldly ships in the background, even if his fame is being registered by a goddess above the world. As such this card is surely before the time of the Last Judgment.

Given such a 16 trump deck for the Cary-Yale, it might be asked, why couldn’t the ur-tarot have had the same cards, either in that order or in the A order’s way, all the virtues together? Then it would have the same 4x4 matrix as Marziano’s. Yes, it could have been that way, but then there is the problem of explaining why the Wheel was included:; it is from a different source, and it isn’t needed. From 14 one can explain the necessity in Lombardy of adding the Wheel. For that matter, why the theological virtues, when all that is needed to correlate horizontally to the suits is the cardinals? And why only two “papi”, when the predecessor games both had - probably for one and certainly for the other - four trumps above kings? Given the assumption of a Marziano-like matrix tying groups of trumps with suits, I stand with what I have presented.

In the Lombard decks that followed, there are no theologicals, but three celestials (Fig. 14). That their placement is where the theologicals would have been, if we take their positions in Minchiate as original, would make it easy for the players to adjust to these additions. In Milan some visual similarities would have helped: in the PMB both the lady n Star-lady and the Hope-lady gaze to our upper right; the postures of the Moon-lady and the Faith-lady are similar, right arm crooked upwards and left pointing downwards; and both the Sun and Charity have an infant plus a round fiery object.90

I surmise that Star, Moon, and Sun so designed were added in Lombardy so as to make the cards conform to the same subjects introduced elsewhere. The celestials are cosmic time-keepers, arranged in order of increasing light, as Piscina suggested.91 On the one hand they reference Petrarch’s cosmic time, wearing down worldly fame or excellence as represented by the Chariot card, albeit now with other Petrarchans in between. On the other hand, they retain either a visual reminder, as in the PMB, or an allegorical one, of the cards they replace.
The Bolognese, Minchiate, and d’Este Star cards all suggest the Magi following the Star of Bethlehem, symbol of humanity’s hope. In fact in a Bembo Adoration of the Magi (Fig. 15, far right), by the same workshop as the early Lombard cards, the three figures in the up. per right-hand corner bear some similarity to the figures on the cards.92 This identification is confirmed in literature as well. Bonifacio Vannozzi (1540-1621) identified this card in Minchiate with “the Magi guided by the star”,93 as did a comic poem of 1553 that imagined the cards as prostitutes advertising their virtues: one of them proclaims: “That which appeared to the Magi in the East/ Diana the star am I”.94 Given that Diana was the moon goddess ,the significance of the name "Diana" is unclear..

The Bolognese and "Charles VI" Sun cards (Fig. 16, first and second left) have the Fate Clotho spinning the thread that will be the gift of a human life: Plutarch had associated her with the sun in his “On the Genius of Socrates” (591B), in his allegory that body which produces the soul.95 Meanwhile B’s Sun shines its life-giving light charitably on either a tree (Fig. 16, third from left, Metropolitan sheet) or a philosopher, Diogenes (Fig. 16, far right, Este card), who in Plutarch's "Life of Alexander" had told the latter, "Stand a little out of my sun".96

As for the Moon, it shows us our way through the darkness, comparable to the role of Christian Faith. This theme is seen only in the so-called Cary Sheet (Fig. 17), with a design similar to that of the “Tarot of Marseille”: it shows a monstrous lobster with threatening claws, and a dark but visible path leading away from the water to safety.97 

Notes to section 8:
76 Dummett 1985, p. 47; 1986, p. 166.
77 Katzenellenbogen, index, pp. 96-97, under “Attributes". Going to the pages indicated, a book is associated with Prudence twelve times, Wisdom three, Piety two, and Faith once. Prudence has both a cross-staff and book once.
78 Bandera and Tanzi 2013, p. 37.
79 Welch 1995, p. 14.
80 Aquinas, 1274, trans. 1920, II-II, q. 123, a. 7.
81 Pratesi 1987: “Vien poi la Morte, et mena un’altra danza, / Et la prudenza, e la malitia atterra, / Et pareggia ciascuno alla bilanza.” Translation in consultation with Vitali of his n. d. (3).
82 The Cary-Yale cards are at  The PMB are in Dummett 1986, with Temperance on p. 120.
83 E.g., Dorez 1904, pp. 52 and 82, has two lists of antitypes, both for the full set of seven.
84 Aquinas 1274, trans. 1920, II.II.1-46 (2nd part of the 2nd part, questions 1 through 46).
85 Ibid, II.II.17.7, reply 1: “spes dicitur entroitus fidei... per eam homo intrat ad hoc ad hoc stabiliatur et perficiatur in fide.”
86 Sbaraglio and Tartuferi 2016, pp. 39-40.
87 Cf. the Sermones: “The Pope ... and these rogues make him their captain” (El Papa. ... et isti ribaldi faciunt ipsorum capitaneum), cited and trans. into Italian by Vitali 2018b.
88, revising and illustrating his 2003
89 Caldwell, Depaulis and Ponzi 2010, pp 24-25.
90 Dummett 1986, pp.130-135.
91 "Increasing light": Caldwell, Depaulis and Ponzi 2010, pp. 24-25.
92 Bolognese: Kaplan 1978, p. 129. Minchiate, Este: Bembo: Bandera and Tanzi 2013, p. 67, date the painting to c. 1445-1450 with additions 1460-1470.
93 Vitali n. d. (1).
94 Vitali 2005.
95 I owe the Clotho reference to Caldwell at
96 For the Metropolitan and Bolognese images, see note 58; for the story, Wikipedia, "Diogenes and Alexander".for the Charles VI image, see note 39; I owe the Clotho reference to Caldwell at
97 On the Beinecke Library web page, third row from top, second from left.

9. Ferrara, Venice, Pesaro (Dummett’s “B” region)

A similar process of horizontal associations becoming vertical ones can be seen in Ferrara, this time with precisely the same correlations as in the basic A14 I posited for the A region. To arrive at the order, I again start with the first known order of all 22. Why I put Bagatella below the matrix, rather than Angel above it, will be apparent shortly.

With the corresponding 3x4 matrix (below), one card has to go below the matrix; otherwise Justice would be above it, and inevitably onerow would be without a virtue. The Wheel has to be there so as to keep one virtue per row. In that case there is room for only three of the "papi". We get:

There are now consistently two cards between virtues, with the vertical associations precisely those of the horizontal associations of A14, relating now both to the card above and the card below. Now we can definitely exclude the Bolognese matrix as an ur-tarot. Instead, both its and Florence's placement of Temperance above Love might well be a reaction to Ferrara's placing it below. Again Prudence is just before Death, like the Hanged Man later.

Although far from necessary, my B14 could have expanded to 16 trumps, with everything except the five card sequence from Devil to Sun. If not itself in a published deck, it is at least a step between 14 and 22 on the part of designers  Once the three known virtues are put in their known places, Prudence has to be in position 12, which is also a number associated with traitors, based on the idea that Judas was the twelfth disciple.98  This matrix is ideal for the replacement of Prudence by Hanged Man.

Here the Matto replaces the Bagatella below the matrix, as a wild card. Matto might well have originated in Ferrara: its court had a famous Fool, Gonnella, whose portrait was painted posthumously in c. 1450.99 Just as a professional Fool could say things others couldn’t, the mentally ill were exempt from society’s duties and privileges, eminently suitable for a wild card. Since Gonnella was also an entertainer, he could have been a model for the Bagatella as well, or perhaps a card that did not yet distinguish between them..

From B16-17 it is not possible to add three or five cards and still have one virtue per row. Only precisely four will work, i.e. the celestials and the Tower but not the Devil. If Prudence had become the Hanged Man, and so not a virtue card, that is not a problem. True, one row lacks a virtue, but the missing virtue could be assigned to that row by default.

As to why the five cards would have been added at all, the celestials can be explained as replacements for the theologicals, in the right place to represented Petrarch's cosmic time. If they can be seen as in order of brightness, Lightning (our Tower) and Devil are more problematic, lightning may flash brighter than a star, but stars were perceived as much further away. As for the Devil's lair, the fires of hell would seem brighter than the night sky. One explanation of how the two fit is that of Piscina, based on the medieval cosmograph of spheres around the earth: devils fly in the sphere of air and the fire (one early name for the card) comes from the sphere of fire.100 They are also suggested by Dante’s Divine Comedy, a
journey to three abodes of the soul after death, the first a descent to the Devil, then up the Mount of Purgatory, capped by a ring of fire, within which was the Earthly Paradise, and finally an ascent to the celestial spheres and beyond. It was all vividly illustrated in a c. 1450 fresco by Domenico
di Michelino on one wall of Florence's cathedral (Fig. 18). In another interpretation, devils and fire, as well as the falling globes of the Cary Sheet (Fig. 19, left) suggest the fire and hail of the Apocalypse, as in the so-called Cloisters Apocalypse, c. 1330 northern France (Fig. 19, right); the celestials’ stability is then a harbinger of Eternity.101

 A point of interest is that B17 can become the fourteen PMB “first artist” cards,102 by changing Prudence to Hanged Man, adding a knight to the top of the Justice card to make it “Fame”, and removing the other two virtues. The result is twelve inside the matrix; the suits themselves stand for the virtues, perhaps an experimental variation on the previous game.103

The order of the virtues, uncharacteristically for Lombardy, is that of Ferrara. How to explain that, at the time the PMB “first artist” cards were made is unclear.

Notes to section 9:

98 Typically named last in gospel lists of the disciples: Matt.10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16. In the 15th century, there was anti-pope John XXIII’s hanged-man poster, attesting to Muzio Attendola’s “XII treasons”; see Moakley 1966, p. 95.
100 Caldwell, Depaulis and Ponzi, pp. 24-25.
101, fol. 20r. For these texts and artworks, plus additional ones, see also Howard 2014.
102 Bandera and Tanzi 2013, p. 50 (perhaps “first and second artist”, as they say two hands are detectable, besides the artist who did six of the trumps).
103 Such a sequence is suggested by Lothar Teikemeier at

10. Back to Florence

With the same number of trumps as suit cards, the question is, why in Florence would the number of trumps have expanded any further? Part of the answer might be: to add the theological virtues, which must be practice to attain Eternity. Adding them produces what might be an ancestor of Minchiate, which seems to go back at least to 1466.103 It would seem to derive from the matrix I previously designated as A14; but without the Popess it also applies to Minchiate. The next several matrices need not have been actual decks, as opposed to steps in the process of producing the various final orders.

To this we add the theologicals, in the place they appear in later Minchiate but without Devil and Lightning, which we are assuming, with reason, came later. If Bagatella is there, it is below the matrix, unnumbered. Here I am changing the spelling of that title to conform with the strambotto. It would seem to be an attempt to bring the title in line with customary Italian grammar, where –o is the masculine ending and –a the feminine, now deemed more important than the double meaning.

With this order, the theologicals would have been part of what went to Lombardy, which added Wheel. If Lombardy had added the theologicals, the Wheel would have gone with it. If so, Chariot would have to be below Temperance, to keep a virtue in every row:
However, Minchiate in fact ended up with Chariot above the virtues. That favors A16-17M over A17-18M, and that the theologicals originated in Florence. In other words, it is a consequence of my hypothesis that the three theologicals most likely originated in Florence, going to Lombardy after Florence put Love below the virtues, thus later than the proto-tarocchi. The Wheel was added to Minchiate either when the matrix idea was abandoned, or when Hanged Man, Devil, and Lightning were also added (to make four). It could even be in effect when the celestials were added, in a 4x6 matrix. It is only necessary that the Bagatello be part of the matrix (as below).
This could even be expanded to the full Minchiate at 4x10, since the remaining cards are the four elements and the twelve zodiacal signs, both multiples of 4.

We might wonder if such a Florentine deck as A16-17M might have had 16 cards per suit, in that the “feminine” suits of Minchiate had female pages and the “masculine” suits males. This is still 14, but a prior form with 16 would account for the feminine gender in two suits.

Meanwhile the proto-tarocchi is also expanding, so as to incorporate the cards added in Milan and Ferrara. One way leads to the “Charles VI” order. Starting again at A14C, we add Wheel below Chariot (the legacy from Lombardy) and include both Popess and Bagatello (one of them having been used in Ferrara, and possibly the Matto, too):
Then the five from Devil to Sun complete the sequence, either in a new deck or at the same time as adding Matto, Bagatello, Wheel and Hanged Man.

In all the A decks with a Hanged Man, he is pictured with coins falling from bags under his arms. Besides referring to Judas, the twelfth disciple, there might be a reference to the former card’s suit of Coins.105 Given the strong association between this card and the number 12, the reason Death is 13 might be that the Hanged Man is 12. But to put him in his appropriate place, the cards have to be renumbered. At this point, too, since there are no longer four virtues, one row can be assigned to a suit only by default.
Alternatively, Wheel could have been added above Chariot, as in the strambotto (not shown: it is simply the one above but with Chariot at 9 and Wheel at 10). The Rosenwald goes one step further, exchanging Justice with Fortitude as well. These exchanges are typical, and it is not sure which of each pair came first. The Rosenwald starts its numbers at the Bagatello:

Here the Traitor is 13, not 12. My only explanation is that the person chiseling the numbers on the woodblock forgot or didn’t know to renumber the cards. He probably didn’t have numbered cards to go on, as the Rosenwald is the first known deck with incised numbers.

There might also have been a Bolognese version at 16-17, renumbered so that the Hanged Man will be 12 and inserting Chariot between Love and Temperance, as if to say that excellence as well as love needs to be governed by virtue. I will use the Bolognese term "Bagattino" instead of the Florentine "Bagatello".
All that remains is to add the five cards that are always in the same order, Devil to Sun. Adding them to A17 puts a fifth column in the matrix and either the Bagattino below the matrix or the Angel above. Either makes allegorical sense. We end up with the various A orders as they exist by around 1500. In the case of Minchiate, the number of special cards is now 25.

Notes to section 10:

104 See note 16. There is also a possible reference in 1440, by Burchiello, a Florentine poet fond of double meanings. “Minchiatare” appears as a verb, with the primary meaning of “engaging in foolishness”; but “hunchback” appears two lines earlier and “Triumphi” two lines later, followed by other possible plays on words. See my post at and that of Teikemeier (“Huck”) preceding. For an opposing argument see Vitali 2005.The poem was first brought to our attention by Raimondo Luberti in 2003.
105 I owe this suggestion to Emilia Maggio, private communication. On the Minchiate card, the figure holds two large coins.

11. Abandoning the matrix

Now that the steps have been presented, I will return again to a question raised earlier: wouldn’t such complex additions to a game already being played be strenuously resisted by the players? The additions themselves are not very hard. For the sequence from Star to Sun, there is the “increasing light” scenario to help. As for the Hanged Man, he is almost dead. The Bagatello, as the Trifle, is easily remembered first, and fools are both beneath everyone and outside the social order. Knowing where Wheel goes is a little harder, because it could go either before or after Chariot, and in fact had both placements in one city, Florence, within a few decades of each other.106 If players can adjust to that change, surely they can adjust to one or two more, putting Love before Temperance, or both Love and Chariot in Bologna.

What is harder to adjust to is changes in the rows. Even one card added changes the composition of the rows completely. As a children’s game, this might be welcome, as it gives new players, presumably younger, a slight advantage. It also makes the game more challenging and shows how different virtues can relate to the same life-concern. But for adults, such changes would surely be an incentive to get rid of any rule that involved knowing rows.

There are other reasons players would abandon the type of game I have proposed for Marziano. At 4x5, the rows are too long to remember easily, and many are only tenuously related to the row’s virtue. Without correlating trumps with suits, what is left is a game that is simpler to learn but with more opportunities to develop strategy. And with vertical associations replacing horizontal ones, the life lessons are still there.

Not only is a longer sequence an incentive for changing the rules, but a change in the rules makes it easier to expand the deck. It is easy enough to play a new game with the old deck (and its order of trumps); as children grew weary of the didactics they would naturally think of abandoning that game themselves. Preserving the horizontal connections vertically might have been an adult's attempt to keep the didactics even there. But it also allows the sequence to add more cards easily. In any case, what was before a clumsy educational game mainly for parents and children, with a change in rules becomes popular among adults and so more likely to be recorded in documents and made into expensive presents, such as the deck for Sigismondo Malatesta.107

 Notes to section 11:
106 Depaulis 2007, pp. 42-44.
107 Depaulis 2013a, pp. 17-18.

12. Conclusion

The proposed hypothesis is that the game of triumphs starts with a didactic purpose, probably in Florence but possibly in Milan, to teach the cardinal virtues and their applicability to universal concerns of life, most likely by means of a 4x3 matrix connecting one cardinal virtue, Petrarchan and ruler to each of the four suits by means of some rule giving priority in tricks to that row of trumps. From its place of origin it spreads to the other centers, which add and subtract cards and, most likely, replace horizontal associations by rows with similar associations vertically in the columns. The result is more or less equal spacing between virtues, which still can be seen if we imagine Prudence in the place of the Hanged Man and ignore the five cards from Devil to Fire. In Lombardy it is mostly one card in between; in Ferrara, two. Up to four additions from elsewhere are welcomed in Florence (Fool, Magician, Wheel, Hanged Man), which adds them with the placements they have elsewhere. Florence adds five more, probably originating there but perhaps all or in part taken from Ferrara. One result is Minchiate, with a prior 4x4 matrix visible in its odd placement of Prudence. Another is the ludus triumphorum, a standard 22 subjects across regions, in which the older cards are ordered in the older ways and the new ones in the standard way.This development can be expressed in a flow sheet:
Some of these arrows are in doubt. Whether the game originated in Florence,Bologna, or Milan is unclear. Florence fits the matrix aspect of the previous cards best, but there was a tradition in Bologna, unlike in Florence, that the game originated there.108 And the Lombard cards show the closest fit to Petrarch, as seen in Part One of this essay  Likewise it is not clear, assuming the A region was first, that additions after the first transmission came from both Lombardy and Ferrara, or just one, nor whether the influence went only one way between Lombardy and Ferrara.

While this chart fits the development of the 22 trump tarocchi best, it will also work for the first 25 special cards of Minchiate. The only difference is that Ferrara is not involved, nor Lombardy after the first transmission.

This hypothesis opposes in particular the idea that the subjects were randomly chosen and arranged. Games are usually formed according to a conception. Depending on the purpose, some conceptions are more pleasing to consumers than others. In the 15th century games of chance were pleasing to some but not to others; others liked games of strategy and memory; and there were also educational games, as seen in chess and the games that taught the virtues.

It also merits higher consideration than other hypotheses that do have a source or sources but not ones that  single out just the subjects needed for special emphasis, more or less the same as the ones that were chosen and in more or less the same order as we find them. Such sources only incompletely do the job required of them, which is to produce a series like that in the tarocchi.

Admittedly it is still only a hypothesis. But perhaps more evidence can be found: in children’s games, games of the time with other names than trionfi, games to teach virtues, games with ranked suits, board games with grids, and lists that have hitherto been thought to be incomplete. With so many old documents being scanned onto the internet, what one finds depends in large manner on one’s search terms.

If nothing is found, we remain in a state of ignorance. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. In Florence the game of Triumphs was not legalized until 1450;109 there was good reason for the game not to be recorded. The law did not care about children’s games, especially if they were educational, and tended not to enforce the law even for adults, if they were discreet. Records would be sparse in some areas for other reasons. In Milan a vast number were destroyed in the aftermath of Filippo Maria Visconti’s death. In the continual wars that afflicted Italy over the next hundred years, more records would be destroyed. Then there was the Napoleonic war, the Risorgomento and the two world wars.

I can only vaguely assign dates to the invention of the game and its proposed two two stages of transmission. Games with trumps, we have seen, already existed by the early 1420s: Marziano’s, Karnöffel, and probably Eight Emperors. The first and third of these games are documented in three of the proposed later centers of the game of Triumphs. This gives reason to suspect that in those same centers games with trumps might not have just faded away and then reappeared twenty years later with different cards, but have taken some of the familiar cards as an evolutionary step, perhaps within a few years.

Ross Caldwell has argued that such a lag between invention and first report, close to twenty years, is highly improbable, because after 1442 there is a surviving report of the game every 3 to 5 years at least, and the same would be true before 1442 (the 1440 report was not known then); so it would have been invented at most 5 years before.110 That a mention found since his article is dated at 1440 is consistent with his argument. But it seems to me that it only has a chance if (1) the game before 1440 (or 5 years earlier) is the same as that after in the same city, with the same rules and complexity, (2) with the same amount of attention given to it by noteworthy people, and (3) in a city which itself has such a frequency of later reports.

I have given reasons for doubting the first condition. As for the second, the period between 1430 and 1439 in Florence did not have such occasions for noteworthy deck production for noteworthy persons as in 1438-1440, which saw both the Council of Florence and the Battle of Anghieri (when Florence defeated its perennial enemy Visconti, and the 1440 deck was to one of Florence’s main military leaders). Deck production for notable persons makes a deck noteworthy.

Florence does fit the third condition. But we cannot rule out that the game was not invented elsewhere, where there is not the same frequency of later reports, notably Bologna, where there are only two reports for the whole forty years after 1440, does not.111 We do have the information that the 1442 seller in Ferrara was a Bolognese.112 If he was selling a Bolognese product, this is after the time it became fashionable and even after the first record in Ferrara (in February). If he was selling a game invented in Bologna, when it would have happened before spreading elsewhere cannot be estimated. Later accounts there, of unknown veracity, point to the 1420s or earlier.113

In 1442 Ferrara it is a game for children; even in 1457 the order for 70 card decks in Ferrara suggests a 14 trump (14x5) game (although it might have been 48 + 22).114  In Florence, however, the proliferation of manuscripts and wedding chests with similar designs starting a little after 1440 115 are not what we would expect if it was a children’s game only. Something happened within a few years of 1440: it could have been the invention of the game or the modification of an old one. It is easy enough to play a new game with the old deck (and its order of trumps); as children grew weary of the didactics they would naturally think of abandoning that game themselves. Preserving the horizontal connections vertically might have been an adult's attempt to keep the didactics even there. The new game then allows the trump sequence more cards. With 1440 as a kind of touchstone, the time of the first transmission would have been before 1440 and the second after 1440.

I do not expect this hypothesis to be valid in every detail; it may even prove totally false. Yet recourse to a Marziano-like matrix combining three hierarchical sources, seems to me at least to explain things that other proposals don’t: (1) why these particular cards in that general order; (2) why one part of the sequence is invariant among the three regions, which otherwise has small variations; and (3) why the virtues are where they are in their characteristic placements in the three regions.

Notes to section 12:
108 Vitali 2003-2017
109 Pratesi 2015b.
110 Caldwell 2007, pp. 51-57.
111 Ibid., p. 52.
112. Caldwell at, citing Franceschini 1993, pp. 221-222. These pages and 220 are reproduced at
113 Vitali 2003-2017, Vitali 2009. The accounts are a 1472 biography of Saint Bernardino mentioning triumph cards in 1423, and a 17th century painting crediting them to a “Prince Fibbia” who died in 1419; Vitali confirms that while dates for the origin of the tarot proposed then, if given, went further back than that, he did die about then.
114.; t
115 first documentation is in 1441, a letter from Matteo de’ Pasti to Piero de’ Medici, reported in Chambers 1970, pp. 94-95, describing a Triumph of Fame with elephants and a seated lady.

Bibliography for Part Two, including links to those works accessible online (as of Nov., 2019)

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