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EarlyTarot1420­1475

EarlyTarot1420­1475 Trick­takingcardgames,whereoneofthefoursuitsis designatedasa“trump”or“triumph”suit,were

Trick­takingcardgames,whereoneofthefoursuitsis

designatedasa“trump”or“triumph”suit,were

extremelypopularthroughoutEuropeinthelate

14thcentury.Intheearly15thcentury,someonegotthe

brightideaofcreatingafifthsuitofillustratedcardsto

serveasapermanenttrumpsuitforagamecalled

“trionfi”(trumps).Carddesignersilllustratedthissuit

withanimals,flowers,huntingscenes,ormoral

allegories.

TheFirstTrionfiDecks

ThefirstdeckofcardsweknowofwithanextratrumpsuitwascommissionedbyDukeFilippoMariaViscontiof

Milannolaterthan1425.Heaskedhissecretary,thehumanistscholarandastrologerMauriziodaTortona,to

deviseanallegoricalcardgamebasedonVirtuesandTemptations.Thedeckhadfoursuits,withfourextratrump

cardsdepictingclassicalgodsineachsuit.Thesetrumpsactedasavirtualfifthsuit.Thedeckwaspaintedby

theartistMichelinodaBesozzo,andwasconsideredexceptionallybeautiful.DaTortonawroteabookdescribing

thecardsandtheirallegoricalsignificance,makingthistheworld’sfirstdeckandbookset!Thebookisinthe

BibliothequeNationaleinParis,butthedeckhasbeenlost.Acourtierinventingacardgameforanaristocratic

patronisonepossiblemodelforhowthefirstTarotdeckwasinvented.

CartedaTrionfi(trumpcards)arefirstmentionedinwritingintheDukeofFerrara’s1442accountbook.Wedon’t

knowifitreferstocardswithourfamiliartarotimages,ortoasetoftriumphswithflowersorhuntingscenes.It’s

quitepossibleitwasthetarotdeckwearefamiliarwith,sinceadeckwiththestandardtwenty­twotarottrumps

wasbecomingafavoriteatthecourtsofMilanandFerraraduringthe1440sand1450s.Wedon’tknowifthedeck

mentionedintheDuke’saccountbookwashandpaintedorblockprinted.TheDukeownedaprintingpressatthat

time,butfifteenthcenturyaristocratsalsocommissionedhand­painted,gold­andsilver­leafedplayingcardsfrom

theirfavoriteartists.About270cardsfromatleast15painteddeckshavesurvivedtothepresentday.

EarlyTarotinMilan

TheoldesttarotdecksstillinexistencewereallpaintedintheworkshopoftheDukeofMilan’sfavoriteartist,

BonifacioBembo,andareknownbythenameofthemuseumorcollectiontheyarehousedin.Thetwoearliest,the

Brera­BrambillaandtheCarey­Yaledecks,wereprobablycommissionedbyDukeMariaFilipppoViscontiinthe

1440s.Thepipcardshavearrowsinsteadofrods.Twodecks(TheCary­YaleandPierpontMorgan)havestraight

swordsinsteadofcurvedscimitars.ThesuitofcoinsshowsgoldcoinsmintedbytheDuke.TheCareyYaledeckhas

twoextracourtcardsineachsuit,aswellasthreeextratrumpcardsdepictingvirtues.Atthisearlydate,therewas

nosetstandardforthenumberortypeofcardsinatarotdeck.

Themostcompletedeckof15thcenturypaintedtarotcardsthatsurvivestodayisthePierpontMorganBergamo

deck,commonlyknownastheVisconti­Sforzadeck,commissionedin1450byFrancescoSforza,DukeofMilan.

Thetrumpcardshavenonameornumberonthem,buttheyobviouslydepictthesametarotarchetypeswehave

today.InFerrarainthe1470ssomeoneeitherreplacedseveralmissingtrumpcardsfromthisdeck,orcreatedcards

thatwereneverinthedecktobeginwith,tobringituptothestandardtwenty­two

thatwereneverinthedecktobeginwith,tobringituptothestandardtwenty­two

trumps.ThisdeckdoesnothaveaTowerandDevilcard,andtwosuitcardsare

missingaswell.WehavenowayofknowingiftheDevilandTowerwerelostor

deliberatelyleftoutofthedeck.

deliberatelyleftoutofthedeck. EarlyTarotinFerrara

EarlyTarotinFerrara

MilanmaygetthecreditforinventingTarot,but

theDukeofFerraraandhisfamilywerehuge

consumersofplayingcardsthroughoutthe

15thcentury.Startingin1422,theDuke’saccount

booksshownumerousentriesforluxurioushand

painteddecksaswellastherepairofdamaged

cards.Anentryintheaccountbooksfor1442uses

theterm“CartedaTrionfi”forthefirsttime.The

DukeofMilanmayhavepurchasedjustasmany

decks,butwe’llneverknowashisrecordswere

destroyedinafirein1447.

Twohand­painteddecksfromabout1475andtwo

uncutsheetsofblockprinteddecksfromalittle

after1500showthatFerrarawasdevelopingauniqueTarotstyle.Strengthisawomanstandingnexttoapillar,

theHangedManholdstwobagsofmoney,Deathisonhorseback,andtheWorldcardshowsawomanstanding

onacirclethatenclosesaminiaturecity.Someoftheseimagesturnup200yearslaterintheParisianVievilledeck,

butthisstyledidn’tinfluencethedevelopmentofmainstreamTarot.

Onthenextpagewe’llseetherichvarietyofdecksin15thcenturyItaly.