View Full Version : Giotto's astrological paintings 1300 AD

16-01-2003, 08:58
Most known for being highlighted at the appropriate time of the year: actually also looks similar to Mantegna and early tarocchi images:


Note for cancer, they used a crayfish even then, rather than a crab! Historical moon cards in later Marseilles-style decks used a crayfish/lobster instead of a crab.

Mari H.

isthmus nekoi
18-01-2003, 08:19
The newer Rider-Waite does too. Except everyone calls it a lobster for some reason.... is there a difference? I've seen Cancer depicted as a crayfish in books w/ old manuscripts, as well as a turtle. Capricorn as a unicorn once, (very unusual!).

18-01-2003, 11:16
I've always associated Giotto with very iconographic work and these paintings are very demonstrative of that. They're but more pieces of evidence in stating a case for the validity of astrology in Christianity. How DID the wisemen find the Christ child anyway? Could it be.... following a star???? Nahhh!!!!

Art is not only for the stimulation of aesthetic senses but also serves as a key to unconscious/underground understanding. A beautiful record of what was REALLY going on. These pre-Renaissance paintings were an attempt to communicate the mysical before the onslaught of the European Age of Enlightenment. So many works of this era were so blatantly symbolic (thus, iconographic) as with the art of Fra Angelico. I'm very curious to find out if these paintings were commissioned by the church or not. Its equally curious that the "frescoes were divided into 333 panels. Hmmm....

Thanks for sharing!

18-01-2003, 15:17
Historically, "crayfish" and "crab" are two versions of the same root word. "Crayfish" was transformed by folk etymology from French "écrevisse," which was borrowed from a Germanic root reconstructed as *krebiz. This same Germanic root became "crab" in English.

18-01-2003, 15:58
Ferrara, which housed astrology buffs in the court nobility and medieval sensibilities, also used astrological motifs in its wall murals. Some of the motifs look triumph figures from Petrach and ''magical" images from from the Picatrix that use 'daemons' to represent star groupings from historical astrology.


Scroll down on the page and more restored murals of various months are available as well to look at. I'll add a definition of decans later.

18-01-2003, 16:03
I copied this from Historical Tarot, in case my post there wasn't appropriate...I couldn't decide whether it was of interest to either forum...

"Marriage of Triumphs and Astrology"
From Bologna & Emilia-Romangna by Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls, p. 253 (Ferarra and Ravenna)
Read with a grain of salt...but perhaps a smile and chuckle, what if these travel authors are close? Or right...

Palazzo Schifanoia

..circa 1475 for B'orso D'Este by Cosme Tura, Ercole de Roberti and Francesco del Cossa and other hands too...guiding hand behind it is Cosme Tura. Busy as he was...the scenes of mythological and allegorical subjects, peopled by amiable 15th century aristocrats, are believed to have been inspired by Petrach's Triumphs - in each month, a different god is seen to 'triumph'. The other inspiration comes from the occult astrology that shaped so much of Renaissance thought and life, running through the centre of the 12 months is a band portraying its sign along with 3 strange figures for each month on a black background; these represent the decans of the ancient Egyptians, who divided the zodiac into 36 zones of ten days each, each one ruled by its daemon (see page. 60)

P.59-60 "Magic in the Air"
We will probably never know how many Renaissance paintings and sculptures were specifically made in magical images. The famous mythological allegories of Botticelli, certainly were the Primaver, for example...something similar is likely to be behind the two ambitious Neoplatonic works of Emilia Romagna, the Malatesta Temple and the frescos of the Palazzo Schifanoia at Ferrara, both of these are astrologically comprehensive images of the universe as a whole. (Mari's note: you might see my post in the astrology section of Aecletic with Giotto's astrological frescos circa 1300, known for being highlighted at the appropriate time of the year by the sunlight)

(There's more about Ficinio, the Picatrix and Neoplatonism, but of interest to those who want to trace astrology and tarot design links, here is a section of decans, or the 36 zones, known to the Egyptians and revived by the astrologically minded in certain courts, including Ferarra

The Picatrix was writen by the last pagans of the Middle East, the star-worshipping Sabeans of Harran and transmitted through the Muslim world to Spain. The Picatrix is a book of magic that deals the making of talismans and star images, and is based on the 36 asterisms (star groups) called the decans. These originated at least 4,000 years ago in Egypt, where they often appear on coffin lids and the ceilings of tombs. Each decan was a daemon, a spirit something less than a god. Each one ruled a 10-day week of the 360 day Egyptian calendar, and each had its moment when its stars were seen to rise just before the sun. Sirius, whose 'heliacal rising' promised the annual flooding of the Nile, was the first and most important of them.
The decans lost their everyday importance in Egypt after the conquest of Alexandra and the introduction of the zodiac and a new calendar. But they lived on in magic and their great antiquity gave them special power and mystery...(supposedly) they were condemned by St. Augustine and the Origen and as the Christians turned daemons into mere demons, the whole business began to have the whiff of the infernal about it..

Perhaps I should have posted this to astrology...you all know I keep thinking Marseilles-influenced designs affected by Visconti tarocchi/triumph images have little footprints and influences from some Ferarra tarots, including the "Mantegna" 50 card set.
If it is true that wall murals showed occult astrology characters in Giotto's time (see post in Astrology) and this noticably affected Ferarra's courtly culture some two hundred years later...well, then there might be more occult symbology from Egypt encoded in the playing card/tarocchi and triumph designs than originally believed in some of our tarot histories.
Or perhaps the authors are recycling some old myths to make these these Ferarra murals more exciting.

18-01-2003, 21:30
The decans are still used in Astrology today - though not be the majority of Astrologers - but I've seen them in Horary work and in Medical work.

Each sign is 30 degrees and a decan is ten degrees, so there are three decans to each sign. Each decan in turn has a planetary ruler and I have seen a couple of systems for assigning these.

The first is that ther ruler of the Sign rules the first decan and the second and third are ruled by the other two planetary rulers in that triplicity (Fire, Earth, Air, Water) - thus Mars rules the first decan of Aries, the Sun the second and Sagittarius the third. For Leo the Sun would rule the first, Jupiter the second and Mars the third - i.e the sequence is the order of rulers following the signs round the zodiac.

The Egyptian Astrologer Ptolemy, whose work more or less codified Astrology and set the 'rules' used a different system for decan rulerships Thus for Aries, Mars ruled the first decanm The Sun the second and Venus the third. Ptolemy used a term which has been translated into English as 'face' His system was actually based on the Chaldean order of the known planets - Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon - the order from slowest to fastest as seen from Earth.

Thus Taurus 'face' rulers follow on - Mercury, Moon, Saturn and Gemini rulers are Jupiter, Mars, Sun - and so on through all the signs. The only repeated rulership comes from Mars, which rules the last decan of Pisces and then restarts the system again with the first decan of Aries.

For Ptolemy and other traditional Astrologers a planet in its own face had dignity - not much but better than no dignity at all.

The decans for Ptolemy and others formed part of a larger system of attributing planetary strength in any sign or part of a sign - but that's another post LOL

19-01-2003, 04:38
An interesting factoid for history buffs is Ptolemy studied under Aristotle, along with Alexander and company. After Alexander's early death, Ptolemy claimed Egypt for his own part of the empire. This last part might be foggy, but I thought Ptolemy's last successful offspring at the end of the dynasty was Cleopatra.
The use of Astrological decans being not so popular after the Alexandrian influences probably had something to do with introductions of a different calendar system...I don't know if it was Gregorian...but somewhere in the early Renaissance, time and the telling of time changed. Petrach introduced the concept of looking at history of the past (Golden Age was Greece) and saying the present onward was a different historical period. Before him, most treatises began around Genesis or the beginning of their worldview on time.
Anyway I was fascinated that the travel book on Bologna noted about the astrological decans and the use of Egyptian seasonal influences...because some of the modern tarot systems (Golden Dawn) also attribute the astrology influences on their version of tarot as correct, of ancient origin.
If the travel book is correct, then the wall murals of Ferarra are one the late medieval and early Renaissance attempts to depict historical astrology and triumph/trump art. Ferarra was and is known for a 15th century art style that does have Renaissance influences, but also a Gothic taste. Their icons and murals, poetry and romances were known for also being medievalistic marriages of Greek, Roman, and Arthurian stories.
And the D'Estes were known to be very dependent on their astrological beliefs...

In some of my readings, I came away believing most likely the coincidencal teachings of Etteilla's Egyptian tarot came out of a mistaken belief, Egyptology being in vogue, and his algebraic quirkiness...and Papus' esoteric teachings are supposed to be heavy reading.

19-01-2003, 05:06
Originally posted by Mari_Hoshizaki
An interesting factoid for history buffs is Ptolemy studied under Aristotle, along with Alexander and company. After Alexander's early death, Ptolemy claimed Egypt for his own part of the empire. .

Sorry, wrong Ptolemy - Ptolemy I was indeed one of Alexander's generals and declared himself ruler of Egypt following Alexander's death in 323 BCE. His line did indeed end with Cleopatra - whose brother was also called Ptolemy.

the Astrologer was Claudius Ptolomaeus who lived from approximately 87 - 150 AD - some 400 years after Aristotle. His main claim to fame is the Tetrabiblios or four books which set out much of Astrological knowledge, though there are some who say he merely codified the work of others. The books established the solar system as geocentric - the Earth at the centre - and lasted as the received belief until Copernicus and Galileo. As the Greeks had known for some two hundred years that the Earth went round the Sun, I suspect that Ptolemy was talking in allegorical terms here - for Astrologers the importance of the planets is their effects on us and as we live on Earth we need to look at them from a geocentric point of view.

The five major aspects of Astrology, conjunction, square, opposition, trine and sextile, are often referred to as the Ptolemaic aspects, as they are discussed in the terabiblios.

His astrological system was being used up till the last century and still influences thought today.

06-02-2003, 10:56
Prior to 1416...the Du Berry Book of hours...do others see the similarity in the human figure and astrology ring around it, to a kind of 'world card' design for tarot? Probably it's only me....but nonetheless, the Books of Hour designs shows Hellenistic designs and Astrology influences in Europe in the 1400s--and they seem similar to the Schifania motifs in Fererra, done later:


6th century Gailee Hebrew Zodiac motifs around a human figure in a chariot, possibly Helios...note the four female figures in the corner...perhaps these influenced later designs of cards and illuminated manuscripts.


Brian Williams drew two examples above in his Minchiate book... possible art influences of the Zodiac