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kwaw  kwaw is offline
Join Date: 29 Dec 2003
Location: Nr. Ephesus, Turkey
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Originally Posted by kwaw
For Moakley this figure represented the Carnival King; however, as the one dividing the 'cake' perhaps we may see him as more, like the magician Merlin, king-maker.
"The lowest of the the Carnival King, Bagatino (Quarterpenny). The procession of triumphs which he leads is taking him to his own execution. The card shows Bagatino on the last day of the Carnival, when he is having his last meal. He is still dressed in holiday rad and green, and has in his left hand the simple rod which is the sign of royal office. His right hand hovers uncertainly over a covered dish, which is the white with touches of gray. We see by this how he became the Little Juggler of the later commedia dell'arte. That dish-cover offers many opportunities for cleverly "nervous" comic juggling. In the modern tarocchi Bagatino is often a juggler or conjuror, and his kingly rod becomes a magician's wand.

"Before the Carnival King is executed, he is first given a trial, and accused of keeping people up late and making them drunk. Often a personfication of Lent accompanies the procession to be sure that King Carnival gets his just deserts."

end quote from
Moakley The Tarot Cards Painted by Bembo p.62

Michael Hurst on his site discusses Moakley concept of carnival / lent:

She notes that the “delights of the joust and the tourney were kept for the festival times, when religion was forgotten or at least temporarily in the background”. Writing about courtly love, ostentatious pageants, chivalrous knights, and the like, she observes that “the writers of chivalrous literature knew well enough that their work was basically un-Christian.” This is precisely the context in which she places the trumps as well.

As much as people loved their romances, their cards, and their tourneys, they realized inwardly that these pleasures were not quite in keeping with the devout life. After a gay and exhausting Carnival, the exuberant Italians really welcomed Lent as a chance to rest from the festive season and to prove to themselves that they really were Christians at heart. They brought their vanities (including their playing-cards) to be burned in the bonfires at the beginning of Lent with an honest spirit of aspiring to sanctity. (Page 37.)

This ambivalence and mixing of vanities and sanctity is the essence of the Carnival/Lent cycle, and the cultural sensibilities that cycle epitomized. Moakley opens her study with an “Undocumented Prelude”. This presents an imagined Milanese procession on the last day of Carnival, taking place before Duke Francesco Sforza and Duchess Bianca Maria, as well as assembled crowds. In that introduction to her study, she provides a feeling for the kind of sensibilities implied by her theory, while introducing many of her specific interpretations.

One of the most compelling identifications Moakley provides in support of her theory deals directly to this Carnival/Lent cycle. The Mountebank, lowest of the trumps, is identified as the Carnival King himself, and the singular Fool is interpreted as the personification Lent. She discusses the unique iconography of these cards in the Visconti-Sforza deck, explaining the anomalies in terms of these meanings. And she describes their role in the pageant.

If we imagine the Fool, the representative of Lent, running alongside the procession and calling his warnings to the riders in the cards, we can assume that they talked back to him. Happy bits of repartee would please the crowd and encourage the actors to do even better. Finally the representative of Lent might invite King Carnival to leave the safety of his car and fight like a man. Then we would have a scene such as Breughel shows us in his painting “The Battle between Carnival and Lent”.... (Page 58.)

end quote from:

Folly is more a deification of carnival than lent, but possible in the figure of folly overcome, sans meat, can be seen as Moakley suggests, a figure of Lent.

In the Schifanoia image of the first decan of Aries is a bedraggled figure holding the torn end of a rope wrapped round his waist - possibly meant to represent lent.

See first image here:

It is under a larger representation of a palio related to the season of Lent; palio races were held as part of the festivals – including as part of the carnival prior to Lent. The loser of the major horse race 'won' a side of pork. A great win to celebrate the end of Lent you may think for who was after all the 'loser'. However the ham was tied round the losers waist and he had to run through the streets home to keep it, and everyone would make a grab for the ham; not only would he end up losing the ham but most if not all of clothes (and dignity) too! The 'taking away of his meat' at the end of carnival (meaning - to take away meat) instituted the start of Lent.

I have difficulty however in seeing the figure of the VS Bagatto as a carnival king at his last supper; more as the master of the lottery upon which the election of the carnival king is decided. However, in the later comedia dell'arte the carnival king, bagatto, is named after the bagatto, the coin in the cake, whose finder becomes the king; here indeed the election, elector and electee has merged into one.
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