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Huck 
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Join Date: 02 Jul 2003
Location: Germany
Posts: 2,681
All questions do run to the Bembo cards


I'm convinced, that the Tarot cards started in Italy - in a somewhat not totally identical form to later developments.

The number 22 and its use inside systems with allegorical content, even printed on playing cards, is not from Italy. It already happened in China. These cards were related to Domino.
But all figures on these cards are Chinese figures, iconographically rather different.
Other schemes using the number 22 are also known from before, very prominent is the Hebrew alphabet, which also was interpreted allegorically.
Allegories on playing cards before Tarot are also known. Johannes of Rheinfelden describes such a deck 1377, the location is Freiburg in southern Germany, not Italy. The used allegories are professions and the professions relate to planets, as it was already given by contemporary chess-allegories.
Other decks with similar allegorisation can't be excluded, we don't know enough. Even a modell with 22 special elements could have been there, but we've not a single evidence, just the fact of "missing overview".

The idea of special cards - beside the normal suits - appears first (to our eyes) with the 8 Imperatori cards, mentioned in Ferrara (Italy) 1423.
Near to this time is the Michelino-deck (Milano, Italy), which is later called a "ludus triumphorum (1449). The motifs are rather far from the standard of the later Tarot cards (similar far as Sola-Busca and the figures in the Bouiardo-poem), and espcially their number is wrong: 16.
Evidence for decks with "special cards outside the suit-system" outside of Italy in the early time is not given, the first, which (perhaps) belongs in this category, would be the Guildhall- and Goldschmidt cards.

Around 1441/42 2-3 documents appear in Ferrara, which testify, that the name "Trionfi" in relation to playing cards exists, and one document speaks of "14 figure". The specific situation of the 3rd document gives reason to assume, that it refers to the criticalmoment of invention of this type of deck. Of course, this assumption is not totally provable in its truth.

At the same time probably the Cary Yale appears, and as far we understand the situation of 1441, the Cary-Yale is personally relatable to the same situation of January 1441 (assumed invention). The Cary-Yale is likely to have had originally a 5x16-structure, in the "invention-situation" probably a 5x14-deck was considered.

After this for a pause probably not much happened, but Trionfi-decks must have had a small form of distribution, as Marcello gets 1448/1449 a deck as present.

After Sforzas occupation of Milano (1450) the interest in Trionfi-decks explode in the course of some years. In this time likely Bembo got the commission to produce a Trionfi-deck, the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo-Tarocchi.
Bembo painted only 14 trumps (which we know), 6 other cards were painted by a second artist, a likely date for the production should be 1451/1452.

Now explain this condition. The 20-trumps-composition of the deck is very near to the later Tarot, but the 6 added cards are likely much later done.
Ordinary playing card research came to the conclusion, that some cards were lost and some cards were replaced. Their assumption: The Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo-Tarocchi testifies the existence of the complete Tarot-sequence, the origin of it must be searched before the production date of this date.

Autorbis argues, that this testifies, that Bembo painted a 5x14-deck and that this is recognizable by the cards inside this group of 14 cards and inside this group of 6 cards, as they are - as he shows it - as groups closed and complete ideas. Involved in his interpretation are also numerological details, which sum up to a high degree of unlikeliness of accident, which he calculated beside arguments from other fields already as under 1:100.

Additionally to this suggestion arrived the confirmation of a document in Ferrara in 1457, which talks clearly of 70 Trionfi-cards, not of 78.

From all this it is very, very likely, that decks with a 4x14 + 22 - structure before 1457 didn't exist. Of course the possibility can't be completely excluded, but the assumption of it is very near to be poor fiction. There is no evidence of any 22 before 1457 in context to playing cards beside the Domino-cards in China - and that's rather far.
There is virtually nothing really opposing beside not being good enough informed, not looking precisely enough and personally motivated dreams.


The Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo-Tarocchi clearly is a mother-deck to the later Tarot-development. It had only 14 trumps.

Where outside of Italy should have the further development have taken place? Of course it was in Italy. Even when single motifs like Devil and Tower (which are not part of the 20 Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo-Tarocchi) finally might have developed in France (a good chance), one has to see clearly, that the whole concept was born in Italy and probably we even do know the persons connected to deciding developments by name - real persons, not fictious Templers, wise men, magicians or hidden orders.

Probably 3 young girls, teenagers in the age of 14-16, had the most deciding influence. It was the youth, who loved this colourful cards, and it was women, who played cards, men prefered chess.

Domino-cards in China
http://www.ahs.uwaterloo.ca/~museum/...Wilkinson.html

Johannes of Rheinfelden
http://www.trionfi.com/01/e/
see menu: Johannes

Imperatori in Ferrara
http://www.trionfi.com/01/e/
see menu: Imperatori-decks in Ferrara

Michelino-deck
http://trionfi.com/01/b

Dating the Cary-Yale
http://www.trionfi.com/01/c/
see menu: Dating

Cary-Yale as 5x16
http://www.trionfi.com/01/c/
see menu: Cary Yale

Ferrara 1441
http://trionfi.com/01/b

Analyses of the documents
http://www.trionfi.com/01/e/r71/

Documents 1441/1442
http://www.trionfi.com/01/e/r71/
see menu: "14 Figure", Doc 1, Doc 2

Document 1457
http://www.trionfi.com/01/e/r71/
see menu: Doc 16

Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo-Tarocchi, 5x14-theory
http://www.trionfi.com/01/f



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Old 14-03-2004     Top   #6