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Huck  Huck is offline
Join Date: 02 Jul 2003
Location: Germany
Posts: 2,682

Originally Posted by MikeH View Post
This is quite wonderful, Huck. I like how you worked in so many details, such as the cliffs. I have myself thought for a while that tarot progressed from 16 trumps to 20 and then 22 (I still have trouble with 14), at more or less the time periods and places you suggest, give or take a few years, for reasons quite unrelated to chess. I must confess that I had never fully appreciated the relevance of chess variants to tarot development until this current thread. I for one would like to hear more.
Thanks, Mike ... it seems, you're the only one ... .-) ... it's really a pity, that this has become such a silent place ...


Part 4

Now the long announced "20 figure" is shown.

After it was rather complicated to give evidence, how chess might have influenced the Trionfi card development, it's much easier to show, that another type of game might have ALSO influenced the situation of c. 1465, when the 5x14 deck from (likely) Bembo got six additional cards.
Somehow this stands as an "alternative explanation" versus the considerations, that Chess interpretations and Chess rules imports from Persia caused the change of 1465. But game structures often have more than one reason, when they develop.


"Venti figure" appear from the darkness

In a report of Nicola Antonia de Giorgio in "Playing Cards and Tarots in Naples, 15th-18th century", IPCS vol. 34, number 2, p. 101 (2005), about the game Malcontento the author presents a decree on 6th of April 1585, confirmed 23rd of January [/b]1586, where it is counted as lawful games : "A piccetto, tarocchi, venti figure, gilŔ, sbracare, al malcontento, a trapolare, alla gabella, a primiera ordinaria, a primiera scoperta, seu sommaria, et a runfo."

I got interested and googled "Venti figure":

This refers to 1631 and also Naples

This note relates to 1732 and still refers to "Venti figure" and card games

again "venti figure", again Naples

From this I knew the expression "venti figure" and that it somehow was played in Naples. And it was a card game.

However, the article was about a game called "Il Malcontento".

Il Malcontento appeared for the first in a poem of 1547 of Luigi Tansillo, together with Tarocchi, Scacchi, Trionfo and Runfetto. The longer poem had the same "Il Malcontento" and praised the game.

Discussion of the Malcontento topic

In another recent article in IPCS, vol 39, p. 232-33 (2011) by Kimihiko Kuromiya is asked and answered a similar question: "A note on the history of Cucc¨".

According this "al Malcontento" presents another name of Cucc¨. It's assumed, that Cucc¨ developed in France around 1490. The text of Luigi Tansillo 1547 is seen as the first sign, that the game had reached Italy.

The text offers another link to the text of Tansillo:

The article points to the author Saverio Franchi:
"Le carte del cucu - un antico gioco europeo sopravvisto a Montorio", Cassa di Risparmio della Provincia di Teramo (ed.), "La valle dell'alto Vommano d i monte della laga", Pescara: Carsa Edizioni, 1991 (Documenti dell'Abruzzo Teramano III, 1), pp. 93-115

Saverio Franchi thinks, that the game is older. He thinks, that "al Malcontento" alias Cucc¨ has developed from a dice (or "taxilli") game Gnaffus, which was noted twice in Bologna 1250 and 1286. Gnav is still an expression for games of the cuckoo group.
Generally it's assumed, that special cuckoo cards weren't used in the early time.

Franchi lives near Teramo, which earlier had close relations to Naples. Cucc¨ is still played in the region, so Franchi's interest developed.

Cuccu cards


Cuccu cards are real, cause some decks survived. The "venti figure", whatever this might have been, is - at least for the moment - unknown, nearly fiction, just a documented name of an unknown card game as many others.

An interesting aspect of the Cuccu-Malcontento game, earlier "Gnaffus", is, that it started as a dice game (at least some serious game reseachers believe this). a dice game could mutate to a card game, similar as I earlier in the thread gave arguments, that Trionfi cards developed from the chess game.


Mitelli's dice games

Now I stumbled about the Mitelli games. Mitelli was - beside many other graphic productions - a Tarot card engraver:

The Mitelli deck of 17th century is famous, if you don't know it, take a visit.

Beside this Mitelli created games, maybe 35 or something like this, in an case "many games". More or less games connected to dice playing. Between these many dice games he often used a form, which was connected to the use of 3 dice. I know not all games of Mitelli, but enough to suspect, that a lot of his c. 35 games are connected to this form. This is one of them:

As you see ... there are 20 fields, in other words there are "venti figure". Don't think, that this is a singular game, there are many others in Mitelli's poduction, all with small rules differences, but all based on the relative simple structure of "20 figure".

Report with more examples

I later researched and found "Sic Bo", which is called a modern "Grand Hazard" version.

"Sic Bo" is a Chinese name, "Hazard" descended as an European expression taken from Arabian sources.

Games of the "Grand Hazard" family are played with 3 dice, "Hazard" with 2 dice. That's the difference. Mitelli also has made two dice games and I also saw one die games, illustrated in the creativ Mitelli style.

3 dice have (according the common Grand Hazard evaluation) 20 results, which are parted in two groups: 6 Triple number 1-1-1, 2-2-2, 3-3-3, 4-4-4, 5-5-5, 6-6-6 and 14 dice results, as there are 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 (the results 3 and 18 are triple numbers)
... as you detect them also at the Sic Bo table.

Hazard forms are very old, older than playing cards and Trionfi cards in Europe. One has to assume for the year 1465, that Hazard game forms were there and everybody knew them - although they were often forbidden and this much more than card playing was forbidden.

So the "20 figure" were known, when the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo Tarocchi got 6 additional cards in c. 1465. It had 14 trumps (or special cards) and it got 6 more.

14 + 6 = 20 ... and that's also the Hazard game structure


"Venti figure", the card game

For the card game "Venti figure" of 1586 in Naples (that's the earliest, what I've seen), we don't know, what this is. But we have an example with Cuccu-Gnav-Malconento, that dice game structures could reappear as playing card games.

Playing cards as a new media in 14th century naturally took influences from all other social activities. A very clear example is the use of playing cards for geographical maps:

... popular in 17th century

Playing cards for political interests (21st century)

Playing cards divination which copied earlier lot books (1505)

This are only examples, there is much more ...



it's not unusual, if a dice game influences a playing deck. And Hazard, considered as a social factor, was rather mighty.

Is the story of the "venti figure" now at an end? No ... not really ..

I see a young man (putti) carrying a sun ...
That's Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo Tarocchi, from the part, which was made by the second artist c. 1465. A rare way to show the sun card.
The deck is considered to have 20 trumps only, that's also rather unusual

I see a man carrying a globe ... that's also a Tarocchi card, but a few hundred years later.
The relevant deck is considered to have also only 20 trumps. The highest trump has the number 20:

a man with a lightning and an eagle ...
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